Want to charge your mobile phone?

Let me ask you a simple question.

“If you want to charge your mobile (mobile phone), what will you do?”

Think about it and write your answer in a piece of paper before reading further.

In fact, this was a question put to us by one of our friends during one of our time-pass sessions at breakfast table in the hostel mess. The answers were more or less similar and straight forward. I also participated in that conversation, which went in for some 15/20 minutes. Then some of us became curious and inquired about the real motive behind the question.

With a smile on his face, he answered, “If I needed to charge my mobile (and didn’t have a charger or didn’t know anyone), then, I’ll open the fire hydrants and will wait for some one to come and close that”.

For a moment no one could understand a thing. On seeing our blank and serious faces, he narrated a small incident that happened with him and his friend couple of days back.

The story goes like this:

As usual, they (both friends) were on their way to IDC canteen (a popular tea center on the top floor of IDC building, inside IIT Bombay campus) for tea. Suddenly they saw water flowing out from the fire hydrant located near the building. Initially, they thought may be some one has opened that for watering the plants or some thing else as there was no sign of any fire in the vicinity. But, they could not find any person (gardener or fireman) working there.

After waiting for a couple of minutes for someone to come, they decided to close the fire hydrant as water was getting wasted unnecessarily. And they went near the hydrant and closed that. But, while closing, they saw a man standing slightly far off and monitoring their movements. Before they could understand any thing, the person came and said, “Oh! you want to save water!! That’s good, but I had opened this hydrant”. Both friends could not understand a thing or his motive behind the action of opening the hydrant for no reason. They asked with a surprised tone, “why did you open?” He casually answered, “actually… I want my mobile to be charged, that’s why I’ve opened this”. His answer was just totally out of blue — something one can never ever imagine. Showing an angry and unpleasant face to that gentleman was the only thing our friends could do at that time ; they angrily left for tea at IDC without any more conversation with him. Neither the person requested them for any help, nor he had any more conversation with them. He too vanishedΒ  the next moment.

After listening to this story, we started analysing the motive of the gentleman. Many things came to our mind, but the most important and unanimous reason that came then was seeking attention”. Probably he was seeking attention ofΒ  passersby by opening the fire hydrant, such that he can ask for some help from them.

Many of us agreed on this point at the breakfast table and dispersed either to our rooms or to our respective departments.

I was on my way to the dept. While returning, the key point that came to mind is “attention seeking”. This is very common not only in human beings, but also in animals. Among human beings, children and fair-sex are high attention seekers πŸ™‚ . If you do not give enough attention to your wife/girlfriend/girl-friend then, you need to be very careful and prepared for their retaliatory reaction, which might some time be fatal 😦 . That does not happen though in the case of kids. They need attention from their parents or close relatives, as they do not have a big circle to interact with and also, they have not explored the bigger world. Giving attention to them is a must, else that may result some time in psychological problems.

With some deviation, one can say, strikes, chakka jam, politically motivated statements, terror attacks etc., too are some form of attention seeking actions. It is true, that every one seeks attention, be in home or in work place. The motive might be different, but the phenomena is somehow similar in all such cases. Some times the method of attention seeking and giving is not very healthy, whereas some times it is necessary. Somehow, it completely depends upon the giver and seeker.

So, aamjunta, what about you? seeking attention or giving attention?

But, remember, next time when you need to charge your mobile, do not search for a fire hydrant πŸ™‚ …

Making of an Aamjunta

When I take a cursory glance over the last six years that I spent at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (MAP), it not only surprises me but also leaves me spell-bound. Ruminating at the breadth of my experiences and at the grinding process, I suddenly feel to have grown-up and learnt far more in terms of my life at the institute. To document all those require a Herculean amount of work, memory and time. Yet, I am tempted to pen down some of these for all those who might be interested to know what IIT has offered me; to an aamjunta by choice.

It was around 6am, 18th July, 2002. I landed at Dadar with my bag and baggage. Fortunately, my brother and one of my friends were there to receive me. Did not have any problem to come to my brother’s place at Ghatkopar. The city was new to me and so was the Mumbaiya culture. I came to this city with a purpose, to complete some part of my dream. Certainly, did not think at that time to stay for more than 2 years at Mumbai. But, destiny had some thing else as its plan. Completed six years at Mumbai and more than 5 years in one room πŸ™‚ Don’t know exactly how many months (or years) more is destined for me.

On 22nd July, 2002 I joined IIT Bombay as an MTech student. Had a wonderful orientation programme with encouraging (rather warning) speeches and registration. Took some time to get into the system. Even though my IIT Madras experience was handy, it was bit tough initially to decide the courses and then struggling for the exams and quizes. I started my life in the institute from a small one room quarter T-1/128 (behind H-4) in the campus, shared with two other self sponsored MTech students as I was an industry sponsored candidate and was not entitled for a hostel in the first slot of allotment :(. That room was quite good, but the iron beds were really bumpy like the bumps and gutters of Mumbai during rainy season. Had tough time for food, especially during heavy showers, as we were allotted H-2 mess. Missing breakfast and snacks were very common. Fortunately, got accommodation in H-2 after a couple of months and life started the way I wanted. Had a very good and lively friend circle at H-2. Gossiping with them during lunch and dinner time was more interesting than the usual Rajma-Chawal.

I remember that when I first shifted to that hostel people used to inquire about my nativity, to which I replied humbly β€œI am from Orissa”. My fellow inmates would reply with perfect nonchalance and an all-knowing intelligence, β€œOh Orissa! Orissa Assam me hai na?” I gaped with utter disbelief. I had pledged myself there on to make sure I take a pride in my homeland wherever I go and made it a point to remain a typical Odiya boy in spite of my education and nature of work. “Khanepe aur sone pe (on food and sleep) – no compromise” used to be the basic philosophy of my existence in IIT Bombay, be it exam time, or quiz time.

In the academic front, I joined Infonet lab, Electrical Engg, my second home and my work place for all these years. I was introduced to the other members of my lab by my guide. Everybody in the lab were quite busy with their work and with their friends. Took some time to get into the lab culture and into the fun world. Had very good time with seniors (though I was elder than most of them) in the lab towards the end of 1st year. In the beginning, it was the PC lab not Infonet lab, which was my working place. Reason? Simple, all my batch mates used to work in the PC lab. Our batch was mixed with very senior people in their early 40s married with kids, and freshers in their early 20s, and me the middle one πŸ™‚ . We used to have parties, fun very often. It was quite lively with extremely brilliant guys at one end and with extremely un-professional guys at the other end. I used to solve (or try to solve) the assignments in time (in fact before time) and was quite sincere during those days. Getting calls for assignments was quite common; ctrl+c and ctrl+v was most of the times unavoidable (even sometimes names get copied also). Course work was a bit tough, not because it was made tough, rather becoming a student after a gap of 5 years was the reason why I found it tough. Open ended exams, 9.30pm quizzes, seminar without a guide etc., were mostly the memorable events of the 1st semester.

1st semester exam ended in late November 2002 and I booked my tickets for Bhubaneshwar via Chennai. It was 2nd December, 2002; I had my train for Chennai from Dadar at 8.30pm. Busy with last minute packing at Ghatkopar at my brother’s place. “Bhom”, “Bhom” — suddenly it sounded alarming at about 6.30pm. Could not understand any thing at that time. My brother came out from his room and saw people running outside in a panic. “What’s the matter?” He asked.. some one replied, “Bomb blast hua hai, bhago”. We could not believe… Two bombs blasted the Ghatkopar area, and one very near to the platform no. 1 on a BEST bus (some 200 mts from our rented room). Could not understand what was happening, how to react when things like that happened in real life, and most importantly how to go to Dadar? No taxi, no bus and local train for some time. Entire area was cordoned off. With all that, had some quick dinner and left for Dadar. Thought of taking a risk by going in local train. That clicked, got an almost empty local train and reached Dadar. Train journey was good. Reached office (company which sponsored my MTech) after a day. Felt some thing wrong there. The atmosphere was not good. Did not find the aura which RNB had left in July. Spent 2 weeks there and left for home town after that.

My mother came with me in my return journey. While coming back, I lost a bag in the auto rikshaw. I still remember the incident, and get teased by my family members. The 2nd semester was quite interesting and difficult. My company unit, where I was working got closed down and we got pink letters. Fortunately, I got saved by RNB and joined him as consultant for 2 months at Gandhinagar. Even got some financial help from my guide through some project. Had good time at Gandhinagar with friends and other people. Fought with many people on principle and aamjunta’s way of life started. The complex feelings between PhD and non-PhD at Gandhinagar added fuel to the fire within me; I determined to go for PhD at any cost. But, I declined politely their sponsorship offer as I had burnt fingers just before their offer.

I lost one of my very close relative in that semester, reason is still a mystery for us. Then began the MTP (MTech Project) tension. Reading standard documents, RFCs, proposals became part of life. At the personal front I had a few good reasons to cheer up, brother got married, my social service started in 3 schools and my involvement with various organizations increased.

In the summer vacation, we got the news (rumors too) about a new hostel: Hostel-12. There are accidents, and some extremely good ones. One can name it as a turn in the wheel of fortune or my amazing luck that I got a boarder seat in Room No. A-501 in the newly formed Hostel-12 located at the fag end of the campus. Most of my H-2 friends got rooms in the vicinity of my room in the same wing. Good time started, and I moved from a shared accommodation to single accommodation. The view from my window can inspire a Wordsworth or a Tagore to compose the masterpieces of their life. The Powai Lake and the lovely green landscape around it, can keep any one glued to my window for hours. During the monsoons, if you observe closely through my window, you can literally see the clouds darkening up into a beautiful blackness and sweep over the lake into huge rain storm. Life became a sweet-sour journey full of fun, frolic and work. Not just the structure of the building but the lifestyle itself in H-12 can put the best ones into envy. As a student, what more can one look for?

In the second year, I joined the institute bit late, after a week due to my other commitments. MTP started with full vigour. Used to have marathon meetings. Hope was very high, to do this, to do that. But, that did not happen. Work was constrained with so many other factors, did not get a focussed work and even could not test my code on the real hardware. MTP ended without even a glance of the real hardware on which my codes are based on (though got AAs). As the sysad of our lab, midnight calls (and even sobbing complaints 😦 ) were very common. Fighting for a flat screen monitor, or for a working place were day-to-day affairs. I too resigned from the sysad post, even though I knew the consequences. Some one has to protest against unethical and wrong attitudes, does not matter whether that will turn to be good to you or not.

Not just academics attracted me, participated in extra curricular activities too and even won some events. Was quite involved in welcome/farewell functions of Utkala. Had good time with many Odiyas here and was quite motivated by some of them. From the very beginning, going for PhD was in my mind. Even though I tried for one or two jobs, I applied for PhD at IIT Bombay. Even though I could not do well in the written test, I managed well in the interviews and solved most of the problems there. That was a turning point in my career. Got selected for PhD for the Jan session, but deferred for a semester. Instead of availing that offer, applied again for PhD in July. Faced two written tests and one interview during my last stage of MTP. Interview did not go well and I was quite depressed. Did not get the support from the people I expected, but finally got the offer (interstingly I topped in the list) and joined for PhD with TAship in July 2004.

Life did not end there. It was just the beginning, beginning of a commitment, and a career.

To be continued….

Odisha Assam mein hai na!

Aap kahan se ho?
Bhubaneshwar se..

Bhubaneshwar kahan pe hai?
Odisha mein..

Oh! Odisha; Odisha Assam mein hai na?

Sounds funny? It’s true. I’ve faced this at-least six times in the last six years of my stay in Mumbai. And to my surprise, all the six people who asked me this are from one particular place and are IITians. And very recently, while submitting my PAN correction form, the lady Officer-in-charge got confused and asked me… Odisha aur Bhubaneshwar mein kya difference hai?I could not control myself and replied instantly, haan.. Mumbai aur Maharashtra me jitna difference hai, Odisha aur Bhubaneshwar mein itna hii difference hai“. Everybody including the lady Officer burst into laughter and the Officer apologized.

The example I’ve given above is not to tell that people don’t know simple things. Instead, I want to point out here that intelligent, educated and academically sound (in their own topic/field) people are quite ignorant about their surroundings, about the country in which they live and about the fellow Indians with whom they work. Most of them are educated, but that does not mean that they are learned. The ignorance level is so high that one hardly knows or wants to know about the other. It is understandable that India is a big country with vast cultural, language, food and geographical differences and one can’t know every thing about every language, religion, and/or region. But, it is definitely desirable that the fellow Indian should accept and show respect to the other. Even though the ignorance of the other is quite natural, the level of ignorance should not cross the humane values. Sometimes, the ignorance gets mixed up with the superiority complex resulting in friction in the society; new equation of majority vs. minority emerges. People of some caste or region or religion or language feel deprived, left out from the main stream leading to communal fights, terror attacks, regional fights, etc. Fight of this kind or the fight of majority vs. minority will spoil the peace and harmony of the society. Unless it is curbed in time, it will spark more fights, hatred between groups amounting to total destruction of the society. India as a country comprises of many states and union territories. Most of them are based on language and some are based on the regional equations. Even then… India is India; a country where one can see the unity in differences.

Both the electronic and the print media are also responsible for creating the ignorance, division of majority vs. minority and superior vs. inferior in the society. For an example, the infamous and derogatory tag/epithet of BIMARUis being extensively used in a bad light for the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. People who wish to denigrate the Hindi speaking states of India talk of them by using the epithet BIMARU. Instead of downplaying this kind of division, media widens the division by comparing the BIMARU and non-BIMARU states; the inferiority and superiority complex, the division of un-privileged and privileged emerges. In reality, these states are not poor. They are rich in human capital and natural resources. Most of the Civil Servants (IAS/IFS/IPS) are from these states. Even, some recent surveys by National University of Educational Planning & Administration (UNEPA) have found that the average education system in states like Bihar is much better than other states and the so called developed states like Gujurat, Karnataka have the worst education system. Not only that, the teachers in Bihar are more qualified than their peers in other states.

On a similar note, the starvation deaths of KBK (Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput districts of Odisha) are being highlighted always as if these districts of Odisha have only starvations and deaths to show to the world. Unfortunately, the image of Odisha is projected on the basis of starvation deaths, existence below-poverty-line and is considered to be backward. This is not true. Instead of helping towards a solution for these problems and forcing the govt. for a transparent and effective public distribution system (PDS), it (media) shows these issues in a bad light. Sometimes, even the natural deaths and deaths due to diseases are also projected as death due to hunger only to increase the Television Rating Point (TRP). It is true that many parts of India including Assam, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Chatishgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan, Maharastra have been witnessing such kind of deaths in the past; but Odisha gets the tag and is identified with all starvation deaths of India. It (Odisha) always gets the biased treatment from the media resulting into a complex feeling between the “poor Odias” and “rich non-Odias“. The impact of the projection of starvation death does not solve the purpose, rather widens the gap between the so called poor and the so called rich. The actual poor still suffers and dies of hunger, be in Murshidabad of West Bengal or KBK of Odisha or Thane/Raigad of Maharashtra or Baster of Chattisgarh or Baran of Rajasthan or Tea estates of Assam or Chhatarpur of Madhya Pradesh. It is there everywhere.

On a slightly different note, the role of govt. and the politicians can be debated. It is because of the poor governance and the selfish politicians in particular and the ignorant common man/aamjunta in general, the “divide and rule policy” still works in India. In the name of language, regionalism, caste, religion, etc. the country is getting divided into parts day by day. This gap is widening further by narrow political parties and the so called big politicians. They just open one card after the other, such that their importance in the society continues and they win elections. In the name of regionalism, some people restrict the entry of the other in some areas or throw them out from their region. Also, in the name caste and religion, some incite people to kill the other their own neighbor, their own brother. In the name of language, some create hatred among people of different languages. They succeed because we work for them. The differences become so wide, that sometimes even the very Indian fears to stay in a different locality. People (Indians) are questioned in some cases regarding their origin, their caste, their religion and even their country ?! (In some cases even Indians do not want to be called as Indians). It is really painful for an average Indian citizen to tell others that he/she is an Indian, and that too in his own country and to his own people.

One has to understand that India is a country of single citizenship, unlike USA where double citizenship works. People in India are free to speak any language, practice any religion and stay in any part of India. The Parliament and the Judiciary has the responsibility to ensure that every Indian citizen avails these without fail. But, in practice, Parliament is ruled by self-centered political parties and Judiciary by the huge number of pending cases. Most of the govt. decisions are based on the up-coming elections; to please a particular section of the people and just to make sure their vote-bank remains intact or to save their skin from the public wrath. Some times the Judiciary intervenes to maintain the balance, and to bring things to order. In a few cases, public protest also forces the govt. to change its populist decision. But that is not enough. One has to realize that it is not possible for the Court to intervene in each and every decisions of the govt. and is not desirable too. Something more is required.

Then, where does the united India stand?

United India stands only when the extreme happens; be it natural calamities or war or celebration. One will be surprised to witness the celebrations when the cricket loving Indians celebrate the T20 World Cup win. It is as if Cricket is the National and ONLY Game which Indians play. One can see the unity among the fellow Indians at that time. Similar kind of unity is also marked during Kargil, Odisha Super Cyclone, Tsunami in South, Earth Quake in J&K and recent floods in Bihar, etc. But is that enough ? Getting united during calamities or cricket celebrations will not solve the problem of unawareness and ignorance, and will not unite people in general. Unity is is needed required in every juncture of life. Both the self and the other have to be united as we. A social reform, public participation and awareness are desired; the term “I” and”You” need to be replaced by “we” in every move of the aamjunta. The average Indian needs to come out of the cell of self-imprisonment and from the mode of not to interfere in any activities other than his/her own interest mode. In particular, the youth of the country which is around 40% of the total population has to stand up with its responsibilities. This is crucial as the country lacks and needs young dynamic and dedicated individuals in every field, starting from politics to photography, from education to research, from farming to the armed forces. Ignorant aamjunta can be the awakened aamjunta and can re-order the society for its own in particular and for all in general.

Jai Hind.

PS: I have written this article just for awareness among the fellow Indians; not to offend any one.

Life@Pre and Post APS

“I’m going to the temple for special puja, don’t worry, your APS will go well”, Minu/Ganesh’s mom informed her/him over phone on the morning of the APS day. Minu/Ganesh did well in the APS and is quite motivated now for her/his future research. It was just like a war of survival for her/him, has to win at any cost. That was a single isolated case out of some hundreds of PhD candidates/Research Scholars in every semester. Not all are that lucky or happy like Minu/Ganesh (interestingly some people around her/him are not that happy to see her/him in happiness 😦 ). Some are de-motivated, some are frustrated and some are happy after their APS. The peer-effect rules in some cases. Does not matter whether the APS was good or bad, it is certainly a party time for all of us. Time to celebrate after one year’s re-search and hard (!!??) work πŸ™‚

Lots of discussion/gossiping happens in the Mess/Canteen Table over tea/break-fast/dinner/lunch (some time) on various topics related to APS. “My RPC members stripped me off in front of all, my guide asked most of the questions, the panel was just another nightmare for me…” are a few of the statements one can hear during the post APS gossiping/discussions. Most of the discussions are on the next step of APS; like when to go for pre-syn, some discussions are meant to be critiques; “he/she should have answered to a particular query in this way or that” or some queries in general, etc. Activities of life suddenly changes after APS – from extra-busyness to idleness (not for all). “Arre, bahut kaam kaiya, thoda to rest le le…”, “I need a break”, are the usual time pass statements and official excuses πŸ™‚

For most of the people, the APS fever starts 2/3 months before the deadline. “What to present?”, “how to defend?” are the main concerns. Writing a report both in quantity (in terms of number of pages !!) and quality are very important. Some people are fascinated with the number of pages which creates panic buttons among their peers. In most of the cases reports are written at the last moment – at the eleventh hour. Few of them submit in time and most of them submit at the last moment (A few even submit just before the presentation). In many cases, reports are submitted as a matter of formality since it is required to be submitted; not complete in any respect neither by the student nor even glanced through by the guide(s) and the pannel members. Guide(s) as well as the panel members usually give their suggestions/comments on the report while going through it during the presentation. Some of the comments/suggestions are critical for the improvement and some are personal.

For those who have published many papers and are regular throughout the year – APS fever is not that high for them; for others the temperature is very high. Some times APS fever affects the brain resulting in depression and psychiatric problems. Suddenly life become very busy, even don’t have time to receive a call. Missing lunches/dinners are very common (of course eating Pizzas and visiting Gulmohar/Laxmi increases). Activities in the Labs get increased in many fold (if you want to get hold of some one in the APS season, then you should visit his/her lab post dinner πŸ™‚ ), night-outs become regular events, serious(!) discussions with guide(s) become a part of daily routine, queues at the Xerox/Photocopy shops become unbounded πŸ™‚ Getting ready for the APS day!

The most important and crucial time is the presentation time on the APS day. Some get bowled, some score six, some are cut-behind and some score a couple. Guide(s) usually help his/her student during the presentation. In most of the cases they give hints to the queries raised by the panel members and clarify a lot of issues. But, in some cases they just come in an attacking mood and instead of helping the student, they create most of the problems. Like discouraging the student at the time of presentation, asking some vague questions, raising doubts on some technical issues, finding faults with the method of work, etc.; as if venting out their frustrations on the student and become personal 😦 . Some time the panel members come in the rescue mode and step into the fight between the student and the guide. As the outcome of the presentation “a few get extension and repeat APS and most of them get go ahead signal”. Some cry, some defend and some accept with a pinch of salt.

Though in the ideal case both the student and guide(s) are responsible for the outcome of the APS, student gets the banging often. Of-course in some cases students are responsible for the poor performance, but it is not true in all. As usual guide(s) are very busy with so many activities, both in professional and personal fronts. It is obvious that they do not have that much time to spend like the student on a particular topic. But, the amount of experience and maturity level they have must be of use for the benefit of the students (which does not happen). In some cases they hardly spend time with their students on technical matters. But, that is not an excuse for the student. It is the student’s PhD and he/she is fully responsible for that; starting from choosing the guide and topic to publishing papers and defending the thesis.

Life goes on; in a different way for some days after APS, then one gets used to it and the (fear of ) preparation for next APS or Pre-syn starts. The thick (thin?) line between pre- and post-APS disappears and the joy/eagerness to complete (!) PhD increases.

aamjunta… how is your life in the pre- and post- APS? Must be enjoying πŸ™‚ Do share.

PS: This article is dedicated to all Research Scholars of IIT Bombay. For the benefit of the reader, APS stands for Annual Progress Seminar. It is an annual event and each Research Scholar (PhD Candidate) has to appear for the APS once in a year. Monthly scholarship/fellowship gets renewed only after the successful completion of the APS. Similar activities can be observed in MTP/DDP/BTP presentations also.

And at the End of the Day …

Yes this is the end of the day…. uploading this article that I promised at the beginning of the day πŸ™‚

Couple of days back we had our Valfi (Valedictory Function). The function was great, attended by many dignitaries. But, the response we got from people for whom the function was arranged was pale. Hardly 50% of the number expected turned up for the event, even though repeated reminder emails were sent and some had even confirmed through emails that they will attend. And the time sense … 😦 , better not to discuss. Neither I am cribbing here about the attitude of people in general, nor I’m worried about their responses. I’m just reflecting upon a general trend which I have experienced for the past one year or so.

The trend I observed was quite interesting, and some times frustrating though! For instance, some of the feedback we got from people during valfi were quite interesting, “no comments” every where, and in some, “this is bad, that is bad and so on”. In most of the cases, the feedback we got, from people for whom we did so much was frustrating as most of them were ignorant about their own state and environment. The other interesting fact I experienced is people’s attitude about achievements. Many are always crazy about what others’ achieve not about what they themselves achieve or should achieve. They are curious and critical about why some one else got an award, but don’t reflect about why they did or did not get that award. I don’t find the statement, “I envy nobody, nobody envies me” true any more; instead it has changed to “I envy nobody, but somebody envies me”, true most of the times. Should I say this as “Leg pulling”? It is just the de-construction of construction πŸ™‚ .

The other instance is IITBGeneral. One can witness infinite number of emails on silly things and even out of context discussions, without a single point of implementation or action. I’m not against the discussion in IITBGeneral — what worries me is some thing different. People have enough time to crib through emails, because that is free. They spend hours and hours on discussing and cribbing that happened this didn’t happen or that didn’t happen; but will not spend a moment reflecting what good has been done for them or how things can be actually improved from the point of “non-happening” in the real sense. One will hardly find any one physically if he/she wants some thing to be done. Their concerns are just confined to emails and discussions in news groups, but how does discussions help the “common man”? I still have not been able to figure out in my 6 yrs of IITB life. That reminds me the famous “Armchair Agriculture” of the writer RK Narayan.

There is a wide gap between action and intention. When the fellowship hike came into light we were bombarded with emails — “when will it be hiked?, “what is the amount?”, “when will it get implemented?”, “it has already got implemented in such and such place” and so on. Fortunately or unfortunately, I hardly got any mail after the scheme got implemented. Fortunately, because my mailbox didn’t get spammed πŸ™‚ , unfortunately, because it shows the selfishness and ignorance in the same aam junta. They want their things to be done but don’t want to contribute a pie to the process. Then why would some one else do for them? – that is the big question!

One more interesting thing one must have experienced during his/her research career is the thesis submission and its duration. It is the most disturbing and irritating moment for a research scholar, when he/she is pellted with the questions like, “when are you completing?” , “how many years left?”, “how long have you taken?”, etc. It is more frustrating when a fellow research scholar quizzes these things, not to know earnestly as to what have you done or how are you placed? Rather to show what he/she is up to. Some are crazy about finishing things quickly and leave. But, that should be personal, not generally expressed. In my opinion, PhD is not a time bound process. It should not be valued in terms of years, rather should be valued in terms of quality and quantity of work. One has to realize that the quality of things one learnt in the process is important. PhD should not be treated as a set point, rather should be treated as a journey; if one spends his/her hard work he will definitely reach at a point, where he/she can philosophize — and a PhD degree of course. Saying that, neither I am undermining and nor am I de-emphasizing the time frame set by an institute to complete a PhD. It should be followed, but with a positive spirit, not to put unnecessary peer pressure to just complete rather than one should aim to complete qualitatively. One of my Professors at IIT Bombay used to ask, Have you done a good literature survey? – if you are a first-yearite, do you have a problem at your hand? – if you are a second yearite, how are you doing? – if you are a third yearite, and how is life? – if you have crossed the 4years limit πŸ™‚

Yes, let me ask – how is life my friends? Must be enjoying. Keep doing and complete as soon as possible. Remember, It is your PhD, and at the end of your PhD, it is the quantity and quality of work that matters, the quality of understanding in your respective disciplines that matters, which will sail you through the rest of your life. One should remember, we all are fellow Research Scholars and we will get PhDs from our respective departments, from our respective streams earlier or later and at the end of our tenures. So treat your peers as fellow research scholars, not as any superior or inferior.

And at the End of The Day — we all are fellow human beings who are made of flesh and blood and should have some respect and concern for another human being.

Aamjunta kya khayal hai?

This article is dedicated to all my fellow research scholars of IITs and any other universities.

PhD or Marriage — aamjunta decide first!

“So, when are you giving the treat”? I asked Bhim. “No Sir, I’m not the lucky man, the girl got married last week to a Software Engineer”, Bhim replied. “What !!” I couldn’t say anything more, had no words to console.

We changed the topic, discussed something else. In the entire conversation, I was uncomfortable. Bhim finally narrated his story…. The girl’s father found some Software Engineer (professional) who had 2 or 3 foreign visits in his CV, a high CTC and a flat in Mumbai (of course on Loan !) and fixed her wedding with him, without bothering about the commitment he had given to Bhim and his family. Bhim was merely a PhD for the girl’s father and was not a Software Professional — this was the clarification that he (Bhim) got from the girl’s side. Bhim was heart broken, he was in touch with the girl for almost 8 months 😦 and now he had to move ahead in life alone.

This is not the only story, this is a story (fact) among many other such stories. I asked myself, thought for some time, tried to analyze all the success and failures in marriages of some of the people who were doing or had completed PhD around me. I could not see the value of a PhD at least in Marriage Bazaar. Be it girls doing PhD or boys, the issue rounds up to “what /how much are you earning and how many times you have gone abroad”? In Marriage Bazaar, money and jobs have high bidding value than the intellect or degrees. This is a “Pan-India” phenomena cutting across caste and cultures. In a slightly similar case, Nakul, another PhD-ridden fellow could not get a girl to marry even though he visited some 15 would-be brides, registered in all leading matrimonial sites and spent around 2 months keeping his Post Doc on hold. Every girl he met and liked, rejected him on the grounds that he does not have a job. No one understood what Post Doc in a leading university abroad meant.

Even with a good job after PhD, getting a suitable girl or boy is difficult. For instance, Sahadev was forced to marry a girl with an age difference of 15 years even though he was well placed in a University as a Professor. Not only a visible age difference, there was a huge educational difference in his case. The reason- same, Professors do not earn as much as Engineers /Doctors earn.

Marriage during PhD is also a tough bargain. Even if some one finds a girl and gets married, he might find his marriage a costly affair, not only because of the commitment towards PhD and work load, but also due to his commitment towards his newly wed. First his guide, then finance and then his domestic affair… every thing demands equal or more attention. If he gets a marital accommodation in the campus, it is somewhat relieving, because one can hardly afford a rented house outside the campus with a meagre private or institute fellowship. You are lucky, if your sweet-heart is understanding and your guide is cooperating… you might enjoy your penury.

Work pressure is not the only thing that affects, peer pressure too has a high impact. Suni (also Manu) was constantly dogged by her (his) PhD mates that she (he) did not have a boyfriend /husband (girlfriend). Many of her (his) friends were engaged. In desperation Suni (Manu) made a wrong choice and proposed, only to be rejected: “I don’t see you as my long term companion, we can be friends 😦 “. Manu got into some sorts of alternative involvement (like alcohol) and Suni became depressive.

Doing a PhD after marriage is also full of risks. Taking the decision to join PhD when you already have a family is the toughest. The reason being- you have to convince your spouse, family and kids for the 4 or 5 years commitment. It is a calculated risk to be taken care of. I still remember Arjun’s wife jokingly but firmly asking Arjun to sign the divorce papers, when he proposed to go for a PhD after his MTech some 4 years back.

It is not just men who suffer, the girls have no better luck. A girl doing PhD is both misunderstood as well as over-qualified in the Marriage Bazaar. Misunderstood, because, she has chosen the untrodden path, which is time consuming and requires more commitment than domestic affairs. Over-qualified in the sense, that very few men choose to marry someone having higher qualification than themselves and even qualifications at par. Even if the girls marry during PhD, then the strain between domestic and professional pressures becomes so high, that it can disturb the marital bliss.

Having said all that, the world still goes on with hope and hit and trials. “Aap bhi free, mein bhi free… so, what do you say”, an opportunity not to be left in many cases; does not matter whether your engagement is broken or you are looking for some fresh start. This gives hope to desperate souls. Search continues for a partner who will fit into one’s long term goals or itemized list of desirable qualities — sometimes we become selfish, sometimes stubborn, sometimes opportunistic… but giving up hope is impossible. Who knows, some or the other trial may click … marriage is a research proposal in life for many. “Ye nahin, toh aur sahi…”

So, aamjunta… what do you think? Prepared for two marriages; PhD and SpouseΒ !?! πŸ™‚

Pehle Aap, Pehle Aap — Zindegi ki Gaadi Chhut Jayegi

“Mujhe Kuchh Kahena Hai …. Mujhe bhi Kuchh Kahena Hai…..
Pehle Tum, Pehle Tum …. Pehle Tum, Phele Tum …..
Tum Dekho, jis Tarha Lukhnow ke do Nawaabon ki Gaadi
Pehle Aap Pehle Aap Pehle Aap Pehle Aap karte Nikal Gayi thi
Us Tarha Hamaari Pehle Tum, Pehle Tum, Pehle Tum
Pehle Tum mein Yeh Masti bhari ruth na Chali Jaaye

These are the melodious, romantic lines of the song from the Bollywood Movie Bobby. This evening I switched on my FM Radio for the cricket updates between India and Pakistan. By mistake, I tuned to some other channel instead of All India Radio where this sweet song was playing. Though initially I thought of changing the knob to All India Radio, on a second thought I felt like listening to the full song. The lines of this song are really touching and practical. The voice of Shailendra Singh and Lata Mangeshkar are in a playful sweetness.

Many memories came into mind; memories of teen age and early adulthood of friends and my own. I became nostalgic and a few faces of friends emerged from the past… The first thing that came into my mind was one of my friend’s failure to have his life with his childhood sweetheart. They were very close, used to share every details of their life. Everybody in their vicinity were in impression that they were in love. But, they were not clear, even though they were feeling the chemistry of love between them. My friend was desperate to express his feelings and tried many times to propose. Finally, one fine day he went to her place under some or the other pretext and expressed his desire and feelings with anticipation. But things had already taken a different course and “nawab sahab ki gadi” had left by that time. With a smile the girl simply turned down the proposal saying she was already in love with some one else and it was too late for her to leave her sweetheart at this stage.

But to his surprise, she added, “I too had the same feelings for you, but was expecting some positive movements from your side for a long time, until I met this guy who proposed me in no time“. My friend felt really angry with himself for delaying it so much and so must have been the case with the girl. Not only the delay mattered, but also his ego kept him away for so long from that moment. Poor guy… Sometimes, a small delay or ego affairs in relationships and friendships can lead to big failures in life.

The other thing that came to my mind was my own old memory of my school days. We were very good friends, used to fight a lot, study together, share everything about our life. We were 1st-2nd in our class. But, something happened… It was my bad luck or some thing like that… I was declared as “failed” in more than 3 subjects and got 18th position among 150 students of my class whereas my friend got the 1st position. I could not believe my ears when the result was announced… “How can that be”? I topped in the Half-yearly exam in my class. Then? … there was some thing wrong, some thing else was being cooked up some where and I was being victimized. Many of my friends were not ready to accept this. Some of my other classmates including my friend knew this before hand, but did not react/open their mouth due to some parental pressure or invidious feelings. I could smell the foul in the game, where so many people were involved.

I could read from my friend‘s face the story behind, though we did not exchange a single word on that day. I could see the (innocent!!) eyes with tears, but could not accept… After rechecking and serious discussions among my teachers, I got a fresh life, declared 2nd, still 3 marks away from the 1st position, made that deliberately. I had accepted that verdict, but could not digest the matter. That was a very small incident of my life, but a big blow between us… We never spoke to each other after that incident. Got a chance to meet and to have few words after two years outside some exam hall at a distant place from our home town. But, again… pehle aap pehle aap… we could not break the ice even though we spent 15 minutes together, the conversation did not happen; and we left for home. We have missed an opportunity of our life to bridge our gap, the gap between two close friends… by a simple ego of pehle aap pehle aap.

These are just a few instances where pehle aap, pehle aap changed the direction of life. It has happened with me, happened with my friends… who knows.. who is the next victim…

Aamjunta be-aware … Pehle Aap, Pehle Aap karoge to Zindegi ki Gaadi Chhut Jayegi !!

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