Sunday, September 29, 2013

Inspiring Words

I was a part of the audience this weekend where Padma Vibhushan, Dr. M. S. Valiathan (Link) was delivering his keynote speech. The occasion was PULMOCON - 2013, 11th All India Update in Pulmonary Medicine organized by Institute of Pulmocare & Research (IPCR), Kolkata. We have active research collaboration with IPCR. The invitation card quoted Vivekananda, "The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is an atheist who does not believe in himself. " The conference hall had two large sized Vivekananda pictures in between multimedia projection screens.

Dr. Valiathan took us through the history of medicine and medical research in India. It was really 'mesmerizing' as described by one of the two vice-chancellors present there. He talked about lacuna, the disconnect that exist in medical research space. But he did not sound criticizing as such but telling the audience to feel inspired, contribute and be a part of India's growth story. The speech many times referred to Dr. Sambhu Nath De, the discoverer of Cholera toxin, who had nomination for Nobel prize several times but his work remained 'unsung and unnoticed' in India (link).

Dr. Valiathan was at ease to quote Upanishad and making his point across. He narrated the story of Nachiketa, the importance and meaning of Shraddha for which 'there is no equivalent word in English dictionary.' He stressed on the need of firm determination, single minded devotion and obligation of privileged community like us to all, that includes future generation.

I was sweetly surprized when his speech referred to our work on 'lung acoustics' and he said that such type of work is needed. The development of lung sound analyzer is a collaborative research between our lab. at IIT Kharagpur and IPCR. Felt so, so much proud and inspired! Thank you, Sir. We shall keep trying to the best of our ability.

The function felicitated vice chancellor of one university for his contribution to medical research related to medical image processing. Felt proud because he is our Dept. colleague at IIT Kharagpur and is on deputation now. I was overwhelmed to find several medical workers working in remote villages, promoting health and awareness as foot-soldiers, getting felicitated at the function. This is very inspiring. The organizer, IPCR deserves kudos for this.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Teacher and Student

There was Hindi Diwas (Hindi Day) related programs last week at IIT Kharagpur. Attended one Kabi Sammelan (congregation of poets) briefly. The anchor-organizer told why arranging such a sammelan is difficult. He was told by an experienced person that it is like walking of a clay doll along a path which passes through a river. The creative self of Kabi (poet) can throw up surprises with satire on current time, anti-establishment lines or something which may not be palatable for everyone in the audience.

Stumbling upon a social networking place where young students converse is not easy either for teachers as it may embarrass. It could be one of those 'Confession' pages of facebook or questions posed in Quora. But it is a good opportunity if he enters those pages as students and not as a teacher, as one who wants to be educated. He may get some feedback for himself which may not be available in usual channel. If it is good, his confidence increases. If not, he should humbly introspect. Of course, he should be able to separate signal from noise. He should not get carried away either way as this social networking space is dominated by certain fraction of the student community having strong likes or dislikes and / or specific traits!

Not every teacher may be as lucky :-) to be a part of student conversation, being loved or hated (love me, hate me, but you cannot ignore me :-)) !! In fact, most of them are not. Still if one does not feel uncomfortable with the way young students converse, it is worth going through their experience, the issues that occupy them. And one may be sweetly surprised to see that even if baser stuffs usually purge the space, it is the occasional gems that get most 'like's, the ones that exhibits the higher self of one - the struggle, the sacrifice.

Before I paste two such 'Confessions' verbatim here, for which I would also like to say respect _/\_ like student friends, I remember one lecture of young Ramakrishna Mission monk of a US centre. I first heard it in 2006 during my one semester association with USC. But every time I hear it, it is a humbling experience. The title of the talk is 'Teacher and Student'. I made a youtube version of it with our young students taking the role of teachers in village schools which is available here (Link).

---- verbatim from students' public post ----

[The following is about the range of difficulties a student can face and how he fights them and emerges as winner. We perhaps do not teach this to students. Rather we are taught by them when we read this aspect of their life.]

This one is the best among confessions, i have read till now._/\_ here it goes:

#I see a lot of my juniors confessing about love , sex , make outs, awesum college life. i want to confess something else .

1. I joined heritage in its initial batches. i was very introvert and was a ragged a hell lot . A belt was tied around neck i was made to roam around the college in my first day. When i complained to my dad he thrashed me saying that i was a loser and wasting his hard earned money.( he hoped that i was in IIT) I felt liked being raped that day, not by my college seniors but by my dad.

2. I got a very low grade in my first semester because i was pressurized by my dad to appear for IIT again. I Got a severe thrashing from him again. my mom somehow rescued me.

3. In second semester i mustered up enough courage to propose to my best friend but she rejected me because in her words ""she didnt wanted to be ridiculed by her friends "". she stopped talking to me after that. I was heart broken as she and my mom were the only people i shared everything with.

4.during the 4th semester break , while i was returning home after teaching a student . i got a phone call informing me that my mom had expired. my world came crashing that day. I cried for for days on end and somehow picked myself up as i had no other alternative 

5. My attendance fell very low that semester and i was summoned by the principal . when i told him about my mothers death he replied "I hear this lie everyday .please bring me the death certificate if u have one." Then while i was leaving he told me "no need to bring death certificate , useless guys like u can even fake that .call your dad"

6. my frnds always ridiculed me because i was loser .i dint laugh at their jokes .to mix with them i started drinking .i dint like the taste but liked the high . i often used to act drunk to appear more cool. i learned to call girls "magi "" but never knew its real meaning . that helped me survive college 

7. it was the campussing day , i got rejected that day again .hoped to make it to the next company. but was unsucessfull till the and of campussing . i had tried a lot . attended English speaking classes (my English was horrible) , brought new pair of shirt . when my dad heard this he told me not to call again and this time i didnt feel remorse or regret for him . for the ntire night i contemplated suicide but couldn't as i had promised my mom that i will shine one day .

8 . i started doing private tutiions and preparing for CAT. i gave my everything. I got 99.87 percentile but couldnt make it again to a big IIM because of my low grades. What had i done now to deserve this ? i felt. I finally got admitted into decent college and a helpful bank manger arranged for loan .

9.After passing out i got into volvo eicher as a junior manager . i dint last for 3 months because i couldnt lick my boss s boot properly .My service was terminated because of being inefficient .

10. i started making iPhone apps in my leisure time while i was applying to a few companies . Slowly i took it up as a more serious start up. got hold of 2 more friends like me who were from cs background and were unable to find a job .

11. in 2011 i made a small office. by the end of 2011 i had a small group of 8 engineers working with me. In 2012 we bagged several contracts from companies like mobiquity, exxon mobile and the workforce increased to 80 developers. In march 2013 i will be applying for turnover of over 5 crores .

I dont know how to thank god for his blessings . i thank that senior who ragged me in my first day at college, that girl who dumped me , my professors who ridiculed me, the numerous friend who though i was a loser . it is you who gave me the courage , the fire , the anger to succeed against all odds . seriously no hard feelings guys , u made me what i am. i dont stay with my dad but i send him enough so that he can lead a comfortable life .
My advise to all juniors. shine in life .When a loser like me can why cant u? never let people say u cant do it . many people might have faced similar or more lows in college life but NEVER EVER give up. Let not a broken relationship , failed grade,lost job opportunity or "status" among friends define you . And never lose faith in humanity in goodness. there are few bad people but there are a lot more good people around here . I met a lot of good people,professo­rs in my college .and believe me heritage taught me a lot Lastly MA, hope u could read this. I love u a lot.

[This is about how much sacrifice a young student can make, beyond the manual of a teacher like us.]

If you are one to go by likes, as of now, in 24 hours, this got 21000+ likes!

#884 24th may 2013 was the day which changed my views about life... my room mate at iit had fallen in love in the 3rd year of our college to one of the most chirpy, flamboyant girl of our batch. i had no particular reservations for their relationship other than the fact that they were quite opposites my buddy was shy, intro and she altogether was different and i actually felt that she did not love my friend as much as he did. actually becoz of her nature i thought she took their relationship very lightly. but whatever be my notion both got along well then i got placed in the usa and left while my friend got placed in an mnc in india . we kept in touch for a few months but like it happens usually we got busy in our lives and could not interact much. i took my parents to usa and my links with india got completely cut. now 9 years later i am on an business trip to india i thot of meeting my college friends and contacted many thru fb and likewise. i tried contacting my roomie but met with no responses.when 7, 8 of us met i got this news that my roomie died 5 years ago in the delhi blast at karol bagh. i was shocked and cudnt sink in the fact he was his parents only son and that troubled me more about how those people wud be surviving. so i took his address and went to meet them. when i entered the place(a simple yet utterly beautiful one) i found a group of four 2 old men and 2 old women were having their evening snacks and were smiling, laughing and talking i went on and introduced myself to them they all greeted me with a lot of love and asked me to join in and served me some tea. i took it and was left with no words on how to ask them about how things have been over the years. so i decided to leave and as i was about to rise the gates opened and my friend's gf entered (i thot so these two finally married). she was surprised to see me and welcomed me and asked me to stay over the dinner. after a lot of pestering i agreed and later mustering a lot of courage i asked her so how's life ? to which she smiled and replied good. after a moment silence she continued" we were happy very happy together and were about to get married when it all happened i was devastated but then i looked at these 4 people (his and her parents) and decided that i wud have to move on. i bought a new place brought in all four together and are now living happily." she said when i do sumthing for them i know shubhu smiles and its his happiness that i always want. i asked her how is she managing she said love is not only about his physical presence in my life it is about celebrating togetherness and that we do each day with our parents and i know somewhere he is also around here watching our every move keeping us protected. and then she added wish i had his child. after listening to all this i realised the strenghth of their love and coudnt help envying my friend on how lucky he was to have found this girl who is selflessly busy playing her role in their relation without the society bound order of marriage etc. i cudnt help feeling small at the girl's immense strength and pure love that their relation stands on. i relised how wrong i was in those days. she said she has enough memories to last for a lifetime and said. " log aksar humse humari khushmijaji ka karan pucha karte hai to hum bh palat kat kar kahte hai, huzoor apki aindagi mein yaadein hai par humari to har ek yaad hi jindagi hai" a huge salute to you girl and lots of respect to you. indeed life is beautiful its just the matter of ones view to take the challenges.

Salute to the girl! It is with the hope you get after reading such stories, that the world goes on!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Teacher's Day

The 5th Septemeber morning started with trying, failing (read: not doing well enough!), and again trying ... ! Yes, I was trying to put a gift-wrapper around a small gift that my daughter was to present to the class teacher. There was time pressure. She had to report to school by 7:25 AM. And I forgot to do the job assigned to me previous evening. Unpardonable! I deserved the guilty-look that I wore on my face till I finished the job.

But I felt really bad to see one health drink advertizement on television while doing that job. In the advt., one child complains that her mother provides her 'cheaper' health drink which compromises her growth, and not the costlier brand that was there in the advertizement. And the child thinks that the mother is guilty when it falters in any competition as if that health drink would have brought a winner! Mother is our first teacher. To put up a child against the mother to jack up sale of one product is simply ominous.

'Shraddhaban labhate Jnanam' - one who respects, learns. Once we lose respect, we cease to learn. We learn from everybody. We learn from even non-living things. There is a famous poem in Bengali by Sunirmal Roy,  titled 'Sabar ami chhatro' (I am student of everyone) where he says,
(my poor translation) "Sky taught me openness / Wind taught me incessant work / Mountain taught me to be graceful and silent / Sun told me to be brave / Moon taught me to be sweet / Ocean taught to nourish pearl of thoughts at bottom of our heart / River taught to move ahead, unmoved  ....

In the evening attended the function at our lab., mock presentation for high value project from the Dept. (to give would-be presenters a feedback), and the function at Netaji Auditorium put up by Radhakrishnan Hall of IIT Kharagpur, in that order. Could watch a beautiful play and listen to speech made by a student (youtube link).

And of course, sent and received lots of messages.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The 9th September

The 9th September, a day of reverence, not only for me but also for many people who knew him, who remember him (Link to Remembering).

Ma (Mother) liked the novelty component of the garland.

This year it coincided with Sri Ganesh Chaturthi. The day started with listening to "Jai Deva Jai Deva Jai Mangalmurti" (youtube video).

Spent sometime with Benida, Sri Benimadhab Goswami, who always inspires and who has a major influence in our growing-up, next to parents.

In the evening, participated in Shashwata Bharat (Eternal India) program as a part of 150th birth anniversary celebration of Vivekananda. Walked with students and faculty colleagues in the Parikrama (procession).

It was inspiring to see Director, IIT Kharagpur leading the Parikrama on foot for the entire track from Gymkhana to Kalidas Auditorium, about 2 KM.

One of the student who anchored the Kalidas auditorium program shared his notes on Vivekananda by a late evening mail.

  • The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion - is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one's own legs.

  • Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain, which runs a riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character making assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas, and made them your life and character, you have more education than the man who got by heart a whole library.

  • Stand up and fight! Not one step back! That is the idea. Fight it out, whatever comes. Let the stars move from the sphere. Let the whole world stand against us! You gain nothing by being cowards. You have cried to all gods in the world. Has misery ceased? You are an infinite spirit, it doesn't befit you to be a slave. Arise! Awake! Stop not till the goal is reached!

  • We want that education that India really needs. We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one's own feet!

  • "Once when I was in Varanasi, I was passing through a place where there was a large tank of water on one side and a high wall on the other. It was in the grounds where there were many monkeys. The monkeys of Varanasi are huge brutes and are sometimes surly. They now took it into there heads not to allow me to pass through the street, so they howled and shrieked and clutched at my feet as I passed. As they pressed closer, I began to run, but the faster I ran, the faster came the monkeys and they began to bite at me. It seemed impossible to escape, but just then I met a stranger who called out to me, 'Face the brutes'. I turned and faced the monkeys and the fell back and fled. That is a lesson for life - face the terrible, face it boldly."

  • Sunday, September 1, 2013

    OMG! I did good!!

    I did good!! OMG!

    This was an examination where I was fully prepared to get an 'F'. I almost jumped from my seat and hugged the person who announced the result. OMG! I did good!!

    Let me say why I was expecting an 'F'.

    Mother was hospitalized for sometime (Link). Mobility is an issue for her and she is mostly on wheel-chair, does not want to wait for knee transplantation till my winter vacation. Had to say 'No' to a very important responsibility for which the nation looks towards IIT with bated breath, as it needs lots of traveling and I need to give time to mother. Felt honoured that I was considered capable enough for that very, very challenging job.

    The knee operation is planned at Fortis, Kolkata. Discussion is on with the doctor. Hospital stay could be for two weeks. Post operation physiotherapy for six weeks, is critical. Mother is prepared that I might not be available everyday by her side during hospital stay. But, I don't like that, feel stressed - how I would be able to manage both professional and family commitments, I do not yet know.

    I personally was having one symptom. This apparently indicated one parameter not doing good and would require prolonged medication. Test was suggested. Otherwise too, annual check-up was due. Last year some of the parameters were on the border line. We have a family history of high blood pressure. I fare 140/90 for long which again is considered borderline.

    One set of blood test was conducted on TUE (empty stomach) and the other was done on THU (post breakfast). It was not possible on WED due to morning class.

    I was to take test reports, meet doctor, get blood pressure checked on THU evening and perhaps to get started with medicine which was not required so far for me.

    Then came the THU afternoon / evening. Received something which was not expected at all. More than what was delivered, the way it was delivered was very disturbing. Felt bad for the team I serve and feel proud of, that comprises of young, enthusiastic, hard working people, devoted to the cause.

    Defended to the extent possible. Felt grateful for the support received across the vertical. Even then had a sleepless THU night, may be for not facing a situation like that in my earlier association here, may be because of the quality of company I enjoyed till now or may be for getting used to certain kind of approach (Link to one post, Link to one youtube video). Thanks again for the support received from across the hierarchy.

    And yes, missed the doctor's appointment and could not collect the test report because of this unfortunate matter. Family members were so anxious to see me that much agitated when I returned home at 9 PM, they forgot to scold me that I had missed the doctor's appointment, neither I could collect the blood test report.

    Comes Friday. There was a 10:30-12:30 double lecture and 1:30-4:30 lab. I thought that I wouldn't be able to survive beyond one lecture hour and would compensate one class later. But, chalk-duster-blackboard and hundred students before you, you are a transformed self. We couldn't feel how two hours passed.

    Phone call from outstation close relative came at 5 PM. There was a string of advice, that I must not miss the doctor's appointment that evening. Also, I was advised to be regular and sincere on taking medicines that doctor prescribes.

    The writing on the wall was clear. I too almost gave up!

    Entered doctor's chamber at 7 PM. He checked reports. The borderline cases or the shooting beyond the range for two parameters do not need medication but rationing of some food items.

    Then came the final test, measurement of blood pressure. Like a student who knows that he is going to fail for activities in the run up of the examination, and prefers to surrender before the examiner expecting the unexpected, I told timidly as the doctor put the blood pressure cuff around my arm, "I am little disturbed. Had some fight. I don't expect to do well."

    The measurement was done. Doctor looked at me while unwrapping the blood pressure cuff. I knew the result, that it would be an 'F'. Still I asked, "How much?"

    Sharp came the answer, "140 / 90."

    OMG! OMG! I did goood!!

    One person felt disappointed though :-) because I didn't join her club. She takes medicine regularly for the love of it and wondered how I got spared this time too!

    Endnote: That I passed the test made me qualified enough to honour the guest list of printed invitation cards, where local community just outside IIT Kharagpur campus were organizing a blood donation camp this morning! And when asked, made a short speech too on voluntary blood donation movement and its significance in our healthcare.