Sunday, February 28, 2010

Madras Players' Witness for the Prosecution

Last evening was made wonderful by Madras Players' excellent play - Witness for the Prosecution, adapted from a story by Agatha Christie. 

Courtroom scenes have always captured my interest in movies, but to do such a riveting courtroom scene live on stage must require a lot of talent. And for the Madras Players, talent was in abundance - the protagonist's (played by Vivek) body language and expressions were a perfect fit for the role, and the actor who played the defence lawyer had an amazing screen presence. Other actors too excelled - ones who played the roles of the housekeeper (with very convincing Italian accented English) and that of the protagonist's wife (including a different get up in one scene and German accent).

I must have also benefited from not having read the original story/novel, because of the suspense, one would keep thinking that the protagonist's role was single dimensional till the very end. I had mostly felt that Agatha Christies writing was too detailed and dragging at times. Kudos to the entire team behind the show for converting that into a complete fast paced thriller (and for improvising on some very minor goof-ups).

I'm now a fan of the Madras Players and I have resolved to see their plays whenever possible :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How Indian IT growth has affected Indian Science

It all started with a tweet I had retweeted a few days ago - "IT has destroyed Indian science as much as it has contributed to its economy" - Prof. C. N. R. Rao", to which my friend Nithya Babu responded by tweeting "Indian science? do we have such disciplines that have offered people jobs? In a country with no social security?? hmmm". The response to that could not be compressed into 140 characters, and hence this post.

I have nothing against Indian IT, and has been a beneficiary of its success until recently. And I fully agree with Nithya that any degree that does not create jobs other than teaching posts (mostly in the same university, for the same course) is of no use. But we humans have a tendency to look for immediate benefits (short term returns) and tend to move to fields that apparently give better salaries.

It is true that IT and ITES has given jobs to thousands of graduates in India in the last decade who otherwise would have not found any job, and in that way helped the economy a lot. But then it has also led to a large scale migration to the IT sector from sectors which do generate jobs, but are not as well paying as IT currently is. For example, most of engineering graduates, irrespective of their field of specialization in engineering, have joined IT. Even the IT companies were also happy to take up students who had spent the last 4 years learning to design homes into their fold to make them write code in COBOL for financial applications. It is not that studying civil engineering does not get them jobs - even the buildings that the IT companies operate out of need civil engineers and architects to build them.

Such a skewed migration would hit the economy in a big way after some time, and I don't know how easily and soon this would get corrected by market forces. As a society, there is a real need for all types of work, and the society does not need everyone to be in IT. What is worse, the initial easy life of an IT engineer makes one too complacent to be good at anything else. Also, since a lot of business comes from the US, an ITian is more likely to know which coast of US California is, than knowing where Sikkim is on the Indian map (in some extreme cases, not even knowing that Sikkim is a part of India).

Somewhere we need to get out of the obsessive mentality (in boom times, no one gives you a damn if you are not in IT, in recession times no one gives you a damn if you are in IT). India as a nation and society as a whole needs civil engineers, mechanical engineers, nuclear physicists, doctors, astronomers, language teachers, accountants, - the list goes on.