Working on a 9-8 job can be rather morose, especially in your first few months after insti. When I first sat down to write this ‘gospel’ of wisdom, I wanted to shout my lungs out about how harsh and unforgiving the outside world is and insert cliched dialogues about finding your destiny in the 4 years that you’re in insti. Rather, writing this on a rare off day, I’m filled with a bit more positivity and nostalgia, after a friend tagged me in one of those facebook friendship things.
“It all started with a desire for science, a yearning for knowledge and to know everything this world could possibly offer.” I wish I could say that these were the emotions that triggered me to take up engineering and the noble pursuit of science. But sadly as any other kid from Andhra Pradesh, I was a manufactured product of the education system from the age of 14 to become perfect for cracking IIT. But coming to IIT Madras in 2014, I was as clueless as a goldfish in a fish tank. I practically had no opinion about the subject that I was going to pursue, and was as naive as the general public who think that Chemical Engineering would mean mugging chemistry. Luckily, I had company. My wing mates, to my delight, were equally clueless and we spent 4 years in blissful ignorance of whatever was taught in the classrooms.
For many like me, IIT was not about what I learnt inside the four walls of the classrooms and the lectures. I still have no idea on how to design a heat exchanger, model a spray dryer or write a Navier Stokes equation. All I have is a fleeting memory of equations and constants from the grueling midnight quiz prep. But surprisingly, I remember my entire election pitch in front of an eager hostel crowd ready to grill me, my first interview for a PoR and I treasure the confidence I gained from each of those experience. I remember the time I participated in a Litsoc event, the dialogues from the first play I did and the excitement of trying something new for the first time. I learnt how to make Kung pao chicken, cupcakes and even pazhampori, although I still have no idea how to pronounce it.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an insti student in possession of vetti time must be in want of a PoR. PoRs in insti have taught me a multitude of things. From some that were extremely fun, to others where I was involved in drafting the students’ constitution and consequently, the rights of the entire student population, they were a mix of great duty and random volunteering for free coupons and t-shirts. To be frank, they form the crux of the social structure of the institute and have come to be associated with status quo and this is where it gets ugly. I am not advising you to ditch PoRs or pursue a purely academic life. PoRs tend to give us a sense of purpose in our rather random existence but remember not to make it the sole identity of your four years here. Some of the most fun things in my third and fourth year happened because of an unintended lack of PoR’s, and these include roaming the lanes of Amsterdam and Boston with some of my best friends on the excuse of attending conferences.
The trip to Amsterdam
I have met a lot of people in the Institute thanks to the constant shuffling of hostels since my first year and each one of them was a teacher in their own way. From my wingmates, I learnt the value of standing together and how to kick; my friends helped me expand my narrow views of the world to broader horizons; some juniors made me realise that learning is an unending process and some taught me to dream. And while you are at meeting amazing people, make sure you don’t restrict your circle to a department, hostel, PoR, or K gate/ T gate. Only in your final year and after passing out do you realise the privilege of most things you take for granted. The Saturday boost and sambar rice in mess, biryani at Mummy daddy, dinners at Bihari dhaba, the late night ramblings in your wing and the carefree walks in a sepia toned insti.
As I was sitting down to write this piece of ‘gyaan’ I glanced through the articles of the past to find ‘stud seniors’ and legends talking about their illustrious insti experiences and for a moment, I ditched the idea of writing about what might seem to be a comparatively drab account of insti life. However, a realisation dawned upon me; insti has always been about looking up to more successful people and feeling bad about what you don’t have, or what you couldn’t do when compared to those templates. To be frank, I truly aspired to somehow get into that template, hammer myself into that mould until it was too late. At the end of it regardless of how much I might romanticise my stay in insti I kind of ended up doing that. I regret not going to the occasional 8 AM class because some senior said CG doesn’t matter. I regret sleeping my entire first year off and not spending enough time outdoors, not just insti but Chennai. I regret not doing something or anything just for the joy of it and not just because it would land me a job. The joy of validation drives the campus like oil drives fire. Remember that the senior who handed you the doctrine of insti life is only 2 years older than you. Remember what he proclaimed to be the ultimate truth of IIT Madras could very well be what worked for him and not for you.
Finally, at the end of 4 years, I am as clueless about where my life is headed right now as I was on the first day of insti. But while you’re in insti and waking up to the black bucks, having spicy barbecue chicken for dinner and midnight coffees at Ramu, don’t stop dreaming. And it’s alright to be completely unaware of what moves you need to make. A very wise friend once said ‘What makes us human is our ability to dream’. But before you can nod and tell me what your dream is, think if it is actually yours and not someone else’s.