In a characteristic display of the Indian governance system's boundless stupidity, the Income-Tax department has asked colleges and universities to hand over the names of those parents who have been paying upwards of one lakh rupees ( approximately USD 2222 ) per annum in tution fees for the past four years.

I am no commerce student, but it doesn't take an Amartya Sen to divine the consequences of such action. Colleges and universities, especially the private ones, are going to lower their stated tution fees, while raising the bar for capital donations paid under-the-table. This way, parents get away with a lighter receipt, while the academic corporation gets to 'over-under-declare' their income.

The educational system is already ailing. The prevalent practise of hush-donations ensure that the financial conditions of academic institutions are formally discussed in terms of how little they make compared to how much they need – a farcical argument at best, given that we have college founders who have, in ten years time, built educational empires that span seven campuses, each providing engineering, medical and management degrees. All the more, these institutes also, on account of their stated siutation, receive funding from the University Grants Commision (UGC) – taxpayer money. Which eventually adds up to the parent already being forced to pay thrice to put his kid through college – taxes, tution fees and donations. And for doing so, they become the new targets of the I-T department, never mind the politician's son who owns a Walther PPK that cost his father a whopping forty lakhs (USD 88,888), or another who drives a twenty-five lakh rupee (USD 55,000) bike. Our bureaucracy's dedication to serving public interest is rather overwhelming.

Instead, I think it would be a better idea to provide a much larger tax-break for education fees – better yet, make college fees tax free. This ensures that the parent has an incentive of getting a receipt for every rupee he spends, which in turn allows the I-T department to get a clearer picture of just how much money colleges and universities make, and tax their profits accordingly. More importantly, it encourages parents to invest in their wards' education – an already strong sentiment amongst Indian families worldwide.

But perhaps the most important advantage such measures might bring is the ability to openly discuss how our educational institutions spend the money they make. I am not really interested in spending money for my kid's college education if the administration ends up pooling all that cash into a gigantic front lawn that costs upwards of one crore rupees (USD 222,222) per annum to maintain. I'd rather my kid has access to better equipped libraries, twenty-four hour open laboratories and reasonably clean, well-lit and ventilated classrooms.

Not to mention qualified teachers who love who they are and what they do.

The exams are finally over, and amongst other things, I will return to writing this blog again.

I didn't expect things to turn this way. I thought that the final exams would be a precursor to an alleviation of mental pressure and plenty of free time. Instead, I find myself bracing for a final project review, followed by a job hunt that might take some time to be realised. And once I get a job, there's always skill gathering to do, not to mention extra classes/work on the side. And all this must be planned too, if I'm to make something of myself.

If anything, the game's risen. Conquer one mountain, only to conquer another…

While the idea of a graphic novel is not new, this is the first time I have seen a less popular medium put to use with such skill. Tomo Kataoka, the author, has combined the use of minimalist graphics, haunting melodies and minced text to tell the story of a terminally ill boy and girl who find happiness amidst trying circumstances. He has certainly done the job admirably – I was nearly moved to tears, and my sister is livid at me for not letting her complete the story ( my exams are close ).

The novel is released under a Creative Commons license, and you can download it for free from their site. They are thorough – I found versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. Do note, however, that you will need a torrent client.

It will be interesting to see whether this technique of story telling catches on. Any medium that still depends heavily on text is going to have a tough time matching itself against the motion picture; yet, words can be used to describe emotions that run deep and which would appear grotesque if drawn out on screen. It is hard to tastefully force strong emotive currents to the surface of a character in a movie – the only romance movie I've ever enjoyed is Casablanca, where Humphrey Bogart's restraint spake his love well enough. Words allow for poetry; they can express an idea without painting a picture, much like mathematical equations can describe gravitation as a phenomenon of the space-time continuum without resorting to any law of physics.

I see Kataoka's work as an instrument to express an idea to those who might not be drawn to reams and reams of text alone – this is why audio-visual techniques are adopted in education systems. But it is just as hard as writing a book, albeit in a different way. While writing an all-text novel, the author must rely on his own ideas and his own perception of the world to render a story. While it is hard to write a book, one can always expect a certain consistency in the pattern of expression, since it comes from one man alone, collaborative texts notwithstanding. A novel like Narcissu, however, depends on the combination of three media, often by three different people, who have their own perspectives on any given theme . This is the only weakness I saw in Kataoka's work; whether he handled everything or not, the graphics work appeared to me to be much weaker than his choice of words, or the running soundtrack.

Brooks' law can probably be applied here as well – there doesn't seem to be a silver bullet.

P.S. To those who asked – I've been busy preparing for my exams. Just had one – Computer Laboratory II. Simple stuff – VRML model of a coffee house. Advanced Unix Programming might be harder, though.

I'm back.

It's been a busy month for me. Laboratory submissions and my research project work left me little time to stay online, let alone blog. In the process, I've ignored friends, lost touch with technology's cutting edge and grown a scruffy beard. 

It's high time, I think, to return to the mainstream – whatever my perception of it may be.

I'm pleased to declare that version 0.1 of my research project, titled Tomescape, is expected to be released by the end of this month. Tomescape is designed to be a search-engine, albeit one that operates from a different perspective than the Googlish dozens that make their stands across the web. Details will follow the release itself; keep coming here for more.

Nothing more for now. Work beckons; a couple of aspects have been reconsidered and I must keep at it unless I want to miss my self-appointed deadline, or ignore the practical examinations just around the corner. Until next time.