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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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."
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!!!

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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.

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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.

------------ The official post ends here --------------

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.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Three + 1 Questions


Yesterday afternoon was one of those which I always wanted to have as a student and later it turned out to be the one which I wanted to have as a teacher too, with every student batch of IIT, thanks to Prof. R… ‘s three questions and +1.

The power went off at 10 a.m. due to a massive cable fault. The deadline of restoration was getting extended. Students in DS… Lab were having fun – no work. The suggestion of flash viva was not accepted citing lack of preparation or everybody pointing to Su…. to become the first sacrifice.

To act as a filler (expecting power to come any moment) I sought suggestion on a real-life problem where people want to make quality drinking water available to remote villages in India. These are the places where water table is so low that tube wells are not a good proposition also there is no electricity. Students gave few interesting ideas. One is to have some sort of reservoir (concrete made) followed by filtration unit at the outlet. It is perhaps better than providing individual water filter which can be sold by head of the family, usually a male when in distress or to support his drinking or other habits. As we were discussing how to fill those reservoirs Prof. R.. returned after a very short and delayed (In IITs, life is like that. You are always pushed to the extreme!) lunch and the student in me got better of me. I was his student in my BTech days 20 years back. He asked us to continue. But …

Then Prof. R.. asked the students to respond to these three questions one by one.

1. What is your own dream for the future?
2. Is there any societal pressure in the choice you will be exercising?
3. Would you like to become an entrepreneur?

For most of the students 1 and 2 were not in conflict. I find that little disturbing. Have the students started dreaming what society wants them to dream? Which society? Cannot anybody dare to be different? About 10 of the 26 students (mostly toppers) want to go for higher studies abroad (except one). Only one (Debd…) of them wants to come back to India and take a career in academics. Here, for some students the societal pressure is in the form of parents asking them to go for management education!!! That is interesting! However, for a hostellite and IITians societal pressure is more than what parents desire. Next option for many was to go for management studies. Direct job with good salary was also a choice for many. And few want to go for Indian Engineering Services. Entrepreneurship is not a choice, at least for now. What was heartening that almost all of them mentioned that they are aware of their social responsibilities and will definitely be associated with philanthropic activities. One (Riz…) aspires to open a chain of schools in underdeveloped areas. Others do not have specific projects in their mind but have definite intention to reach out to less privileged people and be at their side. It was so nice to listen to the conviction of Young India. I am proud of you, students. Love you all.

To the skeptics, I would like to say, if these great minds spend even one percent of their time and energy towards nation building activity, reaching out to poor and destitute, it will do wonder for our country.

I dream of an India where every child gets at least the basic amenities of life i.e. food, shelter, healthcare, education. Every child should have the right and opportunity to dream big, have joy of life. It worth more than a million if each of us can wipe tears off at least one person’s face and bring the smile back.

I was not expecting that Prof. R… would ask myself to respond to those questions and as expected the students wanted to know the other side’s story. I was not prepared at all! However, it is a good question for one to be introspective at 40. There is still some time left to do what always one wanted to do, allows one to take stock of the situation and take corrective action, if any. But it also opens the flood gate of emotion. I said something, mostly about an NGO that influenced me a lot in my growing-up days or how much I want every IITian to give importance to his own career and consider that as capacity building to serve himself, his family as well as few less privileged countrymen, if not many.
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What I did not tell that my upbringing was little different. My childhood, in some sense was living in a scary land. We, a family of five members were little better than those who do not get two square of meal a day. My father, who came from East Pakistan during partition as a refugee when in class VIII, (completed matriculation in India, couldn't study further and looked for one earning opportunity or the other) could afford to give only one set of dress every year that too used to be the school uniform. Another new dress I used to get from a relative during Durga Puja. The other dresses were the used ones collected from relatives. But my father did his best to support me in my study. I had to just name a book title, he instantly bought it from market (I took almost no private tution). He used to ask only one question – “Are you sure that you will read this?” I never dared to dream beyond doing well in the next examination. But my mother who even after getting double promotion at class V had to abandon studies, had a dream. She used to tell me – “Someday, I want to see your name in the newspaper.” It was fulfilled when I ranked among the top twenty in 10+2 board examination. Our whole locality burst into joy. Yes, I was a poster boy in our locality. I got lots of blessings and encouragement from every household. (My parents ensured that on every exam. day, before I left for the school, I touched feet of all the elders by visiting nearly 7-8 houses in the locality. One may wonder if that was a wastage of time during exam. days. But I never felt it like that. As such I used to study hard throughout the year. And during exam. only 2 hours in the evening and 1 hour in the morning. So had plenty of time. The otherwise chatterbox, I used to be very silent on exam days. However, there was no break in afternoon soccer practice. I was a soccer addict. Even if it rained heavily and there were few persons in the field with a football, one used to be me. School days, IIT days ... I never missed it. However, I made up for those two hours break in the afternoon by not wasting any opportunity of study. Even in a big 1 hour queue of collecting Kerosene oil (loadshedding was frequent, we three (myself and my two sisters) used to study in the evening surrounding one kerosene lamp) I usually had one note or one small book to study) Well, I was very happy to see the joy on my mother’s face when my name appeared in the newspaper. My father was always reserved. He did not allow me to attend felicitation functions, post 10+2 success, saying – it is nothing, you have a long way to go before felicitation etc. I believe he had a dream. I hadn’t. Later (after his expiry, when I was 24 years old) I found in his diary (my diary writing habit may have come from him - a matriculate, my father's composition of English in the diary was much better than me and that too in beautiful handwriting) that when I was only three years old he is writing – if nurtured properly, the boy has the potential to go very far. Anyway, the same year (1986) I ranked high both in medical entrance and IIT-JEE. My father wanted me to go for medical as he found it was a better way to serve the humanity. My mother wanted me to go for engineering for a reason which only a mother can think of. She thought that as a medical practitioner I was to be available 24x7 and thus would not get a good night sleep. I never studied late night but was an early riser. Actually, I used to be so tired after afternoon soccer play that it was hard to stay awake beyond 9 p.m. But I used to wake up in the morning at 5 a.m. or earlier. As I said before, I never thought beyond doing well in those exam.s and didn't have any dream as such, as far as career is concerned. I selected engineering because that allowed nearly zero shift in my coordinate, to stay in KGP only (I was not a campusite but from the otheside of KGP, called Golebazar), close to my lovely family. The IIT days were full of conflict. I was an off-beat Patelian. I had images of gods and goddesses in my room and I used to perform Puja every evening. I declined to give proxy for my batch-mate in NCC (EME), then 1st year also used to be together with seniors. But I survived the ridicule, opposition to reach the stage, one of acceptance. My SGPA was always more than 9, the final sem. being a perfect 10, ranked 3rd in the Dept. Going abroad was never on my agenda. I took a job in a nearby place TISCO, Jamshedpur. Turned down a generously offered PhD position by a Prof. in an East Coast university, a job at Standard Chartered Bank as the posting was Mumbai etc. In my 2nd year (1988) of IIT UG days, my father was diagnosed to have both the kidneys damaged, he survived for another four years. Throughout he led hero’s life, full of struggle, utmost honesty, selfless. It is easy to do great things in media glare when people are clapping. It is difficult to show greatness in small, small things in our day to day life that does not draw attention. The effort he had given to bring his children up was unparallel. He too used to wake up at 5 a.m. or earlier, take morning walk and Yoga, then visit bazar(market) and/or help mother in cooking - chopping vegetables/fish etc. (sparing children who were engaged in study) so that food is ready before we leave for school or he leaves for job. Returning, in the evening, he used to supervise and actively help us in our study. He turned down promotion offer many times that would require him spending more time in his job and less time for us. We had severe crisis of water in our locality. Almost every evening, sometimes in the morning too, he had to bring water from a well of nearby Masjid, 100-150m away. He was reluctant to take children's help though I forcefully accompanied him sometimes. He or my mother never thought about entertainment like going to movies or having one television etc. Their entire joy was in watching us grow, the real-life characters and not reel-life characters. When in class X, I was supposed to write one paragraph in school on ‘My Favourite Hero’. Everybody except me picked up character from History. I wrote, “My father is my favourite hero …”. The class teacher called my father and showed the copy to him. But he was very strict, didn't show any emotion, never, no - only once, in his death bed, two days before he died. He called me and told me to be realistic, careful, ...... He was a true soldier in the battlefield of this samsara. Lot of people of various age groups, including some of my school friends, yes, school friends and not their parents, used to come to him for advice, suggestions. In his funeral procession to burning ghat, there were hundreds of people. The body was to be kept in a playground for some time. It was about 2 p.m. Some of the teachers in nearby school were surprised when their students asked them to grant leave so that they could also join the procession.

Tulsidas says - Tulsi, jab jag me ayo, jag hase tum roye. Aisi korni kar chalo ki, tum hase, jag roye (Tulsi, when you were born, you cried and everybody was happy. Lead a life such that when you leave, everybody cries and you are happy.)