Sunday, August 24, 2014


Vidya, the five year old came to the campus on Wednesday evening with her parents. It was drizzling when they were to return. Vidya was having fun while parents were arranging rain cover for the scooter ride. Interestingly, they did not look worried about what would happen if it starts raining heavily. They had to travel to a place called Subhaspally, 6-7 KM from IIT Kharagpur campus. The father works in Govt. service in Karnataka, the mother is a homemaker.

Today afternoon our family went to meet and greet Medha, the six months old in her first rice ceremony. Vidya had some issue on why all gifts from guests were meant for the sister. The whole family of Vidya and Medha - parents, uncle, aunt, grand parents were full of joy. Medha too obliged all guests and did not treat them as strangers, was comfortable in our lap too. In a lighter mood we told the parents that we may ask when we make a telephone call, "Connect to Vidya" or "Connect to Medha" whenever we have any disconnect with our own Vidya or Medha! The gathering had old pals with whom I spent my younger days of Sanga Chhadhhang, Sang baddwadhang and weekly study-circles. My daughter was caught off-guarded once in this gathering on her Math. lessons. This is when one came to us and after exchange of greetings told my daughter that he scored poorly in Math. in Class VIII and then joined the 'Free Coaching Centre' that we used to run and learnt Math. from me.

Had fun! Environment was excellent! Second daughter - but it is not an issue for the family unlike what we hear elsewhere so much so that the Prime Minister of India needs to refer to it in his Independence Day speech. "Have we seen our sex ratio? Who is creating this imbalance? Not God. I appeal to the doctors not to kill the girl child in the mother's womb. I request the parents not to kill daughters because they want a son. Don't kill daughters in the womb, it is a blot on 21st century India. I have seen families where one daughter serves parents more than five sons(Link)"  The names Medha and Vidya show how much the parents value education themselves and for their daughters.

Some days before one student asked me to forward a letter to be given to security section where the persons named in the letter can issue key to work on weekends. What came as sweet surprise and was somewhat unusual in this letter brought by her, is that girls were in majority in the list. In last two years, girls outdid the boys in joining as research students in our lab. The trend is there in other research lab.s too and in the institute as a whole. This increase put a challenge to our infrastructure and major steps have been taken to increase the number of accommodation for girl students.

General to more specific. Got one mail from a PhD aspirant months back. She could not be shortlisted in our Dept. due to some reason at her end but was shortlisted in another Dept. She was coming for interview and wanted to talk to me. It was educative for me to know her life's struggle. Father died early. She studied hard and did well to earn free studentship that includes engineering and completed MTech. Now she wants to pursue PhD but the mother wants her to join a high paying PSU job she got from campus and get married. Her brother is still studying. She requested another six months from the mother. And if she does not get admission in a PhD program of her choice in an IIT within that time she would take up job. The determination I saw in her made me see what was in store and I encouraged that day and later through email reply. She did well in test and joined as a PhD scholar. I was not surprised when there was a 'Thank You' visit some weeks back.

Facebook brought some distant relatives closer. She is one of our very distant relative and the relationship is so hierachical and family-tree based that I am 'Grandfather' of her who is about 20 years younger to me. Once a year we used to meet in our family function of worship of goddess 'Kali - the Mother' in our ancestral place. Kali worship used to take whole night. On the sideline, I used to conduct quiz, mental Math. for all children gathered. We used to have about 250 family members gathered in one place in this annual function. And this 'granddaughter' of mine used to be very prompt in answering.

Elsewhere I have mentioned that how our family had to struggle to get settled here at the partition of India during Independence (Link). The larger family took different number of generations to come to terms where basic needs could be addressed easily. This granddaughter belonged to such a branch of the tree who are yet to come out of the worry of 'what and how'. She completed graduation and prepared for banking service examination. She did very well in exam. for Probationary Officer (P.O.) selection and there came the time when results were to be published. She was so confident that she did not join another Govt. job of lower position that she got few months back.

But appointment letter was not coming! Did she make a mistake not to accept the other job? Is it going back to the days of despair after the ray of hope that could change their lot? She used to write occasionally, worried - some from their batch got appointment letter while she had not etc. Once she wrote that it is not Postman, she is looking at appearance of God with appoinment letter in hand in the doorway. I asked her to study Vivekananda and not to give up. Used to share how we overcame challenging times.

And then came the time. After joining as P.O. she wrote after few weeks that she wants to devote a part of her for the society and social cause and asked suggestion. The desire in her message "Ami kicchu korte chai (I want to do something)" showed the same strong determination. The attached "God has a bigger plan for me than I have for myself" is from her facebook wall.

And, may I say that I have heard the voice of  Independence?

Endnote: Vivekananda said, "Freedom is the song of the soul." To listen to the song of the soul or voice of independence, there may require a no-abandoning voice of care. One such voice was picked up on Saturday in NSS, IIT Kharagpur conducted medical camp (Link). Please listen to it. The conversation may be in Bengali, but the language of love is always understood.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This is where

"This is the day when it began. This is where it all began." We heard Director, IIT Kharagpur starting his Foundation Day speech this way yesterday. Before proceeding further, let me acknowledge that this post is  going to be a highly 'plagiarized' one :-) with many copy - paste material. The reason - the more I write myself, the more I'll dilute the original. And, hence.

We had Independence Day celebration and Foundation Day celebration in a space of four days. On Independence Day, the unfurling of National Flag was followed by Independence Day speech. Let me quote a part of it.
On this auspicious occasion, we pay our respectful homage to our countrymen who sacrificed their lives and earned this freedom. The freedom thus earned, is the job completely done? Should we then sit complacent with this or look ahead?
I understand that what we have is only physical freedom and what we should be aiming is internal and spiritual freedom as well.  
One may gain political and social independence, but if one is slave to his passions and desires, one cannot feel the pure joy of real freedom. Our aim now should be to move towards this real freedom.
Everything that we perceive around us is struggling towards freedom. When the line of action taken is not proper one, we call it evil; and when the manifestation of its proper and high, we call it good. But the impulse is the same, the struggle towards freedom. The saint is oppressed with the knowledge of his condition of bondage, and he wants to get rid of it; so he worships God. The thief is oppressed with the idea that he does not possess certain things, and he tries to get rid of that want, to obtain freedom from it; so he steals.

The freedom which the saint seeks is very different from that which the robber seeks; the freedom loved by the saint leads him to the enjoyment of infinite, unspeakable bliss, while that on which the robber has set his heart only forges other bonds for his soul. 
A video of this speech is available in the video player below. Full text of the speech can be found here (Link). This reminds me a Vivekananda quote, "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?"

And don't we take this pledge here every year on 15th August morning (Link)?
In this solemn morning, when our people by their suffering and sacrifice, have secured freedom and become masters of their destiny, we do dedicate ourselves to the service and welfare of India, to the end that this ancient land attain its rightful and honored place in the world, and makes its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and welfare of mankind. May we have the strength to hold high the banner that has been entrusted to us, and the devotion to serve till the last breath, the cause that it represents.
Comes the Foundation Day, 18th August. We hear the announcement, "In a first, IIT Kharagpur, the oldest among all IITs, will have a centre exclusively for promotion of human values through meditation, yoga, lectures on spiritualism and character building. To be named after Swami Vivekanand, the centre will aim to combine modern education with development of the personality."

To be named after Swami Vivekanand, the centre will aim to combine modern education with development of the personality - See more at:
Director, IIT Kharagpur's message had been:
Vivekananda is the ideal of the youth. Hence the centre is being named after him to honour him and inculcate his teachings among the youth. There is a need for leadership and human excellence in addition to regular academic curricula,

Dean, Alumni Affairs and Internal Relations, IIT Kharagpur had this to say.
Swami Vivekanand had proposed the right mix of modern education drawn from the best western ideals with the goal of total development of human personality as envisioned by eastern sages. The centre would be a sanctuary for the soul. It will be located in the middle of a lake with a pristine environment. We hope to start construction in a few months and the centre may be complete by the end of next year.
Exciting days ahead! And the other student group (known as TTG here) with whom I have now the privilege to work, are making it even more exciting with the launch of this blog on the Foundation Day (Link).
Through the vision and efforts of its patrons and members, TTG aspires to play its role humbly while IIT Kharagpur reaches greater heights in R & D space and on this auspicious day, TTG dedicates  itself once again at the service of our beloved alma mater.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Pilgrimage

This is a visual walk through of a pilgrimage that we undertook yesterday (02-08-2014). The offering asked from us by the deity for her less privileged children was not money but technology. This post has about 100 pictures and 5 videos (Muktir MandirShrinwantu BishweWriting - RaghuPlay Time and The Need).

There was a letter to Director, IIT Kharagpur in this regard from Vivekananda Mission Asram (VMA), Chaitanyapur, Purba Medinipur. A team led by Swami Biswanathananda (Link) and Dr. Subhra Sil visited us at HoD's room, Dept. of Electronics & ECE on 17th July and discussed about development of low vision aid equipment. On 18th July itself, VMA was ready with their invitation for this visit (attached). An announcement in the class of my 3rd year students, a teaser problem, and two students took up the challenge. One of their solution was appreciated by doctors of VMA in this reciprocal visit (not in these pictures due to IP issue).

But VMA is more than an eye hospital. It is one of the two centres in this state catering to / guiding the activities around blind / low vision people in the entire state. It has 10 districts under its fold, the farthest is Kuchbihar. The 16 strong doctor team is led by Dr. Asim Kumar Sil and Dr. Subhra Sil who are with the hospital for last 19 years. There are 175 paramedics. The foot-fall in OPD is 400 per day in average. There are 60 paying bed and 40 free beds. Overall, 60 percent of the patients need to be served free. Interestingly, the rest 40 percent can take care of the recurring cost like salary, consumables etc. The self-sufficient model is evident in others spheres too as will be seen in the pictures. The donation, grant are used for addition of infrastructure, expansion to serve more people. More than the medical support, VMA has to work on the heart and mind of low vision people who are often considered as burden and are abandoned by the society. Vivek Maharaj and other volunteers explained how VMA tries to make them self-sufficient in terms of regular day-living as well as financially. It is a true modern day pilgrimage to visit this place.

We, four faculty members and two students in the team, were sweetly surprised to meet the first President Gold Medal (PGM) winner of IIT Kharagpur, Shri Bhim Chandra Mandal (1951 - 1954, Mechanical) there. He is associated with VMA and accompanied us the full day.

From IITKGP Campus to VMA:

The Reception:

Start of Campus Tour:

The music class (has two videos):

The computer class (has one video):

The play time (has a very touchy video): 

Teacher training:

The Braille system and the printing machine:

We also had lunch :-)

Being Self-sufficient (blind / low-vision people are trained to make candle, spices, note-book, file, clothes,  towels, incense-sticks etc. and all these products are in great demand due to quality that is delivered at a very reasonable price point to win tender by competitions):

Rehabilitation centre (7 different types of road, 3 types of entry to pond, how to board a boat and many other daily-living skills) :

Invoking the spirit (we asked the teachers what makes them reach their superior self to dedicate themselves at the service of the needy):

And the other offering (famous eye hospital , has one video where doctors explain the need):

Farewell (when we were leaving, at about 7:00 PM):

Local media (ETV, Bartamanpatrika and Aajkaal of 03-08-2014):