Thursday, March 24, 2011

3 Myths that an IITJEE aspirant must reject

IIT JEE is most prestigious and sought after exam that a science student takes in his formative years. It is a different exam because the questions asked are original and unconventional .This in a way contrasts board examination pattern. Unlike boards, the aim of Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) is to test the analytical skills and grasp on subjects. Before I dwell into the details, let us understand how study of science is different from other streams like commerce and humanities.
As you know the word science is derived from Latin word “scientia” which means “TO KNOW”.  In German language the verb ‘to know’ is associated with two verbs Kennen (to Know a person or thing) and WIssen (to know a fact).  This clearly makes a distinction between just knowing for information and knowing with understanding.  These two steps are general to every purposeful study. However, in study of science one must be able to analyze and apply this understanding in solving problems of numerical and conceptual nature and at this point most of the people reach a road block. How often you hear people say “I can understand the theory but can’t solve the numerical”. This is because they are able to remember and reproduce but are not developed enough to analyze and apply.
Almost all who manage to get into science stream start off with a dream of IIT- JEE. It is perfectly rightful and legitimate to aspire and dream for the best, but it should be understood that fulfillment of every dream requires endless effort with open eyes. Every JEE aspirants must recognize that it is demanding and tough even if you are a genius.
Myth 1: Basics are for meek: As I have pointed earlier study of science is about four basic steps know, understanding, analyzing and applying. Analysis and application will come only when basic understanding of concepts is in place. It is sad that after passing class XII half of the students do not know what friction is and how to account for it , It is not clear to them how and where to  apply the laws of conservation , how to account for constraints . What I want to stress is, first clear your basics about theory and concepts from a good reference book before tackling objective type problems from course material of institutes. NCERT is not something you should pick up in the month of February for boards . Blind problem solving is not going to take you anywhere; you cannot learn science by copying solutions from black board.
Myth 2: Questions asked are very complex and mathematical: Don’t believe me, just pick the papers of last 33 years of IITJEE and see how many problems require mathematical rigor. The paper checks comprehension and application and not the calculation ability. Last year there were 28 Problems in physics paper, if a student has to read, understand and solve these many number of problems naturally calculations cannot be complex. In the process of preparation we become so overwhelmed by the complex problems that we cannot appreciate and accept that a problem can be simple and based on some combination of very simple concepts.  Trust me; wise people setting the paper know that they are testing the school pass outs.
Myth 3: Coaching is substitute to hard work: Many people develop this misbelieve that joining some institute has exempted them from requirement of hard work. Coaching to an extent helps because the expert faculties by their experience channelize your energy on training you for desired skills by presenting a variety of problems that broaden your vision. It also saves a lot of time that you would have spent in knowing and understanding, the time saved there can now be utilized in applying the knowledge in solving variety of problems. Until and unless you do variety of problems both conceptual and numerical you are not going to get the grasp on the subjects.  Coaching can at the most convert your hard work into smart work,  provided in words of Prof. Walter Lewin “it attempts to uncover a lot then just to cover a lot”. No one can make an IITian out of a mediocre who is not putting requisite labor. Don’t be misled by fancy advertisements and misleading half lies projected by most of the institutes. Remember magic, is in you, institute can sharpen your skills but only your work will ensure success at the end of the day. How right was Albert Einstein who said “If my theory of relativity is proven correct, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world.  Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew”. So, if you succeed there will be many mentors who will leap to take the credit for your success brazenly sidelining your labor, and if you don’t succeed, well, nobody will own the responsibility of your failure. Can’t help it after all we live in a land where only rising sun is worshiped. (Sarcasm intended, please do not take it in religious sense).
Every child is different, some are good in expression, some are brilliant in calculations, and some love everything in detail while some are content with superficial and reckless specifications. It is naïve on parents’ part to take the board percentage into consideration in deciding about stream of study for their wards. The decision should be based on aptitude and orientation of child.
Lastly remember “Scope lies in the man and not in the degree he holds”. Though it sounds out of place here but I can’t conclude without stressing that role of education is to make a good human and a good citizen. If we can’t make sensitive humans who have compassion for fellow inhabitants and nature then the technology surely will do more harm than good.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Uncertain : They are as ever

As the axiom goes “After event even a fool is wise” and at Jodhpur’s Umaid hospital  they are proving it right . For those who have missed the haunting  news in National dailies  , 16 women have died so far in Jodhpur  Government Hospital due to administration of allegedly contaminated IV fluid; The issue has lately raised questions about  state of hygiene and sanitation  in hospitals .

The all time favorite blame game is in full swing.  Inspection committee is calling names to doctors at Hospitals, Doctors are blaming the administrative authorities, administration is blaming lack of resources Following lines from a famous Bob Dylan song always ring in my head after such incidents.
How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths, will it take till he knows
that too many people have died?
The answer is blowing in the wind......

It would not be out of place  to share an appeal mailed to me by a senior doctor of the subject hospital .


                              The treating Doctors’ perspective

THE MISHAP- What has happened in the deptt of Obstetrics ,Umaid Hospital,Jodhpur in the month of February has been a terrible accident- a very unfortunate heart rending series of incidences over which no single person or a group of people had control. It was not an act of commission or omission but seemingly the interplay of an out of the world hitherto unknown FACTOR that mercilessly snatched away so many lives.

THE DEPARTMENT- If the work culture as prevails in our department for so many years were to be responsible then this kind of deaths should have occurred in the past too. But our statistics vouch for us that similar mortalities have never been an integral part of the history of this department.Most of us have been associated with this department for more than 10-15 years and we have not seen or heard of such deaths because of PPH.

FINDINGS OF COMMITTEES- Our teaching has been faulted, our training has been criticised, our devotion to work and duty has been challenged, our integrity questioned and our department has been cursed. Eyebrows have been raised on each and every act of ours. They came with a purpose and they have been able to achieve it. Our students are ignorant fools, training is faulty and non- existent, work culture is pathetic, sanitation is abysmal and we do not give any TIME to the department. We were held directly responsible for a chocked gutter or a faulty window. It appears that the mountain like figures of upwards of 70 deliveries per day are being handled by inept students and untrained nurses.
The falling standards of medical teaching and learning in medical colleges is not an ailment confined to our department, the reasons for this are many, the debate is a long one and surely has nothing to do with the present  RUN OF MORTALITY in our operation theatres that is being investigated.

ACTUALITY- Our statistics do not speak this way. Mortality figures from our institution compare well with others. Our OPD attendance is rapidly going up and we are facing an unprecedented rush in our ANC clinic, Labour rooms and our OT’S are panting for breath.
Private practice- Doing private practices outside hospital hours in our residential chambers is not a nefarious activity, a shoddy doing or a crime. We only render our services to the citizens of this city strictly in accordance with the rules and regulations that govern the state medical college teachers and in a way we work almost double than our Delhi counterparts.

THE EXPECTATIONS- Instead of experts coming to our rescue trying to help us find the culprit in the environment, that evasive superbug, that puzzling factor we only have a host of higher ups descending upon us making us parade in front of them like hard core criminals only to hear that you are shoddy, faulty in your basics and that everything is wrong with you and your work and you deserve the gallows.

WE AS WE ARE- This is not helping anybody. Our morale is shaken, our confidence battered, our self esteem lost and our hand tremble when we operate or conduct a procedure.

OUR PRAYER- We collectively mourn these deaths, we are as shaken as the kiths and kins of the deceased. Why the Almighty chose our hands for these unfortunate deaths we fail to understand. But our image has been tarnished and we deserve a little more than mere brickbats for our years of service to the Suncity.
The question here is not that  who is solely responsible for the incident ? The questions are : Doesn't someone get the salary for ensuring the quality of drugs administered, ? Is someone  paid from exchequer's money for  ensuring proper sanitation and hygiene  ? If not then, how everything comes in order and becomes spic and span on day of some minister's visit ?If everything about the hospital, staff and doctors is shoddy and out of place then what were these inspecting authorities doing, besides waiting for things to go wrong ?

I am no one to blame anyone with my limited intellect ,but I as a concerned citizen surely want to ask or tell few things to every doctor who is reading this .

Someday go to the emergency of your hospital and silently watch how nonchalant and easy going residents and doctors at duty are. Please tell them that the causality brought there is someone's father , someone' husband and world of few might be revolving around that person .For you he is just another patient . Please try to understand the condition of people and at least pretend concern and appear sympathetic.

If you know things are lousy and below acceptable standards why don't you refuse to carry on? Time is ripe for us to  decide whether hands of few semi educated politicians  or your brains runs these hospitals.
Well, these committees and reports are just time buying tactics and part of the procedure to bury the hatchet .Rest assured we the common people will forget about such episodes and get busy with  more important world cup of cricket sooner than you realize.

Only if I could , I will give a copy of Murphy's law to every government official and frame and put these lines of Hellen keller on every officer's desk

I am only one,

but still I am one.

I cannot do everything, 

but still I can do something; 

and because I cannot do everything,

I will not refuse to do something 

that .....I can do

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Randy Pausch , Anand and Spirit of life

A few days ago I watched famed "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" (click for video Link) by Late Prof Randy Pausch . Anyone who has watched the lecture will testify that his simple words are very inspiring. His intensity, energy, humor and mannerism seem so poignant because all the while we know that this man fighting with pancreatic cancer has only few months of life left. No wonder the video was rated excellent every time it was viewed on net. After seeing the video I read and saw almost everything on Randy Pausch that was available on net. To say the least, he truly was a man with a deep strength of character.

‘Anand’   was a film produced by legendary director Hrishikesh Mukherjee   which won film-fare award in 1971. The film is about a cancer patient named Anand ( Rajesh Khanna) who, despite knowing that he has just a few months of life left, believes in living his life to the fullest. He comes to Mumbai to live his last days and comes in contact with Bhaskar Banerjee (Amitabh Bachan) , a honest and serious doctor, who is distressed seeing poverty  and vegetation in the slums where he treats poor patients.  Bhaskar’s interactions with Anand make him notice the colors behind all the despair and complexity in one’s life, and teach him a lesson. After spreading happiness everywhere around him and changing the lives of many, Anand, as destined, leaves them all, which inspires Dr.Bhaskar to write a book on his life. (Click here for a video Clip

Well,  we all know that death is inevitable  and grim reaper will surely come one day,  but does it perturb us or creates an urgency in us, to focus  on set purpose of our life. Fact is most of us live with leitmotif that tomorrow will have more time than today and we presume to have an eternity to achieve our true objectives. Zest of life sets frenzy for attaining more materialistic things and in that passion we begin to take our relationships and friends for granted. When the reality strikes in a form of an ultimatum of some months, we realize that things and people that truly matter were often most neglected. When we die, for most of the world our absence shall mean nothing, however, for a very few, life will never be same again. Sadly, during the course of routine life these very people do not get the time and attention they deserve.

It concerns me that despite knowing the universal truth of mortality, an average Indian does not prepare for death. By preparedness, I basically mean two things. First, there should be sharing of information about assets, liabilities investments and commitments with someone close in family , so that there are no hassles that add salt to injury.  Second, it is duty of every individual to ensure that his aggrieved family is monetarily comfortable. Insurance by many is looked at as expense and some combine investments with insurance, which in my opinion is naive. To exemplify, a 3 lac rupee insurance with LIC costs me RS 19300 per year under assured return plan, if nothing happens to me this amount will be given to me after 20 years with 8% bonus. On the other hand a term plan for insurance of 25 lacs costs me just Rs 13500 per year but here if I remain alive I don’t get anything back. You see, if I remain alive I should thank my stars that I have another year to make and enjoy money with my near and dear ones, If that proves to be otherwise,  at least they will be financially little comfortable. Term plans like fire extinguishers are investments for exigency.

Isn’t it strange that what develops over years disappears in a flash? Even stranger is the fact that death is a great re-conciliator that  takes away all the severity leaving behind some impressions and some memories .The essence of life is truly contained , in the famous saying “Live every day as if it were your last and then some day you'll be right”. 


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