– by Shiraz Khan and Ananth Sundararaman.
If you’re reading this as a prospective student of IIT Madras, hearty congratulations!
Allow us to introduce ourselves – we are “The Fifth Estate”, the campus news body, and we take pride in reporting about any and all topics that share a piece of the Venn Diagram with IIT Madras. We are completely student-run, with all the editing, writing and publication managed by us.
While MiTr will look after all the necessary paraphernalia for completing the admission process and also equip you and your family with the bare necessities for boarding and lodging near the institute, here’s a list of some in-frequently asked questions, with more frequently sought-out answers. It’s not a guide to prepare you for what’s to come as much as it is a list of WHAT you should be prepared for.
You shouldn’t have much trouble getting here from the airport or the railway stations, as there isn’t an IIT Madras in every corner. You could either venture out, navigate through the devilish labyrinth of one-ways that make JEE seem like a slice of cake, or simply let an auto or a taxi do the job for you. The Auto drivers are also a good opportunity to hone your bargaining skills – may you ‘fare’ well with them. It might be a better idea to book cabs using the many apps available nowadays.
However, you might want to find out the nearest bus and train stops too, and all the viable modes of transit to campus from the same. The sub-urban train network (MRTS) connects Chennai Central (from the Park Town station) to a stop adjacent to the campus Main Gate, called the ‘Kasturbai Nagar’ station, while buses from the airport and the railway station halt at ‘Madhya Kailash’, which is within walking distance from the main gate. (Be warned: You have to travel almost three kilometers before you reach the interior parts of the campus. But there are free buses which ply within insti which are at your service.)
There is also a handy “insti bus” app which notifies you about the bus timings and their location. In case you do get lost outside the campus with light wallets, fret not. Insti is well connected by public bus services, and this will help you find your way home.
If you are coming down with the extended family, try booking the campus Guest House to keep them away from your messy hostel rooms.
2. I’m unable to accommodate my air conditioner into the luggage..
As you would have probably heard, Chennai is no sweater weather, unless you mean weather that makes you sweat. But whether you’re from within or outside the city, the evident 2 degree drop in temperature experienced as you step through the gates of the campus will come as a pleasant surprise. The heat and humidity, at its worst, can be comfortably beaten by spending a good number of afternoons indoors under a well-functioning fan. A special pick-me-up in the form of a chilled fruit juice from Gurunath (the most frequented student canteen) can always be counted upon to not leave you high and dry. Come October and November though, you’ll almost certainly need reinforcements, during monsoons – be sure to invest in a functional umbrella or rain coat for those unexpected early morning showers, (and don’t forget to keep a watchful eye over it.)
As far as your wardrobe is concerned, an essential set of daily wear (preferably cotton, and easy to wash and dry clean in the hostels’ washing machines) will do the job. If you have a favourite bedspread and pillow covers, you can bring them along too – or else you can always buy them here and ensure a light and hassle-free travel.
3. My mother insists on moving in with me..
While you might have to compromise on your mom’s cooking, the mess isn’t really a mess at all. Mess food is mostly hygienic and hot, and the various other alternatives for food around the institute cater to a good variety of tastes. From a dedicated Jain mess to a mess that includes non-veg in its menu, a 24-by-7 canteen operated by IRCTC, an air-conditioned indoor “Kickstart Cafe”, the Campus Cafe, and the student favourite “Gurunath Patisserie”, the options are numerous. Various canteens, window shops and even a mobile “Gramyodak provisional store” dispersed across the campus ensure different tastes of the tongue are catered to without changing the weight of your wallet too harshly. The inauguration of the newly renovated “Quark” also promises to host a delectable choice of new eateries and is scheduled to be functional once the semester begins.
4. But my home WiFi signal extends only up to one block away.
The internet, yes, a 24-by-7 connection (with a recommended 1 GB limit per user per day) will be made available in your hostel rooms through ethernet ports, as is your vested right. Go ahead, use it for good, and make history. The usage of personal laptops is not recommended by the administration, at least for the initial month of the first semester, and we suggest you make any new purchase concerning laptops only once you’ve adjusted to life in the hostels. Not only will it help you select a gadget best suited to your needs, you will also be saved from turning into a zombie by interacting with the outside world a lot more. The Departmental Computing Facilities (DCFs) and the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) in the Central Library are capable of satisfying the internet needs during your initial days here.
For your first semester too, you can make do with just a smartphone (The Central Library has WiFi and can be conveniently accessed from your smartphones), albeit a laptop will prove useful in your subsequent semesters, to view course notes, e-mail, PDFs and adorable cat videos.
5. Could I just join after I’m done with my trombone classes?
The institute houses a wide range of clubs, from Astronomy, Robotics, 3D printing et al (Check out the Centre for Innovation) to Music, Arts, Literature, Choreo, Design, Media, Oratory, Word Games and even a Cooking club. This list may be finite, but the activities that are conducted by this vast number of clubs are endless. As a trade in return for merely your enthusiasm, you will be provided with opportunities to seek out new hobbies, sharpen your skills and never allow a weekend to end up being boring.
The sports culture is also thriving with state-of-the-art facilities and many inter-collegiate tournaments. Come December, we look forward to being the proud hosts of the 51st inter-IIT, with a record history of being crowned champions 18 times (last in 2011). You can use your first year to explore all those hobbies that you have lost touch with during your preparations and even pick up new ones! Be sure to participate in Shaastra and Saarang (the institute’s technical and cultural festivals) , in the month of January, a week when the institute buzzes alive with activity and becomes a temporary camp for over 50,000 people.
6. What in the depths of hell is ‘lite’, and how do I take it?
“Lite le” are probably the first two words that you’ll hear in your first conversation with any senior, though the general student demographic hasn’t attributed a solid meaning to what “lite” means, yet. You may also be subjected to other queer terminology like “put, pack, bulb, macha, etc”. But don’t give up yet. There exists a crash course for it, and one which is a good enough workaround for getting by in your first few weeks in insti. Much is the fame of insti’s very own tongue that a graduate thesis was written by a foreign exchange student, which serves as the primary documentation of this insti tongue.
7. I still can’t fit my air conditioner into the luggage..
“Don’t buy everything.” is easier said than done. Nevertheless, in the one or two bags that you will be towing behind you, here’s a list of stuff that are best bought AFTER you come to insti.
Lock(s), mug(s), bucket(s), matress, bedsheet(s), SIM card(s), stationery, cosmetic(s), broomstick(s), footwear, notebooks can be purchased at Gurunath, located inside the institute. That’s right, welcome to Diagon Alley. The institute’s Central Library has an excellent collection of textbooks which you can borrow and use.
If you feel you can’t live without a supermarket close to you, the Shopping Complex, next to the lake, has a well stocked departmental store and fruit store, along with a quiet little bakery and an electronics store. Since its a large campus (over 600 acres), it is prudent a cycle be your companion in your adventures here. The institute administration arranges a temporary cycle shop to be set up on campus grounds to allow you to buy the same once you reach.
8. I can’t find IIT-M on Google Earth, it sends me to a forest instead..
Carved out of the edge of what was a 1300 acre reserve forest way back in 1958, this 700 acre campus has grown over the last half a century into one of the greenest areas in the heart of Chennai. IITM also boasts of a dedicated ‘Wildlife Club’, Prakriti, that organizes Nature Walks and concerns itself with monitoring the demographics and well being of the flora and fauna of this institute. From witnessing the loitering deer and monkey turf-wars to nurturing pet cats as mascots for your ‘wing’ – you are assured to feel a part of nature under insti’s grand old banyan trees. It’s a jungle out here after all.
9. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer..
All affinities and rivalries for the artists, tech junkies and the athletes are channelled through the inter-hostel events, Lit-Soc, Tech-Soc and Schroeter, the year-long competitions among the 18 hostels of IIT Madras. Lit-Soc (or Literary cum Social Inter-hostel Activities), is the series of inter-hostel competitions spanning a wide array of cut-throat contests in art, literature and music (Yes, IIT can get as competitive as JEE) throughout the year. Tech-Soc, the inter-hostel championship on tech glory, comprises of competitions like robotics, contraptions and quizzes. There even exists a “Freshie-Schroeter” and “Freshie-LitSoc” that serve as a prelude to the actual competitions to allow you to get a taste of this tradition. The Freshie Night, that takes place after the first week of ‘Quizzes’, is something to watch out for, and also a great platform to showcase your talents.
10. Once again, welcome to insti – your home away from home!
After the gruesome months of slogging for Board exams, JEE, and the veritable plethora of other entrance tests that have been thrown at you by the education system, rest assured for your labor has borne fruit. The next few years will undoubtedly play a formative role in your life and are meant to be cherished and etched in your memory for decades to come.
P.S. : Keep calm, don’t panic and continue reading T5E!
Images courtesy: IITM Media Club, Saarang.