Through the Goggles of a Graduate: Srijith Rajagopalan

Srijith graduated in 2017 with a Dual Degree in Chemical Engineering and is now an Analyst at Goldman Sachs. When not pondering upon perspective-shifting questions like “do dank memes really melt steel beams?”, you can find him playing RPGs on his console. He shares his experiences in the five years he spent here.

Oh wow. Has it been five years since I joined this place? How does one day on my job feel longer than years spent – okay, I’ll stop. You’ve read this introduction way too many times for it to remain even remotely believable. My first thought though, and I need to get this off my chest – looking at the masterful way the other people featured in this series have elucidated their thoughts, I feel like I have nothing much to add. But hey, here I am, trying to pen down whatever I can remember from my times at IITM; and here you are, reading this, probably because we have nothing better to do. Well then, let’s go on a journey, shall we? Hopefully, at least to some of you, what this old man has to say will be useful.

A Dumb Freshie:

You’ve heard it before, haven’t you? The stories of how people who used to do well in their school, always topping their classes, coming to insti and realizing that there are people just as good as them here too? Well, in my case, I was just your everyday guy mugging for an exam (nothing special about it), somehow cracks it and sets foot in here. I was thinking, “Forget it. I didn’t even top my class, what am I going to do here, which objectively has a more competitive peer group than before?” In short, I didn’t take myself seriously enough. Mind you, I had a lot of passion and motivation to learn; it is just that I wasn’t expecting anything at the end of it. In retrospect, I think that is the perfect attitude to have with anything that you want to do; and it’s better to cultivate it as early as possible. Thus, I put in my best efforts, (maybe a bit extra than before) and shockingly enough, I did well! This was a huge moment because it boosted my self-confidence – I didn’t become complacent, it just forced me to try harder. All this in the middle of the LitSoc and TechSoc fervour in Narmada Hostel – some of my most memorable moments from my freshie year were from LitSoc.

“Don’t worry guys, I’ve got a plan for this part. You be the car, I’ll sit on you and we make engine sounds on stage. Semma no?” – Freshie Nite 2012, back when Instagram filters weren’t a thing.

I met some of my closest friends as part of these LitSoc fundae sessions and competitions. The seniors I met really changed my perspective of things. I think the best advice I heard was (after an interaction session, of course), “CG doesn’t matter? What is this guy saying? It does, more than you think. But it’s not the only thing that matters. Everything you do in this place matters. Extracurriculars, Lit, Tech etc. The only stupid thing to do is using one as an excuse for not doing the other well”. This stuck with me for some reason and I tried my best to live by it. I guess through my years here, even though a lot about me has changed, this one aspect didn’t, and I’m proud of that! Believe me, it is very easy to lose motivation owing to reasons of bad performance, or stellar performance, but all I can say is, you have got to keep that fire going.

Okay, you guys can wake up now. Go have some coffee or something. I ain’t going anywhere. This piece is just getting started.

Informals, Saarang and … Teamwork?

You know, I guess I was lucky to have a bunch of classmates from school, get into insti – albeit to different branches – so we stayed in touch. In our Freshie Night, some of them had planned a miming skit to be put up on stage and hit me up for a role (mostly because one of the guys backed out). The conversation went something like this.

T: “Dei, you vetti?”

Me: “Nah I have this thing study and…”

T: “Haha see you in five. SAC.”

Well, I guess that was settled. I guess what I’m trying to say is this – the most charming thing about insti is what the people can accomplish as a team, working towards the same goal. I mean, none of us knew what miming was. There was this one guy who had “prior experience”, basically he knew a guy who knew a guy, and we somehow put up a performance on stage (first time on stage for most of us). This, in front of an audience that probably didn’t even pay attention amongst all the expletives screamed across the auditorium with each hostel referencing the other’s mothers in unison.

The diversity of people you meet here is amazing. When you work together with these people in a team, you learn a lot about how personalities clash, how opinions differ, and how in spite of all that, you stand up for what you all represent because, at the end, you’re all working towards the same thing. If there’s one advice I give you, try to meet as many people as possible, don’t just stick to your school friends. The best way, in my opinion, to do this, is to involve yourself in one of institute fests, or any of those other things that happen in insti. Seriously though, just go out and try something. I still think that one of the best decisions I made in my first year (an impulse decision, because most some of my friends were doing it) was joining the Saarang Informals team as a volunteer (Back when it was legal, I mean). I learnt a lot about the fest itself and most importantly, got to know the people who run the events. Other than building contacts (which in itself is a useful thing), I grew to understand what working as a team really meant. It was a safe time to learn because you’re allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. The higher up the ladder you go, the wiggle-room you get becomes lesser and lesser. So go and meet new people!

“Macha, we need to carry tables from that side of the road to this side. I know! Let’s use a Meen-Body Vandi!” – Saarang 2013.

As for me, I was so hyped to be a part of a legendary fest I had heard only by name and was excited to move up the ladder. Come second year, I was an informals coordinator, which to my dismay, involved a lot more work than I thought. But, God, what an experience it was, I got to know more juniors than most of my peers; and a lot of us still stay in touch, even after four years! Push this same enthusiasm into a guy currently in his third year and you get an informals super-coordinator. Suddenly, I had to realize the importance of ideation, delegating work and initiative rather than following what your seniors say. I was the senior in this case. Our team was in charge of conduction of the freshie nite, conduction of a few LitSoc events, conduction of a few Saarang events.

How I do all of this? No idea.

The only guiding light I had were the fundae sessions that my predecessors had bestowed upon me, which I think are some of the most useful discussions I have ever had – you learn something new every time you pain a person for fundaes. I think it’s a boon in disguise because not having an exact idea of what to do gives you the freedom to shape it the way you want, but only under sound guidance. I was lucky to have such knowledgeable and friendly seniors. I have amazing memories of freshie nite MC practice, Saarang ideation nights, hounding coordinators on Google threads, evenings of tying dank knots and making DIY games, tripping on cores, getting shouted at by cores; the list goes on and on. Through facing all of this together, our team was almost like family.

“The ‘in-formals’ supercoord” – Silicon, aka PVSS Raju, circa 2015.

Do I look like a guy with a plan?

I know, I know. From what I’ve described above, it seems like I had all my stuff figured out, but I promise, I never had any long-term goals in mind. Even if I had a goal, it kept changing, so I was always left in purgatory, not knowing what I wanted to do. Well, now that I’ve passed out, I’m sure I know what I’m doing, right?

Yeah, no. I don’t.

To be honest, I still don’t know where I’m headed. All I know at this moment is that after writing this article on a lazy Friday night, I’m going to sleep till 12:00 pm tomorrow and wake up to a nice hot meal ordered through Swiggy. All of what I just mentioned is true and as funny as it may sound, it was a terrifying time in the institute when I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I am sure some of you guys have been through this. You get through your first year, where almost none of you know what’s in store for you in the future, and to be honest, most of you don’t even think about it. Suddenly, you come to your second year, and everyone else seems to know what their priorities are in life. One guy says “research”, this other guy definitely wants consult, and one more guy who had done three internships the previous summer talks about how he is trying for an internship in another company the coming winter, while you just spent your summer looking at memes? Yeah, I was the last guy, and it was not a nice feeling. I didn’t think about it often, but it was uneasy whenever I did.

I made an effort from my side to do what I thought interested me at the time. I tried taking up a random project with a prof (which I didn’t finish), I applied for an informals coordinatorship and then for a super-coordinatorship, I took part in random LitSoc events even though I didn’t know the first thing about acting; it all seemed very haphazard. At this point, I didn’t have research on my mind as even an option. Now some of my close friends who know about my dark past will tell you that I was once a department placement coordinator. “What? You literally didn’t mention anything regarding your department, how did you suddenly have enthu for being a placement coord?”.

My point is this. I had been through half my college life, and it felt like I was still winging it. Little did I know, the next semester was going to be the ultimate test.

Come sixth semester, I was torn between standing for Branch Councillor elections and applying for Saarang Events Core. I was somehow convinced that I had to stand for the election, and I did. After nearly three months of intense fight, writing my manifesto, meeting every possible member with gyaan to give, and after days on end with unhealthy eating habits, I lost the election (haha, gotcha). You can imagine how devastated I was. I thought that the Events Core opportunity was gone because the deadline for the application was approaching and I hadn’t even started taking fundaes. Plus, there were four other people applying so I thought I didn’t stand a chance. A few of my friends were even concerned about my mental health. I knew that the opportunity was there, but I was just too scared to seize it. The decision I made at that time, to not focus on the past and to instead focus on the future was perspective-shifting. It was a gruelling three weeks, coupled with me acting in Narmada’s SFM entry, but I came out on top. It was then that I realized, “You know what? Overthinking and overanalyzing about where we are going will make us lose focus on the present – our short-term goals. Just seize the opportunities in front of you, give it your best shot, but don’t expect anything. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, you move on to other things”. And the best part about insti is that it is brimming with things to explore and do!

My fourth year was another turning point for me. I had taken an elective that fascinated me to such a point that I decided I wanted to pursue research in that topic. I know, such a focused mind is hard to find. If you think about it though, at the time, I felt that research was an opportunity. I didn’t think about where it would lead me, I just seized the moment. Through one of my professor’s contacts, I applied to a professor in France, and to my surprise, he accepted my application – with funding! This was when I made a misjudgement, shall we say. I was seduced by the serendipity of it all that I started believing that research was the only thing for me. It was an alluring position for my mind to be in, as for the first time in my insti life, I had a goal. So I decided to not sit for placements (except for a limited set of companies) in my fifth year and only apply for a PhD in the US. Guess where I am right now.

Yep, working in Bangalore. Exactly what you expected, isn’t it?

Seriously though, in case any of you feel insecure about the uncertainty clouding your future, know that it’s okay. Everyone faces this, even that guy with four internships. Just don’t take it too seriously, but don’t ignore it too. Instead, make an effort to do something productive with your time; it can be something that interests you or something you are trying for the heck of it. Hell, I still don’t know what I’m going to do, and I turned out okay!

Alright, I hear your yawns. I think I’ve said all that needed to be said. In all honesty, I’ll miss this place. I’ll miss the late night wing discussions, the random horror movie nights, the night-outs at Ramu, my days as a part of Saarang, our attempt at making a wing video, participating in LitSoc events, taking fundaes from seniors, giving fundaes as a senior, lab night outs, random trips to Pondi, writing my dual degree thesis in Pondi; as you can see, my lists have a tendency of not ending.

At the end of the day, all these things are what make insti, insti.

Friends. Love the concept, haven’t watched the show. Bite me.

You know the drill. A picture is worth a thousand words and all. Instead of describing each idiot I know that made insti life more unbearable, let me introduce you to some of my good friends here. (If I have missed any of you, it’s 3 in the morning right now. My brain is not functioning at what you would call “peak capacity”. It’s either that or I secretly hate you. But knowing you, you don’t care so hey, works out.)

The bad, the worst, the ugly.

Going from the left corner to the right corner: Bhavya, Srikanth, Paul, Arjun, Sachin, Abhijit, Warner, Daniel, Zarin, Hari Krishnan, Shagun, Harish, Vedant, Tony, Daniel Viju. You know, I thought of adding descriptions for each of you, but then I realized you aren’t worth the effort. The rest of you, it’s your fault for not taking pictures with me. Suffer in silence.

P.S. (For Dual Degree Students Only): Alright people. It’s time for some real talk. Those sneaky B.Techs in your wing that’ll betray you and leave you to suffer alone in this place? They are the worst, aren’t they? Make sure you make that wing video in your fourth year before they leave. Check out ours at:

Disclaimer: The views are not to be construed in any manner as the official views of IIT Madras.
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