On our second day at IIT Gandhinagar, Alphons Kannanthanam, a famous Indian politican, discussed the bureaucracy and politics of India. Alphons worked as an Indian Administrative Service and was an elected member of the Legislative Assembly of Kerala. He earned the title, The Demolition Man, after he razed over 14,000 illegal buildings as commissioners of the Delhi Development Authority. He was also featured among TIME Magazine’s list of 100 young global leaders in ‘94. As District Collector of Kottayam, he pioneered the literacy movement in India by making Kottayam town the first 100% literate town in India in ‘89. Currently, Alphons in a National Executive Member of the Bharatiaya Janata Party (BJP).
Alphons presented a different approach to changing India compared to the previous day’s speaker, Roop Rekha Verma. Verma advocated a bottom up, grass roots approach to achieve her goals of granting minority rights and providing for children’s education. Her path to change involved less politics and more open discourse and awareness of issues. Alphons, on the other hand supported a top down, more authoritative approach for providing jobs and wealth to India whose poverty rate is above 30%. He wants more power to implement his goals. The people of India seem frustrated with the inaction and corruption of their government and so Alphons appears to offer a firm but practical approach to this inaction. The IIT and Caltech students debated heavily over these issues especially as Alphon’s talk became more politically charged as he talked about Narendra Modi of the BJP. Modi is a controversial figure for among other things, being in power of the state of Gujarat when there was widespream anti-muslim violence. He is accused of taking inadequate steps to stop Hindu mobs from massacring atleast 1,000 of their Muslim neighbors in 2002. Modi may become India’s next Prime Minister which Alphons belives to be almost certain. This lecture left us many more times more aware of the political and social problems in India along with different views on their solutions.
With these issues on our mind, we spent the rest of the day experiencing more of Indian culture. At night, we ate at this restuarant that recreated an old Hindu village complete with Hindu rituals, classical music, and artwork. Dinner was panjabi food which was varied and sweet. Servers would come around every so often to replenish our food on our leaf plate (pictured below).
After dinner we got to experience some Indian classical music and dance. The IIT students showed us some dance moves while a few of us got to partipating in playing the instruments. Vansh got to play drums and Edward, another Techer, played the harmonium.
The place also had a small museum with art and pottery (pictured below).
My favorite part about Caltech is the Houses! The easiest way to describe them is as Hogwarts houses: each has their own personality and group of people and the first thing you do at Caltech is go through a “sorting” process. The people are what makes the Houses at Caltech so great. As a frosh, it’s amazing to be able to come in and immediately have a group of 100+ people to support you. Because the Houses have students from every grade, you make friends with upperclassmen and can ask for help on tons of things like:
It’s crazy to think that it has been four years now since I was applying to college. I remember it vividly. This week we’re spending some time reflecting on our personal admissions processes, and how we ended up at Caltech. There’s one question though that I wanted to spin out into a separate post: “what advice would you give to the admitted class of 2025?” And I think the best way to do this is to tell a more detailed story than I did in my other post.
These past six months have been a whirlwind- from having to move out of Caltech housing in March within a week’s notice due to COVID-19, to starting the first term of my junior year, I’ve definitely experienced a lot of change. When I went home in March, it was to a completely new state-my family moved from Chino, CA to New Jersey in January (great timing, huh?). While I missed seeing my friends from home, it was fun to have the chance to explore a completely new place. The pandemic obviously limited what I could see and do, but I got to experience walks through nature and along rivers normally foreign to a SoCal native and had some time to focus on bioinformatics research for the lab I work with on campus.