Monday, May 16, 2005

On becoming a Master

I received my master's degree from Carnegie Mellon today. The Commencement ceremony (as the Convocation is called in the US) was marked by tradition, colour, and meticulous planning. It was wonderful being a part of it!

Some notes on the occasion:
Academic Dress
The academic dress worn on the graduation day is derived from the clerical attire of the monks who taught at the medieval European universities. While all graduates wear the gown and the mortarboard (the flat square hat) with tassel (that hangs down from the hat), it is only the masters who wear the hood.

The hood (originally used to cover the head to protect it from cold) is usually left hanging down at the back, and thus resembles a pouch. Since the monks were sworn to poverty, they could not earn their living. So when they went on procession (explained my professor) the laity dropped offerings into the hanging hood.

* * *

Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate and founder of our university, was born in Scotland and was proud of his roots. Carnegie Mellon shares this pride. The checked pattern that make up a Scottish clan's insignia (called a Tartan) is ubiquitous in the campus, lends its name to the university newspaper and makes up the lining of the hood as well.

The other major Scottish symbol is the bagpipe. Like the nadaswaram, this wind instrument occupies the pride of place on all important occasions, including the Commencement. Just as the nadaswaram weaves an atmosphere of sanctity and auspiciousness for the deity that follows, the band of bagpipes (the "Kiltie Band") lends an air of majesty and dignity when leading the procession of university heads and professors.

[And the School of Computer Science diploma award function was inaugarated by a tune from the bagpipe playing robot, McBlare!]

* * *

The Americans are predominantly an outdoor people. On weekends, they love to go hiking, camping in the jungle, biking long distances. Hence their idea of a perfect weather is sun shining brightly, with no showers. However, Nature takes a particular relish in playing spoilsport to their plans: It has been statistically observed that most rain or snow occurs during the weekend. This phenomenon is called Weekend Weather. There is even a joke: "If there is a clear sky after two days of rain, it is probably a Monday."

Thankfully, it was a perfect day for my Commencement, despite it being a Sunday. Probably it is a knack I bring from Madras.


Sunil said...


RamV said...

omg, its that long since i chked ur blog. or spoke to you.

Congrats, saaar. master indeed.

Srikanth said...