Random Musings

India’s increasing expenditure in defence

Ever since Narendra Modi came into power, he has been trying to push for promoting manufacturing in India. India’s GDP for too long has been dominated by the service sector. Here is a snapshot of a table [1].

gdp_sector_wiseA big contribution of our GDP comes from the service sector, and it has been growing over the last few decades. I think over-reliance of the GDP on service sector is not a good sign as the decision making powers lies completely with the organizations that ask for the services in the first place.

Narendra Modi in his bid to reverse this started the Make in India program which focused upon building manufacturing capabilities inside India, but it never really took off. He has now gone back to a more popular method to infuse enthusiasm in the manufacturing sector: defence.

The reason why engineering and science progressed so fast in the beginning of the 20th century were the two world wars. Communication and radar technology development accelerated during those days. The top institutes in US at that time played a major role in radar and communication systems for the aid of military. And it always easy to get funds from the Congress by saying , “We need more funds because we are researching this area which can help us in better equipments for the army.” Cold war helped too.

India is the world’s largest arms importer. Which is also not a great thing if a country aims to become a super-power. India needs to modernize its military inventory.

Combining the two things, the current government is tying up defense purchase contracts with building of a local ecosystem. By forcing the major arms manufacturer to build their assembly lines here in India, and to use 30% of the materials sourced locally, they have no option but to build a local supply chain to bag the >100 billion dollar contracts. Which means we will see a lot of the suppliers who have traditionally supplied to the big sharks moving (parts of) their manufacturing shops here.

When an ecosystem starts building up, we will definitely see a lot of local businesses trying to compete to get a piece of the pie from the likes of Boeing and Lockheed. Indians are fiercely competitive, and have given several deep pocketed companies like Amazon and Uber sleepless nights. I see no reason why it would not be the case here provided they get the necessary funds! [Which has become a bit of a thorny issue with all hundreds of crores of write-offs the banks are having to do thanks to non-performing assets].

I believe its a good start for the Indian economy as a whole.

On a more related news, the government has imposed 20% import duty on printed circuit boards assembled outside the country. This means that on an average phones are going to get expensive. Indians love free and cheap stuff. This is a nice trick (without becoming a trade war) to force the companies to assemble the PCBs here in India. I am kind of happy about this move!



ATHENS Week: Madrid, Spring 2018

Why should you do an ATHENS week? Besides the fact that it will be the easiest 3 credits you ever do, it will also be an amazing experience.

So, like all KU Leuven Engineering Science students itching to get away from the school mid-semester wishing to have some fun, I too applied for the ATHENS program. I decided to select Biomedical Signal Processing course at UPM, Madrid because:
# After having completed the digital signal processing course under Prof. Marc Moonen, it meant logical sense to do this course as well.
# And its Madrid. Its relatively cheap. [I stay in Belgium! Ha!]. And I have always wanted to visit Spain. They said Spain is an extremely colorful city, and boy, I was not disappointed.

We were booked into a hostel called La Posada de Huertas. It was near the Anton Martin station which was very close to Sol and Gran Via, and an ideal place to stay in if you want to visit around the city. It was cheap (Euro 18.5 per night, with breakfast included). The only issue was that there were 12 people in my room, which I thought would be a major issue, but the only thing you will go to your hostel room for is to sleep. (If you are in Madrid in ATHENS week, I doubt whether you will get too much of it anyway). Because its a hostel, they had a kitchen as well where you can cook your own food. I know a lot of people did that, but there are plenty of cheap places around where you can have good food without burning a hole


in your pocket. But I will come to that later!

The flight tickets cost ~ 200 Euros. [I was unlucky. Some people got their tickets for less that 140 Euros].

Here is us at the Brussels airport heading to our ATHENS week destinations. Debarchan [ the scary one in the picture] claims his ATHENS week was better, but he went to Warsaw. I refuse to believe that Warsaw is better than Madrid.

It was not a long flight, and I don’t remember much of it anyway as I slept through the flight! But when I climbed off the aero-bridge and stepped into the Madrid airport, I was genuinely surpirsed at the size of it. Unlike the Mumbai airport which is grander and really large, Madrid airport’s architecture gave it a better sense of space and area.

(I wasn’t entirely sure whether we are allowed to click pictures in the airport, so I did not take any!)

We were given a UPM survival guide which mentioned exactly which metro to take, and how to reach the venue. If you are heading to Madrid, take the 10 rides pass which costs around 12 Euros. (plus 3 Euros for the airport surcharge and another 2 Euros for the metro card). Madrid has an awesome network of underground subway which makes easy going from one place to the another.

When I got off the metro, it was snowing! You expect to have warm weather in Madrid, but surprise surprise, you get snow in Madrid. But it was not that bad as in Leuven  (I heard Leuven froze during the ATHENS week).

The first day only had a visit to the Reina Sofia museum planned. We made the mistake of not taking an audio guide to go around the museum. For someone who is not that much into art, you can and will probably get lost. Because it contained more of modern art (which I find a bit more difficult to understand), I was rather lost. The only remarkable thing that stuck with me from the visit of the Museum was a sculpture “Laughing Girl” by Medardo Rosso. The eyes were sculpted in such a way that as light fell on it, she seemed to be looking sideways. It was marvelous.

P.S. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the museums in Madrid.

We visited Kubo King, a place recommended by Clara Nieto,  a batchmate from KU Leuven who hails from Madrid. If you want 4 beers along with a basket of different types of fries at around 6 Euros, you must go there.

One of the first things I observed while I was at Kubo King was that people in Spain converse about regular topics with a lot of emotion. (Reminded me of India!). Also Kubo King apparently is always filled with young people which makes it even nicer!

The other museum we went to was the Prado Museum. It is considered one of the best museums in the world, having painting dating back from the 12th to the 20th century. It is extremely large, and you need more than a day to see and appreciate all the paintings. But if you are in a rush, then you must atleast see the most famous paintings. To get a list of it, you can take the pamphlet thy have near the ticket counter which has a list of all the famous paintings! You should also get the complete El Prado museum guide which is really good. (I kick myself everyday for forgetting to get it! Maybe I will ask one of my friends from Spain to get it for me!)

El Prado Museum from the gate of El Retiro park

Near the museum you have the El Retiro park which is huge and a lovely place to spend a lazy afternoon!

They have a huge lake which is a perfect place where you can even go for a boat ride.

We spent quite sometime walking around the park. There were stand up artists performing inside the park which made the entire afternoon a really pleasurable one. (Oh how I wish to go there again as I am stuck studying stupid courses)

On our way to the El Retiro museum
Overlooking the lawn of El Retiro park
EnFrom left to right: Mehmet (Turkey), Dina (Macedonia), Mine (Turkey), Karishma (India), and me!ter a caption

That is us in the park! Dina and Karishma are from KU Leuven, Mehmet and Mine are from Istanbul Technical University! Being an international student at KU Leuven, you get to meet a lot of people from different nationalities, and when you come for a ATHENS week, you get to meet even more people! ATHENS program also gives you friends for life!

Here are some more pictures from inside the park!

One of the many fountains inside the park!
Glass palace inside the park














There is also the statue of the Fallen Angel inside the park which is a major tourist attraction. I cannot find the picture of it! Later that afternoon, we started a city rally organised by BEST members.

Here are some pictures from the city rally!

The two sides of the gate have different designs! Apparently the king was not able to select between the two designs presented to him, so he asked each side of the gate to have different design. Sounds like the Belgian compromise!

Following the city rally, the BEST members took us to a pub for tapas! In Madrid there are pubs where when you order a beer, you get a plate of tapas! The larger the beer you ask for, the bigger the plate of tapas. (For those of you don’t know what tapas are, it is a piece of bread with meat or potato and cheese or something on top of it! Just Google it! If you hadn’t had tapas while you are at Spain, you have committed a cardinal sin!)

Royal Palace at night!

Although we had classes from Monday to Friday, we still managed to go around a bit on the days! On Wednesday, a night walk was planned! We were taken to the Royal Palace (you mus visit it both at night and day, it is an amazing piece of work), the temple of Debod, Plaza Mayor amongst the notable ones! Following that we headed to disco Bolshoi where we partied till 2am before heading back to the hostel.

The faculty at UPM were really nice, and they gave us a 3 course lunch everyday for free. I think that is really a nice gesture to students, and speaks volumes about kindness of Spanish people.

One of the more memorable places was Circulo de Bellas Artes. From the top of the building you can get a 360 degree view of Madrid. The day we went there, it was drizzling slightly but it was still beautiful!

View from the top of Circulo de Bellas Artes
Another view from the top of the building. (My phone distorted the geometry of the picture!)
Jakob (KU Leuven) and me from the top of  100 Montaditos!

One of the best places to eat in Madrid is the 100 Montaditos. Like Kubo King, it is always filled with young people where you can have a beer and some amazing food.

On the 24th, I had some time time to kill and so I went around exploring the city on my own! But soon after I realized I was too tired to be able to walk around anymore. I decided I needed to rest! With a heavy heart, I took my luggage and went to the airport!

Karishma and Toon had the same flight as me. So the latter part of the last day at Madrid was spent reminiscing the time we had in Madrid. I realized I need to be back here once again! Madrid is a beautiful city, and you must go there!!

P.S. If you reached the end of this post, and still want to know how the course was. Here it goes.

I took up this course because the content was really interesting to me. I have not heard great reviews about most ATHENS courses, but the course was surprisingly good! The course was structured perfectly, and most of the things could be done in the time allotted. The professor was really good. My cousin brother is epileptic, although it has been years since he had his last episode. We learned of ways to detect seizures before it can happen. My aunt is always worried, and I could connect with the importance of the subject. We also learned about detection of atrial fibrillation which is hard to detect and can be fatal. Some of the patient data are not available publicly (i.e. Physionet) but most of the professor gave us access to the data! That, I think, is really unique about this course.

And the professor David Luengo is a really good educator as well! If you are an electrical engineer, and you want to visit Madrid, the ATHENS Biomedical Signal Processing course is the best opportunity for you to go!












Relevance of caste in India

There seems to be a sudden increase in the number of caste related violence being reported from India. And the increased reportage of violence against lower caste people seemed to have increased ever since the NDA government came into power in mid-2014. Is there a relationship between them? Is it because Narendra Modi refuses to condemn such violence on his “Mann ki baat”? I don’t know. And neither is that the point of the article today. Today it is about the question “Caste? Is it still relevant in India?”

The answer, I am afraid, is yes. Let me tell you the story narrated to me by a colleague of mine. He was on a trip to some part of the country (He keeps doing that a lot). He decided to put up in one of the back-packers hostel which have started coming up in India. One of his fellow room-mate asked him, “Toh aap kya ho?” He replied, “I am an engineer.. I design electronic chips for phones”. The person replied, “No I meant aap ka jaat kya hain?” In 2010s, if someone literate asks you that question, then it means that caste system still exists. [I think a better term would be ambivalent casteism].

I have had friends in my bachelors university tell me, “My parents does not have problem with the guy I am dating because we are both Brahmins.” My mom has a friend who has a temple in her house. She proudly claims, “Only a daughter of a Brahmin is allowed into the temple. Even a woman who is not Brahmin, but married to a Brahmin is not allowed.” I am so happy that my mom got so pissed off that she refused to talk to her anymore.

The people who we hire to clean our house are still from the lower castes. And I know for a fact that their parents also used to work in people’s homes. Its maddening to see that even after 70 years of independence, we have not been able to bring about a revolution in the social condition of the lower caste Indians. The affirmative action in form of reservation in higher education systems for the lower castes has stopped being effective as it is being taken advantage of people who are now economically well off to do. I used to believe that there must be social equality before economic equality, but I slowly shifting my views on it. In a country which has a widening economic inequality, economic equality is necessary before social equality. The government at this point of time must amend the SC/ST reservation acts to exclude the creamy layer from availing benefits.

One of the greatest equalizers in the world is education. The most developed countries in the world has free education. [One of the things I really like about Belgium]. We cannot afford to do that in India without going into severe debt. But we can ensure that we can let people who have been marginalized for generations get their due. [Yes, it should be at the cost of people like us whose forefathers had oppressed them. The sins of the father always has to be paid by the son].

But now going back to the original question whether caste system really exists in India. I have one more example. The pride of the middle class Bengalis in saying, “We used to belong to the zamindar family.” Or “Our forefathers were king of that region.”

I believe even saying that is a dis-respect to the minorities in India. The role the rich Indians had in exploiting the minorities is well known. If you are an upper caste Hindu reading this, know that your forefathers discriminated and oppressed the lower classes of people. Please stop taking pride in being from a zamindar family.

And then the stupid thread ceremony that Brahmins still practice. Why, why, why? Why do you want to still preserve cultural practices that hark back to the old days of casteist oppression? Why do you still identify yourself with something that is stupid? I think it has more to do with the inherent pride that one has because he is a Brahmin. Just like I find it funny when sons and daughters of rich people say they despise socialism, I find it equally ironical when Brahmins with that holy piece of thread underneath their shirts say that they believe that caste system does not exist anymore.

There have been enough instances of caste based violence against Dalits in different parts of the country, and its time we stop saying that it is an outlier. We need to ask ourselves the difficult questions. “Why hasn’t the overall social condition of lower caste people improved?” “Why do we still practice traditions that are archaic, and underneath casteist?” Why are there even the outlier incidences of caste based violence, and are we really missing something?”

Journey to Leuven, and life so far

So I am here in Leuven, Belgium, pursuing my masters in Electrical Engineering in the more than 500 years old university. And I don’t want to gloat, but the Electrical Engineering department of KU Leuven is one of the best in the world. But to be honest, the course-work and projects are extremely demanding. They require not only a thorough understanding of the material, but also expect the students to be independent in this pursuit. We just have only one examination per semester. But the exam is not like any other exam. KU Leuven has what is called the oral exam. You will be given two hours to prepare the solution of 3-4 questions, and then you need to discuss the answer with the professor. The professor will ask questions regarding the solution (it needs to be defended with logic) as well from other topics. I think it is one of the toughest forms of examination.

I also experienced my first snow today. It was in the middle of the DSP project class. I could not resist going out in the snow. It was nice, but I thought it will snow long enough so that I can make snow balls. Naah. The temperature wasn’t that cold either. A mere -1 degrees centigrade. But I do hope I get to play with snow balls.

Life here is nice. But I do miss home. Back in India, I always felt I was in control of everything. I sometimes feel extremely overwhelmed here. Its just not the coursework. I don’t know, but sometimes when I am all alone in my room, there is the feeling of emptiness.

But otherwise, its fun to be here! I am learning a lot. I finally learned impedance matching. (the professors in my Bachelors university never really explained it well enough). But now I understand it well.

Visit to JU Science Club

I resigned from Cadence and left Bangalore on August 6th. I was scheduled to fly to Brussels around September, and I decided to take some time off and spend time lazing around (something which I never got to do in the last three years). I also had to apply for visa etc.

Anyway, I was pinged on Facebook by a junior, Diyanko from my alum asking me to come down to Science Club (something which I was a part of during my college days, and also played a major role in getting it started). Now, I really did not want to come down there, and just chat and go.

I decided to give them a presentation on analog circuit design, and talk to them about some of the fundamentals that an analog design engineer requires every day. Given that students from first year to fourth year would be coming, and that students from non-electrical background will also be present, it was a challenge coming up with a presentation that could cover so many aspects.

It really took me some time to make the presentation, far more than I had imagined. I just could not talk about circuits, as that would have made it extremely boring for the younger folks in the audience as well as people from a non-electrical background. I had to pepper my presentation with examples from real life.

But cutting back to the chase, the presentation went really well. The best part that I like about students in Jadavpur University is that students are extremely talented, and they have this drive within themselves that want to do something. I met one final year student of ETCE, Supratik, who was interested in quantum computing and was looking for opportunities in Europe to do a MS on the same. This is refreshingly different. But what really pained me was that the analog courses in Jadavpur University had absolutely no emphasis on simulating the circuits and seeing it for themselves. A simulator gives you an excellent idea about whether your concepts are correct or not. And using one, can really help understand the concepts. You get an insight to the second and third order effects that one hasn’t considered.

Although I could not cover all the material I had put in my presentation due to a shortage of time, I think I did a cover a fair amount of material.

Here is a link to the presentation:

Chester Bennigton’s suicide and depression

My tryst with Linkin Park began when I was in standard 6. My sister recently entered college, and she got a new computer. Casually browsing through her playlist, I came across this song called ‘Numb’. I had never heard anything like it. It seemed too much noise, but there was a tune to the noise. I could not make out the lyrics (probably because I was not a native English speaker). I listened to the song on loop, and suddenly the lyrics were comprehendible. I fell in love with the song. And thus was born a new fan of Linkin Park.
Back then, the internet used to be a low speed broadband in the home. Mobile internet was prohibitively expensive, and so I had to download all the songs (some of you might remember songs.pk) in my desktop computer (it used to take forever) but it was worth it. I do not what was in the songs that made me an ardent devotee of Linkin Park. My brother-in-law gifted me an iPod. It was roughly during the time I started additional science classes for engineering entrance examination in high school. The music from iPod was phenomenally better, and Chester’s voice was an enchantment.
Fast forward a couple of years and I found equally enthusiastic fans of Linkin Park among my batchmates. Castle of Glass and Hunting Party were roughly released during my undergraduate days. I used to listen them on loop.
Then I heard about the album, ‘One More Light’. They released a few tracks in the Apple Music Store. [By now I just stream music from Apple Music Store]. Their full album was released on May 19, 2017. I remember refreshing the Linkin Park’s Youtube channel to see whether they uploaded the remaining tracks were uploaded or not.
One More Light was significantly different from the previous albums. Some people criticized it. But, Chester’s voice was, as someone commented in one of the Youtube video ‘He sings like an angel but screams like a devil.’ You should listen to his cover of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the deep’. Adele is one of the brilliant voices of our generation. And only Chester could even measure up to that. He could match Adele’s soulfulness.
And then, on the day my girlfriend returned to Delhi after a brief vacation at Bangalore, he killed himself. I remember dropping her off at the airport and getting onto a BMTC bus. It was 4 am in the morning. I opened Facebook, and see my timeline flooded with condolence messages. Something stirred deep inside me. There was a dryness in my throat.
It took me a full week to recover from the shock. I never realized I will be impacted in this way by Chester’s death. I grew up with his music. As most of you would be aware, I am heading to KU Leuven, Belgium for my masters in September. One of the things I was looking forward to it was attending a live concert of Linkin Park in Europe. I made up my mind to save every penny to see Linkin Park live. [I also want to watch Adele perform live. I love that young lady. Such soulfulness.]
The thing with depression is that it will not be discernable from the external appearance of a person. Some people have this innate ability to swallow their feelings, and make no outward appearance of it. Talking freely about our own feelings does not come easily. Depression is a silent killer. It consumes an individual from the inside. There are people who keep telling me they hate Chester for killing himself. Well, he is gone now. It does not really matter whether we hate him or love him. A phenomenal artist of our generation is gone, because as a collective society we do not know how to battle depression. Such statements will impact negatively anyone who is trying to fight depression.
We must realize that some people cannot fight depression on their own. It’s like asking an injured person to climb a tree, and then castigating him or her for not being able to do it. There is a void in understanding of depression. We are already in the process of decriminalizing homosexuality across the world, maybe it’s time we spend our resources in understanding depression and creating an awareness of it. It’s time we do something about it.
Only when we start talking about an issue, we start stripping off the stigma around it layer by layer. And then everyone else becomes privy to the details which were never said out loud. Human beings are inherently irrational, but given the facts, we can straighten our thinking. We need to start talking about it.
‘Goodbye is not the only way’

Why lose a thousand more?

*Originally published on Thursday, 10th January 2013*
This post follows the recent violation of ceasefire by Pakistani armed forces at LOC.But as much as it is a ceasefire violation, what shocked the nation was that the Pakistani soldiers decapitated one of the soldiers and carried the head as “trophy”. They tried to decapitate the other dead soldier when they came under heavy fire from the Indian side and had to flee.

This event has had wide ramifications. Not only has it created a ripple in New Delhi with the Pakistani Ambassador being summoned to New Delhi, it has raised eyebrows at the international level with USA(as usual) asking India and Pakistan to cool off and sit for talks.
At this point I can’t help but comment that India always has taken a pro-active role in the peace process. Even after 26/11 when it was proved beyond doubt that the terror attack had been planned in Pakistani soil and that Pakistani Government was dragging their feet in bringing the people to justice, India refused to back out on the peace talks. Yes, the only thing that stopped was Indo-Pakistan matches came to a screeching halt.

And, expectedly, Pakistan rejected the assertions of the Indian government, calling for a UN probe into the incident. Indian Government, as of now, has refused to accede to their demand. Ironically, Pakistan is making the demands. “This is Indian propaganda to divert attention from an Indian raid on Sunday on a Pakistani post in which a Pakistani soldier was killed,” Pakistan military said in a statement. (Source: Al Jazeera)

But what is more disturbing is the clamour for a full fledged war on the Indian side in social networking platforms. “An eye for an eye” is the underlying sentiment. And why do I find it disturbing?

It is disturbing because a war should be the last resort. A war cannot be declared at every provocation. Yes, granted that Pakistan has been in constant violations of the ceasefire arrangements, undermining the very principle of LOC. Yes, there were 75 incidents of ceasefire violations in the last year, none so brutal though. Where is the mature Indian who protested all across the country following the Delhi gang rape case?

I am too young to comment on someone’s maturity and people rarely lose an opportunity to point it out to me. But at this point, such call for war is totally uncalled for. And whats more disturbing is that while the Indian Government is strictly against any adverse reaction, people logged into their Facebook and Twitter are mincing no words in describing the Indian Government as “cowards’”.

A war not only has casualties in terms of the lives of jawans, it has casualties in terms of “collateral damage”. Those who clamour for war have never fired a weapon, never have stared down the barrel of an assault rifle and definitely haven’t been in duty in the icy heights of the Siachen. The economy of a country, which isn’t really in a good shape now, is further dented due to a war. Yes we’re a nuclear armed country. Yes, we have deployed missiles that can destroy any target in Pakistan. But that doesn’t imply we need to show off out toys.

When I went to Quanta International, an International Science Fest hosted in Lucknow in 2007, there were many participants from Pakistan. And each one said that the civilian middle class there loves India. As much as “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi” is a daily part of our entertainment, so is theirs. Its only the Islamist hardliners, some of the lower segments of the society and the Pakistani armed forces that harbour such a seep mistrust for India.

Times of India’s recent attempt at bringing peace between India and Pakistani, termed as “Aman ki Asha” is now being termed “Aman ki Tamasha”.