Wednesday, August 24, 2011

वो सात साल

A hot summer day Don't worry, I'm not typing a post in Hindi. But, Romanised Hindi is something that I hate, and hence have put the title in Hindi. It's been almost seven years, since I entered the lush green campus of IIT Bombay. Coming from a college(?) where no one cared about its teachers and lectures and were only governed by University regulations, I was in for a cultural shock. Suddenly, professors were very important. Attending lectures and classes was necessary, since the syllabus didn't remain standard but on what and how much the professor desired to teach. Moreover, most of the professors were caring enough and took their jobs of teaching very seriously. They enjoyed the activity of teaching, which made me respond back equally(?) well.

I came here for a Masters' degree. The plan, initially, was to get the IIT brand name on my resume, which will help me jump start my career, which would have been a non-starter considering the college that I studied in, during for my undergraduate degree. One thing led to another, and I don't know when it happened, but I decided to enroll myself for a Ph.D. Of course, many ask me why didn't I go abroad for doing one? The truth is that it is extremely difficult for a non-IITian (meaning, someone without a B.Tech. from IIT) to get into those top universities, where the best researchers are. Moreover, I didn't want to grind myself through the GRE and that Barron's word list, from where 90% of the words are never used post-GRE.

And so began my tryst with IIT-Bombay. I enrolled for the Ph.D. programme in July 2006. It has been a long and painful journey. As it happens with almost every Ph.D. student, my work too began as a treasure-hunt. And it has taken five long years to gather the treasure, properly document it and lay adequate claims on it (submit papers for publication). The duration seemed so long, for myself as well as others, that even the security personnel, mess workers, staff, etc. started asking me, "अरे, तुम्ही अजून इथेच?" (translation: Oh, are you still a student?) or "अजून किती दिवस?" (translation: how much time more?)

But equally interesting has been the life apart from research. From the experiences of my seniors, I had realised that an active extra-curricular life is necessary to stay sane in IIT. No, I didn't actively participate in extra-curricular, but  did make an attempt. It is here, that I started taking exercising seriously. I trained myself and ran the Mumbai half-marathon twice, enrolled myself in swimming classes and trained to clear the intermediate level camp conducted at IIT. The Sameer hill became my favourite destination, to give some stress tests to the heart and muscles. I have encircled IIT so many times, that my jogging shoes never lasted beyond one year. Hostel activities, Research Scholars' activities, etc. took up a good chunk of my time at IIT. I was introduced to many facets of life here. Students' struggles at research, apathy towards common courtesies and sensibilities, politics being played to the extent that it hampers research work and also, some faculty genuinely fighting it out for students. It is here, that I got to listen to extraordinary talk from Nobel laureates to Fields' Medallists and realised what makes them special. I also got to listen to eminent personalities who have made a difference in India. Through the Institute Colloquiums (which also had awesome refreshments), I got to listen to great talks from researchers around the world.

 It is here, where I learnt more about friendship, about give-and-take. About bonding with an extended family. About the importance of building relationships, with your family, your neighbours and those in your workplace. Building of relations has helped a lot in times of need and times of crisis. These are important when you are at the nadir of your confidence or at the peak of your success. Good relations help you reduce anguish and increase the joy. IIT gave me a few important lessons in life. Not only about academics, but also about non-academics and these are equally important when I shape up my career.
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  1. Nice one Vinay.. and congrats once again

  2. Very Honest Bade Bhai....
    U actually took us for a journey of IIT life...awesome....

  3. Seems like most of phds have similar experiences, this is very well written and reflect thoughts of group of phds who might hav similar things to share .. good luck! :)

  4. Thank you everybody, for your comments and wishes.


  5. Its beautifully written ... a treasure of words right from the heart of a Doctorate !

    Cheers !

  6. Very true Vinay!! remind me of my days in IIT...though I enjoyed research only for one year.....your summary summarizes even what I got from IIT....its really difficult to express exactly in words what I learnt, but your blog definitely touches the most important things!! Nice blog!!

  7. Nice one Vinay. IITs are capable of evocative feelings and attachment. Your article strongly reminds me of my own article of 2009 'What Makes Me an IITian?' Thanks for echoing my thoughts and refreshing memories.