Saturday, December 27, 2008

Imitation of Christ

This is Christmas time. Was reading a translation of 'Imitation of Christ' written by Thomas A Kempis, first published in Latin in 1418. The translation was by Swami Vivekananda who always had a high regard for Christ and this text (so much so that it always accompanied him.) Some excerpts from www.
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Of prudence in action

We must not trust every word of others or feeling withinourselves, but cautiously and patiently try the matter, whetherit be of God. Unhappily we are so weak that we find it easier tobelieve and speak evil of others, rather than good. But theythat are perfect, do not give ready heed to every news-bearer,for they know man's weakness that it is prone to evil andunstable in words.

This is great wisdom, not to be hasty in action, or stubbornin our own opinions. A part of this wisdom also is not tobelieve every word we hear, nor to tell others all that we hear,even though we believe it. Take counsel with a man who is wiseand of a good conscience; and seek to be instructed by one betterthan thyself, rather than to follow thine own inventions. A goodlife maketh a man wise toward God, and giveth him experience inmany things. The more humble a man is in himself, and the moreobedient towards God, the wiser will he be in all things, and themore shall his soul be at peace.

Of the knowledge of truth

All perfection hath some imperfection joined to it in thislife, and all our power of sight is not without some darkness. Alowly knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than the deepsearching of man's learning. Not that learning is to be blamed,nor the taking account of anything that is good; but a goodconscience and a holy life is better than all. And because manyseek knowledge rather than good living, therefore they go astray,and bear little or no fruit.

O if they would give that diligence to the rooting out of vice and the planting of virtue which they give unto vainquestionings: there had not been so many evil doings andstumbling-blocks among the laity, nor such ill living amonghouses of religion. Of a surety, at the Day of Judgment it will be demanded of us, not what we have read, but what we have done;not how well we have spoken, but how holily we have lived. Tellme, where now are all those masters and teachers, whom thouknewest well, whilst they were yet with you, and flourished inlearning? Their stalls are now filled by others, who perhapsnever have one thought concerning them. Whilst they lived theyseemed to be somewhat, but now no one speaks of them.

Of the imitation of Christ, and of contempt of the world and all its vanities

He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,(1) saith theLord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how farwe must imitate His life and character, if we seek trueillumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Letit be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the lifeof Jesus Christ.

It is vanity then to seek after, and to trust in, the richesthat shall perish. It is vanity, too, to covet honours, and tolift up ourselves on high. It is vanity to follow the desires ofthe flesh and be led by them, for this shall bring misery at thelast. It is vanity to desire a long life, and to have littlecare for a good life. It is vanity to take thought only for thelife which now is, and not to look forward to the things whichshall be hereafter. It is vanity to love that which quicklypasseth away, and not to hasten where eternal joy abideth.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

NSS Camp

Merry Christmas! Let Christmas bring peace and happiness to every soul, in every nook and corner of the world. This post is about something that happened a month back. It had been a busy December. If time permits, shall come back with other experiences of this month.

It was a great experience to be at the NSS camp during Nov. 26, 2008 to Dec. 03, 2008 in a village surrounding 6 km from IITkgp campus. Approximately, 140 first year students and few faculty members like us were engaged in discovering India that remains largely unseen to urban privileged class and in turn it was a journey to discover ourselves.

The following are some of the excerpts I had with volunteers after the camp following the group mail I posted. (Pls. overlook grammatical errors as I didn't wish to edit anything and post as the students saw and expressed)

One cannot but be reassured to see future India emerging out of the youth of India. Also the role of programs like NSS (specially in institutes like IITs where leader of the futures are made) need to be emphasized that trains young mind, acts as interface and enabler between the capacity building (which IIT does) and right use of that capacity.

---------------------------

Dear NSS Volunteers,

Hope you have all reached home safely or on your way.

It was wonderful to spend those eight days with you in the NSS camp 2008 and share each others dreams as related to nation building.

Let us all try our best to become a better human-being and work for the betterment of our society.

We have experienced how team work can be a fun, how satisfactory it is to work for the poor and needy. Let us continue with the good work.

Please send your feedback on how we can improve. Also suggest some actionable items for the future.

Please don't negelect study, career. A better career gives a larger foot-print, more capacity to serve others.

Please keep in touch. Let us all work together for a better, stronger India.

Sincerely yours

G.....

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Sir, i am a first year student (08arXXXX) who really enjoyed the discussions we had together. we definitely have to think for the society and for the country as a whole. It felt good collecting clothes for the poor and the needy ones and it also makes us realise how far we are still from total development. I and my friends discuss about this matters regarding the political situations, the corruption and the inefficiency of our system whaich goes on to become a heated debate.i feel strange that iitians have contributed very little to the society,where are all those iitians who pass out every year? Even I may become one of them.but this camp like NSS makes us realize our duty towards india.i have only shared a few things which goes in my mind. ....

*****

Dear sir and fellow NSS volunteers,

This is Sh....., here to express my views and suggestions for the betterment of NSS.
From my experiences at the camp, I learnt many things, most important of those values being the values of sharing and selflessness. Helping the poor and others in need, is a very good way to reach out to the less privileged of the Indians.

These 8 days in the camp have been very useful, helping us learn how we can spend our free time helping others, instead of sitting idle and entertaining ourselves only. Had we all gone back home after the end-sems we would have done just that. But I thank the NSS officials for giving us this wonderful opportunity.

Joyful experiences amongst the company of my friends apart, this visit to a rural area was very helpful in increaing my outlook. First of all, I had been to a village a long time ago. This visit revived some of my memories, and I am very thankful for that. I also made many new friends, which helped in my personality development.

The collection of clothes for the poor from the campus was a very notable exercise in many ways. First it helped all in actively participating in the camp. Second, we got to interact with many persons living in the camp unknow to us. Also. their feedback was valuable, and the amount in which they donated was notable. ......

*****

Dear Sir,
We too enjoyed those 8 days.
I have reached home safely. It was a nice experience to work & play in the lap of mother nature which many of us have not done before.
Thanks Sir . You & your collegues have guided in an extremely friendly manner.
In my view the camp was a great success.
I have enjoyed the kichhuri the most.
I cannot forget the early winter morning cycling experience through the soft village road.
The camp days are now sweet dreams to me......

***

Sir,
Thank you for taking such a personal interest and inofrming us of your views. But more than that sir, thank you for making the camp such a wonderful experience for all of us.I have already given my views during the group interaction on the final day. If ever NSS requires the help from any volunteers, kindly let us know.

***

Sir ,
      I being a student,who took part in NSS camp I really enjoyed it.I am a student in your weekly classes also .I didn't find this much spirit to work for NSS  in those classes.Its better to continue like those (performed in camp) in our weekly classes also.Its better to prepare our schedule in that  way so that we must be able to accomplish a work like coleecting clothes or keeping surroundings clean.
     I think that every student will enjoy like that thing.
     I felt happy that you are asking for students suggetions about this NSS work ...


Thursday, November 13, 2008

I care, I share

Shared joy is double the joy.
Shared sorrow is half the sorrow.

Don't explain.
Your friends don't need any explanation.
Others won't believe any.

--------------------

First one helps one keep going.
Second one helps in coping with oneself not being able to attend some of the socials of near and dear ones.

A public holiday today. Till 11 am household work. Then to office. The solitude helps. Had a discussion with research scholar - non-Gaussian to Gaussian distribution and then with a UG student having poor academic record - our role as faculty member, where we are failing, his point of view. It went till 12 noon.

Then some work on manuscript writing. It is 1:45 pm now. To break for lunch. To go home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Caution

"When did you last check your blood pressure?", asked the physician.
"Two years back." I replied.
"How much was the reading? What were you advised?"
"It was on the higher side 130/90 and I was advised to take morning walk, trim weight." I said sheepishly.
- "Did you follow the advice?"
- "No......err...I don't get time..."
- "It is 140/100 now. You are advised to follow those advices seriously and report to me after one month."
I said that I would. I believe I said that 2 years back too.
- "You are all achievers. You have achieved many things and will achieve more. You know how to achieve. If you want you can take care of your health too." The physician's voice stood firm.

The fact that my father died at the age of 56 due to kidney failure which had its origin in high blood pressure and my elder sister now is surviving on one transplanted kidney (done at the age of 34) do not make the situation look better.

So I should better be cautious. If not for myself, but for the family - the daughter who is only six years old. (Yesterday was her birthday. It was 7:15 pm. I was still in the office. The telephone rang. An appeal from a kid who is waiting for her father to return from office so that she can cut the birthday cake in a small get-together!)

Is that possible?

In replying to an additional load being given to me by Head of a prestigious lab here at IITkgp I was looking at my activity schedule for next one month

Nov. 18-21, TENC.., Hyderabad,
Nov 26 onwards : NSS Camp, ( http://teamvivek.50webs.com/index.html )
Dec. 05 onwards : Hosting foreign collaborator and working together, arranging training for students
Dec. 10-14 : India Tele... 2008, New Delhi
Sometime in Dec. (not announced yet) : NR... meeting, 2 days, Delhi
Book Manuscript deadline : Dec. for one part, ...
PhD thesis chapter review : Thesis submission Jan. 15, Only one ch. done so far
PhD thesis work validation : Thesis writing to commence after that
Project deliverable deadline : Dec 2008
Socials : Marriage functions - five (four in Kolkata, one here in KGP - three are ex-students and close confide, two from family. One is my 1st PhD student. It will be difficult to say NO, in fact to everyone in varying degree.) First Rice Ceremony - two (one family, one ex-students couple : both in Kolkata) Birthday Party for my own daughter in one of the next two weekends.

The above is besides end-sem, other regular activities like different committee meetings, paper review (2 papers before Nov. 15 NCC 2009), paper submission, purging of students for various reasons etc. and last but not the least family responsibilities. There is no space even in weekends, evenings ... For days I had 4-5 hours sleep to meet deadlines.

And the period Dec. 08 to Dec. 31 is supposed to be our vacation.

Is it madness?

People in the work place who are giving me jobs are not ready accept a 'No' for themselves, cites how much work they are doing on their own etc..
It gives me lot of stress to say 'No' to somebody. I believe that it is less stressful to do the work than to say 'No'. That way the work piles up.
Family members say that I am overdoing things and they are OK if I cut down things and that affects my career. They haven't any complain about my non-academic interest. Probably that helps in de-stressing.

Prof. Sw...., my neighbour says that I am too serious and sincere about every job given to me. That causes strains. (I was told right from my childhood - Remember, whatever you do is important.)
Prof. PK.... asks me to cut down jobs and take care.
Prof. PPKan..., my PhD supervisor, mentor for years warned me of health a number of times, asked to practise Yoga for which I didn't have any time.
Family members are always worried.

I wonder how. How can I finish my job within 9 am - 6 pm slot and inculcate healthy habits? The meeting itself often starts at 5:30 pm like the one to be held today at VG... for final drafting of curri.... of a new school being established at IITkgp. Telecon. with US firm interested in our research starts at 10 pm and continues up to 11 pm. And there are need to travel (present our work for IIT, get fund for projects etc.) and meet different deadlines.

Last night went to bed at 11 pm. Today woke up at 5:30 am. Had driving lesson from 6 am till 7 am. Dropped daughter at school at 7:30 am. Went for 45 minute morning walk at 8:00 am. Started office work at 9:00 am by replying to a PhD scholar's query, one hour lecture class etc. It is lunch time now. Shall pick up daughter from school on way back home for lunch.
A good beginning indeed!

Endnote : While learning driving there wasn't much of a confusion for the leftmost foot pedal i.e. 'Clutch' as it was dedicated to the left foot. The right foot has to take care of other two pedals 'Brake' and 'Acceleration'. I must say that often I pressed 'Acceleration' when I was supposed to press 'Brake' :-)

Rejoinder (1) : Returning from lunch, within a hour of this posting, I find two messages worrying about my health. One from Hyderabad, my ex-student, the other from a IIT Guwahati faculty, my friend. Also a research scholar from Maharashtra rang few minutes back to discuss some technical matter. He finished saying that he likes my blog specially the posts on Vivekananda. Thanks everybody. Don't worry. I'll take care of myself. Above 40, everybody develops one health problem or the other. Nothing special. Compared to many, I am more fit. But there is no room for complacency. I'll be careful. Thanks once again.
(2) : The meeting started one hour early at 4:30 pm and continued till 7:30 pm. Another meeting is required on Friday 11:30 am after a 8:30-10:30 double lecture and 10:30 to 11:30 another meeting. The MT.. student whose presentation was scheduled at 4:30 pm may not be happy, I feel bad about it. It is rescheduled on Friday afternoon. Leaving office for home now at 7:45 pm. Need to improve!
(3) : Another social invitation in Dec. has just arrived! The moment of truth for one of my colleague. The function will be held in Kolkata.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

American Dream - The Untold Story

This I found in letters to editor in Times of India Oct. 31, 2008 web edition following a disturbing piece of news. An Indian techie killed all family members apparently after loosing his job. The young in India often chase overseas dream, perhaps driven by the success stories, not knowing the other side of the coin. This is not to say that they shouldn't do that, rather to say that they should take an informed decision. Some of the view expressed comes only when goes thro' grinding of life, may appear a bit philosophical but may be useful to younger generation.

santosh, New jersey, says: Very very sad to hear this tragedy again.. ! Why educated people become so flustrated when then loose jobs & try to kill their loved ones which were so innocent..!! Looking at his age, he must be in US for last 10 yrs. must have earned & saved a lot till now(in Indian Rupees). He could have gone back to India & can spend rest of his lives there[31 Oct, 2008 0201hrs IST]

Vishal, NY, Berlin,Mumbai, says: Sir I remember my days few years ago. I was 24...I had lost my job. I went home almost crying. Cursing everyone...but my parents told me that 'you want enjoyment of US culture but don't want to share risk behind them. This is not going to happen, hire and fire will be policy'. hhhmm Good Learning Lesson... It is not at all bad to loose a job...but the problem with Indian Mindset ( or Asian Mind) is..we attach our EGO with job that we do. Because How otherwise we rise our Status , Pride among our relatives. So Economic downturn , Loosing a Job and Getting a New one ..is a very natural cycle. [31 Oct, 2008 0452hrs IST]

noname, Denver, says: All those are living the American dream - please wake up - for the dream is over. If you don't wake up now you will be woken up very harshly over the next 6 months. For all those successful NRIs out there - the word may be "evacuation". A terrible storm comes thy way. [31 Oct, 2008 0452hrs IST]

ssunil, SanFrancisco, says: It is so sad. Indian H1 holders are citizens of US. India companies never hire H1 holders in USA unless they do not have any other alternaative to bring people on H1 or L1 from India. I have seen all major companies do it. IT IS SLOW DOWN. WHY SHOULD GOVT OF INDIA EXTEND ALL SUPPORT, EXTEND TAX CUT ETC TO THESE COMPANIES WHEN THEY DO NOT SUPPORT INDIAN CITIZENS. Patriotism is only for citizens and NOT for companies.[31 Oct, 2008 0321hrs IST]

Rakesh, USA, says: USA is a country that strictly follows the economic cycle. When it is UP you should conserve money for the next downward spiral - not very difficult for Indians who are born with a saving mentality. But at the same time due to our family values, we cannot divorce spouses and just runaway like others here. Also, remember that it is no more the country of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln - the pictures our minds conjures up when we line up for visas. Also, if any techie is still living in hiding (200,000 as estimated by INS) try to get out of the country with the help of the embassy. Ego and shame should not cloud their mind. Because even though Obama is not antagonistic to Indians, the typical Indian ideas like backdoor citizenship by getting children born here will not be encouraged. Relatives also may not be able to help much as they have gone through the credit system of expensive education, home and car buying , though that they may not show when they land at Indian airports coming on vacations. Techies who had their education India with no such expenses. Any way the post-y2k laissez faire won't happen again as demographic goals of immigration is reaching their limits. They are closing the loopholes one by one. We Indians and Philippinos were allowed in en masse as democratic people by President Johnson to neutralize Jews after the assassination of Kennedy! [31 Oct, 2008 0306hrs IST]

Eddy, Davis, CA, says: I think there is some kind of a stigma attached to a person having migrated to the USA (where it is still thought in some quarters that the streets are paved with gold) to return to India, penniless and a failure. This is specially so in cases where the groom has been described by the family to the bride as a successful NRI in America. Techies should diversify their talents and not take out their frustration on their spouses and innocent children. All techies that lose their jobs should be offered counselling![31 Oct, 2008 0252hrs IST]

niko, Auck, NZ, says: There is lots more in life then only status. Many Indian's feel that once their job is lost, life is over and how will they face the society and here the society is to blame for it. Indian culture has to undergo a change, get more western and learn to respect all sort of jobs. I have observed that those mainly from Hyderabad worship IT professionals, there is nothing great in it at all. I would not want my son to get into IT which is such a demanding field, I would rather want my kids to enjoy life and learn how to be able to take on real life challanges.[31 Oct, 2008 0238hrs IST]

Ramesh , US, says: Let me tell you one thing folks, one has to fight this life, i have been out of job for 4 months and have 2 kids and a housewife. I have been doing small jobs to keep my lifestyle low, this doesnt mean that one has to slaughter ones family to survive. My word to everyone is it may be hard to digest but folks please fight and never give up and their will be smiles in your life. Life is short make best use of it.[31 Oct, 2008 0214hrs IST]

Arjun, sydney, says: Indian IT comapnies are taking jobs away from NRIs. Its high time NRIs should stop outsourcing for their own benefits only.[31 Oct, 2008 0208hrs IST]

Deven, US, says: I am really nervous at this moment for those 2 kids and housewife. Indian male always prove their dominance on indian female. If they do not feel to live, they have every right to decide fate of their dependents. Let me tell all of you so called masculane characters that you have only developed skills to reproduce generation but not to carry them independently. To reproduce does not mean you are such great male. Masculanity actually means how well you carry them. Killing your dependents do not justify your affection to your family. Even if you die, they can survive. God has given them everything to survive in this world. I am also indian but I do not see taking control of freedom of my dependents as a part of my failure. [31 Oct, 2008 0202hrs IST]

Sunny, FL, US, says: This is a sad incident. I am apalled why these guys don't return to India if they are facing such problems in the US? I am sure with the kind of experience that Rao had, he could have landed a decent job in the booming indian economy. Instead they end up destroying their own and their countrie's reputation. Indians will now be steriotyped in the US after second such incident[31 Oct, 2008 0152hrs IST]

Uday, USA, says: Please don't do this to your family and self. Economic crisis is very severe especially in Michigan but it doesn't warrant such brutal action. May the deceased souls rest in peace.[31 Oct, 2008 0053hrs IST]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Milestone

Yesterday was the one to reach an important milestone. It is interesting that another one coincided with that.

Sandipan Chakroborty, my first PhD student completed his PhD defence viva yesterday. Congratulations! Sandipan. In the afternoon get-together, arranged by Dept. Society, HOD rightly pointed out how important and signficant is the experience to guide one's first PhD student. It was a challenge for both me and Sandipan to delve into a completely new area with a zero balance in the account i.e. withtout inheriting anything. We started from the scratch, struggled, made mistakes but never gave up. The journey took 4.5 years. Today it is all the more satisfying to have comment from Dean(PGS) like 'in recent times I have not seen such good comments on thesis from examiners'. The foreign examiner termed it as 'best thesis read'. Indian examiner, the Professor from IIT Madras said that the thesis would be preserved in their lab so that the research students learn from it how to work systematically.

I was told to say a few words in the get together about Sandipan. I talked about a few things like his hard work, perseverence etc. What I didn't say that even after 9 months of leaving our lab I often find it more convenient to ask Sandipan clarifications of many silly things e.g. how to open files sent by our foreign collaborator in a new file format etc. This is because the green light in google had always been lit between us. And that has not changed even when he joined industry for a highly paid job in Feb. He continued to spend his spare time for research. How nice it would be to complete the cycle, to have him as faculty colleague here! Let's see what's in store for the futre.

The other one to be considered as milestone may appear ridiculous to many. But it is really one for someone like me coming from a lower middle class background. Few days back, one senior Professor and Head was lamenting "Given your background, contribution and effort you put in for the Dept.,Inst., you have not got a good deal as regard promotion". I assured him that I have got too many great things in life to complain about a few things which I might not have yet got. I never thought I would be studying in IIT or become its faculty member. Given the financial hardship we went through since my family came from Bangladesh during partition of India, the survival was the only goal - to get a job and earn a square meal. And thus it becomes a milestone to book a Rs. 2.5 lakh Maruti 800 AC Uniq Limited Edition car in their Diwali offer. It happened yesterday, just after Sandipan's defence viva (in fact the dealer's agent was waiting for the seminar to be over and receive the cheque). Everybody in the family is excited. Ma, (now in Bandel, to return after brother's day) too appeared very happy on telephone. She had went through those trying times, the major part of her life. We always saw her face lighting up whenever there was any discussion regarding the purchase of a car. True that I always postponed it considering car is a luxury. But the 6th pay commission, arrear payment and the necessity to have a vehicle that can make four of us move together led to the decision, that the time has come.

Pray that we all scale newer heights, reach many more milestones and make the most of our potential. Remember Vivekananda saying "Each soul is potentially divine" and "Be Good and Do Good, that is the whole of religion."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Festival

But I am not happy with myself! This is festival time. The best season of a year. Durga Puja, Diwali, Brother's Day etc. How much I longed for these and enjoyed these even a few years back! Even when future was so much uncertain. Thought that a Government job would be all fun, never mind the 0.33X salary. I shall have time for myself, family and friends and enjoy life to its full. Few days back somebody remarked what had been his motivation behind accepting a low paid Government job. To be able to say 'NO' to any undue pressure from boss which perhaps one cannot avoid in a high paid industry job.

But being in IIT is more than a doing a Government job. There is so much opportunity! It is very difficult not to spend even the last single available minute for the cause. There is classroom teaching. There is project work under curricula - for me, mostly the disinterested bottomers, to extract work out of them! There are sponsored projects - 4 of them, its evaluation, delivery according to timelines! There are international collaborations to nurture which gives opportunity to grow exponentially! There is a requirement to extend support to research groups inside IIT whenever needed and also participate in team work like curricula development for new discipline! There are short term courses to be offered when such requests come from important Government functionary. There are research papers to review for others and own students. There are requests to be in technical committee or simply committee of many things. There are new frontiers to be explored i.e. submission of new research proposals. There are administartive work - playing host to visitors, being coordinator of various activities.....

To top all these there are deadlines of different work elements for each each of above. With no secretarial facility it is a big pain to remember all of them and prepare for them. As I mentioned in some other post that I don't get bright students and my research students are just average. I am getting work from them keeping them fully focussed and dont want to delegate anything to them. It is difficult to explain this to many who think (from our group's contribution) that there are many students working with me and we have sufficient bench strength.

And I would also like to point out that we too have responsibilities towards family and friends without whom we wouldn't have been here.

The two works after my heart had been writing manuscript for the new editions of the two books and mentoring UG 1st and 2nd year NSS students. I wish I could give maximum time to these two activities as they can make maximum impact in the society as far as my contribution is concerned. The Durga Puja vacation thus was mostly spent in manuscript writing. Coming Diwali would also be the same. The deadline is 31st Oct. for one book. Cannot but say 'No' to sister's earnest appeal to celebrate brother's day next week. No time for myself, family. I know that if I request the deadline will be extended again, for the second time. But I don't want do that repeatedly and dilute the high standard I had set in previous two editions of those two books. Let's see if my sister can make it to Kharagpur.

I am very happay with my NSS team VIVEK (http://teamvivek.50webs.com/), a significant percentage of them are really serious. Hope and pray that I play my role sincerely in imbibing in this team the spirit of sacrifice and service and they become worthy citizen of this country. So far they have prepared to organize a kid's event of 2-3 hour duration which is 5-6 activity based like song, science expt., funny video, quiz, play zone, drama. The theme is patriotism but will be loaded with fun too. The plan is to host it in various primary schools around IIT Campus. Also they are developing teaching modules for kids who do not get formal education. Next week, we are starting a study circle within this team. First week the students proposed to take up 'Chicago Address' of Vivekananda 'I have a Dream' of Martin Luthar King.

During Durga Puja visited Dakshineshwar and Belur Math on Saptami. Interacted with local club at our native place and partcipated in their philanthropic activity on Shasthi evening. Prepared one upgradation plan for the local public library. The Puja vacation was really enjoyable. Back here unhappy finding myself spread too far and too thin and nobody can take a 'NO'. I find my concentration level has reduced by few dB compared to what it had been in the Puja week. I am not enjoying it. I need to learn time management, ability to say 'No' and stay focussed. God, please help me!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

NSS first day

Just returning from first interaction with student volunteers of my group. I would say it had been an endearing experience. I feel that it is my privilege to work with a team that has the likes of Sauptik, Shishir, Allen, Gautam Kumar (the 'Attention, Stand-at-ease person), Madhusudan, Sujay, Layak (he spoke at the end but did speak), Nibirh ("we have manpower on our side"), Koushik (Gopali Youth Welfare Soc. person, hardselling the idea of donating money :) ), Naveen, Robin, Dinakar, Pranoy, Deepak, Vikash, Prahlad, Sravan, Akhilesh, Sahil (appeared hungry after the psychological contribution :) ) , Sumeet, Shashank ...

Today we tried to understand through discussion the objectve of NSS and how it is sought to be achieved based on the guidelines given to us in a handout. I must say that the discussion was lively and all inclusive and everybody contributed. I asked everybody to speak even if it is repetition of what one has already stated as the act of speaking itself is some kind of assertion. It helps in subscribing to the thought process of the group, removes complex, if any and develops team spirit. It was great to see everbody coming forward. Good work, boys!

The NSS guidelines and and how the team interpreted it (summarized, in bracket) is presented next.

The objective of NSS is "Development of the Personality of Students through Community Service."
(Developing ourselves. Making a better human being out of us. Transformation within us through the spirit of service. Not enforcing others. If at all, subconscious inspiration by doing our duty the best way possible.)
This objective is sought to be achieved by enabling the students to :
i) understand the community in which they work
(staying close to thm, interacting with them, organizing events, understanding their psychology, taking care not to make them feel humiliated, daan combined with maan i.e. serving respectfully)
ii) understand themselves in relation to their community
(what is expected of a student, meeting and beating that expectation, active participation - not passive goodness, dynamicism of a youth)
iii) identify the needs and problems in the community in the solution of which they can be involved
(survey with specific objective, important to follow it up else negative perception, analogy from designer-tester race in industry, execution of the job with heart and also professionally)
iv) development among themselves a sense of social and civic responsibility
(proper use, upkeepment of public properties, amenities; a good starting point is abiding traffic rules and other rules of a civil society, behaving ourselves as a civilized person)
v) apply their education in finding practical solutions to individual and community problems
(education cannot be neglected, need to become a very good engineer, more capacity building is required as the objective is to serve more people, increase footprint, returning more to the society in absolute terms)
vi) development of competence required for group living and sharing responsibilities
(should do work with lot of interest, each & every member should own responsibility, unity, harmony)
vii) gain skills in mobilizing community participation
(kids activity, drama, organizing various events. drama group - Koushik, Madhusudan, Gautam (not me :) Gautam Kumar), Allen, Sauptik, Vikash)
viii) acquire leadership qualities and democratic attitude
(leading by examples, by love; some management skills needed - to take initiative, ability to coordinate etc. decision through democratic process and once taken no alienation)
ix) develop capacity to meet emergencies and natural disasters
(participate in programs of reputed NGOs lik Ramakrishna Mission. Can there be something more that uses our IIT backgroud to the benefit of the bereaved? e.g. Kosi river devastation, we cannot physically go as semester is in full swing - can we help in communication, networking, developing devices, mechanism that can come of use in calamities like these?)
x) practice national intergration
(imbibing the spirit of the patriots, observance of nationally important days in true spirit, participating in each others' festivals, removal of regional, religious, caste, any kind of bias that divides people)

We decided to meet next week at 9 a.m. in Jnan Ghosh stadium and draw action items.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Past two months at a glance

One word that describes past two months is 'eventful'. Most of them big positives. Two big negatives. But who can undestand the design of Him? Doesn't he often test by fire? He only knows what is the best for us. Ours is to depend on Him like a child and to do our work the best way possible considering each act of us is a offering at His feet. Joy and sorrow both teach us and perhaps sorrow teaches the most, removes false perception of this world, shatters false ego. However, negatives are often overpowering. Well, this is not the place to discuss negative things (it comes and goes, in everybody's life, nothing special, the earlier we learn to live with it or rise over it, the better...in fact, when I decided to stay in India after completion my IITkgp BTech rejecting a generous offer from US East Coast university I remained prepared that I might have to face both and perhaps more of the ugly side...that way I am lucky I got to see more of the beautiful side of my country and doesn't West have its own dark secrets not much publicised here) as my student friends may read this blog. If required, my office emails, diary are carefully stored for the use of any investigating agency. I only pray that I get the opportunity to do my work in a sincere manner, unperturbed and not fall into their traps who want to destabilize me. After all, what is in a life? Remembering an Anup Jalota bhajan - Pitambari kasi ho, Chabi maan main yeh basi ho,Hotho pe kuch hasi ho, jab pran tan se nikle/Jab kanth pran aye, koi rog na sataye,Yam darash na dikhaye, Jab pran tan se nikle/us vakt jaldi ana, nahi Shyam Bhul Jana, Radhe ko saath lana, jab pran tan se nikle/ek bhakt ki hai arji, khud garj ki hai garji, age Tumhari marji jab pran tan se Nikle/Itna to karna Swami, Jab pran tan se Nikle.

I was surprised to find so many different persons - two Prof.s, students, one person from Midnapore trying to inform me that Bishwarup Maharaj is coming to campus. I just returned from a 10 day busy tour in Canada where I attended three workshops and visited univ. of Waterloo, univ. of Toronto, univ. of Montreal, McGill univ and also met people of from univ. of Alberta, univ. of BC at Edmonton. I heard about Biswarup Maharaj before but didn't have the opportunity to interact with him. The talk on 'diaster management' was arranged in Mat. Sc. Dept. Maharaj spoke about flood relief work and emphasized on what Swami Vivekananda said, "Men, men, these are wanted. Everything else will be ready." Are we that kind of man, Swamiji wanted? "Strong, vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone." If we are not, we have to strive to become one. The positive news flow continues. Once I found a beautiful email from Bishwarup Maharaj, first ever in my life from a monk. Earlier I got several SMS from Chiranjeev Maharaj. I am truly honoured to be in mailing list of Maharaj. His team at Ramakrishna Mission Students Home, Belgharia maintains an inspiring website http://www.vivvsc.co.nr/

Getting lots of idea, help, encouragement from friends and well-wishers far and wide. Prof. Kan.. from Boston was, as usual was at his kindest best generous with ideas. Jo... from UK finds one of our collaborative work publishable. Aru.. from US eager to help looking for funding opportunities for joint work. Pa.. of IPC.. also trying in spite of his busy schedule; P.. one day asked me to discuss our work with WMG, UK represenative who wants to collaborate in that area and now I am IITkgp-WMG initiative; based on a reco.. started working on establishment of a new engineering scool on QEDM ...(I am the only Asst. Prof. in the team - may be my industry background, system level development, ability to work in a team, trustworthiness, positive attitude etc. earned my nomination); got lot of praise from people here whose work I presented in bio-nano area in Canada and how I apprised everybody of the opportunities there with a report, email id, ppt etc., someone commenting first of its kind in IITkgp; based on a reco.. stayed in IIT Madras for 8 days to do some very important national level work and there one morning my research student Sam.. rang. He was excited to tell me that our recent publication on heart sound in a new Hindwai journal has caught lot of attention and international media is covering it widely - Eurekalert, Yahoo News, Sciencedaily, Biomedicine news so on and so forth, websites in USA, UK, Russia, China ... And then I received the email from science reporter of German Public Radio. He wants to have my 10 minute telephonic interview for their Saturday program that is aired in Germany and many countries in Europe. The interview was conducted from guest house, next evening and airtime was approx. 6 min. with German voice over, intermittently my voice can be heard. One US medical co. representative expressed desire to visit us at IITkgp for collaboration and sent an NDA. Two more Indian TV channel wanted to interview us and show our work in their channel etc. Finally, I remember the confidence shown by some of my seniors on me specially the one firm voice at about 10 o' clock at night saying "Goutam, No one can stop you."

I shall put few images here and that will conclude this post. The first two is a sneak pick of my good friend Moin.. of CII, next is some of the group members in a leisurely mood with our fond Dy. Leader in forefront, next is the entire Indian team minus Dy. Leader who took the snap together with host at Edmonton, rest are some of the recent media reports.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

IIT students and those fateful happenings

From Hindustan Times : June 30, 2008

---- QUOTE ----

It’s not the tough syllabus or academic pressure that is responsible for students committing suicide, according to authorities at IIT Kanpur. Suicides occur because students are not as insulated from their families back home as they used to be earlier, they said in response to questions raised under the Right to Information Act.

Excessive use of mobile phone — which even 10 years ago were hardly seen — to stay in touch with family and friends is the real culprit. Mobile phones connect the students 24x7 with their family and make them a part of every problem arising at home. There are also constant exhortations from parents to do well, which create tremendous pressure.

"Earlier, students had the facility of only landline phone; they had little interaction with the family and were more focused on their studies,” said the reply received by the Bharat Punarnirman Dal, a national association of IIT alumni, which had raised questions under the RTI following the suicide of a student, Toya Chatterjee, on June 2. There have been six suicides in the past three years at IIT Kanpur.

Another culprit was Internet use by students at odd hours, authorities said in the reply. It left them unsettled.

Director of IIT Delhi, Surendra Prasad, however, told HT that mobile phones and internet cannot be linked to suicides. "To reach such a conclusion you need to sociologically study past history and data and do a detailed survey. At IIT Delhi we have not done any such thing," Prasad said, when asked for his reaction.

IIT, Delhi recently limited the amount of data that students could download on their hostel computers during the wee hours (1 am to 5 am). But this was done to ensure that students did not stay up late night. "The faculty was of the opinion that late usage of internet leads to neglect of studies and other consequences," said Prasad.

Professor Prakash Gopalan, Dean, Students' Welfare, IIT-Bombay, said: "Some families do pressurise their kids, but there are also families who don't do that. We can't really say that the Internet and mobile phones drive students to suicide as there are many parents who act as support systems via Internet and cellphones."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Quarter Experience

Yesterday, I had the most satisfying experience of the 2 week long (16 classes) summer quarter classes I am currently engaged in. In the very first class the 25 students who got 'F' in Basic Electronics voiced that the poor result was because they did not attend the classes regularly. Why did they do that? They said (i) the class size was huge 250+ and it was easy to go undetected, (ii) due to that size there was not much interaction and they did not enjoy the class (iii) they wanted to relax after grueling IIT-JEE preparation and (iv) they thought they could make up before the exam. I ensured that they attend all the classes of summer quarter so much so that I made cell phone call to two students who bunked the second class directly from the class room and it worked. Also ensured that the class remains interactive, students come to board and solve problem or debate over a solution.

There was Nir.., a very shaky, not-so-confident student among them. He said that he developed some psy... problem too which made him fail. I was worried if I would be able to reach him. But he tried his best. And yesterday I was surprised when he answered in affirmative to a relatively difficult problem I placed before the class. Not only that, he walked quietly up to the board and solved it very neatly there. It was a great moment! I was so happy! I am proud of you, my boy.

I'll end this post by mentioning another experience from this summer quarter class. A good number of students of this batch have the potential to become topper in their class but how much they negelected themselves to get an 'F' grade! For example, Sand..., Gau...D..., Piyu..., Roh..., Mon... had been quite impressive. It is equally true that in spite of my best effort some students are not matching it up by studying the subject for 1-2 hour at hostel. Summer quarter is a fast paced program and I am afraid that they may not perform well. Let's see ...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bidding Adieu

"Sir, I am leaving this evening at 8:30 p.m. I wanted to meet you before leaving the campus." Said Tej... yesterday afternoon. It was about 5:30 p.m. I have just returned to Institute after 12 day tour to Nainital, Kousani, Almora with my family (as soon as vacation began).

"Dear sir,I had come to meet you 3 days back but you were not there. I just wanted to inform you that I have completed my studies at IIT Kharagpur and am joining Princeton University next for my doctoral studies. I enjoyed interacting with you during my stay in the department. I hope we meet when I come during the convocation." The mail from Sree... was in my inbox.

Also there were other students to say 'Good Bye' before leaving.

There is no choice but to bid adieu every batch of students when they complete their tenure. It is always difficult to come in terms with the fact those faces, smiles will no longer be seen in campus. I'll miss those debates, fights - mostly ideological as depicted in several posts of this blog. But I have great faith in these young guns. And I firmly believe that the future can only be better.

Friends, keep in touch. Let us all work together to build a strong and vibrant India!

------- ------- -------- ------- --------

I had long discussions with outgoing students yesterday so much so that I was worried if Tej... would miss his train. He didn't get an offer for PhD from US universities and that's why he is joining industry. He was not considering IITs as a place where he can do his doctoral work. This was unfortunate. And I took some time to explain him why IITs could also be a choice, mostly in tune with what I described in 3rd topic 'One for the outgoing students' of the post http://gskgp.blogspot.com/2008/04/many-into-one.html He agreed to reconsider his decision. I advised him to spend few years in industry before joining doctoral program and persuing a career in academics. This will help one (i) realize the gap between teaching and practice and (ii) become confident when he deals with industry people in an industrial project in his academic career. Tej... appeared serious to return to IITkgp as a faculty member after his PhD. So said Sour.. I am keeping my finger crossed.

We discussed few other things too. I shared my experience in industry - what to expect and what not; the role of money in slection of career; how much money one needs; the reversal of role between money and happiness as means and end; trade-offs in life; peer pressure is to follow the tide but interestingly all great work were accomplished swimming against the tide etc. etc.

Finally, I couldn't but say that for last few decades IITs are doing more harm to the country in certain sense than the good. It is swallowing the best brains of 100 crore population and turning them into high skilled labour. All superlative efforts by Indians in Science & Technology are in pre-IIT days though statistically, infrastructure, build-up wise we are now better placed. An young Indian now dreams to get into IIT and once he cracks IIT-JEE he considers that his job is done. He does not realize that it is just the beginning. That he is now in the land of opportunities. His job is to make the most of it. The hostel life, seniors (peer pressure) conditions him in such a manner that there are only two options in life - (i) to go abroad for higher studies and serve an US lab or (ii) to get a high salaried job. Do they read the biographies of great scientists, inventors? Do they fee that they can be one like them - one who can bring a sea change in the thought process of the community? Can we believe that we were short of genius for decades? Civilization wise we have evolved more than others. Statistically, we should have a greater ratio of them among us. And in all probability they have come to IITs. But what did we make of them?

I narrated the following story from my book Principles of Communication Systems, 3rd Edition, Taub, Schilling & Saha from McGraw Hill India (Such story is there at the beginning of every chapter of that book so that the young generation starts dreaming and aims big) which I quote now before ending this post.

------- ------- -------- -------- -------

“Yesterday was my 21st birthday, at that age Newton and Pascal had already acquired many claims to immortality.” – thus wrote Fourier in one of his letter in 1789. Born of a tailor family as the ninth of twelve kids, he briefly served priesthood, was imprisoned for revolutionary activity but his love of mathematics continued. In 1807, his famous theory on Fourier series was published."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

SRK's Message

I really liked this one...SRK's message to his KKR team...when things have not gone in their way in IPL....strings of losses and rumour in media about his difference with captain and coach.

SRK's SMS

"Story time boys... I told you if you keep losing you have to bear with my long, boring msgs.... This is your punishment.... Many times I have made movies which don't do well.... When I'm doing them, of course, I don't know they won't do well.... The story is written by somebody else and I just do my bit as an actor. But I have a way of dealing with flop stories..., I try my best to keep my character in the film at a level that it makes a failed story also special for me....

"I enjoy the work.... I make jokes about the failure.... And, of course, feel awful about it too.... So, right now, all of us have become part of a failed script... A bad IPL script.... Let's try and keep our characters worthy of still looking back at this story and remembering it as a special story becos we all worked very hard at this....

"So, chin up and don't spoil yr character in the next two games.... Let's go out with a bang and not a whimper.... In films, we say u r only as good as yr last film.... So let's make the whole world know how good we r in the last (maybe not) two games...

"Also, do ignore all this bit about Dada, me and John having issues.... It's a normal thing in the world.... People like to hit you when u r down.... So, we will be hit.... No stress.... It will make us stronger.... The only way to avoid this is to win.... That's one of the reasons why everybody likes to be a winner....

"On the other hand, the beauty of failure is that it brings people together.... So, let's stick this out together.... You know me well enuff to know I am not the kind of owner who has issues with the team 'cos of losses... I am too much of a sport myself to get beaten by defeats.... Like you guys are.... Like Dada and John....

"I am still trying to understand the code of conduct expected of me at the matches of the IPL.... ICC... Etc.... After I understand it, I will decide whether to accept it or not.... Till such time, I will be with you guys at the hotel... in the meetings etc., but won't come for the matches.... So, please don't ever feel it is anything to do with us as a team....

"I am as dedicated to my Knights as I am to my kids.... Only, I won't be coming to the class room till the headmaster's rules are understood by me.... I am a bit anti-Establishment kind of a guy, so I apologise for this quirk to u all.... So, head's up.... Have a good match and let's make 200 runs tomorrow.... This 150 seems to not work any more....

"We have nothing to lose now, except our character.... Let's not lose that.... Lov... SRK."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Interesting Reading

It made interesting reading to go through the blog of

an IITkgp-ian 2007 pass out at http://memoirsofmaxi.blogspot.com
a current IITkgp-ian at http://www.koppaka.net/blog
again http://voicesinmymind.blogspot.com
comparisons at http://kgpians.blogspot.com/2007/05/few-interesting-comparisons.html
another comparison http://abhassaroha.blogspot.com
the love story http://whereisthisheading.blogspot.com/2007/01/journey-called-life.html
NCC and other experience http://loadandpeace.blogspot.com
empty inside! http://mhollow.blogspot.com/2008/03/empty-inside.html
war of words http://vinayakpathak.wordpress.com/
Bill Gates' Harvard Graduation speech at http://www.shreymodi.com/wp/index.php/2008/04/05/bill-gates-harvard-graduation-speech

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thanks!

It is time to say THANKS to all those who had been a big support to us. The list is endless. Still I'll try to put some pieces here together. I am excluding people who encouraged us a lot but with whom I have professional relation in IITkgp to avoid any misunderstanding.
------- ------- -------
I was hurrying past Deans' corridor when one final year student, T. Th... of another dept. stopped me. "Sir, I read your blog". I thought that he was referring to the post on final years. But he said - "No, Sir, all of them ... the ones on social initiatives, too." The other day one quiet natured 3rd year student, Pra... Si... of our Dept. came to my office. After completing some official work he left to come back in a minute. "Sir, your suggestion on putting up tube wells is good but isn't it better to provide education, job skill..." Yes. It is. That suggestion was just to get started. Thank you, boys. Take some initiatives. Have something rolling. I also would like to thank a Kolkata NGO who are helping IITkgp students in some social initiatives. Through a student (who came to my office) they invited me in their 6th June convention on child rights at Kolkata. They wanted to put me in the list of dignitaries which I politely refused and expressed my interest to be a part of the delegates with other students.
--------- ------------- ----------
I was on my way to pick up my daughter studying in Class I from school. One senior Prof. from another Department of IITkgp whom I meet occasionally, crossed me in scooter, waved at me and asked me to stop my bike. I was surprised. Then he congratulated me, shook hands and said "I have seen the TV programme. I am very happy and proud of you." It was so sudden and unexpected! Thank you Sir, I am honoured.

-------- ------------- ----------
I shared the development with McGraw Hill, India family with whom I am now working for the fourth title (expected release Dec. 2010). I have started working with them since 2004 in which three titles are published (my contribution as coauthor is approx. 350 pages each). They not only sent enthusiastic congratulatory mails but also placed the info. in two book websites of McGraw Hill Higher Education ( http://www.mhhe.com/leach/dpa6 and http://www.mhhe.com/taub/cs3e ). The very first button in these points to the 'press report' of one of the authors of the book (that is me) in the field of the research. This too was totally unexpected considering those were enginering text books. I consider this as a rare gesture on McGraw Hill, India's part and a great honour for me which I gratefully acknowledge. Thank you all in McGraw Hill, India, love you all.
----------- ---------------- -------------
My PhD supervisor, now in Boston, USA too sent a congratulatory mail but more importantly sent me few new ideas in a related area. He painstakingly explained them in an attachment which he was writing for me for few days. And the following is what I had to say before I took up the technical aspect of his proposal. "Dear Sir, I always consider myself lucky in some sense! Never in my life I, that includes very much insecured childhood, I had any dearth of goodwill and support. There has been benovalence all around. I am grateful to all of them. And I am simply overhelmed to find how much time and effort you have given in explaining the idea. The simple fact that you were thinking about me in putting so many words is an humbling experience. And such gesture is just not one of a kind. So many times even after those PhD supervision days you have guided me and still guiding. Sir, I wish I could be a worthy student of you."
--------- ------------ -----------
My special thanks to Dr. P. S. Bha......, MD, DNBE, DM, a rare Kolkata physician with a love for research. Since, last one and half years he takes interest in our work and now he is one of us, an elder brother. He personally goes from one place to other to see that we are not short of funds in our research, talks to funding agencies, helps us in writing proposal. Not only that has funded INR 7 lakhs from his own for a new devlopmental work and is now helping us in hospital trial of the 'Heart Sound Analyzer' and its commercialization. This is also an overhelming experience and I fell humbled by this generosity.
---------- ------------ -----------
It was nice to receive congratulatory mail from Dr. Joy... Bha..., my friend, our collaborator in neuroscience area from university of London whose work was reported in BBC, ABC, Scientific Americana etc. He had been a great inspiration to us. I also thank Dr. Jai... Gos... of Schl..., Hous..., USA who too expressed lots of happiness at the devlopments. My mother's homeopath physician at Chuchura, Hooghly was very, very happy. In the second year of our developmental work he offered to buy then semifinished units at Rs. 10000 each and 10 such units. That was a great motivation for us that we were in the right direction. My thanks to Dr. C. S. Ba... of AIIMS, New Delhi who after a demonstration said that 20000 such units can immediately be sold as trainer units only and inspired us a lot. I am also thankfull to media correspondents who highlighted our work and definitely my institute, the great IIT Kharagpur and De.. (SR..) who always kept faith with us.
--------- ---------- ----------
Needless to say, my family had been a great support. My mother, wife, daughter were always accommodative and hardly complained about the extra hours I put in my work. My chhordi at Tata, Jamaibabu, their daughter (Tutu...), son-in-law (Ave..), Ave..'s parents were also very very happy and sent congratulatory messages. In Bandel, Bapidada, Boudi, Santudada, Rintu from Mamabari and Mejda, Chhotoboudi and others from bari telephoned. Pintu and Dip.. sent beautiful mails from USA.
--------- ------------- ----------
Endnote : Swami Satyabodhanandaji (Chiranjeev Maharaj), once every week sends one SMS, quoting Swami Vivekananda. This again is a great, great honour to be somewhere in the mind of Maharaj. I end this post by putting some of those SMS quotes, the last one first.

1. The only way of getting our divine nature manifested is by helping others to do the same ... the poor, the downtrodden, the ignorant - let thes be your God.
2. I love you all so much, but I would wish you all to die working for others ... Awake, Awake Great Ones! The world is burning with misery. Can you sleep?
3. The poor, the low, the sinner in India have no friends, no help ... they sink lower and lower everyday ... it was the want of practical application, the want of sympathy - the want of heart. First bread, then religion.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Feedback Season

From 2nd Year Students

Collected feedback from my UG theory students, compiled and uploaded it in my semi-official website. What I found, except for last 2-3 classes, students were happy. Sudden announcement of an unscheduled holiday and students' disinterest to attend two compensatory classes cramped me for room. I'll take care of such possibility in future. In the last class I got a chance to talk to them and asked to quantify in a scale of 10 considering all aspects like I am conservative in giving grades etc. They gave 8.5 out of 10. One from the teachers they have interacted so far in the dept. gets highest rating 9.5/10. Most of the rest gets 8.5/10. Among all the faculty members at Institute level they find three-four in the highest category i.e. 9.5/10.

Two things come from this. One - I got to work hard to be in the highest league and Second - the teaching quality at IIT Kharagpur is great! Faculty members ka tempo high hai!!!

--------------
From 3rd Year Students

Here after the lab viva were all over we could talk to last (in sequence) two students in the batch Ro... and Ay... More than the lab they gave a 360 degree review of life at IITkgp vis-a-vis academics. According to them IIT-JEE preparation sucks all the energy out of them before they step into the campus. Ro.... mentioned how a students starts preparation as early as clas VI or IX. For example, a student in Hyderabad Ramay.... attends 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m IIT-JEE coacing class then attends school and again in the eveing from 5:30 p.m. visits coaching centre. No time to relax, play - parents and seniors always pushing. Once they are in IITkgp, they are on their own in hostels with full freedom, net facility etc. The classroom are having 200+ students so attending class is not necessary as there is no personal interaction. And studying only for last 7-10 days before exam they can get a reasonable grade. So they decide to relax for a semester and then become serious which never happens. In the second year, in senior hall, the seniors preach them many different things except devotion towards study. They are told that the CGPA once in 6-7 or 7-8 bracket, it cannot be further improved and they should concentrate on other things. That's how most of them leaves the campus being simply average.

Prof. R... however said that if there is class, it would be reflected in whatever one does. Probably, IIT-JEE is not able to pick up the class. Or the students are hell bent in trying to spoil themselves. I narrated one of my experience in gardening. A plant was transplanted to another better place but simply died inspite of watering etc. (though I don't claim to be a trained or skilled gardener) I felt bad and was thinking perhaps it would been better left in the previous place which was not as good. But with a guilt feeling I kept watering that dry plant. To my surprise, one day I found new sprouts are heading for room from that space, from that seed. And now there is a healthy, beautiful plant in place.

-----------------
From a 2nd year student (virtual)

Yesterday I stumbled upon a blog of a second year student BE lab student V... K... who admits that he has become a blog addict. His first blog was a 'failure'. He writes, "So,in the last days of 2007,I thought of giving one more chance-to move to my new blog,which you are reading now.Over 1 month has passed since then.I have bunked the classes,cut out from all the activities,spent a lot of time on the internet." He continues, "all this time i was involved in this blogging stuff,stumbling upon to get new ideas when I got stuck,ate up the rest of my brain to fuel my blog.And what I got was just a single comment in 1 month.God,am I such a big looser?"

I decided to post a comment to one of his post which he believes none of his Prof.s are reading. As such, abusing Prof.s in the posts is his favourite time pass. Removing all the qualifiers - adjectives, adverbs and interjections, I could find in one post that he is hurt because I refused to sign his registration card in my office when I was discussing something with my research students and not during the appointed lab hour. Of course, he takes pride in bunking classes, faking sickness (he has uploaded a BCRoy prescription in his blog space where he feigned illness and the physician advised him rest), arranging proxies, lying that he was present in previous class, forging signatures of faculty members, cheating in exams. repetitively - even after disciplinary committee hearing and what not. The student considers that he is doing a great job by all these. He even uploaded image of his registration card and encircled four signatures that he claims he has forged.

But if it was exactly what he says in his post as my refusal to sign his registration card was to harass him I think there is a communication gap. My intention definitely was not that. And I thought I should write a comment to his post, in spite of all the filths around, to clear the air. And this is what I wrote -

--QUOTE--

"I am having no fear here,my Professor is not reading this". If not one Prof., may be the other.

I like your blog though you hardly have anything good to say about your Prof.s. You try to portray them in all negatives. Each one of us has both positives and negatives. If what gets reflected from you are only negatives, may be something is wrong with the reflector. I am not sure though how consistent you are in thinking "i am an idiot" as you mentioned in this post.

I like your blog, probably because you are different, admirably so and sincere, sincere to whatever idea, good or bad, you are married to. Only you yourself or time can tell if your lifestyle or thinking is healthy or not. While trying to fool all others (Prof.s, fellow students - how you evaded responsibility in Kshitiz, parents..), if you are fooling yourself or not.

I am sure this comment will invite a new post on your blog calling for my blood, stuffed with your choicest words 'f...' 'a....' etc. I already have one round of abuse in one of your post for not signing your registration card when you came to my office. If what you wrote in that post is the sole reason for not signing then I definitely deserve your ire. And I think it is never too late to say 'sorry' for what I did. But I don't remember the incident and I wonder how could I be so unreasonable! Going through your other posts I wonder if again it is an issue with the reflector surface or not.

That's all for now. I sincerely wish and pray that you understand the value of your life and live to its fullest. Best of luck!

--UNQUOTE--

But from his Jan. 17, 2008 post I find he does not have faith in Prof.s or God but only in friends. I hope his friends read his posts or more particularly the one titled 'Feeling Blue' which is reproduced below for little greater visibility. I request his friends to come forward and address his issues. My best wishes.

"Snoozing late at night,waking up at afternoon,skipping classes,watching bundle of movies,mailing for long hours-are some of the things dominating me for the last few days.I just want to attend classes but my daily pathetic routine doesn’t allow me to do so.I always plan to do things in order to know in which order I’m not going to do so.Digging all the time in laptop will only add one more spectacle to the already loaded nose and ears.I neither like half of the lines of my hand nor can I give my belief in palmistry.Assignments and labs suck badly,classes look haunted.Nescafe has also increased rate,so less time there.Last year I used to love cycling a lot but this year,cycling sucks too.Even playing table tennis doesn’t fascinate me.I have changed a lot-I don’t miss my family and school-friends like others.I don’t have much happy memories of my life-Class IX to Class XII,these four years were the most terrible part of my life-a live nightmare.Even 6 months back,I had few setbacks in my life-God has not always been honest with me.
Students in my class study hard-fighting badly for smart CGPA,I don’t know why?Only reason that I could figure out is to get an excellent placement.This IIT system sucks,don’t give you enough time to be creative.I have begun hating Professors-they have never been good to me. The only best part of my life at IIT is the friends that I have made here."

---- A rejoinder on April 23rd evening ----

The student was polite, by his standard, to react to my message but he was not ready to withdraw those demeaning materials stating that he has freedom to select content on his personal space. Endsem is on, hence I again reminded him gently if he should respect others' freedom and not use those filthy language in public space. Nothing emerged. Then I thought that that it best left to the people of his department (who interact more often with him) and more qualified persons in the administration to counsel him. And now I find those materials are deleted. I requested everybody and request it once more to have a mechanism at student level to address such issues. I hope the boy gets proper support. I wish and pray he gets the strength and courage to overcome this phase and develop healthy habits.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Instant Fame


Getting quite used to. The Telegraph carried it yesterday and Headlines Today (Aaj Talk group) aired it yesterday and the day before. A Bengali TV news channel may also visit. Need to be careful as lots of time are getting used up in interacting with media people. As such time is a scarce commodity. Today gave some bright idea to Aaj Talk reporters which is a win-win for technology developers as well as the channel. They will talk to the higher up and let me see if they can make use of it. One medical electronics co. representative is gathering information about the heart sound analyzer before they can make an offer. Let's see. Got a touchy mail from a father who wants the device for his son.

video

Friday, April 11, 2008

Three Bags Full

One for my family, friends and well-wishers

There was a flurry of activities yesterday. In the morning, at about 10 a.m. came to know that a Bengali daily has given a lot of space (A4 size) to our invention in day's edition. My student Su.. had a talk with the reporter. They want to know more about other activities being pursued currently by our group to report them in future. We circulated copy of the newspaper article to many Prof.s, Lab. technicians in the Dept. Some came to us to collect a copy. It was a proud moment for all of us. Even De..(SR..) also wanted to have a copy. And of course, my family members too were very happy. As I mentioned in a previous post that my mother always dreamt that his son's name would appear in the newspaper. I was delighted to present the newspaper to her.

As I was sharing the news with HOD and others, came a phone call. AajTak/HeadlinesToday, a national TV news channel is coming to IIT Khargpur in the second half to exclusively cover the invention. WOW! That's something! They came at 1:30 p.m. and stayed upto 4 p.m.. My first experience to talk to a microphone like that with news channel logo etc. My student, Su.. also told few things after some fumbling and cut, rewind on one occassion. We asked them to put our Lab. technicians too in the frame. They were very cordial, professionals with positive attitude. Then they came to my office, did some recording there and also the front of our dept. etc. After necessary editing, they may show it today in the TV. They too asked us to contact whenever we crack something new. I asked them if they would like to talk to any other person, say De.., HO.. or any senior people in the administration. They said that is not necessary. Today their Kolkata editor rang and said that the edited material is sent to Delhi for broadcasting, expected to be some time in the evening.

Got lot of congratulatory phone calls, emails. The cardiology dept. Head of one very renowned Hospital rang (got input from Aaj Tak reporters), congratulated and inquired more about the product. My thanks to all our well wishers. We sincerely belive that by God's grace and your kind support we'll overcome many more innovation related challenges in future too.

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One for my Master

Yesterday will be remebered for few other reasons too. It was a last day as HO.. for Prof. D... and he is leaving IITkgp in a few months. In the morning, he came to my room and when he announced that we felt very nostalgic. A man with a heart of 24 carat gold, he worked hard for the department in a very passionate but unselfish way. Always aprroachable, a cool headed person, he led by examples. True, that I had many differences with him but I am happy to say that I was wrong in most of the occassions. But he was kind enough to allow others argue or place their views without inhibition and then explain why he did what he did.

We moved out of the room and headed for Bha.. 's tea shop. Then he took me and R.. (another as.. pr..) to the courtyard at the back, the one he painstakingly built into a garden. Asked us to take care a few Bakul trees which he planted. It was very moving! In time to come, he expects the trees to provide natural shade in the form of a canopy. He expressed happiness that all the toilets are renovated. Then he took us to the new parking lot where some more things still need to be done. Called Pra.. (another as.. pr.. ) who is looking after that.

He invited us to his Kolkata residence. I am sure he'll like our presence. And with Boudi present there one will always feel at home, pampered. He has some bright idea of certain future projects. Asked for our support. It will be an honour to be associated.

In between, in his usual style he presnted us few words of wisdom. He equated life like climbing a hill. Though at a global scale the slope is positive, occassionally the climber need to climb down to overcome a ditch or so. Without that he cannot advance. One should not judge a person only by what he is at t=t and look for an average over some length of time. Similarly, positive slope at t=t does not necessarily mean that it is a uphill journey. Going downhill, one may come across a rock which he climbs not to maintain that positive slope throughout his journey. He gave an interesting example. There are 1000 families in a locality. 1000 TV, washing machine, house maid etc. Now each family had a divorce. It became 2000 families. So 2000 TV, washing machine, maids. The local economy boomed. But what is the overall picture? What happens to the kid? No wonder that Prof. is taking early retirement for her daughter who is now studying in Kolkata. And it is true that except the IIT in Kharagpur there are no options available for quality higher education. And almost no one from the campus makes into IIT!!! Why so? It may be discussed in some other posts.

He also said - "One cannot be both happy and great. A happy life is a set of few good compromises". On another occassion he said that betweem 'dictatorship' and 'democracy' he prefers the later. Because though democracy makes more mistakes but it does not make big mistakes. Regarding IIT students' single point objective of having a better career he said that one does not learn till he experiences it himself. Very, very few can learn from observing others or analyzing things objectively. He gave example of Vivekananda. How could he do so much by the time he reached 39. He received great shocks from the world which can become unbelievably cruel. The rest Vivekananda learnt observing and analyzing.

He went on saying. If you think of ten people around you, those ten people will think of you and you will have a great support system. How could one miss that? We'll really miss you, an elder brother in you, De..da in IITkgp. But definitely we'll remain in touch as Kolkata is not very far.

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And one for the ...... outgoing students

The farewell function started late, past 7:30 p.m., may be due to lack of audience and as expected many things were cut short, the students' feedback etc. The skit was scrapped. However, we had synthesizer play from Prof. M... (piecewise continuous), Prof. S.. rendered a soulful Rabindrasangeet, Prof D.., H.. surprised everybody by singing a song. We never knew that he could also sing. And the student presentations though few, were of course qualitatively better than us. Ku.. spoke for a while about their social initiative. Few of the Prof.s gave inpiring speech. P..., the UG f.a. appeared not to enjoy much of the interactions he had with students. The high note with which he started fizzled out somewhere because the students did not reciprocate. The students however aprreciated his effort, project supervision etc. Then there was usual presentation of memento for all the outgoing students. Some students felt that the MTech students are missed out somewhere.

The dinner was good. Found that the juniors (2nd year mostly) took the outgoing seniors' suggestion to 'enjoy life' in the right perspective. Then we had few photo sessions. I circulated two reminder pads to the outgoing students to write their next destination, email id, personal webpage and blogspace. Few filled up there itself. The rest, I expect will complete before they leave the campus.

As people started leaving and it was past 11 p.m., like every other farewell evening of past few years I got engaged in some 'heart to heart' talk with some of the outgoing students. I raised two issues. One is about their social responsibility - how few tubewells in a village can make a huge difference. I wish they read my earlier post of 27th March http://gskgp.blogspot.com/2008/03/social-initiative-iitkgp.html and the discussion we had with Vinayak and Chiranjeev Maharaj http://gskgp.blogspot.com/2008/03/afternoon-with-vinayak-our-alumnus-and.html

The second issue was about removing peer pressure on the juniors by which they are driven in one direction only. This is not allowing the juniors to look beyond only a few options making invaluable loss to them as more promising opportunities remain unutilized. This is also keeping some of the research groups unfavourably positioned. I said few things from my Feb. post http://gskgp.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html The students argued that though there are better research opportunities available with other research groups but students folk one area as all the 'high' paying (They were missing the qualifier) jobs are from one area. Many of them do not take a job and go for higher studies but they want to play safe first by securing a position in a highly paid job. Fair enough! Indian Companies, Government or PSU jobs cannot match offers available at foreign shores or made by foriegn companies having foot prints in India. The scenario thus is pessimistic so far. May be an US recession can bring back few here. Or the new reservation policy may help in giving better access to the premier institutions like IITs to more students who will be rooted in India or serving Govt., PSUs, Indian Co.s . (It may not be out of place to mention that I, myself do not enjoy any reservation.) Also why no IIT BTech (even MTechs) opts for higher studies in IITs itself? There are many internationally known faculty members or research groups. We have a sizeable community of PhD scholars getting PhD degree from approx. 4 years of research through international journal (IEEE, Elseveir etc.) publications and one foreign expert examining the thesis. If without IIT BTech and MTech IIT research labs can do so much, how much more is expected if they chose to stay back? And there is no dearth of vacancies or anything like that. Some pass out students were complaining about the quality of research in IITs. That is grossly unfair. In spite of the best (IIT BTech), the second best (IIT MTech), the 3rd best (NIT BTechs), the fourth best (the best of pvt. engg. colleges getting good job offer) deserting us I believe we are putting reasonably good show with those research students who join us. Compare that with the manpower input of US university research labs. Let us swap the students and see who delivers what! I must also say that I am proud of my research students who in spite of their limitations work very hard and raise themselves so much in four years that their work get recognized. I salute their indomitable spirit. I salute their contribution to IIT research labs.

I believe all is not bad with brain drain. It cannot be. In this world all of us are different shades of grey. No issue can be portrayed fully black or fully white (Image Processing people may differ). May be our country cannot house so many graduates. That IITians are leaving, there are rooms available for engineering graduates from other institutions; there is increasing requirement in Indian Industries to think global in terms of compensation, opportunities. Even Government made its intention clear in 6th pay commission. Also our alumni have brought many laurels for the country and paid back in uncertain terms. They helped in developing positive world opinion about India which benefits the country in some way. And today the global boundaries are more notional than anything else. My best wishes to the would be alumni. Have a very very successful and meaningful life ahead. Be courageous. Remember 'I' for India. If you find some additional space, say time/energy, please spend it for the less privileged section of our country. It will give you lots of satisfaction. And you will enjoy your life in true colour and spirit.

Please keep in touch. Always feel free to drop a line or two, if not more. Wherever you feel like, contradict me and prove me wrong. Now onwards treat me not as a faculty member but simply a senior or your colleague in building the resurgent India.

My best wishes to you all, our brand ambassador. Let you all understand the value of life and live to its fullest.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Thinking aloud


“Will you write about this event?” – asked Sou.. I was reminded of my school days of diary writing. Often I used to spend hours on that. Several of my relatives who used to see me engaged would inquire – “Are you writing about me? Are you writing that I am having food now etc.?” Some used to get scared too. “Please, do not write this discussion in your diary.”

Here some student asked, “Writing, where?” Sou… replied – “Sir writes a blog. One post on Gour… was quite popular.” Then he turned towards me. “Sir, the posts are very long. Can you not make it short and sweet?”

The event in which we (few faculty members and students) worked together was concluded this evening with reasonable success. The dedication and the hard work put forward by the students in these two days as well as in the build up were unbelievable. There was no sign of fatigue or discontent at any point of time. It is always a pleasure to work with such a team. Hope, we’ll have the opportunity to team up again in future.

I fully agree with Sou.. and I myself also like those posts in others’ blogs which are short and sweet. But if the blog name is to be justified i.e. random thoughts, bandwidth has to be wide. Also I guess, my presence on this topics in real-life are like short pulses of higher magnitudes. That warrants the transform domain presence which is virtual to be longer. A kind of uncertainty principle! Enough of justifying one's misdeeds!! I think I have written enough to qualify this as a new post and I should stop here.

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The unofficial guests are welcome in this space!

What I write now is more of thinking aloud. It might create confusion, too. In my UG days at IITkgp there was one Prof. who was very strict but successful in making us learn something by posing hundreds of questions, answers to them were often contradictory. He used to say in every class, "Confusions are welcome. That forces you think. You learn when you think."

This evening in the dinner circle one tired student head of the event was lamenting that he is doing some project which is a mere repetition of a 2002 project work. Also the machine is faulty, beyond repair. Whatever result he is getting is not making any sense. Then he said that a student would love to do project work if it is meaningful or according to his choice. When I put few questions he admitted that (i) if the students are given the choice they will try to flock together to one place which is not sensible and (ii) the priority of a student is to work under a 'peaceful' Prof. than anything else.

This makes me somewhat confused. And while coming back from the arena after two days of serious engagements few thoughts came to my mind. Why did the students work so hard? Was it all inspirational, selfless service? Was it because of the peer pressure i.e. juniors do not have any other options but to oblige senior students? Do they enjoy that? Then, why did the senior students take interest? Will they take same interest in another project and put forward by another faculty member or even for a family event? Are the students expecting something more than “Well done!” What is that? Are we faculty members aware of that? If aware, are we exploiting them in some form? Is it simple ‘Give and take’ policy? Or does it have a more idealistic flavour?

Perhaps it is a mixture of both or the idealistic aspect may have more weightage. May be when they plunged into it they thought about certain issues which are more earthly. But at the conclusion of the event I think they gained an experience which is more than what they expected. Can we then say - it does not matter how one gets into a good work (i.e. pressure, benefit etc.) but the work, if good, will return more than what one was looking for. A sense of great satisfaction, scaling of new important verticals. Then if a faculty member puts some pressure it should not be construed as exploitation. As such IITians are smart enough to find an escape route if not interested.

Let us get even. What if similar questions are addressed to me? There are few senior people in IIT whom I respect so much so that if they request some thing it is always an honour for me to oblige. I am not overdoing if I say that their wish is my order. I have that trust and confidence in them that they will not ask me to do what is not good or me. And the rest becomes simple and understandable.