Saturday, January 19, 2008

Viva woes

There is a lot we do not understand. Most of what we do not understand at one point of time gets clear at some other point of time but there still would remain sediments of disbelief or vague hints of the past lack of understanding post the (un)specified time of understanding. If you were wondering whether I started busying myself with Ludlum's philosophy, you probably have never stepped into an engine-erring workshop lab.

For newbies: Workshop (06WSL18) is a compulsory subject in the first year of any engineering course in Karnataka (and in IITs too, I think) with the exception of a certain autonomous college in Bangalore. The syllabus includes designing fitting models which extract physical labour in alarming quantities and welding models which demand a fumbling freshie risk his looks. The warsht that could happen was probably this particular subject carrying 75 marks for the semester exams which includes a 10 mark viva voce (rapid fire question-answer session with the examiner). Why workshop was made compulsory for all branches despite it having least application in our chosen career stream has bounced over every taker's head from time immemorial.

Circa 2008, January the 18th. We yawn our way to the college workshop at 8:15 am in half tucked hideous khaki uniforms and leather shoes, carrying a 4 Rupee hacksaw blade which serves the purpose of cutting steel (yes, solid steel!). The instructor stands smirking like he has been nominated the next Ivan the horrible (or is it Hagar the terrible?) with the sneaky HOD and the wispy Vice Principal (VP) whom I last remember seeing on the first day of college. After a cordial welcome of instruction shouting, we are made to take down the model supposed to be made - a quadrant of a circle which fits neatly into its hollow counterpart, both made from two steel pieces, for 30 marks; a welding joint for 10 marks and viva for 10 marks, all to be added to our internal assessment marks to total it to 75.

VP adds as an afterthought, 'Time limit ees 2 avars, that is exactly 120 minutes.'

Hue and cry greets this announcement.

Assuming his words could make things better, he states with a grin, 'See 2 avars more than yenaf if you have a good breakfast and come. You will get full 120 minutes for your work and nobody can take these 120 minutes from you'. His version of a certain 'Sattar Minute' speech that made waves last year.

Thus, we get to work; marking, punching, cutting (the thin blade wobbling dangerously, extracting a work of 317.55 joule/second from yours truly), filing and then welding. I choose to do away with the details because after all the effort, it looked like my strategy paid off and I got soopar looking models. ;) Just when I thought those marks were in the bag, I hear Hagar call, ' Roll numbar threeeeee. Viva'. I walk nervously to the external examiner, a man in mid-thirties in a crisp white shirt and sit down when asked.

Ex: Hmm. So roll number three. So what is your name?

Isn't that on the register next to the roll number, you near-sighted warp?

Me: Akshatha, Sir.

Ex: Hmm. So which branch?

Me: Electronics.

Ex: Hmm. Aap kidhar se aaya hai?

Was prepared for this, considering five out of three people take me for a Northie. Took a second to debate between continued amusement in inducing more broken Hindi or get down to business and finish early for my regular dose of caffeine in the canteen.

Me: From Bangalore sir.
Ex: Oh. Originally from where?

Me: Coastal Karnataka

Ex: Ees eet? So Akshatha, can you introduce yourself?

Me: Here's an alternative: Why don't you just scroll above and apply simple summation of finite series?
I am Akshatha, branch electronics, from Bangalore.

Ex: Goooood. So, can you identify this device? (points to a lethal looking tonged instrument)

Me: Loading..27%..89%. Image of Dad using it to unseal a cough syrup bottle.
Cutting plyers, sir.

Ex: *grins* Six yellowish white teeth on each jaw visible.
See ma, in engineering level, we expect certain amount of technicality from you. Of course, you are right but even a 3rd standard child can tell me that no?

Me: Sir, it is a snipe. Used in sheet metal work. It has two movable jaws attached to the handle and the jaws are shaped for pinpoint precision cutting. Usually made of hardened steel, grade 4. Specification given by size of jaws in mm. No operator skill is required. Even a third standard child can handle it. (Without pause. Mujhse panga lega?)

Ex: *looks impressed* Good good. But I just asked you name no?

Me: Grrr.

Ex: So, can you identify and yexplain about this device? (points to a divider from a school kid's geometry set)

Me: What technicality do you expect from this, human? Sir, that is a screw-turn marker. Precision measuring instrument which can be used to measure distance between two separated planes, draw parallel lines or locate the center of a circle. It is made of mild steel, has sharp edges and movable legs. Specified by maximum separation measurable in mm.

Ex: Full Hajara Choudhary manual tip of your tongue aa? *laughs* See ma, in engineering level, simplification is the key. Why so much technicality for such a simple device? It is a simple divider which children yooze.

Me: Fuming. Yes sir. But you said yexplain so.. (yes, with the sarcasm and my best smile)

Ex: Vokay vokay. *looks at VP* This is the interest we expect in the subject, sir. So Akshata, what ees yoovar ambition?

Me: Law will sound out of track and might lead to more questions, making me late for coffee. Think..something big and complicated.
Research in satellite ranging and nano technology, sir.

Ex: Oho. What is that?

Me: Erm..adopting electronics for research in satellite ranging and nano technology. (source: Elementary Explanation Guide for External Examiners).

Ex: Ees eet? All the best. *takes register* Roll number three..three..three. *scribbles what looks like a nine* You may go.

Yay! Thanked him and fled. And it was only after I reached the canteen that I received this SMS forward:

'Trying to convince your examiner in viva is like fighting with a pig in mud. After a while, you realize that you are getting dirty and the pig is enjoying it'.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bystander at the lychgate

And He made me a river, a tempest, a tide,
Coerced to run, night and day,
I lash'd at rock, flooded thicket,
Ached for sedation, yearn'd parole.

Bystander at the lychgate, I see you sob
Beloved departed, crypted, cremated.
I reach out to you, take my arm,
Alas but I only am a swift tide of water.

I bargain with Him, 'Let me stop
For a moment of solace, a word, a pat;
To comfort him with an 'all will be well',
And then I shall resume my vault to the sea'.

Yet He said, 'Slow down, not halt,
And haul his tear to the sea.
I steer fate; you run, he weeps
For you are a river, he a lover'.