Half a decade flew past, but it was only in the final year that I realized how long a time it was. I can safely say these years have shaped at least 70% of my mind. My individuality, my adulthood, my outlook in life was groomed here for the challenging life ahead. Looking back, I find my identity as a future technocrat, defined from its very foundation, by my almamater. Perhaps, these five years were the most important years of my life.
Sarojini Naidu / Indira Gandhi hall of residence : my home for 5 years, has been the cradle of the nostalgic memories of my stay in IIT. The wings still resound with the applauds of the junta when one of us gets a job. The terrace parapets stand the silent witness of the long bhaat sessions on pleasant spring evenings. My room still bears the sighs of ‘frustness’, the silence of ‘mugga’ sessions and the yells of joys. The mess, with fluctuating food standards, have stood by our dissatisfied and contented looks. This hall, throbbing with life, has witnessed batch after batch carve out their careers, who have left SN/IG behind and moved into a more challenging and fulfilling life ahead.
These years have completely metamorphosed me into an adult ready to face the world. The innocence of teenage has been replaced by practicality and wisdom. What brought tears to my eyes now merely disappears with a smile. What made me feel wronged now appears as the way of the world. Where is that stupid girl who believed everything that others said? Today her self-confidence has bloomed into an indomitable self-esteem. No sweet smiles can melt her today. She does not let anyone walk over her. She has learnt how much to say and how much to conceal. She knows whom to trust and whom not to. She can help others without letting others use her time and resources. She is careful when friendly behavior may have ulterior motives. She can be happy for others, but knows when others are privately not happy for her. She knows who can waste her time and who is her genuine well-wisher. She decides whom to seek approval from and whose words to ignore. “Sentos” cannot sweep her off her feet. “Fundas” cannot make her lose her own principles.
Being low-profile has been my way of SN life, yet this tenure has been interspersed with public appearances at regular intervals. A landslide of extra-curricular activities in the first year made me explore my hidden talents. It became selective and specialized in the later years, when I did what I did best (and not everything indiscriminately). I appeared when I chose to, and went underground when circumstances were not favorable. It is better to do one job and be remembered after you leave SN than get involved in five activities and feel robbed of your time and energy, and finally forgotten when the work is over.
Social circulation automatically reduces in the final year, when career-building becomes the prime concern and everyone/everything around takes a backseat. One gets a larger social circle in one’s professional life. So juniors, don’t feel that “final years have no tempo”. At this point, we need to look beyond immediate fun ‘n frolic and take the crucial decisions for our future.
One of the things that this hall life taught me is never to let someone take undue advantage of you. Never let anyone take you for granted. Nothing can happen to you without your permission. People will gossip about you only if you allow them to. So forget the ‘wrongs’ that others did at you. Somewhere behind you yourself were responsible for them.
Some of my close friends say ‘don’t you regret that you let five best years of your life fly past without much enjoyment’? I did enjoy at certain occasions, but usually I felt that such ‘masti’ are too small and temporary in the vast canvas of your life’s growth. One can have enough time to relax and enjoy once you have laid the foundation of your career. I feel the time of my enjoyment (in my own definition) will come soon.
You don’t have to be liked by everyone. I disliked gossip, people who gossiped even more, and those who verified gossips the most. I couldn’t understand how the technocrats of tomorrow, ‘dedicated to the service of the nation’, ‘the cream of the society’, can waste time in useless ‘bhaat’ about who wore what on which day and went around with whom for what length of time, ‘pata hain…’ who spoke what on which situation and what spicy comments were available for which ‘social endeavor’ of whom. There is nothing more pathetic than selling gossip to buy friendship.
I have hardly found anyone talking technical things in the Hall. Most of the time I was left wondering 'are we all engineering students'? Most of the Hall and Gymkhana activities were non-technical. There was absolutely no one in the hall with whom I could discuss how a ship was made, its hydrodynamics, its structural complications, and the construction and launching of huge offshore structures. Okay, agreed that there was none of my Department in my hall, but the same topics could be easily discussed with students from Mechanical, Civil, Aerospace, Maths and Architecture departments. The academic curriculum seemed like some formality, a ticket to other non-technical careers. There were wing bhaat sessions, bitching sessions, birthday parties, treats, poltu meetings, funda sessions, but no discussions about engineering! No one discussed new technical ideas. How I wished then that I belonged to medical college and would be learning interesting surgeries. Engineering students look less like engineers and more like singers/actors/stars/models/managers, but finally most ended up looking wannabe-s. No one looks like an engineer.
I have come to distinguish between whom I stand answerable to and to whom I don’t. Also, when I should comply with others and when can speak my own mind. No amount of emotional blackmailing will work. Others will respect you only when you respect yourself. And silence can speak what words can’t.
I also learnt to be independent. One is a part of a system, but must not be paralyzed under a system-failure. Back-ups should be ready to serve your purpose notwithstanding. (The cleaning lady is irregular need not mean I have to stay in a dusty room for days together). One should not surrender to the system so easily and quickly. If it starts slipping, one immediate step of yours can restore it. Aim for 100% and you can achieve 50%. ‘Itni jaldi haar mat maano’.
Do you get hurt when you ask for someone’s help and get refused politely/diplomatically? Ask for minimum help : be self-sufficient and independent as far as possible. I have met people who have avoided me after taking help from me. I have also met shameless parasites, who will show attitude before you and also ask for favors. I forgive them, but I have stopped being a social worker. Self-reliance goes a long way in keeping your self-esteem intact.
Still I found it healthy to avoid nurturing any grudge against anybody. Revengefulness only makes your inner energy dissipate. It is better to delink you life from them and focus on the bigger aspect : your career-building. Prevent the back-biting by never letting such people reach the inner circles of your life. But I also learnt that taking healthy revenges is extremely important for your well-being : it was like dissipating some bad entropy and calming yourself.
Perhaps the slow lifestyle in Kharagpur has made a certain stagnancy creep into every deed of ours. Its huge inertia makes us all roll at its frequency for years and finally pushes us out. It’s up to us to break out of the usual model, to resist the psychological influence of the surroundings, and to adhere to the good and the right under all circumstances. Human beings are extremely susceptible to others’ thoughts and habits. ‘A man is known by the company he keeps’. It is better to associate with those who can make you a better person, and not with the gossipmongers who will later gossip against you.
I also learnt when to react and when not to (more important). There is nothing to panic or get impatient. Be composed and things will come to you eventually. There is no need to run after something and not get it. Come in the crisis-mode and you will turn people off. You have heard people say ‘bend but don’t break’. I will say ‘break and get up again with double strength’. It is more important to keep burning on, instead of shining once and burning out. Don’t be a comet, which disappears as soon as it came. Don’t either be a star, or people will get bored with you. Be the moon, shining constantly, changing shapes everyday, yet always making others wonder at you. And perhaps go underground for sometime (new moon) to rewind yourself and begin the next journey with renewed vigor.
A leader is one whose efforts benefits not only him/her but also others. We as the future leaders of the society need to look beyond our individual life into the community life as a whole. To go down in history, you should take time to build a solid foundation of your work. Never be carried away be quick successes. Success that comes later lasts longer. Patience and perseverance always outlast and outdo backing and favoritism. It is better to keep people wondering at you than disappearing after one applause. So keep matters in suspense. Show off everyday and you will stop surprising people.
I have heard people say ‘being an IITian is worth ten lakhs of dowry’. Do you think such people deserve to be called the cream of the society, who can set examples for the society to follow? I have come across disproportionately large number of people with similar narrow-mindedness, who are better than non-IITians only due to the IIT-JEE (i.e. some elementary PCM). We are supposedly the best intellectual resource of this nation. We ought to be ahead of our times. I have seen strangely less people with the drive and ability to change the direction of the system.
The most important thing SN life taught me was like this. You are the product of your own thoughts. Someone else’s opinion does not have to become your reality. Attitude counts. And we have to pay the price of our success.
It is up to us to surpass our previous generations and create a better world to live in. These five years have made me realize my social and national responsibilities, and have made me aspire to help shoulder this human civilization, making it better with my tireless efforts as a technologist, for generations to come.
Wishing you the happiness and success in life and signing off for today.