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!

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