Saturday, July 9, 2016

Full Circle

Heard of it on two consecutive Saturdays. The first was a short get-together of old pals last Saturday in Kolkata. I was told that some of my facebook posts are beyond comprehension, go above the head! Move to this Saturday. It is more aptly put for the latest post there, ".. sometimes your thought becomes a bit abstract for mere mortals like us.... but what is a thought from a professor without a bit of abstractness may I say so..."

Highest truths are always simple

That actually is the case. Today morning in the market met a High School friend with whom connection was lost for long. Among other things, he talked about this six month old post which was special for him. May be the 'abstractness', the lack of clarity leave room for many different interpretations. How one interprets or the perspective, becomes more important (centre of focus) than what is interpreted. That might have its own value.

I ___ , therefore I am

What is the right word to complete the above sentence? Met another High School friend today morning while in market. He is now a lead member of the executive committee of Kharagpur Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal. Assured him of attending tomorrow's Karmi Sammelan if it doesn't rain. The venue is a place 5 KM away where only 2 wheelers can go. The other two short meetings in the market were with two colleagues. In one, apprised a junior colleague of a possible path he can take. In the other, a very senior faculty remembered those days when I worked in his team in my first extra-academic assignment.

More than a meeting place

There were not much scope to converse with shopkeepers on a busy weekend like this. The grocery shop person made aware that a PET jar is given for free if I take 2 liters of mustard oil instead of my usual purchase of 1 liter. The fish-seller told that she was selling fish to me at cost price for being MFC (Most Favoured Customer). The vegetable-seller didn't mind giving change of a Rs. 1000 currency note as SBI ATM didn't leave other option. Only the flower-seller was little complaining that I was not being regular. Was little worried to reach home late from market but luck was in favour.

Shortest route

Took bath quickly. It was 'Bipad-tarini' (one who rescues from trouble, a form of goddess Kali or Chandi) Puja day. Only after Puja there will be the license to eat. Rushed to Shiva-Kali temple at the outskirt of IIT Kharagpur campus. Puja was done nicely. Additionally, tried a new route which appeared to me as a sort of discovery. This appears to be the shortest route from our quarter to Shiva-Kali Mandir, a distance of 1.4 KM. The path found was not to be the widest one and thus, less drive-friendly. And, it remained unexplored till date. Heard the other day that novelty, innovation lie in doing things that are counter-intuitive.

Intuition

By definition, it is the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning. It is not as random as it sounds. There is a method in everything. There is a process of naturalization by which certain things get assimilated within us. It has more to do with the exposures we do get and what we do with that.

Human excellence

In his lecture on "Swami Vivekananda and Human Excellence" at Harvard University, Swami Ranganathananda presented an interesting observation. Post World War II a UNESCO appointed commission, presided over by then French Education Minister who later became Prime Minister, started investigating the nature of education humanity needs. The commission submitted a report after analyzing the current systems of education and demands of the new human situation in post-war period.

'Learning to be'

Yes, that was the title of the report submitted by the UNESCO appointed commission. Till now education has been essentially learning to do. The commission said that while retaining learning to do, the post war education must add also learning to be. "What are you? is equally, if not more, important than what you do."

Work efficiency

Quoting Chandogya Upanishad (yadeva vidyayā karoti, śraddhaya, upanisadā, tadeva vīryavattaraṃ bhavatīti), it was told that vidya i.e. science or knowledge of doing things, sraddha i.e. faith in oneself or astikyabuddhi - a totality of positive attitude and upanishad i.e. deep / meditative thinking on the subject, bring out vīryavattaraṃ i.e. superior energy. Put together, whatever is done with vidyasraddha and upanishad, that alone becomes supremely efficient.

Dimension of Education

Swami Ranganathanada continues. The educated citizen is the source from which modern democratic society receives nourishment. That education must include not only intellectual knowledge but also these other two values as well (sraddha and upanishad). The more we neglect the to be aspect of education, the more vulnerable this civilization becomes. And our intuition or the lack of it, would help or fail us.

A conversation

-"Sir, you would be surprised.. I got a paper published from my MTech Project."
--"Excellent. PlosOne is a very good journal. Why in Bank then?"
- "I am into healthcare so I get to use my technical knowledge to understand companies and develop business acumen too."
- "We have some fund and I was wondering if we can help any village around KGP. Please advise."
- "Hello Sir, any thoughts?"
--"NSS works in 18 villages. It can conduct a survey in x no. of villages depending on quantum of fund. Possibly one village would be good to start with. The survey will identify  no. of household without toilet."
And the money was transferred recently. More is assured when the sum given is utilized. NSS students of current batch are to work on it in the coming session. To bring a full circle to this, I may say that the conversation was with an alumnus who is one of the name and face of this four year old NSS IIT Kharagpur post.

The story continues

There was a mail few months back in my inbox from an ex-student with whom interaction was for only 2 months in Summer Quarter way back in 2008. The mail with the subject line "I am 'Mon' from your blog" goes like this.

I still remember very clearly my days of summer quarter in KGP when you used to teach us Basic Electronics course in which I had miserable flunked. I believe that SQ was the best thing happened to my academic career in Kgp. Not just Electronics I was able to learn the best lessons of life during this time. 
I am visiting Kgp this Holi, would love to see you in the campus.

And we had a long chat when he visited campus. Now working in a responsible position in an MNC, he maintains his connection with CRY IIT Kharagpur.

New Session

This is that time of the season when we get phone calls seeking various supports as new batch of students enter the campus. They come from various background. Majority perhaps were too busy with academics and had to work extra hard to get into such a coveted institution. They make take it as a prize of their and their parents' effort. And it may not be out of place to think that they have every right to enjoy the fruit of their labour and explore how the IIT degree can work to their advantage.

Responsibility

While one cannot take the credit away from the incumbent and their family, there is something more that assume significance. I recall what I told the son of my IITKGP UG day's batch-mate few years back when he joined here as a fresher. Our country is not rich enough to give IIT like infrastructure / facility to every youth. A student here has an implicit responsibility to put to its best use what is offered to him and, work towards elevating others who do not get the same opportunity, are deprived of in some way or the other. The standard advice on how to do well here can be found in earlier posts like this and this.

Endnote

"Knock! Knock!" And a gentle push opened the door slowly.
"Sorry, Sir! You are there!" The students were fumbling. "We thought that you had gone home but forgot to switch-off the lights and lock the door! We were worried."
It was a 10:30 PM some weeks back. The research students were taking break from their lab. work as per their regular schedule. And they had seen that maximum hour for me to stay in office was 10:00 PM, till that time.

P.S.: While mind makes its own adjustment with the arrow of time, the body goes through an annual check every summer. This year's check shows that of the two parameters in yellow zone (rest in green) one is making a move towards green zone. The step count app of the mobile phone is not that inaccurate. It clocked 7000+ steps today!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year 2016


/* Two consecutive posts in this blog. I must not be holidaying :-)  */

New Member

It was July, 1990. Done with graduation from here, joined my first job at Tata Steel, Jamshedpur. Accommodation was at GT Hostel, Kadma. Nice atmosphere. Soccer at floodlight in the adjacent Tata Football Academy ground. Occasional fight with them over territorial rights. The steel plant was few KM away. Just reached 22 years. It was time to look for options beyond cycling.

The Rajdoot RD 175 bike was part of me for 16 long years and was parted with when repairing became difficult. Had many, many memories of it, with it - in those momentous years of life. At Jamshedpur, Kharagpur, Bandel and then back again at Kharagpur. Last days of father, PhD days, Marriage, taking daughter to nursery school (attached is a March, 2006 picture when the school was over, our current quarter fencing can be seen in the background, same road; at that time we were staying in a quarter near PAN loop).

It was difficult to say bye to that Rajdoot bike. But had to. Came Honda Shine 125. But the feeling of a 38 year old is quite different from that of a 22 years. It was more of a utility vehicle. It served its purpose and absence of self-start, requirement to buy Pep+ for HH and arrival of Maruti 800, made one ask its utility. The Pep+ was to be used so that the battery remains charged and HH can use self-start whenever she decided to venture out, may be twice or thrice a week.

Thus, Honda bike was parted with after seven years and for last 2 years, I was bike-less! Maruti 800, Pep+ and walk were the modes. But off late, started facing some issues. The major one is due to HH becoming more proficient in riding 2-wheeler, wanted it at her disposal for anytime visit to market, friends' places. And, 4-wheeler is not convenient to visit villages / slums. The biggest trouble used to be rushing back home from such a visit at the requirement of HH. Thus, decided to gift myself a new bike in the new year. Also thought, if the first and middle phase of life had one each, why not the last phase too! Thus, a new member joined the family - Hero Achiever 150. The registration no. is yet to be obtained.

Priority

HH and daughter arrived at quarter after 10 day long vacation trip. It was evening time. Daughter rushed to garage to see the new bike. HH got busy checking how the flower-plants were doing in her absence. She was full of joy to see a rose plant doing excellent this time which was not the case in earlier years. And petunias, dahlia, marigold, others clocking healthy growth. It took long 15 minutes to assess the various parts of the garden and then shifting priority to have a look at the new bike.

Meanwhile, myself and daughter developed an excuse to take a small ride in the new bike to visit Tech. Market to buy some thing. It is another matter that the same thing was available in a local shop at walking distance. On return, in spite of all the warnings not to catch cold in a chilly winter evening, the daughter took her time to decorate the Christmas Tree in front of our quarter with bells, herself.

Tomorrow is the first class of the new year, both for school and the institute. I was nearly done with preparation for the first class. One book was required to be brought from Dept. office almirah. And the daughter found that she needs new year cards to be bought to give to friends tomorrow in school. So, were at it again. Another ride from quarter to Tech. Market to Dept. and back.

Inspiration

New year is associated with greetings card, calendar, diary, messages, emails, phone calls. Prepared an e-greeting card for wishing certain audience (Link). It was not that the official greeting card of the institute wouldn't do, but the personal touch often carries the message better when we are working in a team. In the new year celebration of the lab., one recited a poem on calendar itself that was written by him. All shared how was 2015 and what they were looking forward to in 2016.

I drew their attention to being balanced in their approach towards what they think, act; and on importance of concentration - ability to focus and withdraw mind at one's own will. Thus goes the Vivekananda quote that I draw inspiration from, "If I had to do my education over again, and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will."


One young student came into facebook message box. "Happy New year Sir! Hope you keep inspiring us for years to come!" I would put it the other way. It is the students and people around who keep inspiring me with their good thoughts and good deeds. It is such a joy to to see people striving for a better world/ society through acts that do not allow selfish interests to get better of them. And we heard, "Unselfishness is God." Other way speaking - Show me an unselfish person, I shall show you God.

The other thing that inspires me a lot is the courage, resolve shown to face the life's struggle. One student in the new year meet was in tears to narrate how was 2015. For last eight months she is away from her 1.5 year old daughter who stays with grand mother in ancestral place, 500 KM away. Because of her academic work, a full time PhD which she wants to finish in time, she tried keeping grand-mother here but it did not work. Now every month, for few days  she visits daughter. And we remembered that facebook photo where a mother was carrying bricks in large numbers in a construction site with baby tied to her back.

The first calendar of 2016 was gifted by office-bearers of Satya Sai Seva Trust who visited a week back. They conduct free disaster management training program besides many other service oriented activities (some earlier picture link). I get a Tata Steel diary from Bearings Division of Tata Steel when I visit their place in 3rd / 4th week of Jan. Every year, unfailingly they arrange a program on Vivekananda (one earlier link). They rang and told that this year it would be on 23rd Jan. Few days back, one journalist of a lead English daily rang. His acquaintance who run an NGO, is coming up with a school and there is inauguration. The list continues. And I echo the message received from an unexpected quarter today, from faculty of a reputed non-IIT institute where this new year gave an opportunity to start an interaction, "May this new year bring peace, prosperity and happiness for all of us."

Endnote: I would like to leave it blank this time.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

ABVYM Annual Camp 2015

It was about 9 AM of last Sunday, one of those end-Dec. days when Her Highness visits ancestral place to take care of certain other things there. Checked with Ma, she was feeling much better that day (nothing serious, old age has its ups and downs). I made a quick estimate. Yes, I can finish shopping, cooking etc. and push-off for the 2:25 PM EMU local, for a seven-hour round trip to a place called Panskura. It would be 50 minutes train journey from Kharagpur station towards Howrah.

Ma happily obliged. I was going to Panskura to attend the afternoon / evening session of 5-day long annual camp of Akhil Bharat Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal (ABVYM). The word 'Mahamandal' itself brings joy, a glow in our family for the contribution it had on us and in our neighbourhood. The other day HH came from local market, excited. Has any Mahamandal member of Kharagpur unit joined a book shop in the market? I answered in negative, at least I was not aware of. Came the reply - but the young boy, could be a college student, had the look, and the way he presented himself!


Went to market. Bumped on Anjan, another Mahamandal product, a self-made man who runs two schools and has tremendous entrepreneurial spirit. He visited camp on 25th Dec. and was to go again on 29th because it would have Swami Balabhadranadaji's lecture in the evening session. But, as soon as he heard that I would be going that day, he thought that there was nothing wrong with 27th either :-).

Shopping, cooking, lunch, medicine to Ma - all done and there was Anjan with his bike at our quarter at 1:30 PM. Together we boarded that 2:25 PM train. When we got down at Panskura station, we found Prabodh-da and another young companion of him, all going to camp. Prabodh-da too is from Kharagpur unit. His son and seven other from Kharagpur, are attending this camp for all five days.

Took vacation leave from office for visiting the camp again on 29th Dec. This time Sujoy, Kanchan, Anuj - a different set of Kharagpur unit oldies accompanied and also eight other young persons. While it was pre-planned that myself and Sujoy would go together, Anuj and Kanchan's decision to join was sudden. Anuj rang in the morning thanking me for my facebook post on 27th Dec. camp visit and when he heard that we would be going that day, he was in. For Kanchan, there was celebration of birth anniversary of their diksha-guru, Swami Swarupananda - Babamoni. He freed himself, had early prasad and joined the team. For youngsters in the team, a proposal was made previous evening and the number swelled to eight. Gifted these young companions a small book on "Leadership: Its Concept and Qualities" written by Sri Nabaniharan Mukhopadhyaya from the camp site book stall. Had an interaction with the author in the camp who has been the main driving force of ABVYM since its inception in 1967.


At the end of the picture series below, there are videos that has two interesting lectures on "Vivekananda and Technical Education" by Swami Vedarupananda, Ramakrishna Mission Shilpamandir, Saradapith (Link) and "Vivekanada's Philosophy of Work" by Swami Balabhadrananda, Assistant Secretary, Belur Math (Link). In the first, among others, the theory of adoption of technological skill brings unemployment, is bunked. In the latter, it was explained how work efficiency improves without creating bondage / backlash through practice of non-attachment.

There are few other short duration videos that shows different aspects of this camp - the flag-down ceremony (1), the physical skill demonstration by children's wing (1), prayer (1), song (1), Q and A session (1, 2), camp kitchen / dining, book stall (1,2 ) and also typical camp announcements (1).

Camp Pictures:





























Camp Videos:












An audio of evening lecture in Day 2 of camp on "Vivekananda and World Peace" in Bengali by Sri Birendra Kumar Chakraborty, Secretary, ABVYM: Link

Endnote: There was email, phone call, SMS. A discussion was to take place on certain official activity where a faculty from another IIT was to come here. It happened yesterday evening. While we could wrap up the official matters in 15 minutes, the next 30 minutes went in sharing ideas and experiences on certain common interests. The young faculty and his wife work for  rescued children through an NGO, teach yoga in juvenile home etc. They have a team of 10 members in that campus and every weekend, 5-6 members of that team engage some of their time for the social cause in rotation. He showed me some of the photographs of the children he worked with. I showed him some of the activities being carried out here and also nararted experience of this ABVYM Annual Camp and NSS, IIT Kharagpur Annual Camp.

And, I had to email the young faculty twice at his request. The first time, I mailed him the weblink of that official activity. The second mail had link of this blog. I had the opportunity of reporting NSS, IIT Kharagpur 7-day long Annual Camp experiences in NSS, IIT Kharagpur blog (8 posts from Nov. 28 to Dec. 05, 2015). While I could attend ABVYM Annual Camp on 2 days, I visited NSS, IIT Kharagpur camp everyday except for one day as I had to be in the national launch of IMPRINT-India by Hon. President in presence of Hon. Prime Minister at Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Live for Thee

Prologue
There was sufficient condition, perhaps not the necessary condition.  It is not that I was not writing in between. But in a different space, and in a different capacity. May be postponing this ‘chronicle of life’ for a post-retirement autobiography! Is that a good idea? Grand-father, Father, Me. Statistically speaking, I should have more than 10 years of me left for others to bear with! Enough for Jio, Ji bhar ke! Reminds me of a Chunky Pande dialogue in an Akshaykumar starrer, “I am jo-king”. Also, there is the 'live for thee' that gives purpose to a life when comes the question - Why? What for? Does it worth?

Yesterday afternoon. A discussion with theme coordinator in a national roadmap building exercise.  Healthcare should not position itself only as Sickcare. Caring health when we are healthy, adopting healthy life style, will reduce disease burden of the country. Well, could that be the necessary condition to deserve such an opening sentence? Doesn’t seem so. A routine activity can do anything but trigger.

When alone
Cut to a different scene. About 9 PM of yesterday evening. It was a Monday evening. Midsem. Exam. Started. Still in office. As usual. Had to complete and mail slides for an important video conference, scheduled today. Comes a phone. A UG student is on the other side.  Sir, I got admitted in hospital this morning with high fever. Appeared in today’s exam. from  hospital. Now, I am feeling somewhat better.  My next exam is day after tomorrow. Alone in student cabin wanted to talk to somebody. My friends must be preparing now for their exam., do not want to disturb them. Your thought came. Read in your blog that you as a student appeared in a semester exam. from this hospital.

And we talked a while. His father, in Indore, wanted to come here. Worried, since it is exam. time. The student asked him not to.  

Who is in whose family
As if it was not enough. The same yesterday. A PG student appeared at office door with a glowing face. I am getting better results now. How? It is same time-frequency features. But by doing feature selection with stricter p-value criterion. Number of features is reduced. But poorer features seem to get eliminated and the model is doing better. Very good! I am coming to the lab. shortly and shall examine. Sir, tables, plots are already sent to you and is in your inbox. You can see from here. She sat down. And her too was an exhaustive study, characteristic signature of our lab. students. The novelty, contribution part are for others to comment. I can vouch for the sincerity, effort, detailed analysis part of it. 

We were half way through our discussion on those analysis of EEG signals and interpreting functioning of brain. A knock at the door. Parents there. Both, specially the mother, are active social worker. She is part of CSR work taken up by members of a nearby Industry, from house of TATAs. Recently they conducted a program together with some of our UG students in a neighbourhood village. They came to IITKGP for some other work. Found that the light is on in my office. Wanted to discuss a new proposal with me, lighting up of approach road of one crematorium.

The research student, their daughter, gave a look at parents which I am not unfamiliar with. I get more of that from my daughter at home. Parents were kind of apologetic, embarrassed to enter in between a discussion. Made them feel comfortable. Told them that their daughter is now part of our IIT Kharagpur family and they have higher priority. We can continue the research discussion later. They have to travel some distance to return home. The picture in this post was whatsapp-ed by these parents earlier. They clicked this in a public gathering of Sathya Sai Seva Organization, held one week back.

The thread that connects
This again relates to a telephone call of yesterday. The student was calling from home. The father developed a heart related problem. Kolkata hospital told that holter test is required and possibly pacemaker after that. The hospital cannot conduct that test and told them to get it done from outside within certain date. The place where they stay has only one such centre in the district and that is booked till 12th of October. The student wanted to discuss what can be done.

Hurrah!
The fourth one from yesterday, connected to this thread, is something that almost made me jump in joy. There was the elder brother, a senior research student, who appeared in my office. His father had a fall in toilet few days back. Since he had other health problems the family went for a Kolkata specialty hospital 200 KM from their village. Fellow students pooled money to meet the emergency and one of them accompanied him. After successful operation, the father is now back home.

The student gave this report of his father’s health. Then there was a pause. He smiled. And then said, Sir, brother has got a job. A Govt. job, contractual in the beginning. Both of us had broad smiles in our face. How much we (me and the elder brother) shared among ourselves, both worries and possible opportunities, and how to push the younger brother to deliver his best. The younger brother worked hard and full credit to him. The family even in a distressed situation like this when the father is ill, feel relieved cannot conceal joy.

Shared space
Students are at the centre in a campus environment with whom both parents and teachers connect to. The environment has inherent in it making of a bigger family out of its residents. Of my 700+ FB friends, 600+ would be students from here, mostly UG, many of them are now settled in their respective professional lives. All such student friends have one thing in common. The requests came from them. It is their greatness to consider people from another generation as ‘Friend’ and share their space with us. It was nice to learn that both the generations will be present together in Rashtrapati Bhavan for national launch of something significant. Would-be winners of a student essay competition (Link) will be invited there and it will be a joy to share space with them.

Epilogue
Let me end this by copy-pasting FB comment of one of my friend from our generation, a Professor at University of London, our collaborator in brain research related activity. The context was an earlier posting of this blog. The post reappeared in reference to a student led discussion held last week on - Unselfishness is more paying, but one does not have the patience to practise it.

An interesting post. It reminds me of a story I have read. A senior monk was speaking to a group of young monks and to make a point, showed a large jar and put it on the table, He produced a few fist sized rocks and placed them one by one into the jar. When no more rocks could be fit, he asked "is the jar ful?" Everyone replied in chorus, "yes". He then pulled out a bucket of gravel, dumped some in the jar, shook and dumped more. It quickly filled the spaces between the rocks. Again he asked, "is this jar full?" The monks hesitated, and one replied, "probably not." He replied, "good" and then brought some sand and dumped the sand into jar until it filled all the crevices. Again he asked, "is the jar full?" The monks were catching up, so shouted, "No." The senior then grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he asked "what is the point of this demonstration?"
One young monk responded, "the point is no matter how full your day is, you can always fit more things in."
"No" replied the wise monk, "the point is if you don't put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all. So set the life's priorities and lead your life accordingly."
One young monk responded, "the point is no matter how full your day is, you can always fit more things in.""No" replied the wise monk, "the point is if you don't put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all. So set the life's priorities and lead your life accordingly."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Prof. B. N. Das Passes Away


Prof. B. N. Das (Link), one of the pillar on which Dept. of Electronics & ECE, IIT Kharagpur stands tall today, has left his mortal frame on 7th Aug., 2015, early morning. In yesterday's condolence meeting, Director, IIT Kharagpur was telling that it is not just this Dept., he was one of those persons for whom the institute is known for excellence today, and all of us should emulate his path. Prof. Das' love of integrals, maths., analytical approach on one side and determination, grit, passion for quality on the other side, were in the making of him and his awe-inspiring personality. His students are spread far and wide and doing their organizations proud for the important roles they play there. Prof. Das adorned simplicity till the end of his life. We are told that he avoided being administrative Heads not to miss his time with research.

He was my B.Tech. project guide. Had the opportunity to interact with him during my research scholar days here and later as a faculty. Many memories.

We miss Prof. B. N. Das and Prof. G. S. Sanyal (Link) of that era who led from the front R & D activities in microwave and antenna engineering.




Monday, July 27, 2015

Wings of Fire

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam at ICCCD 2010 Inauguration on 10-12-2010; and full text of his very inspiring speech on "Life: Progress, Challenges and Growth" delivered to students at Dept. of Electronics and ECE, IIT Kharagpur after the inauguration function.