Sunday, April 12, 2009

Links ...


  1. In its centenary year, IISc gets an appreciative piece from Ram Guha. IISc fans will like the piece. A lot.

    Swami Vivekananda and Jamsetji Tata would have been proud of what [IISc] has done since it was established in 1909. So should we.

  2. In its 50th anniversary year, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style gets a harsh review from Geoffrey Pullum, who feels that its advice on style is probably harmless, while its advice on grammar is seriously flawed.

    English grammar] is much too important to be reduced to a bunch of trivial don't-do-this prescriptions by a pair of idiosyncratic bumblers who can't even tell when they've broken their own misbegotten rules.

  3. Finally, a special mystery link for this JEE day.

15 Comments:

  1. Rahul Basu said...

    Strunk and White: I think Geoffrey Pullum is much too harsh on the two "idiosyncratic bumblers'. Like most books of that age, it's really a product of its times and more importantly, engendered the writing of other books which developed a more contemporary set of rules. Clearly rules mainly formulated in the early 20th century no longer hold up too well, but there are modern versions. Primary amongst them, is 'On Writing Well' by William Zinsser who recently recently commemorated the 25th anniversary of his book by a contemplative piece in the American Scholar.

    Finally, not so much for grammar but style, I still find George Orwell's
    Politics and the English Language the most rewarding.

  2. L said...

    The JEE link is not all that satirical. It is quite frighteningly close to the truth.

  3. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    If Strunk and White seems outdated, try Fowler's "The King's English": some of it seems hilarious today, especially the chapter on Americanisms. And it is interesting that he quotes well-known writers and respectable media in criticising their usage.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Professor Abhi, Who is the selfless director and the megalomaniacal director, reported by Guha? Please provide these details immediately.javascript:void(0)

  5. Rahul Basu said...

    The megalomaniacal one is obvious but I will leave it to the owner of this blog to clarify (or maybe even Ram Guha!) About selfless Director - I am yet to encounter that species of Director or academic. Perhaps some are less selfish (more selfless?) than others.

  6. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    A more interesting question is, will the megalomaniacal one read this article and identify himself?

  7. Anonymous said...

    Guha says of IISc, "As a student of Indian institutions I would say it has done quite enough".

    Translation: "Better than XYZ Bharatiyar University".

    Sounds rather pathetic, doesn't it. Typical Ram Guha nonsense, inanities dressed up in cliches and paraded as thought.

    later y'all

  8. Anonymous said...

    the selfless director Guha referred to was Satish Dhawan.

  9. Gargeya said...

    History is too important to be left to historians and industrious scholars! It is no doubt romantic to think that Swami Vivekanda inspired J N Tata to start an Indian Institute. This received further authority from Dr A P J Kalam's view of the beginnings of IISc. But there is little evidence for this viewpoint, as a noted historian B V Subbaryappa has pointed out in his reservations about the inclusion of Swami Vivekananda in the IISc Centenary commemorative stamp.Long before Tata met Swamiji the vision of a higher educational institution had taken shape in Tata's writings. No doubt the meeting on the voyage from Japan to the USA had some influence on Tata. That was in 1893. After five years he wrote a letter requesting his help in a missionary mode. To construe it as an offer of the directorship of IISc is stretched. In fact the Tatas had very litle influence on the choice of the director. Morris Travers was an associate of Sir Willam Ramsay. It was foregone that Ramsay will make the decision about the Directorship and the disciplines to be fostered at IISC. In spite of the fierce national pride of J N Tata the early history of IISc is clearly one of evolving from an Imperial University to an Indian Institute over fifty years. In many ways it mirrors over the same period the political directions of the country and the Congress party Readers may want to see my presentation on
    The Foundation of IISc
    A Presentation by Professor S. Ranganathan, Department of Materials Engineering, IISc
    at
    http://alumni.iisc.ernet.in/ranganathan-foundation.pdf

  10. pradeepkumar said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  11. pradeepkumar said...

    Many, include IIScians, might want to disagree with Ramguhas following observation on IISc.

    "More remarkably, the I.I.Sc has managed to keep away the pernicious influence of caste and kin, and refused to bend its standards to accommodate politicians (including scientist-politicians)."

    Some recent evidences against the above observation can be found at

    http://endcampuscasteism.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/banglore_iisc_final.pdf

  12. Anonymous said...

    Yes indeed. The sole Sardarji on the faculty left many years ago. One can count on two hands the number of `members of other communities', on two hands and two feet the number of women. So by the arguments of the previous commentator, IISc has managed to keep its `standards' by recruting essentially brahmins and other upper caste men. What a laugh!

  13. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    Pradeepkumar: On two hands I can count up to 1024 which is much more than the number of IISc faculty. Aren't our digits meant for binary? Your point is true about IISc's faculty not being sufficiently "representative" but it is true of all elite institutions in India, and is a systemic problem.

    On a serious note -- when I studied in IISc I knew many students who felt victimised and harassed by their faculty advisors / guides. In at least one case, a student suicide was widely assumed to be due to harassment by a faculty member. It had nothing to do with community and everything to do with the fact that the faculty members in question were jerks. But perhaps someone from a community that has been historically discriminated against will feel especially victimised, and the institute should be sensitive to that sort of thing.

    But dalit organisations should also not throw such accusations without evidence. Just as many Indians throw accusations of racism every time they are mistreated, so it seems to me that many Indians attribute things to casteism which may be old-fashioned non-discriminatory nastiness or just incompetence.

    I cannot comment on the individual faculty members named in the document you link to. I suspect one of the names is misspelled and, if so, I have only heard good things about the person in question and find it hard to believe the allegations of harassment, even with my above caveat that caste may not have been a factor.

    In fact I find it hard to believe that the report you link to was made in good faith or should be taken seriously. If it is true that "many of the Dalit students told reporter that they also had been abused and humiliated" by the faculty members in question "on the basis of caste", I'd encourage them to seek a private meeting with Abi (or one of several other socially conscious and upright individuals at IISc).

  14. Prathamesh said...

    While the accusation in the link regarding casteism is quite far fetched, there is certain truth to existence of subtle casteist attitudes among the faculty members of IISc. Nothing brings this out better than the fact that the associate director openly lends support to the right wing student group on campus and in fact he even invited Arun Shourie on their behalf for a talk against reservations during the OBC reservation campaign. If it was just a matter of difference of opinion regarding affirmative action policy, One could have invited a Pratap Bhanu Mehta or an Andre Betielle.But then inviting Shourie does reek of a definite casteist attitude.

  15. Anonymous said...

    And as Ram Guha is concerned, I have a problem with his hagiography being passed off as scholarship. If we disregard his brilliant and path breaking work on the Chipko movement, he is completely driven by personality politics. His 'historical essays' are devoid of any insight into the socio-economics lives of ordinary people or any deep analysis of social factors or ideological formations that drive history.Its primarily his stack of anecdotes and school quizzer type trivia that seems to keep him in business.