Monday, November 19, 2012

Switching Task

I wished to continue with the fun spirit of earlier post or wait for a sunny day that would have brightened the spirit (switch to last segment to see why I say this). Wished to tell in the same non-serious tone that the worst I feared as outcome of 'Mission Independence' (Link) had happened; after cooking food and eating the same for one week. I gained one kilogram of weight. Yes, there used to be wrong estimate on quantity of rice. But, more important reason had been, couldn't throw away any food even if it was in excess and swallowed the same. Can do that easily when someone else puts her effort in cooking, to set aside excess food-stuff when I am full. Which part of our brain plays the trick, fools us ... develops attachment for own doings even when it is beyond proportion defying all logic?

We three colleagues were on our way to Kolkata. How to handle work pressure, various expectations was one of the topic in our journey. The wonderful teacher-student relationship, the respect IIT teachers command from students are largely due to devotion the students see among teachers, the amount of effort, the hours they put in, the multitudes of responsibilities they handle.

IITs started with an aim of providing right manpower to industries in post-independence era. UG teaching was the focus. The brand it created asks not to disown this family jewel. But the world has moved on. UG engineering teaching is taken care of by many. The focus is getting shifted to PG students (Masters and PhD guidance other than their coursework). But we do not have postdocs in our research lab.s. Thus, the canvas of the role of a teacher is huge (UG to PhD, taking care of academic and psychological needs of students from 18 year old to 30 year old in a walled campus). It encompasses interaction within and outside classroom, assignments, answer-script checking and other evaluations, minor and major projects ...

Getting funded projects and servicing them as per timeline and to the satisfaction of sponsors through project staffs coming from Tier-2 engineering colleges is a challenge. IIT faculty are supposed to serve various national level responsibilities by conducting various training programs for others, setting question papers of various kinds, serving various committees, evaluating and guiding funded projects conducted by others, establishing lab.s, setting curriculum etc.

There are review work for thesis, journal, conference articles, patent documents. There are recommendations to be given to current as well as ex-students applying to various places. There are research collaboration at national and international level and one needs to interact with collaborators, visit their places, host them.  There are large no. of administrative responsibilities at Dept., Institute level and beyond. Some faculty members contribute by writing text/research books for which they have commitment to publishers and need to adhere to publication timeline. For IPs filed, one needs to explore commercialization opportunities.

Besides, in a rapidly changing technology space one needs to study oneself to keep one updated as regard to UG/PG courses being taught, the research work carried out by leading universities / lab.s / industry in his area of interest and the broad area.

Finally, they have a family to take care. They have passion for extra-curricular and society at large. They cannot take their health for granted. And they have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week like everybody else :-)

How to switch from one task to another? Remember, you are handling youth, the best and brightest of the country, and the nation banks on them. One cannot be casual in one's approach. An insincere job will be hugely costly for the nation. Standing by each other, encouraging / motivating each other, sharing the vision and experience, building team spirit, excellence in work environment and the highly sought after freedom, friendly and supportive atmosphere are behind whatever little that could be done to face these challenges.

Thanks to all. The first and foremost is of course our excellent student community. No amount of praise is enough. If there is any aberration, it has more to do with inability to set a new goal once they enter IIT. Cracking IIT-JEE was dream from childhood. What next? Faculty, Parents, Alumni, Senior students, all need to work together to help the young 18 year old set the next goal, the next dream, and how to achieve it; switching to a new role and task. Next, parents / guardians have great respect for IIT system which helps. But there is more scope for them to engage with faculty advisor and monitor progress from 1st semester itself. Call it parent-teacher meeting akin to schools, call it any other thing - but they are important stake holders and are in a position to influence. We can sow dreams in them too, how much their ward can do and they can inspire / motivate in turn. The faculty and non-faculty colleagues are excellent. If someone does not feel the pressure, it is because of them. There is always a helping hand. People who are part of the support system who are drawn from neighbourhood - shopkeepers, maids, service staffs from electrical maintenance to sanitary have such a pleasing personality; it makes our job easier. No amount of 'Thanks' is sufficient for family members. They understand, appreciate our responsibilities. Rarely you will hear, "You have time to take care of others but your own kid."

On individual plane, I find that the lessons on Pratyhara and Dharana from study circles are helpful. An excellent article of Vivekananda can be found here (Link). The article is useful for everyone who wants mastery over mind and its various tricks.

For quite sometime I wanted to write something on changing social structure, family values ... desire for personal space, better things in life ... losing grip over of patience, tolerance .... the idea of 'self before everything else' ... till sometime back separated parents fought each other over custody of child, the other day the newspaper reported a case where none of the parents wants custody of the child as they separate (Link1, Link2)... it started with nuclear family concept which kept uncles, aunt out; then ageing father / mother were kept out; then husband wife stopped seeing each other, and now off-springs are obstacles to have 'good times' in life  ... it appears that, the younger a person, the more is the ease and pace to disown a relationship and disregard advice / suggestion / feedback, the ego is higher ... it is so sad, it is so painful in the land where 'sacrifice' and 'service' were the twin pillars which held the society together ... need to ask, what we are getting educated at, are we not ignoring those family jewels ... can we call ourselves educated ... Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there .... The training by which the current and expression of will is brought under control and become fruitful is called education ... says Vivekananda. 

My elder sister says that there were always challenges. But tolerance level was higher to tide over a crisis phase which is cyclic in nature. Now we have become more fragile. The relationships are casualty. We have breadth, but we lack in depth. We have knowledge, we lack wisdom. We are after Preya (pleasure driven) and not Shreya (welfare driven). We look for maximizing today, we do not care for investing in tomorrow. We care for matter, we do not care for spirit.

May we develop the strength of character which stands the trials of life, the test of time. May we all be blessed to overcome challenges being humane in our approach. May we be at peace with ourselves and society around.