Thursday, September 30, 2010


National Service Scheme now is on IIT Kharagpur front page in 'Happenings' section. Nice to see that. Special thanks to Dr. SP and NSS web team of volunteers working under him.

We shall refresh the NSS site regularly with our updates. The NSS Day pictures and videos are currently avaialble at

We gratefully acknowledge the help and encouragement we receive from everyone in IITkgp, Govt. officials and local people.

Received a mail this evening from a senior IITkgp faculty member who is Vice Chancellor of an university, encouraging NSS, IIT Kharagpur activities. Another IITkgp faculty member who too is a Vice Chancellor in another university asked us to visit his place and discuss NSS activities (not existing now) there with the students. A few IITkgp alumni too have indirectly approached through some senior students to contribute to NSS cause.

NSS with 20 lakhs nation-wide volunteers is a force with immense potential. IITkgp led from the front in the area of higher education in independent India. It will be great to see it in the forefront of NSS activities too where youth directly participate in rebuilding India, reaching out to the poor and underprivileged.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Visit

It was put on the 'NSS Employment Opportunities' mailgroup - a visit to a nearby High School to interact with higher class students on career opportunities. This group of 16 NSS IIT Kharagpur student volunteers are preparing a digest of opportunities at various levels - if someone clears Class VIII, then Class X, Class XII etc., scholarships, jobs, self-employment opportunities. The ones available in mass market are targeted towards those who are more educated and have buying power. Here the target is to reach out all the sections.

This was the fiirst dedicated field trip of the group and we looked for people. A few had a sudden opportunity to visit B.D.O. office and interact with S.D.O., B.D.O., Deputy Magistrates few weeks back. A reader-friendly :-) report from a volunteer as she found it is available here

We asked for options. The vehicle can accomodate up to 4 students. The no. of students interested were more than 4. The requirement was to have working knowledge of Bengali, the volunteer can speak in simple English or Hindi. Finally, 4 of us set off at 1:30 p.m. on Sat, the 25th Sept. The Arya Vidyapith school is another 2 KM or so on the Big Bazaar Road further away. When we reached there Swami Sunishthananda, Principal, Ramakrishna Mission School, Midnapur was addressing students. I have listened to him before. The audience listened to him with apt attention. The NSS IITkgp student volunteers were spell-bound, they never had an opportunity to participate in such discussion. Being naturally gifted they as IITians usually do not face problem with concentration, control over mind. Here Swamiji was addressing to so called 'ordinary' students who can rise above 'mediocrity' by using mind as a tool. Later it was found that it is equally applicable to IITians too and lots of 'psychological' issues heard in IIT campus may benefit from such discussions. Received the following in mail of one student volunteer .... "I called up my Mom and told her about this. She was glad and wished if she could be there too! " Another volunteer recorded it in his cell phone. I shall share the link later.

If the reader at this point is curious to know what excited the our students so much, a summary is pasted at the end of this post. But that definitely is a poor copy of what actually was experienced. Still it may be useful to many.

Our turn came next. First we had a semi-formal Q & A session. Aftert that we informally met in groups. Even at 4:30 p.m. (SAT is half-day and we were supposed to end at 3 pm) the students did not leave the school and they were hungry for more. The teachers persuaded them to leave as guardians might be anxious. They left only after extracting assurance from us that we would come back. We interacted with the teachers in staff-room, had snacks and when we came out and were about to leave, found some students were still waiting.

Yesterday evening we had a short group meeting. Yes, we'll return to this school and visit other places too. But this first interaction exposed us to some of our short-comings in the preparation. Accordingly, responsibilities were fixed and each student volunteer now will prepare two posters on specific themes related to various opportunities. We'll have approx. 30 such posters in different class rooms and shall interact with the students.

Before I end this section I would like to point to an inspiring article I read in today's The Telegraph, how a school teacher in a non-descript village is making a difference. The link is available here
Now the student reports on this visit - minus the names.
On Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 8:31 PM, xxxx wrote:
Hi Sir,
These are the few points I recalled till now. A lot of things are storming in mind, might click at a later time. But if you remember some other point apart from these, do mail me. I would love to compile them in a notebook.
- When a man wanted to understand the difference between hell and heaven, he was taken to Hell first. He saw a large table with plenty of delicious and tasty food and a large no. of people on the either side of it. But interestingly, nobody could eat even a bit, as their hands were stretched out, freezed! He was moved by their pathetic condition and wished to go to heaven then. Amazingly, he saw the same situation there too, but the only difference being, the oppositely seated people fed each other! A perfect example of selflessness. This brings out the difference clearly.

- Happiness is like pouring oil from a container to the other - Clear, pure and uninterrupted.
- Theorists say that there's no Absolute Truth. But if you take a bite of a green chilly, you'll certainly end up itching your tongue - Sri Ramakrishna (My Hero!)
- Things which we do out of necessity once, slowly become our habits. Thus go for proper necessities only.
- When you climb a mango tree and place the ladder in the wrong place, the effort you put in to climb up, goes wasted totally. You need to climb down again, find a proper place and again repeat the process. This tells us that when efforts are put in the right place, the same effort leads us to the sweet fruit positively. But on the other hand that effort when put wrongly, goes wasted and yields nothing.
- Our mind can be considered as a "Band Party". Sometimes we need to be spectators. Especially while meditating. We must watch our mind rush past. All thoughts will storm our brains. Then finally, like the procession is out of sight, our mind is totally empty. This is the time we start innovating ideas.

On Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 10:21 PM, Goutam Saha wrote:
Thanks xxxx.
The other points? Meditate, u will get :-)
A few that comes to my mind -

- non-local consciousness, conclusion from ... birds - fish movement in a flock ... research on that for traffic control
- Man-Hnush ... Shreya and Preya ... Happiness as a culmination of Saadhan
- Aneroxia example ... obsession ... initially for good, diet control, I was controlling mind ... then phobia ... mind takes over me
- Two wood-cutters ... one always works ... one works, then takes rest, when resting sharpens the axe ... the latter gets more wood ... time needed for oneself to sharpen mind, intellect, the tools which helps us to assimilate, analyze ... meditation, the exercise
- Happiness coming from satisfaction of desire are not real ... all of us are a kind of child and fooled by mother nature ... as mother stops a crying baby by giving a toy ... satifaction of one desire is like getting a toy and feeling happy, only to see another desire cropping up for another toy ... and the real happiness always eludes
- Why sannyasins are called Maharaj, King of Kings when they have no material wealth with them? ... because, even a king begs for more wealth and thus is a begger, no fundamental difference with a roadside beggar
- We don't study Ramayan, Mahabharat, treasure house of wisdom as it has element of fiction ... Hanuman crossing ocean by a jump ... but everyday we consume fiction in TV, Cinema ... spiderman, batman, hollywood movie of aliens ... that has always been the case ... man had always a desire to outgrow himself ... used imagination ... desire to grow big takes us to sea-side or mountain side on vacation and we feel overhelmed ... we taste the infinite through that
- All animals except man are guided by emotion ... Man control emotion as he has control over mind ... exercise that control, have command over mind ... meditation is the key
- If u do not get good result after practising meditation for some time, let me know, I'll conclude whatever Swami Vivekanada has taught is all wrong. Let me see if u can prove that.
- Practise is the key ... it may be difficult initially as mind tricks us and wants to follow the same known path ... Vigyan Maharaj told, "As Guru I asked u to practise, u do that" ... once new track of mind is laid by practise u will start liking it ... now we all take Pnaskura bypass on way to Kolkata and don't go through the crowded town road.

There may be few more.

How was the experience of interaction with students? What preparation is needed on our part when we meet them again on their Annual Day? Can we not complete the compilation? We have to look at opportunities for player, singer ... there are sports quota in Govt. job ... probably one has to represent state.

On Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 11:26 PM, Goutam Saha wrote:

Another point

- lack of patience ... we get whatever we want in a nuclear family when young .. didn't learn to accept 'no', defeat, humiliation ... when we grow up, face challenges ... we give up easily or feel highly agitated, becomes agressive

On Sun, Sep 26, 2010 at 9:35 AM, xxxx wrote:

Thanks a lot Sir! I got a few points (there in your mail) when I was just recalling the whole thing before sleeping, last night. If I get a few more, I'll make sure to mail them too. I called up my Mom and told her about this. She was glad and wished if she could be there too!
I was glad to interact with students, who seemed to have a lot of desire to learn. About the queries of the students, they are much into knowing what must they do clear JEE. Also, they wanted to know whether CBSE is better than WB Board. The girls laid most of their questions on confidence building and concentration development. And some of them wanted an alternative to Engg and Medical (like field of sports, music and other cultural activities).
If you could tell me when their Annual Day is, we could have a more precise deadline for our compilation. And as far as I am concerned, I made a promise to them that I would be visiting their school very soon! :-)
I would convey to the group that we must start the compilation ASAP.
Thanks again Sir.

From: xxxx
September 26, 2010 8:01:11 PMSubject: NSS Report

Respected Sir,
I am sorry to be late in submitting my report. I have attached the recordings which I did on that day, which can be played using Quick Time. I have attached my report as well. I have mentioned some of the points, and will will send any new if I am able to write a better one. ........ Please send your suggestions and pardon the misakes which I might have committed. Thanking You,

My first NSS visit was really a very encouraging and memorable one. Sir took me, xxxx and xxxx to Aryya Vidyapeeth, where we had been invited for a function and were supposed to interact with the stdudents. We reached there at about 2.00 p.m. When we reached there, Maharaj Ji from Ramkrishna Mission was speaking to the (students). This was the first event of its kind organized there. We also joined them. Teachers and students of the school were already sitting there. Maharaj Ji spoke on various topics like meditation, increasing concentration and how to develop into a complete human being who can be really useful not only to himself, but to the society and country as a whole. He is a really good orator and all of us were just mesmerized listening to him. Everything he explained so clearly and with such logical examples that all of us, even the smallest ones, could easily understand him. He spoke in Bengali, and here I have tried to translate a few of the points on which he spoke, and present the meaning in my own words :

“Today, we talk of freedom and consider ourselves to be free, but the reality is totally else wise. We are enslaved by desires. The modern man is not hesitating in doing something wrong in order to gain some profit. ..... Like a honey bee which gets stuck in the same honey which it comes to enjoy, we are similarly imprisoned by our worldly desires and pleasures. We have forgotten that real joy comes from inside, it is not a commodity to be found outside. No one is satisfied. We want more and more.”

“Meditation is the way to have a proper control on our own mind. It is to be in command of our own senses. Like a road is etched in the mud by vehicles moving constantly over it, similarly we can be in charge of our mind through constantly practicing meditation.”

“Human being can’t consider himself small. He thinks of the infinite. All the movies, like spider-man, batman, etc where you see people doing things which are extraordinary are all a reflection of this desire of man. Use this spirit to your benefit. Make someone great your idol, love him more than your love and you will yourself see how you raise in love ( instead of falling in love as is usually the case ).”

“Heaven is here, hell is here! It just depends on your mentality. Let me explain it by a story. Once a man, after his death, was asked by Yamraaj to express his last wish. The man wanted to see heaven and hell. So he was first taken to hell, where he saw that a large feast had been organized, with all kinds of delicious food items. People were sitting at tables beside the food, but were unable to eat it as both their hands were plastered in full. The man was sad to see this pitiable condition. Next, he was taken to heaven, were also the same thing was there. There was a feast, and the hands were plastered. But here, a person took the food and fed his neighbor, and his neighbor did the same, so everyone was able to enjoy the food. What is the moral? Wherever people forget themselves and think about others, they create a heaven. And whenever we are selfish and worry only for our own benefit, we create a hell. “NOT ME, BUT YOU” and we create a paradise!”

Well, Maharaj Ji spoke a lot more, and I can’t express the complete feeling in words.

After that, we had a question-answer session, where students put up various questions, and this was the place which showed me both the usefulness of the work which we as a group are doing, as well as the amount of work which still remains for us to do in order to come up to the full expectations of the people. This section provided me an insight into the variety of topics like career in music, sports, etc which we need to cover.

Later, we interacted directly with the students and talked with them and clarified some of their doubts. One boy of class X came up to me and asked about the future in Hotel Management. I accept I was not at all prepared for this, and I had to tell him that a basic qualification of class XII pass is required, which I happen to know since one of my relative was in this profession. After that, I need to find out what the possibilities are.

In general, most of the students there wanted to be just well off with a peaceful life. They were not too eager to be an engineer or a doctor in particular. But most of them lacked self confidence. They were pressurized by the upcoming board exams, and it is definitely a thing which I had also encountered. So, many were just asking tips about how to fare well in the exams.

I also saw the brand value of IIT which I had heard. We were literally pampered by the students and the faculty (of the school) alike.

We returned at around 5.00 p.m. I will definitely cherish the memories of this visit for a long time to come. It really inspired me to work harder in NSS and I hope to toil in with some more efforts. I hope we as a group will bring this work to a great finish, as per the expectation of not only sir, but of our own conscience and the society.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


The NSS Advisory Committee Meeting held on 23rd August appreciated the activities we proposed. But we were told to observe NSS Day, if required following US style at a later date, if there is Mid-Sem. Exam. or so. This time mid-sem was over by 20th Sept. while NSS Day is on 24th Sept. But we had difficulty in getting volunteers during (13th-20th Sept.) or the week before. But all the Program Officers made up for that during mid-sem week and student volunteers joined as soon as exam was over, using off-periods to visit villages for the remaining jobs.

Yes, we wanted NSS Day celebration to be somewhat different from other functions of IIT. We wanted to avoid long speeches. We wanted to involve the community our volunteers are engaged with. We wanted to present our on-going activities with every student head speaking for 3 minutes using slides that have images of field work. The skit, NSS cultural team has prepared and is played as nukkad in villages to create awareness, would certainly be there. We wanted the whole function to be short, somewhat informal but disciplined even with 1000 capacity audience and we wanted to be punctual.

I as a member of a faculty team was returning after a meeting with industry representatives from Mumbai. In the airport when we had free time I talked to our Director, IIT Khargpur and he readily agreed to make himself available for the entire function. That gave a lot of inspiration to the team. We lined up launch of NSS, IIT Kharagpur website, release of Newsletter NSS Day Edition to make the most of his presence and make the function a memorable one. This meant we needed to work harder and as a team. The student webteam wanted all the content made available to them at least 2 weeks before mid-sem exam.; some of the student groups had several false-starts :-) and had little to show as their activities on NSS Day, may be did not organize themselves properly (yes, there is a lot to do but the response in general says that a good beginning is made) etc.

And then there were two unexpected visitors in my office on 31st of August! Both were final year students. Gou.... was in my Digital Electronics Class (non-EC) group years back. Sa... was not known beforehand. What they said was interesting and came as a sweet surprise. They are a group of final year students who came together in an 'Art of Living' program of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Later I received this link from them. They are collecting about Rs. 5000 among themselves per month and want to spend it for underprivileged children's education. Sometime back there was an article by me on this topic at Scholar's Avenue (student's newsletter). They were exploring various opportunities and were curious about current NSS initiatives.

First, I inquired about the source of fund and I was relieved that they were not collecting money from others and has complete ownership of the fund. I am little scared about so called NGOs who lack transparency and has become a source of earning for the fund collector/distributors in the name of administrative expenses. The result is marketing of 'poverty', fund raising campaigns, recruitment of salaried campaigners, so on an so forth. Please refer to my previous post I usually ask such NGO representatives how much you yourself are contributing and if audit is done by a reputed firm and if I can see the audit statement of last few years. Once donated for a cause, the money belongs to the underprivileged, effectively the underprivileged are the employer and you are the employee. Only in the 'NGO job (read, paid)' employee is better off than the 'employer' and often it is utter confusion who is serving whom.

This is not to say that all NGOs are bad or so. I myself was taken care of by an NGO since Class III. The greater share of the greatest human beings of my life I met here. It is a more than 35 years old organization operating in other side of Kharagpur and has not a single piece of land or room of its own. Weekly study circle/meeting is held in residences of people from the community. Camps / Workshops take place in local schools. About 20 years back there was a talk to have its own building. In the executive meeting where this came as an agenda item it got rejected. The view was, "We'll get one place of our own, in lieu we'll miss so many places in individual residences where we work within the community. By this, we'll be alienated from the community and be localized. If community is satisfied with our work, wants us to be amongst them, they will shelter us. If not, we'll have our meetings in a play ground, open space or simply dissolve ourselves. If we do good work, the community will protect us in their own interest." Contrary to this, most of the NGO work suffers from 'saviour complex', i.e. "We'll save the poor etc." Even if the annual turnover in some year is approx. Rs. 10000, it is audited by Chartered Accountant. No single member takes a single rupee as allowance. If a professional job is to be done, it gets done and a receipt is collected. If possible, a discount is worked out. There is no guise, no cover of an NGO to offer professional service and get paid. Have an agency of ur own with proper registration, sales tax etc. offer service and get paid with appropriate transaction slip. Often people who are in full-time job get tempted to earn extra unaccounted income (which they are not authorized to) through this. The way 'religion' was brought to disrepute, there is a similar danger looming large in the name of 'social service' with proliferation of NGOs. And this has been pointed in Govt. survey, published in Hindustan Times and discussed in previous post.

To avoid this, the well-meaning NGOs should spend some time in understanding what 'social service' is, what is social audit, how to keep accounts etc. before jumping into anything. Else there will be no checks and balances, it will be infiltrated by people who has other motives and the cause will be hijacked. One has to bring up next level of leadership and 'leading by example' is more true here. (Some of my thoughts on this can be found in ).

Let me give one example how we work in an organization. Yesterday evening at about 7:15 p.m. attended a meet of a very well-meaning NGO where nobody draws a single Re. and each member donates handsomely. Proud to be associated with that where there is sacrifice. The meeting was discussing a fund-raising program where a corpus of Rs. 50000 was targeted. This is to feed quality lunch to one thousand relatively poor villagers of a nearby village. Since the amount is large, a proposal was floated to approach IIT community. Then came the question - what if they ask the purpose or what we expect to achieve by this. It was found that none had an answer except that it was directed by a very respected person who motivates the group, gives time and energy and himself has dedicated whole life for the poor and downtrodden. But this is an internal matter of the group who may be devoted to one person or the other. Will it be enough to convince general public so that they donate money for the cause? Then there was a brain-storming. The purpose was 'found' to be increasing interaction/involvement with larger section of the villagers where already a free coaching centre is run by the group by donation of members only. Then the question came - what do we want to do when the villagers get involved? There was no answer. Are we doing enough in what we have already involved - the free coaching centre where the numbers are reducing. Once there was about 30+ students and we appointed two paid teachers. Now the no.s have reduced and one wonders if two teachers are required. What I found that it was not liked to raise unpleasant questions or rather any question. Finally, it was decided to raise the money within the group itself as devotee of a great soul and fulfill his wish.

Let us come back to NSS Day preparation. The digression is to give the two extremes in which we operate. This shows how GOs like NSS are important as a platform which need to be made functional - efficient and effective. NSS gives the platform and a mandate to conduct this exercise, else people may wonder about the motive, given the reputation certain NGO efforts. Also anything Govt. is considered reliable, secured, sustainable, not coming from a fly-by-night operator. Coupled with IIT brand, NSS IIT Kharagpur is a great potent force and if nurtured well can make a real difference. It is getting all support from local Govt. offices and Inst. Admin.

Next, I was interested to know from those seniors if they wanted to involve themselves with the community or want to donate the money from a distance. While NSS can do the job identifying candidates because of its reach and ability to follow-up the donor should go to respective villages and see the things for themselves. Money here is a vehicle to get close to the underprivileged community but simply giving money on monthly basis is not going to solve the problem. The problem is to be solved together with the community and it cannot be enforced from outside. Often the problem is that of motivation, guidance, self-belief, self-respect being trampled for years. Money plays a small component and Govt. is constantly pushing money to social sector. They do not know how to get that or misuse it, give it to cheat fund who promise doubling of money in two years etc. - all because anything other than money. This is what I found from a recent discussion with a Punjab National bank official. And to my satisfaction they said, "Yes."

Then I explained the model we are following in NSS for child education and the targeted 'village school network'. Who benefit if a child from a village school does well? Who are the stake holders? Besides the child, the school teachers, parents, and local community are involved. NSS volunteers are going to these villages once a week and interact for a few hours. If all the stake holders unite, it ensures quality education for a child.

There is an alternate model that asks students from villages to be brought to a central place where they are taught well and cared. It serves a purpose but may have an inherent weakness where the student remains somewhat alienated from the own community and the community do not really reap the benefit. Then there is a problem of scaling it up. Third these facilities are often run by paid employee and they may not be committed to social service and take it as another job. If there is no strict supervision and management of such schools, the quality cannot be ensured. A large and populous country like India with significant percentage of illiterate people and living below poverty line needs a more inclusive broad based strategy. There are Govt. run schools in villages. They have to be made real centre of learning. We need to work with these teachers, make them feel important, recognize their effort, make them partners. Similarly, we need to involve parents to prevent drop-outs, explain them how it is going to benefit (in the next post activity of one group on various career opportunities have been discussed - opportunities available if one clears Class VII, or Class X etc.). The local community leader if involved can do his part of the counselling. We shall recognize such leader's effort in some manner.

Thus, the model proposed is to strengthen each existing link in the education chain by playing a catalytic role, by playing a role of an enabler - by giving scholarship to the students, by arranging workshop for the teachers in presence of D.I., S.I. of schools, by engaging community leader through a meeting with B.D.O and S.D.O. - recognizing, highlighting every lead with a no-criticism approach. "What we are doing is good, can we do better?" We are talking about a reward based approach, not punishment one to enhance the spirit. And the reward is to be devised in such a manner that it enhances happiness, satisfaction. Mere money is not going to help, how it is given is important.

All these require innovation. Observation - Assimilation - Thinking - Planning - Execution. Requires 3 'H' - Hand, Head, Heart. One 'H' is not sufficient. We need such workers.

We worked on both what we give and how we give. In fact, yesterday we discussed a proposal of one alumnus from abroad to infuse some more money on a particular project. We requested to hold it for some time as we want the present support which is significant amount to get absorbed first. Too much of easy money will dilute things and people will lose motivation to do better and get rewarded - worst of all, it may turn them beggar. However, we welcomed participation in underwriting another pilot project involving 10 families where high yield vegetable and fruit garden using waste water is being planned. A faculty member from Rural Development Centre is enthusiastic about it and is trying to make a plan ready asap. I may have a meeting with S.D.O. Kharagpur next week where some NSS volunteers will be assisting in a Health Camp in a nearby village. I may use that opportunity to discuss this.

We then worked on a proposal of instituting merit-cum-means scholarships for students of these schools. Out of Rs. 5000 they are collecting among themselves each month, the students wanted to donate Rs. 3000 to this scholarships and Rs. 2000 to a nearby NGO run by an NRI catering to students drawn from villages but that NGO is facing financial difficulty (as told to them and they have not studied any audit statements). They wanted to confirm this by talking to their other team members and a few days later I had a meeting with five of them. Besides Gou.. and Sa..., there were Jaga..., Nih..., Sar... Another round of discussion and the confirmation came. We decided to start these scholarships from NSS Day itself. We got another Rs. 14000 of one time donation from an individual which would give an education-cum-game pack to each of the 14 schools. This also was earmarked for NSS Day. The final year students could not go to villages due to mid-sem exam in between but one of them accompanied us to Midnapur when we invited D.M., D.I, S.I. etc. and bought some specific requirement of a village High School from a book shop there (not available at Kharagpur). Through mail I kept them informed about the student selection process and their role on NSS Day. Program officers talked to each school teacher and awardee students directly by visiting each school. And later NSS volunteers invited teachers, guardians, local community leader personally with invitation card.

14 schools, 28 students - teachers, guardians ... we were ready for a good community representation in NSS Day function at Netaji auditorium. Would they finally come or feel scared? Some of the guardians work as daily labourer inside IIT campus. Might have worked in the lawn around that Netaji auditorium where convocation function is held and IITians receive their coveted degree. And we planned certificate of appreciation for these village kids for their good academic performance (no matter that it is village school) and prizes to be handed over by Director, IIT Khargpur - even I as a child could not dreamt of such a thing. And we must thank, feel grateful that the whole of IIT Admin. - Director, Deputy Director, Deans, all lent all kind of support. S.D.O. Kharagpur said that he would come directly from Kharagpur after a meeting. The atmosphere was filled with positive vibration.

The responsibilities of each program officer (P.O.) for the function were fixed beforehand. We had three meetings in 7 days for that. I must say that I have got an excellent team of faculty colleagues taking the responsibility of NSS officers. The meeting took us back to our college days. Since mid-sem was going on we had to put little extra effort on our part. But all of us enjoyed it. Prof SH and his team of volunteers managed the stage, sequence of events in a 90 minute packed program comprising of various segments like a professional. More importantly, they had to get it first time right with no prior stage rehearsal. Prof SSD, another P.O. was given the responsibility of announcements in stage, integration of various segments. Mr MR, P.O. would take care of food. Other P.O.s will take care of volunteer assignment at IIT Gates, ppt preparation, reception of guest, audience management etc. Myself and Prof. PKB were given the role of coordination as our cell no.s were given to various guests and if they were stuck up somewhere might call us for help.

There was a setback when Prof. SSD became unavailable as he had to attend some medical emergency. In the 23rd meeting it was decided that I would be his substitute for on stage announcements. I never had an experience of addressing 1000 capacity crowd or socials like these. Neither I am a good orator (you may find that in the NSS Day video). For a while we thought a student volunteer to do the job. Then we thought it is the first show of its kind and IITkgp student audience has its own tantrums. It may be difficult for a volunteer who is either from 1st or 2nd year to maintain command. May be in our next public program in National Youth Week (Jan. 12-19, 2011) they will be more prepared.

We personally met Director, Deputy Director, Deans, Registrar and kept them apprised of the NSS Day events. Twice we circulated it in institute group mail.

(To be continued. Draft)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


It is not easy to keep pace with the world which is changing fast in spite of my attempt to spend about half an hour every morning to read 3-4 newspapers. It seems that I missed the following July 04, 2010 report due to summer vacation pressure :-) There was one. I went invisible in google too to avoid any ping. Shall talk about that later. I was on the facebook page of an NGO where I saw a connection to this thread. It reveals some startling facts.

India has possibly the largest number of active non-government, not-for-profit organizations in the world. A recent study commissioned by the government put the number of such entities, accounted for till 2009, at 3.3 million. That is one NGO for less than 400 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres in India.

Isn't that great? One NGO if on average has 10 members, the ratio becomes 1:40. Besides we have GOs - schools, health centres to top up (since the NGO number is larger). Our population must be getting great care. Let us see how they are financed.

While the government will begin studying the finances of the sector in the second phase of the survey, estimates from within the sector suggest that NGOs, or NPIs, raise anywhere between Rs 40,000 crore and Rs 80,000 crore in funding annually. ... Individual donors are emerging as the biggest and most lucrative source of funds. According to an internal study by a leading foreign NGO headquartered in the UK, donations by individuals are expected to have grown from around Rs 2,200 crore in 2005 to Rs 8,100 crore by a conservative estimate, and to around Rs 21,000 crore (in 2009) by more liberal estimates.

That is lot of money. It requires audit of both types. The one according to financial norms. The other is the social audit. The community for which donation is made should know the amount donated, work done; the donor in turn should get report of utilization of fund and actual outcomes. Is that happening? Our little exposure to underdeveloped area do not say that. On the contrary we see high rise building of NGO officials with marble floors, air-conditioned vehicles and there are advertisements of 'lucrative' NGO jobs in various campus. Indian Express report leaves a hint.

“The government study included, these are all broad estimates. Nobody really knows the ground reality because this sector has grown very fast in the past many years. Besides, there have been no efforts to maintain an official database or even to encourage such entities to be transparent about their activities as well as fundings,” said Soumitro Ghosh, founder CEO, CSO Partners, a Chennai-based organization set up to encourage transparency in the functioning of the sector.

The effort of Mr. Ghosh is laudable. But often the NGOs use the umbrage that they are so much burdened with their 'social service' work that this accounting, keeping records etc. becomes an extra burden. And there are bigger plots too as has been mentioned in a follow up article of Indian Express dated Aug. 17, 2010. It also gives further clarification on financial aspect.

According to various estimates, in 2009, around Rs 18,000 crore (of total Rs. 80000 crore) came in from the government, around Rs 10,000 crore were generated through foreign contributions, Rs 1,600-2,000 crore were raised through religious contributions and the rest (~ Rs. 50000 crore) through corporate and individual donations.

These are big numbers. And Mr. Ghosh rightly says, The point is that if India, indeed, had 3-4 million NGOs, whatever amount of funds they may be raising, by the sheer amount of work they would do, we will not have the kind of social problems that we are currently faced with.

A few days back when we (a team of NSS officers) were visiting a few Sarva Shiksha Kendra we happened to meet an NGO official in a Panchayat Office. He said, "I requested you to join us or at least visit our NGO. You asked one of our volunteer about audit statements. It was not ready at that time. I understand why you said that. Most of the NGOs are in money-making business. We are not like that. We care for the people." To hear that from an NGO official right at the heart of a village means a lot.

I shall end this post with the opening statement of this second Indian Express report. It shows that money is not the issue. A professionally managed, transparent organization who really care for the people is the need of the hour. That organization need not even touch any money and can simply serve as an integrating force of various well meaning NGO and GO efforts. To do that one needs to have a balanced development of 3 'H' : Heart - to feel, Head - to plan, Hand - to execute. Donating money is the easiest thing to do and usually that comes first to our mind when we think about our social responsibility. Often people play on that tender feelings, show images of poverty, lack of facilities etc. for collecting money. We donate and think that our job is done. But as this report says, that is not enough. We have to have a system in place, if it does not exist, we need to create a one. We need to visit the places ourselves, first time may be with the help of NGO. After that on our own and check the progress. We have read that in a well run kingdom, the king used to mix with people like a commoner and find out their problems, how they are benefited from development schemes etc.. If he visited with royal entourage the truth would not have been revealed.

I think that a significant number of iitians possess these qualities (3 'H'). With a strong 'IIT' brand and stronger alumni network we can surely take a lead here. That will be one excellent gift to the nation, our 'Bharat' which often is treated differentially with 'India' and talked about in various circles. The endnote from the newspaper article.

It is surprising that while India has one of the largest number of active not-for-profit, non-government organisations, most global donor agencies and voluntary agencies lament that they do not find enough “eligible partners” to work with. “We fund only around 250 NGOs in India. Finding professional, above board organisations that will follow transparent ways of functioning is a challenge (here),” says Nisha Agarwal, CEO, Oxfam India, a US-based organisation that mainly raises and donates funds to grassroots agencies. Oxfam’s funding budget for 2009 was Rs 90 crore.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Step

... in the right direction. The best thing is that it is just not a thought experiment ( ), something happening on ground ... starting this weekend ... as has been reported in today's TOI. Excerpts below.

Barefoot lawyers to help rural India

NALSA To Kick Off Drive This Weekend

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

New Delhi: India is planning to replicate Chinas barefoot doctor experiment in the legal field by aiming to train 1 lakh para-legal volunteers who would tell rural people not to sleep over their rights violations and encourage them to take recourse to the justice system for remedial measures.

It plans to select volunteers from villages who will be imparted basic knowledge in law touching the daily life of a vast majority of the population living in rural areas who can seldom access the justice delivery system against wrong-doers or denial of justice.

The woman volunteers will be trained in marriage laws,anti-dowry provisions,Maternity Benefit Act,Child Marriage Restraint Act,domestic violence,mainte-nance,labour welfare laws,all aimed at providing an aggrieved woman with the necessary lifeline to approach a legal aid committee at the taluka level to seek judicial redressal of the grievance rather than live with it, NALSA member-secretary U Sarathchandra told TOI.

Each para-legal volunteer is expected to educate people,especially those belonging to weaker sections of the society,to enable them to be aware of the right to live with human dignity,he said.

Importantly,NALSA is liaising with the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangthan to organise training programmes for the 20,000 National Youth Corps volunteers ( )at the state level to also act as para-legal volunteers.Of these 20,000,nearly 8,000 are meant for J&K.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Teacher's Day

Last week attended three Teacher's Day function and got connected to the fourth in an indirect way for some awkward reason.

The first one attended was on 5th Sept. itself which was Sunday this year. Students of two local schools (Atulmani and Silver Jubilee) assembled at a hall in Golebazar, Durgamandir. The Headmaster of Atulmani school presided. The Principal of Ramakrishna Mission School at Midnapore Town, Swami Sunishthanandaji was the main speaker. The theme of this morning three hour assembly was "Towards Life Building". There were few guardians too. I spoke a little about what can be called success and how important it is to enjoy what one is doing, the importance of good health, sports and games and also participated in Q & A sessions.

The second one was on 6th Sept. evening, organized by MTech. students of Telecommunication specialization of our Dept. I was touched by the way students organized the function and made teachers feel special. It was not something arranged just for the sake of it. Teachers shared experiences of their students life. When my turn came I preferred to speak on our role in nation building process, that united we are a great force, IITKGP is the first of the IITs starting from a place where freedom fighters were detained, can be the first to show how brand IIT can be used for community service etc. and the discussion continued even after the function was formally over.

The third one was held on 7th Sept. at Kalidas Auditorium. This was arranged by students of Advanced VLSI Lab. and it was a cultural extravaganza. The play (a comedy) was superb, particularly one character, Gourhari the poet looked fully immersed and there was no visible effort from him to act, all came so natural. IITians are truly multi-faceted and are full of talent. Incidentally, a group NSS volunteers belonging to NSS cultural team staged a street-play on 4t Sept. in a nearby village on atrocities against woman. Congrats to you all - for you the world is so very beautiful!

Now the fourth one! I wish I could avoid this but wish to speak as greatness is all about direction no matter what the current state is. On 8th Sept., one senior Prof. asked me to help drafting something (so that it does not appear harsh) which will be shared with all teachers (very very few attended the function) and students. The quality of the 5th Sept., 'official' Tecaher's Day program organized by Rxxx/Gxxx (?) at Netaji Auditorium perhaps has scope for improvement. I do not know for sure as the students were selective in invitation, may be found it difficult to reach all faculty members, we are too many now :-) or there could be simply communication gap. I could attend 'this' function a few years back and found it would be more apt to call it a "Student Day" function. However, I respect the organizing committee's wish and freedom as much as I respect mine and they are entitled to hold it in the way they like and pay their 'tribute' to teachers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Baba (Father). Today is his death anniversary. The 1992 appears to be yesterday. It was at about 10 a.m. in the morning. After a night out at hospital I came to our railway quarter (near Bara Maszid at Golebazar) for a quick snacks. On return to Railway hospital, my elder sister was found weeping in the stairs. A fighter who stood like a rock before us, sheltered many like a big eagle under the wings, called it a day. Around 2 p.m. the mortal frame was brought in our quarter. The playground in front of our quarter was almost mobbed - young and old, paying their homage to a person who was really larger than life. The playground still exists between Maszid and Cooperative Stores, our quarter was the middle one numbered MQ9/8. The block was popularly called adhai (2.5) number because it had one bedroom, one verandah which we converted to room by curtain, kitchen, store room, toilet - a total space of 2.5 bedroom.

The partition of India brought the family in a place called Bandel in Hooghly District of West bengal as a refugee. An otherwise good student Baba had to abandon study after secondary when his elder brother and then my grandfather died in quick succession. There was a large family to feed, used to be joint family those days. And Baba perhaps was found to be more capable, competent and he took up the responsibility. Tried a few self-employment ventures which didn't work out that well. Then could establish a shop which started generating some revenue. Together with a few fellow shopkeepers in the neighbourhood he used to bring materials from Kihdirpore dock of Kolkata in truck. That was a trying time for India as a nation with problems galore specially in states like Bengal with large number of refugees coming in.
Baba was the most educated in the family at that time! My other uncle (they were three brothers) was finding it difficult to adapt in new environment and so did cousin brothers who were a few years younger to Baba. They abandoned study much earlier. It was a bold but an important decision for Baba to introduce cousin brothers to that shop and open two more shops (small ones though) in two nearby places, one near Bandel station and the other next to then very famous Dunlop factory (tyre, tube). But it needed a steady cash flow at least in initial years. He tried and got a railway clerical job but at Kharagpur, almost 5 hour from Bandel. From 1960 to 1970 he stayed in a mess in a place called Kharida (parallel to Giri Maidan Halt station) and in the weekend visited Bandel and helped running those shops, maintaining accounts and teaching the youngsters and they got slowly established.

My mother side is from West Bengal. Those days there was lot of animosity between people of West Bengal and refugees coming from East Bengal. However, in a local temple my paternal grand mother and maternal grand mother got friendly and decided to tie the knot. Also one of my maternal uncle and my father played soccer together in a local club. That also helped in removing the difference. Ma (Mother) studied up to class VII. Ironically, she got double promotion in Class V. Those were the ages when in such a family study up to class VII used to be considered enough. If a girl studies a lot it might become difficult to get a suitable groom for her who has to be more educated. Even now can a groom accept a bride who is more qualified - the male ego or peer pressure will come in the way. The marriage took place in 1960 soon after Baba got the railway job.

I was born in 1968 in Bandel, Hooghly only. In 1970, my father got a railway quarter in a place called Nimpura. That is when we all came at Kharagpur - Ma, my two elder sisters and of course little me, one year old. We shifted to railway quarter MQ9/8 near Golebazar after a few years and was there till father died and we had to move out. I have a few faint images of Nimpura quarter but MQ9/8 is very much livid, perhaps I know every square inch of it - twenty prime years of life - schooling, IIT undergraduate days, first employment, more importantly the lovely childhood was associated with that.

The accommodation provided is a function of designation and seniority and not the need. However, the positivity my parents always carried with themselves never made us find fault with anyone or anything. We enjoyed every moment of our stay. Baba used to be philosopher, guide to many of our extended family (not only from Bandel) who came from East Pakistan. Almost every weekend we used to find Baba going to some of their places to solve some problem or they coming to our quarter. As a child I used to have a lot of fun with the visitors and invariably forced them to play chess with me, my favourite indoor sport. Else I was a kind of soccer addict, got into blood from Baba perhaps. In fact, one office colleague of Baba, Bhabananda uncle used to come to teach my two elder sisters. I eagerly waited when the tution ends and as soon as it was over used all the tricks to make him play chess with me. Remember playing chess with Baba in between two Class X board exams.

Ma was detected to have a tumour when I was about 8-9 years. My maternal uncles used to come and take her to Bandel for treatment and she used to be there for weeks. Initially homeopathy was tried and finally it was operated in R.G. Kar Hospital at Kolkata. The whole exercise took more than a year. On every occasion Ma left Kharagpur I used to think perhaps that was the last time I would be able to see her and used to cry a lot. Was not in a position to understand the gravity of the disease and at that time the word 'operation' was fearsome to all. Baba not only provided all the support but also prepared food for us, did office work and helped us in study in the evening. His teaching was enough for me till Class VIII. In Class IX-X took one tution that too for Additional Math. In Class XI-XII too Baba helped in Bengali and English. In those two years took one private tutor who taught Math and Physics and the other Chemistry - in 2+2=4 slots in a week. The rest was available for self-study and soccer and reading storybooks.

It is not that Baba prevented me taking tution rather I didn't find the need. As I grew up a little I could realize the hardship behind maintaining the family from a lower division clerical job. It was not there was any complaint though. After getting monthly salary, to the tune of Rs. 100-120 (in seventies it was much more valued than today but not princely either) he used to write it in a notebook (saw these numbers there). Every expense thereof was to be noted there religiously and the balance was there always at bottom to show how much was left for the month. I used to get one set of dress from him during Durga Puja that used to be school uniform. But whenever we visited our extended family members, my mother used to collect the old but in good-condition dresses of elder cousin brothers. There was nothing like feeling insulted. The wealth, degree perhaps bring with it many a vices - foremost the ego, we feel humiliated/insulted for almost everything. Anyways, I could feel there was no point in putting financial burden on Baba unless absolutely required. As such Bhabananda uncle used to come to teach elder sisters who were a few classes ahead. I used to sit quietly by my sisters' side never disturbing them waiting for Chess play to begin and also absorbing what he was teaching. Later my sisters used to ask me repeat what they were taught and often they told that it became more comprehensible after I reran the entire stuff.

Then came the momentous decision of 1984. After Class X, Baba asked me to switch over to English medium so that I can appear for IIT-JEE. Having studied in Bengali medium throughout in Railway School (near flyover at the entry of Golebazar) I found the going very tough. He bought a book of Physics written by Dutta, Pal, Chowdhury. The first day it took almost 30-45 minutes to read a single page. Baba was beside me with a dictionary. Whenever I came across a new word, tossed it towards him and he would give me the meaning. This was the period between Class X board exam. and taking admission in Class XI. A part of this period was spent in a lodge in Vellore. One of our relative had kidney problem and was to be stationed there for treatment for more than a year. Other relatives took turn to be by his side and a roster was prepared. Our turn came after my Class X board exam. and we spent one month there in a lodge in Vellore, called 'Swami Lodge' near CMC hospital. I can remember the lodge charge of 1984. Single room Rs. 7 per day for two (cooking in corridor or inside that room) and for every extra person it was Rs. 2 per day per person. Even then that lodge and similar lodges were full with patients and their relatives. A different kind of community feelings existed among all bereaved waiting for a healing touch. The CMC hospital - staffs, ambiance were divine. We three - my father, my mother, me used to lie on the floor of the single room hired and our relatives - the patient and his brother used the cot. Became friendly with family members of other patients. I got very close to a north-Indian family where there were 4 members. The father in fifties had a problem in esophagus and could not swallow food and there was a pipe inserted in stomach. Time to time he was given liquid diet through that pipe and he moved around like that. There was always smile at his face. One seldom finds a positive frame of mind like him even in a healthy young person. With him came his son, wife and a monk (in red robes not saffron clad) who was the brother-in-law and came as a support to help sister. Like the son I used to call the monk 'Mamu'. We used to play marble in the long corridor of the lodge and Mamu was too good, always won may be due to his meditative mind. Mamu took my father's permission and I went to watch two movies in the local cinema hall with them during that period - one Telugu, one Hindi. Till that time my visit to cinema halls were way below double digit. Baba used to be very strict on that count. He always encouraged me in sports and games, reading story books but cinema was a strict 'No-No'.

I told Baba that it was not possible for me to switch over to English medium with that pace of study. One subject book of Class XI itself is 5 times the size of Class X English text book that I managed somehow. Then there was Class XII part and other subjects too. But Baba encouraged and perhaps did the greatest of the underwriting job one could imagine in that situation. Underwriting means risk-taking which the bank does acting as a guarantor taking risk of a business for a premium. But they bet on X no. and even if 0.1X fails they are on the profit due to premiums collected from all X and there too it is done on public money as public limited company with limited liability. Here it is his own son, only son. Needs tremendous courage, foresight. I saw Baba's diary after his death. Though irregular and cryptic he used to maintain diary in his beautiful handwriting (any day he beats me a dozen to nil only on handwriting itself). In one place he writes about me when I am five years old, "... will go a long way if cared well." He had faith in me. I had not in myself. Therefore, I said, "If you force me, I shall take English medium but I am sure to fail." He said, "You try then let us see how you can fail." To this I said, "I don't care if I fail. Hope you will not be embarrassed if neighbours/relatives say that Sahababu's son who did well in Class X has failed in Class XII." He said unhesitatingly, "Not at all. Go ahead." This courage, this straight talking, this taking life as it comes I learnt from him and also from studying Vivekananda. When I was in Class III, a few young college students started a small organization near our place patronized by Baba and a few of his colleagues. Every afternoon we used to assemble in a nearby playground called B.N.R ground (comes from Bengal Nagpur Railway, the earlier name of South Eastern Railway) backside of Maszid. There was prayer followed by a few quotes of Vivekananda which we had to memorize and speak in turn, followed by P.T., Soccer, then final assembly, prayer and return to home. Once a week we used to have study circles. Occasionally we used to have camps which usually was housed in one of the Ramakrishna Mission Centres. When I grew up, I used to take care of children similar to the care we received in our childhood.

So, continued with the English medium. As said, took two tution teachers who taught in 2+2 slots. Baba repeatedly asked if I needed more teachers as there was none to take care of Biology, English, Bengali the other three subjects. The Math. too was taught by the Physics teacher who clearly said that he was not a Math. teacher per se but can help a little if we wanted. The tution fee of Physics+Math teacher was Rs. 60 per month. The fee of the Chemistry teacher was Rs. 75 per month. He gave a Rs. 25 discount once visiting our quarter and asked me not to disclose that to other students. I found self-study suited me more and kept my slots free so that there was no clash with soccer practice and the organization related work. To change medium to English, I got admitted to then famous Hijli High School, inside IIT campus. We were not aware that there was a change in leadership in the school from that year and a section of the teachers who had personal ambitions were trying to humiliate the new Headmaster by disrupting the school activities. A section of the local guardians also contributed who found that their wards might get better and personal care if these set of otherwise competent teachers were used. It was shocking to see some of the school teachers giving private tution during class hours to a few school students just outside school campus. We 7-8 from Golebazar, railway area, previously in Railway school, only used to be there in the class. And some of the serious teachers who used to be present in the school lost interest and we were left to fend for ourselves. Up to Class X, I had seen teachers who were good or not-so-good in teaching. But there never was any attempt to ruin the lives of the students. One very competent and very renowned in Kharagpur was our English teacher at Hijli school. In two years he took only one English class that too in first week or so. He taught the poem 'Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead' so well in the only class he took. Next week he surprised us by coming to Bengali class and asked the Bengali teacher to make room from him. The teacher was quite surprised by his colleague's behaviour but to avoid a scene before students and knowing that he was less powerful left the class. The English teacher taught 'Naisha Abhiyan', a piece of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya and it was an excellent presentation. But he never taught any class thereafter in school and in school hours used to give private tution. Later somebody educated me that those two classes were promo to show how good he was in both the subjects and students should join his pvt. tution. I knew that Baba would be disturbed if I said all these and as such he might have a feeling that he could do more than those two tutions. In Hijli school, I started spending hours in library and attended the school full-time to tell Baba "Ell is well" while most of the students attended only practical and a few classes of some 'strict' teachers. The Class XI half-yearly exam. result was out. I averaged 60 percent. The change in medium had its effect but I was slowly getting adapted to.

This was the time when I was in Class XI, Baba once came to Patel Hall of IITkgp campus. I accompanied. There was a son of Railway employee studying Chemical Engineering there. He studied in Purulia Ramakrishna Mission and then Narendrapur Ramakrishna Mission - Mecca of Secondary and Higher Secondary education in West Bengal. We met him. Baba asked how to prepare for IIT-JEE. Given our situation he advised a one-year correspondence course called 'Agrawal Classes'. As we were about to return there was a smile in his face. Baba inquired. He said, "Uncle, many have asked me this before and I have given this suggestion. But my experience is - everyone begins but few ends." After that Baba ensured that I finish Agrawal Lessons, tasks in time and if there is a clash with school exam. I give priority to the former. I remember that I was busy in finishing these lessons when there was Test Exam. (considered very important before Class XII Board Exam.) and studied only in the morning for the day exam. and did not score a great average. I was and am still grateful to two of my class mates who helped me at that time. The fee for this correspondence course was Rs. 800. We decided to share the lessons, booklets and each of us had to pay only one-third. And there never was any conflict in sharing the resources at any point of time. Baba, too appreciated their and their guardians' kind gesture.

Then came the D-Days. Publication of results of various exam.s IIT-JEE, 10+2 Board, WB-JEE engineering and medical. Appeared in these three. I had the habit of not looking at how much have been answered, what could be the probable marks. Used to get rid of whole of it when an over and it was time to hit the soccer field. Baba, unlike many other guardians, encouraged this. He used to ask us to work hard and not to worry about result - to be prepared for whatever comes. I find a correlation in Vivekananda quote - "Spit out your action, good or bad and be Azad (free)." Accordingly, I inquired into local Kharagpur College (on way to NH-6 from Inda, left hand side) and was preparing myself what to do next in General stream if result was not good. None in the family including Baba seemed worried at all and it were days as usual. First IIT-JEE result was published, it was a Sunday. That evening we returned from Bandel. Could have returned in the morning. But the feeling was - "What's the hurry, result will be there in the IIT notice board next day too and it is not going to change. Let's maximize our stay in Bandel and spend time with relatives, cousin brothers and sisters and have fun."

Next day at about 9 a.m. Baba asked me to go to IIT and check the result. From Golebazar it is about 5+5 = 10 KM of cycling. So I first decided to check with one class-mate who too appeared in IIT-JEE and stayed within 1 KM at a different side of railway area. He may be able to give an overview at least who from Kharagpur town got chance. If my name did not figure it would save my energy of cycling all the way to IIT and I could be back to my other business - organization ( related work, reading fictions etc quickly. There was no television at our residence. There was a 1960 model valve operated (no semiconductor) radio which my mother got as a gift during marriage. My friend was standing at the door of their quarter and there were 3-4 more batch-mates there. There was a pal of gloom around. Joined the conversation. Felt it awkward to ask my result when they themselves did not figure in the list. But again is it worth cycling all the distance? After sometime asked, "How did KGP town fared as a whole in IIT-JEE?" The answer came, "A few - you, ...., ..." "Any idea on my rank?" "Not sure, may be towards the end 1300 or so." That time number of seats were less and 1300 was used to be considered as bottom. Anyways, I found reason enough to cycle to IIT. The notice was there in the Main Building in front of F-127 notice boards. The place has not changed much from 1986 to 2010. I was sweetly surprised to see an AIR of 224. The first thought that came to my mind was that Baba will no more caution me if I give more time to play or organization related work. With an IIT stamp I'll get at least a decent number of private tutions (if not anything better) and now I can have a carefree life. Though I spent a great amount of time in EAA (Extra Academic Activity) there was always a fear. When I was about 13-14, Baba one day called me and said, "I want to tell you something very frankly. You perhaps understand our financial condition. I am confident that I'd save enough to get your two elder sisters married. From my provident fund (PF) I expect to build a small house. Myself and your mother will be able to maintain ourselves from whatever railway pension we shall get. I shall not leave you any burden of the family. But I shall not be able to leave any wealth for you. I shall try the hardest to make you study as much as you want but that's the most that I can do for you." I kept quiet. All that I understood at that tender age was that I must study well and this is the only path.

The family was very happy. After a few weeks WB-JEE result was out. Engineering rank was 141 and Medical 208. Baba wanted me to join Medical. Ma wanted Engineering. It was left to me. As soon as secondary (class X) exam. was over Baba asked me to go to Bandel alone, my first in life. He asked, "Now you start handling things yourself." The admission in Hijli School etc. was all done by me. Baba never came. So the wish of Baba and Ma were subtle. I decided IIT because it was close to home and the EAA activities could be continued with. After a few weeks of class at IIT the date of publication of Class XII Board exam. was announced. I started feeling nervous. What if I get back in one subject! The sense of security in me, in the family will all be vanished. Somebody told that once upon a time even after admission in IIT one got back in English and he had to discontinue.

At that time 10+2 West Bengal Board result used to come in what was called "Gazette". This was a printed booklet. Local youths used to collect it from Kolkata after a lot of effort (there used to be tremendous rush and long queue) and brought to their locals. All students/guardians used to flock him and there was differential fee - highest for 1st division, 2nd highest for 2nd division and so on. People often used to cross-check in another gazette in a nearby locality where another youth were offering the service at a similar fee. The mark sheet used to come in schools much later. Finally, the result was published. The local senior who brought the gazette put me on his shoulder and took me around and there was a big crowd in front of our quarter. My name appeared in the daily newspaper as 14th ranker in 10+2 Board Exam. Baba took me to Kolkata to receive award from then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. I attended two more functions and after that Baba turned down all the requests. One of the function was for being first in Midnapore District (then East and West Midnapore were combined), the other one was at Hijli High School. The Hijli School function was hilarious and I'll narrate that on some other occasion. Baba even requested his office colleagues to abandon the idea of felicitating me. He said, "Too many of these will make him (i.e. me) forget that miles to go and he will start thinking that he has become something (he was pointing to ego)" and they agreed but came to our quarter and gave many prizes. I remember Baba's office colleagues - Pradhan Jyethu, Bera Mama, Mukherjee Kaku, Haldar Kaku, Datta Mama, Anjan Kaku, Goswami Kaku and many such names. When I came first in Class I exam. Pradhan Jyethu told me, "Now that you came first, you cannot be second anymore." His wish (by virtue of blessings from all) were true in school life. Up to XII, I stood first in school exam.s, surprisingly in Hijli School too even after scoring low marks after medium change came first as the other toppers focussed mostly on IIT-JEE and other JEEs and did not stress on WB Board exam./syllabi. In IITkgp, ECE Dept. there were the likes of Ranjit Gharpurey, K Srikanth, Sridhar and I was honoured to end BTech program joint third with Sridhar behind former two. All my batchmates were great. Somehow I managed to do sufficiently well in Exam.s in spite of being one of the least interactive student. The problem was that my knowledge of English medium was limited to written English and I could not speak English and Hindi was not at all allowed. Preferred to be backbencher hiding face avoiding interaction so that I didn't need to speak. In the class too didn't interact much with 'toppers' who used to speak in English and was closer to those few who had communication problem like me. Goswami Kaku always supplied me story books, children's magazine 'Anandamela' from my early years. The newspaper uncle too was very kind. He knew that I liked to read story books but it was difficult for Baba to subscribe to children's magazines. Whenever a new issue of another popular children's magazine 'Shuktara' was published he delivered one copy first in our quarter and next day he used to collect that and give it to original subscriber. A few hours used to be enough for me to finish a magazine. Yes, such requirements, boundary conditions perhaps made me a fast reader. I used to take approx. half the time or even less to read a single page compared to an ordinary reader. Perhaps this is one example how weakness can be turned to one's strength.

Every thing was going fine like a fairy tale story and it could have ended with "they lived happily thereafter." It was not to be. I was completing 2nd year at Dept. of E&ECE & Patel Hall at IIT Kharagpur. It was 1988. Baba was feeling some health related problem - mostly high blood pressure and a pain that used to start from the heel and moved upward. With a strong physique and stronger frame of mind he initially ignored them - then tried homeopathy, local alopathy and yoga in that order. He always made us feel that he was relatively better in each treatment while the ground reality was different. It could be so that entire life he solved others' problems and now he does not want others to feel troubled because of him. Could be so that the problem existed for long and he hid it so that I remain focussed to academics in those crucial years. In our railway quarter there used to be acute shortage of water supply. It was a routine affair that we used to stand, often in a long queue, before the nearest well which was 150m away inside the Maszid. The Maszid authority was magnanimous and never felt irritated or turned us away. I remember Halim uncle and others. We never had any trouble in that area even after Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Maszid episode. While myself and Baba used to fetch water on ordinary days, it used to be sole responsibility of Baba when I used to have academic deadlines. After that operation of Ma, Baba increased his share of responsibility in household work and tried to assist her as much as possible. Every morning he used to chop vegetables or fish and at times used to cook a few items. He was a great cook specially chicken preparations were too delicious. Whenever there was any visitor in our house we used to have chicken dishes and it was Baba's responsibility. Now if he raised his own health issue then the equilibrium would have been lost and the system, he was painstakingly building since his refugee days, reaching some sort of stability, would have been out of gear. I mentioned the kind of help he used to be to one and all. It perhaps was unbecoming of him to send a distress call, otherwise too, people around in our lower middle class family, themselves were quite unstable.

My Ma finally persuaded him to go to Vellore, CMC. A maternal uncle accompanied. On their return we were lightning struck to hear that both the kidneys were at late stage of failure. Then and before too he never looked like a patient. He scoffed off his disease. He never believed in too much of talking or democracy at least in his own matters. He spared only a few sentences when we confronted him. He said that he obtained all necessary info. from CMC physicians and did adequate research. He continued, "Post 50 years the kidney transplantation is risky, maximum survival years is 9-10. And there were cases that people died in operation table. Average survival year is 4. The physicians said that if I take medicines and control food-water, lifestyle then I shall survive for 3-4 years. Therefore, I opt for the second and shall be taking medicine, food as prescribed. All of you get busy with our respective work. Nothing to discuss, debate or worry about me." We all understood that behind his research he concealed the effort required for kidney transplantation - money, time, energy, involvement of people. But in our family he always had the last word, none could ever rise above his personality. He could have been just a clerk in a railway office, it was common for us to often see railway staffs in Howrah station saluting him when we changed platform from South Eastern Railway (Kharagpur trains) to Eastern Railway (Bandel trains). The physique, the look, the long strides, there was always an aura around him. The last time he got admitted into hospital (three weeks before he left us) was 14th August, 1992. It was emergency of Railway Main Hospital at Kharagpur. Myself and two of my friends accompanied him. The doctor at emergency thought one of my friend to be patient. A terminally ill kidney patient with abysmally low haemoglobin level never looked like one. Baba intervened and told "I am the patient. Please admit me. Dr. Dora (senior doctor) knows my case. Please inform him." The junior doctor was surprised. The next day was the Independence Day. The night in the hospital emergency was different from other years. That time and otherwise too when Baba was in hospital we faced one difficulty. Either me or one of my friend used to be there at night to take care of his needs, to take him to toilet etc.. He used to make all effort so that we feel comfortable, lie down somewhere, take sleep and unless we were awake he would go to toilet alone without calling us.

We never saw any worry in the period 1988-1992 in his face or any fear of death. It was business as usual for him - visiting office, shops, taking morning walk and of course what he always did best, guiding people. Many of my friends depended more on Baba's advice than their own guardians. I remember how Baba encouraged one of my school friend who did not do too well in academics to open a book shop and now in Kharagpur town he perhaps is the most famous and he has chain of shops not only in Khargpur, in other places too. He used to brings books and copies from Kolkata by train and kept in our quarter in the evening. Their own residence was far and in upper floor and the books and copies used to be quite heavy. Next morning he used to take them to his shop. Often I accompanied him to various nearby schools promoting his enterprise and talked to school teachers. There were many other examples. I remember three of my distant relatives who got railway job in Kharagpur stayed in our small quarter for weeks and months. Two of them were male and shifted after 3-4 weeks when Baba could find a good acco. for them as a local guardian. For the third it was difficult to get a mess for her and D.... Masi stayed in our quarter longer. There never was any complaint from any of my parents and they were happy to play their part of the role. D... Masi, her husband S... Meso, their daughters maintain such a cordial relation with us even today which is seldom found even in near relatives. The bond that is built on share, care and love are the greatest. I used to get a lot of affection from many for simply being son of 'Sahababu', admired by one and all.

All that I could do in this period is to stay close to Baba and he appeared to be proud of that. The CGPA was good (9.68), there were 'good' offers from India and abroad. Didn't look at any of them. The nearest 'good' offer was from Tata Steel, Jamshedpur that had relatively easy 18 months of G.T. Training akin to IAS training with adventure sports, one month of Management Training at XLRI, Jamshedpur etc. Opted for that. Used to come to KGP in the weekend and also on holidays. Found a novel way to maximize stay at KGP. Every three months, on FRIday morning used to go to Jamshedpur Blood Bank, donate blood, get rest for that day and next day off. Soon after blood donation used to rush to Tatanagar Station and took Bombay-Howrah Express (now Shalimar-KurlaT Express) to come to KGP. Once training period was over, met General Manager (Works) and by his advice Executive Director of Tata Steel and pleaded for my posting at Tata Bearings, Kharagpur. They tried to make me understand that my career will bloom in their main plants and not in a small division like Tata Bearings and in the past none of Jamshedpur G.T. had come here. Also that they took over this plant from a company called 'Metal Box' and there was no Tata culture yet there. Still I persuaded them and they reluctantly posted me here at KGP. In between I tried for a Kolkata position in ANZ Grindlays Bank (now merged with Standard Charter Bank); KGP always is better connected with Kolkata than Tatanagar. I did well in a written exam. so much so that the big shot in the interview asked me to join their Head Office at Bombay, foreign training after a few months and almost double the salary from what I was getting from Tata Steel and said that Kolkata job is too low key and did not fit my profile. I said that I could not go to Bombay for personal reason. The big boss thought that I was bargaining. He offered me free accommodation, his deputies echoed that boss does not provide acco. to a new incumbent and it was a rare gesture and I should accept the offer. Then I told them that my father was terminally ill and I want to stay close. They rightly said that there were better medical facilities at Mumbai. I replied that Baba periodically visits CMC, Vellore and he insisted to spend the remaining period amongst friends and families and he was not the kind to listen to others. To this the boss said, "We value your sentiment. But sometimes you have to take hard decision in life." I replied, "I am taking one in rejecting your generous offer." Then the boss said, "I was to return to Bombay by evening flight. I am postponing that to tomorrow. Please go back home. Discuss our offer with your father. I am sure he will guide you to join us. Please meet us tomorrow at 10 a.m. and confirm our offer." I returned home. Baba asked how was the test. I said, "It was okay but they prefer some other people for the post advertized." (Only the Kolkata post was advertized) and did not discuss any other point with father and let the offer collapse.

Baba never believed in astrology, stones etc. We have our family deity Ma Raksha Kali. Once a year we have big Puja at Bandel with all family members converging in. Baba used to say "as Ma Kali wishes". In my 2nd Year of IIT UG days a black and white Uptron TV was bought. Baba preferred comedy movies. Among serious movies he was moved by 'Meghe Dhaka Tara' of Ritwik Ghatak. It portrays the difficulties faced by a refugee family of East Pakistan and how the eldest member of the family sacrificed her life to stabilize the ship. He saw it a number of times. He used to read newspaper thoroughly and had a strong understanding of contemporary world. He did not have much fascination of fictions (my mother had and still has). He liked reading 'Ramakrishna Kathamrita' in hospital days. He was to retire from job in 1994. By 1988, before the disease was detected he prepared a plan for a small 2 bedroom house in the small plot of land we had in Bandel. He planned to stay there after retirement among other relatives. But could not proceed further due to onset of disease and did not see retirement either. A few days before he died, he asked me to come close when I was alone in hospital and others were away. He had difficulty in talking at that time. Whispered to me, "Please get married. Take care of yourself. In this world, none takes care of others. One has to take care of himself" I understood the first part, its origin. I used to be busy with our organization related work of Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal and at times used to be in company of monks. But the second part of the advice whether was specific to me, that I trusted people easily or were too innocent for this complex world or the ideology I believed in originated from divine nature of people or something to do with his vast long struggle in life that asks son who till date had been protected by him to be aware of realities on ground, was not very clear. May be he was indicating that the sacrifice one makes often is not reciprocated and one should be strong enough to accept that and be prepared for that or it may be something more subtle, to come from him who always believed in taking care of others and never bothering to take care of himself - may be that we are all one, the idea of taking care of others is incorrect, we take care of ourselves only else it is no care if we do not feel the oneness; at the same time it is not necessary that everyone will have the same feelings and the gesture will be reciprocated as we all are at different stages of evolution. The fulfillment of the wish and the house at Bandel according to his design - both happened in 1998. I continued to believe in the ideology that human being are essentially divine, the animal nature is just an aberration but tried to fortify myself by expecting the unexpected. I still trust people easily. At the same time I learnt to become independent. If somebody does some good to me I feel grateful, if acts differently I don't feel surprised because life's struggle of Baba has left behind a lesson - absorb all negatives, be always positive, make others feel positive, don't look for return, stand on your own feet and own the responsibility.

Baba, accept my pranam. Make me a worthy son of thee.

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." - Goutam Buddha


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


We need to unlearn a lot of things as all that we get to 'learn' may make our vision narrow. A wider experience of life - what it is, what it is leading to...a well rounded development makes a much better decision maker, much better human being out of me.
K. V. Kamath, Chairman, ICICI Bank in a recent interview at CNBC-TV18

Q: Going back to your college days, you graduated from the Karnataka Regional Engineering College—with a degree in mechanical engineering and in 1969 joined IIM Ahmedabad, what sort of a student were you?

A: I was student in the top 25% or so. I wasn’t in the bottom of the class but I was clearly not in the top of the class. What I have learnt in college is that it is not necessary to be at the top in the class. I think leadership comes from all across the class. That is the message that I learnt and that is the message that I would share with the youngsters. Being in the top 5, 10 is not really material to what you can do for your own good and for societal good later on.

Q: So what drove you while you were at IIM Ahmedabad because that was the key turning point in your life, you could have gone back joined your family's styling business but you decided not to, so what was it that drove you to actually get professional training and not move towards the family business?

A: I think I got fascinated by finance as a subject and when I graduated I looked for jobs in the financial services sector and ICICI just happened to be there and that is how I walked into this business.

Q: You said in an earlier interview that, I am probably too technical a person, I wonder sometimes if I would have been a better person, a better leader and achieved more had I been exposed more to the liberal arts. Do you regret not having been exposed to liberal arts since we are debating on what needs to change in the manner in which business curriculum is currently being run, what do you think is the need of the hour at this point in time?

A: Unfortunately that wisdom dawned on me very late. It probably took 20 years of believing that engineer is the be all and the end all, that you need to be an engineer to be anything. To debunk that idea took me a long time. I think that debunking took place over a period of time. It was shaped over a period of time. You saw reality because I would think as an engineer you lived in an unreal world, by unreal I am not talking about a world of Maya but a world where it was very narrow and everything was numbers, everything was data and everything was driven by analytics.

You then don’t tend to use your other skills which you ought to use to try to come to decision making and I think if you were better rounded in terms of your skill sense, in terms of other areas of knowledge which you ought to have been exposed to, I think your decision making would have gotten that much better. And that is the context in which I said if I had to reinvent myself it will probably not be as an engineer, it would probably be somebody with a much wider experience enabling me to take better and more correct decisions.