Saturday, July 9, 2011

Rainbow Week

The Rainbow Week referred here lost its most vibrant colour that reverberates across the length and breadth of the IIT Kharagpur community. There is a follow-up and a new post on that. That is an Experience with big 'E' and is not mixed with several experiences of small 'e's as mentioned next.

Big Relief      

I felt like appearing in end-sem. exam. once again. Last year we started afresh. Advisory Committee Meeting was held in August, 2010 after a long, long time. We had a job at hand. To awaken us from a deep slumber. Only a few of us had some experience to work at field level. We stuck to the task. Tried our best. Not that 100 percent of the people came forward or gave 100 percent of them. But definitely some gave more than 100 percent. About 900 Students, 14 faculty members worked hard through out the year.

This was NSS, IIT Kharagpur Advisory Committee Meeting held on 7th July, 2011. Besides Director, Dean there was S.D.O., Kharagpur, Program Adviser from Regional Head Quarter, Kolkata, representatives of Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYC) and several NGOs. I was tensed. Had I worked enough to present properly the wide spectrum of activities undertaken and not to fail the team as a whole? The other responsibility was to raise the issues faced by the volunteers when they go to villages, to discuss solution to problems that requires help from Administration.

That the work of NSS, IIT Khragpur was highly appreciated is an under statement. Program Adviser told that other NSS units looks at what we are doing and try to emulate. Ministry Officials in Delhi refer our work. He wanted the slides I presented on our year long work to show to others.

And it was a big relief! I knew that the preparation had been good, hard work pays but an exam. is an exam. That evening I slept from 8:30 PM. In between, woke up to have dinner and post the message to all NSS volunteers and Program Officers.

We got valuable suggestion from all members including student representatives who are part of the Advisory Committee. Observation of one student representative can be found here. The Dean we report to for NSS lovingly said this morning in vegetable market, “Give some time to family too. Else you will be in trouble.” The support of my family had always been and will be my strength.

Work of our Lab. getting noticed

I visited a Bangalore based big research lab. the previous week on invitation. Stayed in their Guest House. The hospitality was great. We were discussing collaboration on one research problem. Their scientists had paid a visit at our IIT Kharagpur lab. on that earlier. After I completed my presentation, the group requested us to collaborate on three research problems with much larger budget towards a much longer term relationship. I am happy to say I could finish writing 3 proposals this week and send it to them on 6th July. Let’s see how it unfolds.

Received two interesting proposals from two working professionals having M.Tech. degree. They want to work for Ph.D. in our lab. even without any funding. They have saved something from their salary and keen to pursue this. For one, noted academician and previous V.C. of BPUT recommended our lab. She came all the way from Bhubaneshwar and I told her how to prepare for the Ph.D. admission test scheduled in Dec. I discussed alternatives like doing it while in job from Bhubaneshwar itself where our ex PhD students are working as faculty member. The other candidate is from Kharagpur itself. I requested him to meet me when he visits KGP next time.

This morning the Head of law school told me happily that funding for the big project has arrived. It is a law school initiative on IP generation and protection. I accompanied him to Delhi and successfully defended the project there. The IP generated in our lab., the various interactions we have with industry, FICCI will come as case study. Erstwhile a practicing lawyer, the Head is very friendly and we have to work out the implementation schedule that includes recruitment of staff next working day.

Curiosity Kills a Cat

Earlier I wrote on cell phone health hazard in this blog (link). Recently World Health Organization (WHO) officially accepted and warned. The CNN report (can be found here) quotes, "What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.” It is a bg ‘No-No’ for children whose skull is thin. Though I do not work in the area of microwave or microwave radiation, I was approached by the team Govt. of West Bengal constituted on this. I recommended and an expert from our Dept. will be doing the study.

I did not find much of a logic for me to be there but they insisted. I have a curiosity to know how Govt. works for public good. What are the different blocks in that block diagram and what kind of latency, throughput exist. Can we find an innovative way to accelerate the process? This is one area where public is exposed to hazard for abundant use of technology. To me, it should be a mix of regulation and public awareness (NSS can conduct a campaign!). I must say that I am no expert in any of this. I was told that I am there because our one interest is in Biomedical area and we carry an air of positivity with us!!! Anyways, I am approaching it as a student. One more responsibility but I would always welcome the ones that can bring relief to silent millions.

When Bulge is Beautiful

A lot of well-wishers often show their concern for my health and that includes my Ph.D. supervisor who is now fully settled in US. Senior teachers who have seen me here in my B.Tech. and Ph.D days are more complaining about the weight I have gained. I try to reason myself this way. A dancer, if leaves dancing, gains weight. No surprise that a footballer who never missed hitting football ground, whether there is sun or rain, would gain weight. However, I am well aware that I am not doing enough. Let me see how to address this.

But every coin has two sides. The bulge can be useful too. I am not talking about what Vivekananda termed as ‘famine insurance fund’. I fell from the horse in a rough terrain at Pahalgam in our recent Kashmir visit. Nothing happened. Today, I met a small accident with my 2-wheeler while negotiating a low lying branch of a tree in front of the Dept. A lot of my colleagues were there. That nothing happened has got something to do with the cushion my bones are enjoying. Both the occasions had enough in it to remain bed-ridden for weeks at the least!

Not to Overlook

One of my colleagues asked me to be careful because it is happening too frequently. In fact, last Friday while bringing my mother from Railway station it was the seat-strap of the mother that saved her. The advanced age and rheumatic pain do not allow mother to take a long walk. We have a foldable wheel-chair for that purpose. She was returning from my sister’s place and I picked her up in the KGP railway station. At one place, the front wheel got stuck in small hole on the road and the momentum of the wheel-chair almost made it over-turn. Thankfully, mother was strapped to the chair and regained her balance well.

I noticed something interesting while waiting in the railway platform. The railway porters were playing Ludo when there was no train. Earlier I saw them playing cards or simply gossip. In the attached picture the Ludo board can be seen on the tree as the train had just arrived.

This morning I assured all my colleagues that everything is fine with me after that small accident. There was a small assembly for which all met. When everybody dispersed I moved towards my 2-wheeler to head towards home. I found that one of my colleagues waited and waited, apparently busy with cell phone messaging, but moved only when I successfully started and maneuvered the vehicle. I guess that he did not want to show-of but wanted to make himself available had I needed any assistance. Touched and feel proud to have such colleagues.

if – then - else

[I was thinking if this is to be put in the post. If I do not, people here who know about it and follow my blog may wonder how such an important development got missed. Perhaps the Prof. has something to hide. Further, there are important messages for all in the episode. Respecting privacy of an individual I am avoiding names and even any prefix or suffix. Those who can identify are the persons who have received all the copies of the mail or have already heard about it and there is no news value for them. Others cannot identify and for them only the experience I want to share is important. Also this may put rest to speculation, if any, in student circle and encourage better communication between faculty and student.]

There was a mail from a project student last Sunday who I met even 2 days before (Friday) in the lab. He spent little over 1 year 10 months here. In the mail, he spelt out some very important dates with hard cut-off like departure from the country for an integrated Ph.D program abroad, a major family function involving him in between and all of them with hardly 8-10 working days from the date of his mail and his departure. Had he discussed these dates with me well ahead (at least the departure date) something, as close as possible as he wanted further in the mail, could have been tried. At least his registration seminar could have been arranged without any difficulty. I was only waiting for one of his senior who too is in the queue to get ready and to have them in a single day. As such the faculty members were gathered thrice during vacation in recent times for three presentations from our lab. students. I told him the same. Even then he did not share the date or disclose that there is such an urgency.

In his T-th dated mail, I was awe-struck to see him spelling out all the dates by himself what I and PG Committee should do on T+n th dates, without considering my availability, availability of Dept. PG committee during vacation and conformity to institute rules. He asks me to arrange Reg. Seminar on T+2th date (mind that T is Sunday), Synopsis Seminar on T+10th date and says that his thesis writing would be over by that time (he never discussed any work beyond the one that would go in Reg. Seminar and I wonder how his thesis got ready!), departure from country on T+14th date and a very important family event on T+6th date. There was never any mention of how he would hand over the charge of his part of the project to other staffs. He says that he needs only one working day to finish his part of the job and it is not easy for others to do what he has developed in last 1.5 years of the project. He will do all those things related to charge handover only if I act as per his instruction.

Each time I tried to explain what should be his priority for a lawful separation and how his fellow project student will feel the extra burden to complete the project, he returned it with more personal insults to me. Then I requested people from the lab. close to him to talk to him and make him understand. It did not work. I had no other option but to inform institute authority. They wanted me to act immediately (Monday evening) and not wait till next day. Still, I tried to reach out to him through his friends. It failed again. Now, the entire matter is with the institute and I have acted, am acting as asked by the institute authority. His latest reply expanded the scope, bringing allegation against faculty members of other Dept.s, Deans and he has copied that to funding agency.  

[If any of his well-wisher (preferably elderly people who he respects) is reading this part of the post may consider suggesting him to hand over the charge and send a simple apology mail to institute authority before he leaves the country (pls. try only if such a suggestion does not make him feel worse). I understand that he is angry primarily with me. Let him take as much time as required to manage that anger and hope someday, this ‘angry-young-man’ of mid-twenty, can see what he cannot see now.]

Why this happened?

I was wondering how it could happen. Our lab. is known for its discipline, sincerity, dedication. Some do better than others based on their background and approach to a solution but devotion to research or lab. are never doubted (except for one single case that happened 3 years back but that got sorted out when the student reworked the formulation). Our students are respected even by faculty members who speak highly of their work. The sponsoring Head of a funding agency wants to telephone our students directly seeking their involvement in a new project or take them to meet very high officials in Delhi who would explain them how important the project is for the nation etc.

I got a clue from one senior student of the lab. who is now faculty member of an engineering college. He says, “Just by spending time in labs or by doing daily passengering we can't understand the spirit of IIT; we need to spend the holidays there and explore all the facilities it provides.” Then I got to know that this young man lied to me all the way from 3 months of his joining. It was not only weekends but he always stayed outside campus (about 60 KM distance).  He used to express his displeasure and avoid the issue if I inquired at any point of time. There may be something more than this but that is outside the scope of this blog. The aim here is to tell the youth the life's different challenges, the rainbow experience we go through. It might leave some clue how to equip oneself to face the life fair and square. Besides academic qualification one needs to learn life-skills that does not necessarily come from any career oriented book. One needs to find time to expose oneself and get educated.

Trust Deficit

One senior Prof. used to tell me time and again, “Be careful in recruitment. It takes only one person to spoil a lab.” Now as soon as the project fund arrives, the clock starts ticking. You have deliverables defined for every quarter. Often, the project staff leaves in between if another opportunity is available. Therefore, we often recruit whoever is knocking. We usually give reco. to our students joining different place. Probably, we should now ask reco. and talk to referees before recruiting anyone.

We are now conducting a restructuring in the lab. keeping in mind the senior pro’s advice. We have got another space in a different building. Making use of that. Asking people to get on with life and deliver the best. No point brooding over the past. As Vivekananda says, “Spit out your action, good or bad and be azad (free).” One should not be disturbed by criticism. If the criticism is correct, one should accept it and take corrective action. If the criticism is wrong, why bother and give it undue importance?

The other thing that I remember (to put the past behind us) is from the life of Swami Brahmananda (Raja Maharaj) of Ramakrishna order. Once there was a turmoil in a centre. Everybody was fighting with every other person. Raja Maharaj came to solve the problem. As soon as he arrived, all gathered and started complaining against one another. To this, Raja Maharaj said that he would listen to all of them but after 7 days. He spent these 7 days in that centre. Everybody woke up early and joined him in the meditation in the prayer hall, underwent discourses, so on and so forth – followed a daily routine which ideally should be followed in a Ramakrishna Mission centre. After 7 days, he called all of them and asked to specify problems. And behold! None had any problem, any complain.

Let us follow in our daily routine the ideal life of a researcher, dedicated to the creation of knowledge. The rest will be automatically taken care of.

A Friend in Need

It was the right mail and at right time. I met Pin… only in the web space. She is sister of my ex-student and infrequent ‘philosophical’ discussion  is the common chord amongst us. Pin… forwarded this anecdote yesterday.

Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983. From world over, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed: "Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease"?

To this Arthur Ashe replied: "The world over -- 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals, when I was holding a cup I never asked GOD 'Why me?'. And today in pain I should not be asking GOD 'Why me?' "

Shubho Rathayatra and other Shubh News

The Rathayatra festival started last Sunday. That evening attended ‘Puja’ at a friend’s residence. This evening we had an opportunity to visit the fair ground and had Sri Jagannath Darshan. Enjoyed the fair very much. Snaps taken by my 9 year old daughter is attached for the readers! It may give some relief to them in this otherwise heavy post. There are some 'Shubh' news too. One of my ex-PhD student is getting married at last :-) We often went after him and he kept assuring. He was very happy and excited to inform and rang home in the evening to talk to family members. He insists that we make ourselves available for all the three days, from marriage to reception. Let's see how it is possible. Our best wishes to him. With this happy note let me say, goodbye and good night!

No comments: