Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bangalore to Blacksburg: A campus trail of terror that leads where ?

The Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg is an idyllic place of study. It's an amazing experience to sit in any one of the many quiet spots around the duck pond in the VT campus and study Operations Research (or Indian Philosophy) for hours. The bliss factor is really high. Likewise, the Indian Institute of Science is the last green sanctuary for graduate students in the concrete jungle that is Bangalore. I've spent countless hours walking and cycling thru the beautiful IISc campus and playing table tennis in the gymkhana. It's difficult to think of more peaceful sanctuaries for students. All that changed two years ago.

It's been two years since the massacre at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg by a lone deranged student on April 16, 2007. It's been about four years since jehadi terrorists bombed and shot up the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. This happened on the day of a conference on Operations Research there. Similarly, among the innocent victims at Blacksburg was Dr. G.V. Loganathan, a mild-mannered, hard-working, and brilliant civil engineering professor of Indian origin. He had co-authored some nice papers on optimizing water distribution networks - he was an OR person as well.

You want to study O.R in peace; it can be a noble science that can help man use nature's scarce resources more wisely (We have enough for man's need, but not his greed, said the Mahatma). After these mindless killings in 2005 and 2007, the pit in your stomach tells you that there is no more safe haven in this world. Not for you, and certainly not for your children. The right to life and liberty in the 21st century is going to have to be earned the hard way. Will every children's park, school, and public place have to be monitored and policed with machine guns? will the latest Kevlar-lined shirt and armor-plated cars be the hot selling item (for today's Bangalore traffic, what u need is a big tank) Will we eventually become a planet of agoraphobics?

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