Saturday, December 31, 2016


When one popular online social platform was flooding timelines with year end review in the beginning of this month, someone made a prophetic observation that it was too early! May be the deep or not-so-deep learning there was not given an opportunity to get trained on Sharukh dialogue of Om Shanti Om, "picture abhi baki hai mere dost." May be it was part of its training set but something considered smarter there directed it towards a different pool by spotting certain keyword! Therefore, a picture which is a contender for the 'picture of the year', not for its look but for its significance, gets a miss in that platform.

The picture was with one of my illustrious colleague in an unusual place and in an unusual hour, from our uncanny ability not to miss the fun side even in a trying condition.

Shreya and Preya

Though real life drama can surprise reel life counterpart at times, one needs to watch the end scenes of Kahani 2 to make the meaning of the dialogue, "teri promotion ki ***" in the context it is uttered or that of "umeed mei to jivan hai." From today's show to last week's! That too was a Part 2 sequel. The dialogue was something like this, "hum jo karna pasand karte hain aur jo karte hain, usi ki beech mein hamara kamjori, nehi to hamara shakti chhupa raheti hain."

It is worth taking note of verse 1.2.2 of Kathopnishad in this context.

श्रेयश्च प्रेयश्च मनुष्यमेतस्तौ संपरीत्य विविनक्ति धीरः । 
श्रेयो हि धीरोऽभिप्रेयसो वृणीते प्रेयो मन्दो योगक्शेमाद्वृणीते ॥

Both the good and the pleasant approach the mortal; the intelligent man examines and distinguishes them; for, the intelligent man prefers the good to the pleasant; the ignorant man chooses the pleasant for the sake of his body. Shankar's commentary on this can be found here.

And we were taught, he is the intelligent who can make what is good, likable.

Balancing Equity and Excellence 

But there are other kind of dilemma than shreya and preya. Listened to an interesting speech yesterday. For an administrator, balancing equity and excellence is not easy. While equity asks for equal distribution of resources, excellence requires allocation of more resource for the one who deserves more. In this, equity comes in the form of equal opportunity given to all to reach that deserving spot and those who do reach, get a spring board. But there is a catch here. Equity remains the overarching principle. Investment in excellence does not contradict that principle if the output of the excellence is ploughed back to promote better level of equity and, is not considered a mere entitlement. Thus, who gets the spring board, carry with them a responsibility.

This is more like a village farmer who does not have means to give good education to all four kids puts more effort on the most intelligent one, sends him to a city for higher education that follows a good career. The aim for him is to see that son raising the condition of the other three brothers in the village when established. If the city boy disconnects his cord or shrugs off his responsibility then the farmer should have considered equal spend on education for all four kids, by which other three could have lived incrementally better life. This could have put a high cost to the first one but one might not find that to be unjustified. Because he is not ready do his bit to improve condition of the other three, at least to a level higher than what that incremental better life for equal spend on four would have provided. This quantification can decide the dividend percentage for that equity.

Strength of Character

Coming back to Tum Bin 2 dialogue on the gap between what we think and and what we do, where lies our character strength or weakness, heard something interesting on this count too. What we are or what we are not, is known when a gun is put on our head or when a gun is given in our hand; that Abraham Lincoln said if you want to know a person's character, give him power.

Education plays an important role in the building up of character. Educators and the ambiance created by academic administrators are key to make the process work. Career and character - one prepares the taught to face the external and the other to face the internal upheavals. In Vivekananda's words, "We want that education by which character is built, intellect is developed, strength of mind is increased and one can stand on one's own feet." We are always better off if we do not cease to learn and have the courage to face what comes as an obstacle (both internal and obstacle) to become a better human being.

ABVYM Annual Camp

Attended Annual Camp of Akhil Bharat Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal earlier this week for few hours. This 50th edition was held in B. Ed training college and Vidyamandir, adjacent to Belur Mutt. There were 2346 campers attending it from all over the country, mostly from different centres of Mahamndal. The 5 and 1/2 day long camp is to inculcate man making and character building idea among youth.

Being Patriot

In the camp, listened to one hour lecture of Swami Nikhilatmanadaji of Beneras Ramakrishna Mission on 'Message of Swami Vivekananda.' Quoting Vivekananda he said, "Feel, therefore, my would-be reformers, my would-be patriots! Do you feel? Do you feel that millions and millions of the descendants of gods and of sages have become next-door neighbours to brutes? Do you feel that millions are starving today, and millions have been starving for ages? Do you feel that ignorance has come over the land as a dark cloud? Does it make you restless? Does it make you sleepless? Has it gone into your blood, coursing through your veins, becoming consonant with your heartbeats? Has it made you almost mad? Are you seized with that one idea of the misery of ruin, and have you forgotten all about your name, your fame, your wives, your children, your property, even your own bodies? Have you done that? That is the first step to become a patriot, the very first step."

This quote was from Vivekanda's lecture, 'My Plan of Campaign", delivered at Madras (full lecture). Maharaj asked all to go ough this and other lectures under the series "Lectures from Colombo to Almora." It was a great experience to be in that camp. (Video playlist)


Taking correct decision, timing it right, following the process - all seem to be a kind of burden if seen in isolation. It may appear a tight rope walk to balance competing interests. Strength of character, working in a team who too believe in shreya over preya, adherence to fundamental principles of life and a sense of trusteeship hold key.

Tall trees giving shades, bringing rain and blossoming flowers: Making of an academic campus!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Full Circle

Heard of it on two consecutive Saturdays. The first was a short get-together of old pals last Saturday in Kolkata. I was told that some of my facebook posts are beyond comprehension, go above the head! Move to this Saturday. It is more aptly put for the latest post there, ".. sometimes your thought becomes a bit abstract for mere mortals like us.... but what is a thought from a professor without a bit of abstractness may I say so..."

Highest truths are always simple

That actually is the case. Today morning in the market met a High School friend with whom connection was lost for long. Among other things, he talked about this six month old post which was special for him. May be the 'abstractness', the lack of clarity leave room for many different interpretations. How one interprets or the perspective, becomes more important (centre of focus) than what is interpreted. That might have its own value.

I ___ , therefore I am

What is the right word to complete the above sentence? Met another High School friend today morning while in market. He is now a lead member of the executive committee of Kharagpur Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal. Assured him of attending tomorrow's Karmi Sammelan if it doesn't rain. The venue is a place 5 KM away where only 2 wheelers can go. The other two short meetings in the market were with two colleagues. In one, apprised a junior colleague of a possible path he can take. In the other, a very senior faculty remembered those days when I worked in his team in my first extra-academic assignment.

More than a meeting place

There were not much scope to converse with shopkeepers on a busy weekend like this. The grocery shop person made aware that a PET jar is given for free if I take 2 liters of mustard oil instead of my usual purchase of 1 liter. The fish-seller told that she was selling fish to me at cost price for being MFC (Most Favoured Customer). The vegetable-seller didn't mind giving change of a Rs. 1000 currency note as SBI ATM didn't leave other option. Only the flower-seller was little complaining that I was not being regular. Was little worried to reach home late from market but luck was in favour.

Shortest route

Took bath quickly. It was 'Bipad-tarini' (one who rescues from trouble, a form of goddess Kali or Chandi) Puja day. Only after Puja there will be the license to eat. Rushed to Shiva-Kali temple at the outskirt of IIT Kharagpur campus. Puja was done nicely. Additionally, tried a new route which appeared to me as a sort of discovery. This appears to be the shortest route from our quarter to Shiva-Kali Mandir, a distance of 1.4 KM. The path found was not to be the widest one and thus, less drive-friendly. And, it remained unexplored till date. Heard the other day that novelty, innovation lie in doing things that are counter-intuitive.


By definition, it is the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning. It is not as random as it sounds. There is a method in everything. There is a process of naturalization by which certain things get assimilated within us. It has more to do with the exposures we do get and what we do with that.

Human excellence

In his lecture on "Swami Vivekananda and Human Excellence" at Harvard University, Swami Ranganathananda presented an interesting observation. Post World War II a UNESCO appointed commission, presided over by then French Education Minister who later became Prime Minister, started investigating the nature of education humanity needs. The commission submitted a report after analyzing the current systems of education and demands of the new human situation in post-war period.

'Learning to be'

Yes, that was the title of the report submitted by the UNESCO appointed commission. Till now education has been essentially learning to do. The commission said that while retaining learning to do, the post war education must add also learning to be. "What are you? is equally, if not more, important than what you do."

Work efficiency

Quoting Chandogya Upanishad (yadeva vidyayā karoti, śraddhaya, upanisadā, tadeva vīryavattaraṃ bhavatīti), it was told that vidya i.e. science or knowledge of doing things, sraddha i.e. faith in oneself or astikyabuddhi - a totality of positive attitude and upanishad i.e. deep / meditative thinking on the subject, bring out vīryavattaraṃ i.e. superior energy. Put together, whatever is done with vidyasraddha and upanishad, that alone becomes supremely efficient.

Dimension of Education

Swami Ranganathanada continues. The educated citizen is the source from which modern democratic society receives nourishment. That education must include not only intellectual knowledge but also these other two values as well (sraddha and upanishad). The more we neglect the to be aspect of education, the more vulnerable this civilization becomes. And our intuition or the lack of it, would help or fail us.

A conversation

-"Sir, you would be surprised.. I got a paper published from my MTech Project."
--"Excellent. PlosOne is a very good journal. Why in Bank then?"
- "I am into healthcare so I get to use my technical knowledge to understand companies and develop business acumen too."
- "We have some fund and I was wondering if we can help any village around KGP. Please advise."
- "Hello Sir, any thoughts?"
--"NSS works in 18 villages. It can conduct a survey in x no. of villages depending on quantum of fund. Possibly one village would be good to start with. The survey will identify  no. of household without toilet."
And the money was transferred recently. More is assured when the sum given is utilized. NSS students of current batch are to work on it in the coming session. To bring a full circle to this, I may say that the conversation was with an alumnus who is one of the name and face of this four year old NSS IIT Kharagpur post.

The story continues

There was a mail few months back in my inbox from an ex-student with whom interaction was for only 2 months in Summer Quarter way back in 2008. The mail with the subject line "I am 'Mon' from your blog" goes like this.

I still remember very clearly my days of summer quarter in KGP when you used to teach us Basic Electronics course in which I had miserable flunked. I believe that SQ was the best thing happened to my academic career in Kgp. Not just Electronics I was able to learn the best lessons of life during this time. 
I am visiting Kgp this Holi, would love to see you in the campus.

And we had a long chat when he visited campus. Now working in a responsible position in an MNC, he maintains his connection with CRY IIT Kharagpur.

New Session

This is that time of the season when we get phone calls seeking various supports as new batch of students enter the campus. They come from various background. Majority perhaps were too busy with academics and had to work extra hard to get into such a coveted institution. They make take it as a prize of their and their parents' effort. And it may not be out of place to think that they have every right to enjoy the fruit of their labour and explore how the IIT degree can work to their advantage.


While one cannot take the credit away from the incumbent and their family, there is something more that assume significance. I recall what I told the son of my IITKGP UG day's batch-mate few years back when he joined here as a fresher. Our country is not rich enough to give IIT like infrastructure / facility to every youth. A student here has an implicit responsibility to put to its best use what is offered to him and, work towards elevating others who do not get the same opportunity, are deprived of in some way or the other. The standard advice on how to do well here can be found in earlier posts like this and this.


"Knock! Knock!" And a gentle push opened the door slowly.
"Sorry, Sir! You are there!" The students were fumbling. "We thought that you had gone home but forgot to switch-off the lights and lock the door! We were worried."
It was a 10:30 PM some weeks back. The research students were taking break from their lab. work as per their regular schedule. And they had seen that maximum hour for me to stay in office was 10:00 PM, till that time.

P.S.: While mind makes its own adjustment with the arrow of time, the body goes through an annual check every summer. This year's check shows that of the two parameters in yellow zone (rest in green) one is making a move towards green zone. The step count app of the mobile phone is not that inaccurate. It clocked 7000+ steps today!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year 2016

/* Two consecutive posts in this blog. I must not be holidaying :-)  */

New Member

It was July, 1990. Done with graduation from here, joined my first job at Tata Steel, Jamshedpur. Accommodation was at GT Hostel, Kadma. Nice atmosphere. Soccer at floodlight in the adjacent Tata Football Academy ground. Occasional fight with them over territorial rights. The steel plant was few KM away. Just reached 22 years. It was time to look for options beyond cycling.

The Rajdoot RD 175 bike was part of me for 16 long years and was parted with when repairing became difficult. Had many, many memories of it, with it - in those momentous years of life. At Jamshedpur, Kharagpur, Bandel and then back again at Kharagpur. Last days of father, PhD days, Marriage, taking daughter to nursery school (attached is a March, 2006 picture when the school was over, our current quarter fencing can be seen in the background, same road; at that time we were staying in a quarter near PAN loop).

It was difficult to say bye to that Rajdoot bike. But had to. Came Honda Shine 125. But the feeling of a 38 year old is quite different from that of a 22 years. It was more of a utility vehicle. It served its purpose and absence of self-start, requirement to buy Pep+ for HH and arrival of Maruti 800, made one ask its utility. The Pep+ was to be used so that the battery remains charged and HH can use self-start whenever she decided to venture out, may be twice or thrice a week.

Thus, Honda bike was parted with after seven years and for last 2 years, I was bike-less! Maruti 800, Pep+ and walk were the modes. But off late, started facing some issues. The major one is due to HH becoming more proficient in riding 2-wheeler, wanted it at her disposal for anytime visit to market, friends' places. And, 4-wheeler is not convenient to visit villages / slums. The biggest trouble used to be rushing back home from such a visit at the requirement of HH. Thus, decided to gift myself a new bike in the new year. Also thought, if the first and middle phase of life had one each, why not the last phase too! Thus, a new member joined the family - Hero Achiever 150. The registration no. is yet to be obtained.


HH and daughter arrived at quarter after 10 day long vacation trip. It was evening time. Daughter rushed to garage to see the new bike. HH got busy checking how the flower-plants were doing in her absence. She was full of joy to see a rose plant doing excellent this time which was not the case in earlier years. And petunias, dahlia, marigold, others clocking healthy growth. It took long 15 minutes to assess the various parts of the garden and then shifting priority to have a look at the new bike.

Meanwhile, myself and daughter developed an excuse to take a small ride in the new bike to visit Tech. Market to buy some thing. It is another matter that the same thing was available in a local shop at walking distance. On return, in spite of all the warnings not to catch cold in a chilly winter evening, the daughter took her time to decorate the Christmas Tree in front of our quarter with bells, herself.

Tomorrow is the first class of the new year, both for school and the institute. I was nearly done with preparation for the first class. One book was required to be brought from Dept. office almirah. And the daughter found that she needs new year cards to be bought to give to friends tomorrow in school. So, were at it again. Another ride from quarter to Tech. Market to Dept. and back.


New year is associated with greetings card, calendar, diary, messages, emails, phone calls. Prepared an e-greeting card for wishing certain audience (Link). It was not that the official greeting card of the institute wouldn't do, but the personal touch often carries the message better when we are working in a team. In the new year celebration of the lab., one recited a poem on calendar itself that was written by him. All shared how was 2015 and what they were looking forward to in 2016.

I drew their attention to being balanced in their approach towards what they think, act; and on importance of concentration - ability to focus and withdraw mind at one's own will. Thus goes the Vivekananda quote that I draw inspiration from, "If I had to do my education over again, and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will."

One young student came into facebook message box. "Happy New year Sir! Hope you keep inspiring us for years to come!" I would put it the other way. It is the students and people around who keep inspiring me with their good thoughts and good deeds. It is such a joy to to see people striving for a better world/ society through acts that do not allow selfish interests to get better of them. And we heard, "Unselfishness is God." Other way speaking - Show me an unselfish person, I shall show you God.

The other thing that inspires me a lot is the courage, resolve shown to face the life's struggle. One student in the new year meet was in tears to narrate how was 2015. For last eight months she is away from her 1.5 year old daughter who stays with grand mother in ancestral place, 500 KM away. Because of her academic work, a full time PhD which she wants to finish in time, she tried keeping grand-mother here but it did not work. Now every month, for few days  she visits daughter. And we remembered that facebook photo where a mother was carrying bricks in large numbers in a construction site with baby tied to her back.

The first calendar of 2016 was gifted by office-bearers of Satya Sai Seva Trust who visited a week back. They conduct free disaster management training program besides many other service oriented activities (some earlier picture link). I get a Tata Steel diary from Bearings Division of Tata Steel when I visit their place in 3rd / 4th week of Jan. Every year, unfailingly they arrange a program on Vivekananda (one earlier link). They rang and told that this year it would be on 23rd Jan. Few days back, one journalist of a lead English daily rang. His acquaintance who run an NGO, is coming up with a school and there is inauguration. The list continues. And I echo the message received from an unexpected quarter today, from faculty of a reputed non-IIT institute where this new year gave an opportunity to start an interaction, "May this new year bring peace, prosperity and happiness for all of us."

Endnote: I would like to leave it blank this time.