Category Archives: Leisure

Jokes, comics, games and other quirky things.

Book Reading:”Eight Dollars and A Dream: My American Journey” by Raj Gupta on Oct 18th, 2016

The American India Foundation in partnership with Johnson at Cornell University presents a book reading with corporate icon Raj Gupta Former Chairman/CEO of Rohm and Haas, Lead Independent Director of the Board of Hewlett Packard.

Moderated by Soumitra Dutta Founding Dean of the College of Business at Cornell University

Eight Dollars and A Dream: My American Journey

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2016 6:00 pm – 6:45 pm Cocktail Reception 6:45 pm – 8:00 pm Book Reading and Signing

Location: 153 East 53rd Street, 14th Floor (Corner of 53rd & Lexington Ave) Side Entrance New York, NY 10021


Notes from the first ever Chapter IITB Alumni Women High Tea

We held our first ever Chapter IITB Alumni Women High Tea Meet in Manhattan. The event was organized  by 3 IITB women alumni with attendance of 10 alums ranging from 1970’s graduation date to as recent as 2014’s. The mood was cheerful, food sumptuous and afternoon was spent networking and doing meaningful discussion on what IITB women can collectively do for society. After partaking of fabulous sweet and savory coupled with exotic menu of different teas, the alums spent considerable time reminiscing their hostel lives and discussing mentoring options for young girls in India. All of them exchanged contacts and vowed to do impromptu meet ups.

Group PhotoOn the table

11-year old Mira Modi is selling truly-random passwords over the internet!

Mira Modi, daughter of IIT Bombay alum and Columbia University professor Vijay Modi, and ProPublica journalist Julia Angwin, recent made news for her little venture. Mira, 11, sells truly random passwords chosen by handrolled dice, over a e-commerce website that she has set up. You can get one too for $2!

NYT Opinion: The Case for Teaching Ignorance

“many scientific facts simply aren’t solid and immutable, but are instead destined to be vigorously challenged and revised by successive generations. Discovery is not the neat and linear process many students imagine, but usually involves, in Dr. Firestein’s phrasing, “feeling around in dark rooms, bumping into unidentifiable things, looking for barely perceptible phantoms.” ”

Read More:

A heart-warming story from the dark days of 9/11

Even during the dark days of 9/11,  the good folks in Gander, Newfoundland in Canada showered remarkable hospitality on the stranded passengers on grounded airliners headed to the US. Do read this heart-warming story.

“On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic. All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain. As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”
“No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, New Foundland. He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately–no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.
“While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.
“We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, New Foundland to have it checked out.
“We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM! …. that’s 11:00 AM EST.
“There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S. After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.” Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.
“The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the aircrafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane. In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.
“Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC. People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada. Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.
“Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.
“We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning. Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.
“Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing. Moreover, they were true to their word. Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.
“About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.
“After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander! We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.
“We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.
“Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.
“Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days. What we found out was incredible.
“Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometre radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.
“ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.” Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometres from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged. Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.
“Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.
“Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbours. Some went for hikes in the local forests. Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests. Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.
“Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully. It was absolutely incredible.
“When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling. Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.
“And then a very unusual thing happened. One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. However, this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days. He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers. He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.
“He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!
“The gentleman, a MD from Virginia, promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well. As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.
“I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a far away place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them. It reminds me how much good there is in the world.”
“In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good and Godly people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward.
“God Bless America …and the Canadians”

This story is sourced from:

An NBC Documentary about the same Gander story on YouTube

Science Struggles at the Science Congress

Murmurs were heard about the Indian Science Congress, an annual meeting of top researchers.  Lately, that has turned into a rumble.  The Minister for Science and Technology, Harsh Vadhan  told delegates that Pythogorus Theorem was invented in India, but Indians let the Greeks take credit.  Other speakers spoke about the alchemy of cow dung, a process of manufacturing gold from bacteria in cow dung.  Claims of inter planetary travel were also made.  Even Prime Minister Modi has said that plastic surgery technology was perfected thousands of years ago, with Lord Ganesha being proof.

We grew up hearing claims of fantastic discoveries  being made in India.  It always made one feel proud.  Science has its own methods though.  Being able to repeat results, backing of claims with facts, openness to scrutiny, challenge and questioning.

The realities are humbling.  State controlled Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has been stumbling on its fighter jet project.  Government controls, red tape and inefficiency are a norm.  The IIT’s are at not immune from pressures from Ministers.  Not long ago the Director of IIT Delhi resigned.  It seems managing science and politics are different skill sets.

R&D budgets are slipping with implications to long term competitiveness.

Check out this article by Dhiraj Nayyar on Bloomberg  and Rama Lakshmi in The Washington Post.


Wild Cat makes a guest appearance at IIT Bombay

There was major media coverage about a wild cat, a leopard, leaving IITB after a comfortable stay of four days. There were roars and pug marks outside the Metallurgy Department Workshop. It was not found.

The PRO office safely concluded in an India Today report “After searching the entire premises, the forest department has concluded that it has moved out of the campus which it entered on Wednesday”. Well, just because it was not found does not mean it is not hiding in a bog somewhere. They used live chicken to lure it, but understandably, the leopard did not seem to like that idea.

Jokes quickly circulated in social media. “No exams, no studies, no quotas – Leopard directly admits himself to IITB”. “We hope it acquires a degree before leaving IITB” and “If it continues anymore, it may join the IITB faculty team”. The source of these jokes were attributed to current students laboring Resnick and Halliday, Turbulent Fluid Dynamics or pulling all nighters.

We know better than the rookie, freshies though. The Leopard does not need any admission. The Leopard does not need to join the faculty team. It is just an old Alumni having a familiar sojourn by the lake. Old stomping grounds. Someone who knows the lay of the land better than most.

Do read the full report on India today here.