Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Writing

This year is celebrated as 150th birth anniversary of Vivekananda. Throughout the year there are various programs at IIT Kharagpur and in its different wings. I have some opportunity to engage in some of the activities related to youth and children. One such activity is school level competitions among various age groups in nearby villages / slums. I was going through the writing of Vivekananda, the prose and poetry, the biography to select competition materials. And what has been the experience? To pick up something for the children and youth becomes an exercise where I see plenty for grown-ups, facing life's competitions!

What did we select for the schools? Make a guess.
Or please wait till it gets posted in a different blog :-)

Excerpts of a letter written to Sister Nivedita:

One idea that I see clear as daylight is that misery is caused by ignorance and nothing else. Who will give the world light? Sacrifice in the past has been the Law, it will be, alas, for ages to come. The earth's bravest and best will have to sacrifice themselves for the good of many, for the welfare of all. Buddhas by the hundred are necessary with eternal love and pity.

Religions of the world have become lifeless mockeries. What the world wants is character. The world is in need of those whose life is one burning love, selfless. That love will make every word tell like thunderbolt.

It is no superstition with you, I am sure, you have the making in you of a world-mover, and others will also come. Bold words and bolder deeds are what we want. Awake, awake, great ones! The world is burning with misery. Can you sleep? Let us call and call till the sleeping gods awake, till the god within answers to the call. What more is in life? What greater work?

The poem titled 'Hold on yet a while brave heart' (I remember that I memorized this poem for some competition when I was half this age and when somebody picked up this for us, at college level.)

If the sun by the cloud is hidden a bit,
If the welkin shows but gloom,
Still hold on yet a while, brave heart,
       The victory is sure to come.

No winter was but summer came behind,
Each hollow crests the wave,
They push each other in light and shade;
       Be steady then and brave.

The duties of life are sore indeed,
And its pleasures fleeting, vain,
The goal so shadowy seems and dim,
Yet plod on through the dark, brave heart,
      With all thy might and main.

Not a work will be lost, no struggle vain, 
Though hopes be blighted, powers gone;
Of thy loins shall come the heirs to all,
Then hold on yet a while, brave soul,
      No good is e'er undone.

Though the good and the wise in life are few,
Yet theirs are the reins to lead,
The masses know but late the worth;
     Heed none and gently guide.

With thee are those who see afar,
With thee is the Lord of might,
All blessings pour on thee, great soul,
     To thee may all come right!

A small poem:

I look behind and after
And find that all is right,
In my deepest sorrows
There is a soul of light.

Finally, excerpts from the poem, "Quest for God"

O'ver hill and dale and mountain range,
In temple, church, and mosque,
In Vedas, Bible, Al Koran
I had searched for Thee in vain.
Like a child in the wildest forest lost
I have cried and cried alone,
"Where art Thou gone, my God, my love?
The echo answered, "gone."

Years then passed in bitter cry,
Each moment seemed an age,
Till one day midst my cries and groans
Some one seemed calling me.

When dire calamity seizes me,
The heart seems weak and faint,
All nature seems to crush me down,
With laws that never bend.
Meseems I hear Thee whispering sweet
My love, "I am near", "I am near".
My heart gets strong. With thee, my love,
A thousand deaths no fear.
Thou speakest in the mother's lay
Thou shuts the babies eye,
When innocent children laugh and play,
I see Thee standing by.

When holy friendship shakes the hand,
He stands between them too;
He pours the nectar in mother's kiss
And the baby's sweet "mama".

Thou wert my God with prophets old,
All creeds do come from Thee,
The Vedas, Bible, and Koran bold
Sing Thee in Harmony.

"Thou art," Thou art" the Soul of souls
In the rushing stream of life.
"Om tat sat om." Thou art my God,
My love, I am thine, I am thine.

P.S.: Liked the movie, "The Tourist". Liked its lack of excesses and calm resolute intelligence; the poise. Also, because it made me remember Venice, Venezia.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

At Home

Examination Season

We had a leisurely Sunday morning today. Daughter's exam. ends tomorrow. The only subject left belongs to mine! Yes, we have a division of labour at home. Half of the subjects are my responsibility. Her Highness was thus relieved since Saturday afternoon when the last exam. in her responsibility was over.

Ignorance is bliss!

As we parents struggle, the daughter is having a great fun. She read or heard somewhere that up to Class VI there is no 'pass' or 'fail' in school. Therefore, why worry about academics now? Knowledge gives power. Power to whom? Which knowledge? And the contradiction - knowledge of no pass / fail impeding persuasion of knowledge itself! Hope that we grown-ups do not succumb to this childish logic where we ourselves have a role of seekers.

Fortune Teller

Yes, I was talking about Sunday morning! At home, people can find out when I have relatively more work pressure. The leisurely newspaper reading while sipping morning tea becomes the first casualty when under pressure. There is no prize for guessing the second casualty. It is shaving of beard. Such has been the case for past few weeks now. Even otherwise I do not have interest in the fortune-teller section of the newspaper. However, Her Highness reads newspaper in entirety that includes sections like advt., lost and found, anniversary, birth and death, lawyer's notice - what not. There are no less news in these if we are looking for a reflection of the society in our news basket from a newspaper. She was going through the astrology section and smilingly pronounced that I have a fortuitous week ahead.

Extra Academic 

I don't know what fortune teller told about last week. Rewinding I find the following. On Monday, BSNL restored the broadband connection in a village high school where NSS, IIT Kharagpur works. This is a part of our prestigious project where RKMVU's VIVEKDISHA (Link) is getting implemented. On Tuesday, our alumni who are providing 50 scholarships to village / slum school students confirmed supporting 60 percent of the recurring cost. On Thursday, one colleague here assured support of another 20 percent. On Friday, could not turn down the request of another neighbourhood village high school. Spent an hour and had lunch with them on their picnic that involved 1200 students and teachers. The Wednesdays and Saturdays are special now for the Health and Fitness (NSO) program. Need to put some extra effort as it is a new launch. The NSS activities took some extra effort this week for the preparatory work of intra and inter-village school competitions to be held in this month with final winner declaration on 6th April, 2013, in the NSS Annual Day function.


On Wednesday, learnt that ours is the project selected from the institute for the First SIG meeting on "VAS and its policies" at New Delhi in the Technology Innovation segment. On Thursday, the reviewer of ISRO asked us to go ahead with the project proposal submitted to them. The same day we heard that fund for a no ordinary project (Link) is released. This project is one where we can see social impact almost immediately and each day counts. Immediately alerted people who will be joining our team when fund comes. Coming Wednesday we have an important technical session on this. On Friday, the senior PhD student told that our paper is accepted for presentation in the most prestigious conference in our domain ICASSP 2013. The same day got another invitation with subject line, "Entrepreneurial Event of National Innovation Foundation at Rashtrapati Bhavan". This was for another technology innovation of our lab. which was a winner at national level. And on Thursday royalty for the books coauthored was received, not princely but not insignificant too, compared to our annual salary! I need to do something to accelerate the next single authored book project which is supposed to have two editions, one in India and the other in another country; the publisher is asking about the progress beyond first chapter : - ( Yes, we are eligible for sabbatical for projects like this but ... well, politely refused a request received on Monday from outside that would have taken some time from summer vacation; on Tuesday requested one administrative head of the institute not to take the proposal further for a large institute level admin. responsibility.

Future Career

As it happens every week, attended many meetings as a part of administrative responsibility at institute and dept. level. Conducted important study and prepared comparative statement on purchase matters. Helped correcting errors. Discussed results with three research students whose work is ripe for communication to journals. Provided research material / slides to institute representative for institute level presentation at another IIT, meeting students outside classroom and guardians.... and the list goes on. However, if my daughter wants to take faculty position like me as her future career, it is not the excitement associated with the job. She thinks that it is always party time for us! We go to institute, take ten classes a week i.e. ten hours and rest of our time goes into gossip with friends in tea shop. In campus socials, she has seen that we colleagues are good friends and having fun among ourselves. And it got extrapolated!


I was honoured to have an invitation from a very senior faculty member of the Management Dept. this week. He was not only inquisitive but also heard with rapt attention for hours how we work as a team  in NSS (Link) and NSO (Link) program that now cater to 1850 undergraduate students of 1st and 2nd year. He asked me to write a paper to a prestigious journal as the management philosophy employed has lots of novelty. To have an appreciation from a senior management faculty like him was enough for me! He understood my weakness and affectionately told that he would write it for me. I was overwhelmed.


The Shcholars' Avenue (Link), the campus newspaper run by the students, conducted an interview some days back. This was published online on Saturday. I am humbled, was speechless for sometime, reading the title they have given for the interview (Link). I don't know if there can be any greater honour, greater humbling experience than an association with "Dedicated to the service of the nation", the red neon light in institute main building that beckons all of us.

Pray that I be worthy of all these.

The Hypothesis

It is very simple. Vivekananda says, "When Adam fell, he fell from Purity. Thus, Purity is our real nature." or "Each person is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest that divinity in every walk of life." Divinity is not anything complex or high philosophy stuff. A person who thinks of his/her own due and does not bother for the due of others is animalistic in character. A person who thinks of his/her own due as well as that of others is human in character. A person who does not worry about his/her own due and think of due of others is divine in character. We believe it or not, our selfish skin is to adapt to the nature and deficiencies. Beneath it rests our unselfish self and how true is this, "You show me an unselfish person and I will show you God." We remain selfish due to our over-dependence or over-emphasis on nature and lack of confidence in our own self, our inability to listen to our own voice.

By nature, our students here are disciplined, hard working, focused, full of concentration, intelligent, talented. Without that they would not have made their entry into IIT Kharagpur. It is already in them. The effort is to make them not forget that and build further, so that they feel stronger, happier and do good to themselves, their family, the society.

It is Sunday!

Too much of serious stuff for a holiday post! Unpardonable! Let's come back to the leisurely tea session of Sunday morning and the fortune-teller column. Once I thought of telling Her Highness the detail of the previous week and if she had an inkling of it from last Sunday's fortune column of newspaper. Then thought why ruin the holiday morning! A 'good-for-nothing' husband role suits the best at home : - )


This week got confirmation from two hotels of Haridwar and Rishikesh where one week of summer vacation is planned. This is the 3rd, 2nd and 1st visit to these places for us in decreasing order of age. Train reservation was confirmed earlier. There was another good thing about this week compared to previous week. There was no mopping job at home as our domestic help was available all seven days!!!