Friday, March 09, 2007

Roti, kapda aur internet

It is said that one can live on love and fresh air alone. The first is scarce on the IIT campus, so they're happy enough with unlimited access to the internet. But, that may be changing.

Economic Times reports: "Institute may limit net access to beat reclusive lifestyle".

Rajiv, alias Moviemom, is in his final year, pursuing majors in electronics at IIT Bombay (IITB). Back in the hostel after lectures and tutorials he spends most of his time downloading movies, blogging and chatting - either with friends or wingmates - until the wee hours of the morning. Not surprisingly, he doesn't make it to the morning lectures and barely manages to comply with the 80% attendance requirement

Alarmed at the 'dysfunctional', 'non-social' and reclusive lifestyle of its students, the IITB administration has decided to ban internet access to all hostels between 11pm and 12.30 pm from 12th March 2007.

I can understand the concerns of the administration. When I visited IIMA a while ago, the dorms had a deserted appearance. It wasn't term break - people just don't feel the need to hang out in the common area on every floor. They'd rather communicate online.

The same story at IIM Indore. A student told me if he needed a book from his next door neighbour he's more likely to 'ping' him than simply holler out. Luckily one can't ingest nutrients via internet, or these dudes would perhaps be seen only once a week in the real world.

On the one hand, it's sad to see the forlorn carrom board, silent common telephone (with everyone having cellphones who needs them anymore!) and lack of visible camaraderie. Of course, the same spirit and ethos has been recreated online. But is it an equal substitute?

IITB dean Prakash Gopalan told ET that "participation of IITans in sports and cultural activities has declined signficantly". He believes that students have developed an addiction to the internet, gaming and surfing which needs to be curbed.

A part of me agrees - and why IIT, even I need to curb my need to go online (am thinking of a ban between 8-11 pm so I can give undivided attention to 'life' and especially my daughter :)

So if access to everything except basic email is restricted, students will have to venture out and deal with each other. But knowing IITans they will find some way to beat the system. In fact, they will take it up as a challenge!

Secondly, this may achieve the goal of increased real-world social contact (an issue that IITB believes is directly connected to recent suicides on IIT campuses). But even the all-night internet ban (as IIT Delhi recently proposed) may not get students to class at 8 am.

I mean, 15 years ago we had no internet and many of us still did not make it to class at 9 am, especially in the second year. There are many ways to waste one's time on a campus where you have cool and interesting people. And a dhaba which makes omlettes/ parathas/ Maggi along with killer cutting chai.

So let some of the action shift back to the real world - great. But students will be students. Nothing can really change that!


  1. hello

    i like this post

  2. Sadly i've seen the whole transition from a bustling campus at IIT Kgp when i joined to a place where people prefer spending time watching movies or playing computer games. It reflects directly on the numbers of people attending/participating in various events and in the camaraderie in the campus.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Internet allows us to impersonate. Without the physical presence, most people feel much more comfortable expressing themselves which they find very daunting face-to-face. Birth of the virtual world has led to the death of the real selves.

    However, I don't believe in regulating the lives of grownups. We shouldn't be telling people what they need. Not at IITs.

  6. Oops! I didn't realise Google will publish my out of date Blog! My current blog is

  7. Looks like the same old story when i was a boarding school student and than there was a regulation that NO TV on Sunday between 4-6. We have to go for games. But the results-- student used to bunk those 2 hours. even the best players of the school used to bunk(tough not always). its not the disliking which made them do away with games but the regulation. there are always more than one way to to pass ones times.

    Though the addiction to net is surely bad. but there should be some other way to curb this like reducing the net surfing speed. or something which serves as a warning than a punishment

  8. Well, I can definitely say that the night shut-down of internet did have an effect on attendance and sleeping habits in IIT Madras, though at the same time there were people who would download movies before the shutdown, and watch them until the internet was alive again!

    It is true that attendance, social interaction etc will be slightly increased by this. But one may ask, if internet is the only reason for decreased social activity and lower attendance? It is true that movies are an entertaining alternative, but I am sure that attendance would improve much more by improving the quality of lectures, than by shutting down internet. Also, the campus environment with a dismal sex-ratio leaves chatting et al as a way out for many... one does not see the internet becoming a problem in colleges where community life is good. Add to it the frustration and extra-pressure that often pervades an IIT hostel, and you have a volatile mixture of troubles. It gives rise to drugs, suicides etc. Internet is just one vent. The volcano lies deeper...

  9. Why talk of colleges? Look out, do you see enough children like our yo days in the parks or learning cycling? They are locked indoors - cajoled into home imprisonment by TV, Computer games whatever. Outside is too bothersome, even for the parents. When my 6 years old starts asking me to play with her, I simply shift the TV channel to POGO, good riddance! Will they interact with society when they are in college - ban internet or whatever?

  10. hello

    i agree with u

  11. Sad but True.
    Remember the essays we used to write in our Hindi Class on "Doordarsha" ot Television.
    In the cons list od DD was lesser socia;l interaction, kids becoming lethargic. same is true for the Internet. What am I doing on a Satyurday Night browsing in the office. O my God! I am a victim of Internet. Help! Help!

  12. hold the classes at night!

    is the action based on the assumption that if there is no internet at night then people will sleep and be in class at right time. this might happen only for 10% people.
    yes corridor activities can definitely improve at night!

    about people coming out of their homes, here in china i see more people using internet but still i see more people and kids playing, out their in the gardens. I think it is just that internet is still only growing and in a few years once internet is absorbed then things will complete full circle and people will start coming out again.

  13. It's the same story here at XL - to the deterioration of the famed camaraderie and XL culture. Movies, LAN based games, internet and messenger being the prime culprits. One of our seniors had committed suicide last year. :( Is it feasible to bar access to internet in the highly competitive environment in the top B-Schools across India ?

  14. Well, I moved from an engineering college with access to internet only for project specific requirements to a B School with internet in my room 7 yrs ago so I can make a few observations from memory.

    Yes, I did spend a lot of time watching movies, Friends, porn etc. but watched it with group of friends in a room most of the time. I did spend more time chatting up on internet with anonymous people but it wore off after some time.

    But even without the internet, we had a lot of reasons for late nights even during my engineering time, so i don't think attendance if hampered, was solely because of the internet. In fact internet and google were almost like god's gift to us for completing our assignments and I like to think we learnt better and faster because of that too.

    As for student interaction, I have very fond memories of both places. I think as long as institutes and students themselves have interesting things planned for recreation, you don't have to impose any draconian measures on students to improve interaction among themselves.

    Give them a break and more credit for being normal coz that's just what they are. They don't need elderly profs and armchair theorists to lecture them on this!

  15. true
    with technology time is the loss
    paradoxically technology saves time but quality time for positive tasks are sidelined .
    online addiction is a fact and late nights are a fallout not only for students but for any other person who loves the cyberworld .
    overindulgence of anything is not good even amruth then becomes poison
    Dr Harimohan

  16. :D
    all I can do reading soo much discussions going on (it got published in and got digged big time!) is sit back and grin.

    Sitting inside and living thru' both the setups, free & restricted, I can only say that everyone is right in their own place. No one is wrong, no one is right. 'Lan-Ban' (as it is being called on the newsgroups) is a "necessary evil". we students as a community failed the institute and the authorities are failing us by restricting us. (I've never slept so early as I do now, but then again even my parents give me logical reasons for restricting me, which I don't always buy!)

    Being an ex-sysad and ex-student rep. in comp. center of insti, I've seen many policies being made and marred. This is just another one of those; authorities want to experiment and will REVIEW the whole lan-ban thing after 4 weeks.

    Let us just live with it, without hyping it as another masala story from IIT.

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  18.'s true.i am currently in iima and i must admit that socialising is lesser than what it'd be if we didn't have internet.after the classes most are content (me too) to lock them up inside their rooms and download/watch movies, chat with friends miles away and to browse.i sometimes think how much more fun i'd have making new friends (there are 270 in my batch and i hardly know 10 of them intimately..)

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