From his academic performance to leading the Sponsorship department at Shaastra, from sports to an attempt at making a race car, and especially a curious commitment to the Antakshari team – Bhavik Rasyara left his mark in numerous parts of campus life. Known to stretch conversations through the night, here he attempts to share (in a much shorter format of course) some of his experiences with the hope of leaving behind a little something to think about. This is the fourth in the ‘Through the Goggles of a Graduate’ series.
You can’t be serious!?
So this is it! That one piece in which I shall cram in all 42 pearls of unearthed wisdom about (insti) life, the (campus) universe and everything. Four years in insti have given me all the answers, right? Right?…Sigh. Who am I kidding? There have been so many “insti studs” featured in this series of articles, who not only covered pretty much everything, but also wrote like masters. No point trying to add to what’s already been done, right? Might as well put peace and let someone else put piece.
In just the space of these few lines, I seem to have oscillated from taking myself too seriously to not taking myself seriously at all. Surprisingly, I’ve witnessed these extremes – from intense ambition to spectacular indifference, in many people on campus (myself included at times). Four years ago, when I walked in here, I had an idealist zeal to work hard and accomplish something here. What that something was, I frankly had no idea. The idea was limited to finding things that excited or challenged me and working hard on them. I refuse to say that there’s a right or wrong way to approach our institute lives. Each of us has our own style of working and at the end of the day, most of us are ok with it if we get our results. But to the freshers joining the campus, I would definitely say this – this campus is an excellent place to discover more about yourself. So, take yourself seriously enough to be willing to put yourself out there into different situations. With each new experience, you build yourself and your story some more. We entered this campus with our greatest asset being our minds. Now as I walk out of this campus, my most valuable possession has to be my stories. For in each of those stories, I learned a little bit more about myself. How do I react to situations? What are my habits, both good and bad? How should I be approaching different situations? Our experiences shape us. This campus can shape your experiences and hence you, if you let yourself be open to its opportunities.
But if you find yourself running frantically in a direction – driven not by enthusiasm or curiosity, but by fear – a fear of falling behind or not rising to the heights of “insti studness”, pause. Take a deep breath, a step or two back and ask yourself – is that really what satisfies you?
At the same time, at the risk of sounding confusingly contradictory, please don’t take yourself too seriously! What is too seriously in my opinion? Too seriously would be when you forget what your motives originally were. Believe me, we are in a place where if one opportunity doesn’t pan out as expected, another can always be unearthed with some effort. Let’s be frank – most of us will enter (and at times exit) the rat races of the campus at some point in our insti life. Each of these races will have its benefits, no doubt, and the decision to run or not to, will have consequences on your path ahead. But if you find yourself running frantically in a direction – driven not by enthusiasm or curiosity, but by fear – a fear of falling behind or not rising to the heights of “insti studness”, pause. Take a deep breath, a step or two back and ask yourself – is that really what satisfies you?
In retrospect, I feel that we pick up a lot of stress when we start taking ourselves too seriously – when we lose a willingness to experiment and fear failure to the extent that it outright governs our decisions instead of just weighing in on them. To the skeptics who are wondering if I’m being hypocritical – yes, there were definitely instances in my four years when I too fell prey to such stresses. But I was very lucky to have a set of friends and on one extraordinary occasion even a very conveniently timed trip away from it all, which made me reset my thinking and admire the variety of opportunities that existed all around us. A perfect example of this has to be placements. They are probably the most stressful time on campus for a graduating batch as a whole. Being more aware of all the opportunities out there (not just the ones whose fables are passed on from batch to batch) can relieve a lot of stress in this case. And believe me you, there are way more opportunities than we seem to know about – all we need to do is put in effort into looking beyond the walls of this campus as well as of our minds.
Working in teams
One thing that I loved about the institute was that you could always find a group of individuals who were willing to band together and move forward as a team. Whether that be in the area of performing arts or performing technical miracles, the variety of people on our campus ensured that a group of like-minded individuals could come together and try things out. I had the good fortune of being part of a proper team from my first semester itself through Raftar (the FSAE team). There, I was surrounded by a bunch of highly motivated and intelligent seniors, all working together towards one goal. In such a large team, which was working on something as complicated and layered as a race car, work ethics and teamwork were key. The Raftar experience is something I shall always cherish, because like most things in engineering, my main takeaways from it had nothing to do with technical knowledge. The 12-month experience instilled in me a belief that new challenges can be met with grit and teamwork, even when experience and expectations are not tilted in one’s favor.
Now, take the typical CFI working style and push it into the Shaastra Sponsorship department, which I joined in my second year. What do you get? Well, while things like work ethics and result-oriented habits served me well, there was a distinct cultural shift. I learned that “non-technical” teams don’t work the same way as technical ones. In the next couple of years, I learned so much more about human nature – how you work smoothly in a team with multiple strong opinions, how you juggle together different personalities, how people respond to incentives, how you multitask and divide responsibilities etc. This experience culminated in my Coreship where I got a chance to apply these fundaes to shape the team that had taught me so much – a truly satisfying culmination of a three-year association.
These two different teams belonged to what most would perceive to be two completely different worlds on campus – the CFI tech world and the Fest PoR world. In both cases, the stories that I took away from them were not so much about the exact work that I did. They were always about getting to understand people better, and ideally, even yourself.
Talking to people
On campus, labels are very common. “Techie”, “Sports stud”, “Lit God”, “Muggu” – these are only some of the many. Fall prey to the labels and their attached presumptions at your own peril.
As you move from freshie year to your final year, one of the most sudden changes you notice is the side you stand on in the fundaes sessions. Initially, you’re the one lapping up fundaes from seniors (and hopefully scrutinizing them). Then in the span of just 2 semesters, you’re the one lending your views and opinions to juniors. Yes, fundaes sessions can be quite useful (if given by the right person). But more than the fundaes, I think I benefited the most from simple conversations that didn’t have any prior agenda or motivation attached to them. I believe this was because such conversations led to an exchange of views, opinions and most importantly, stories. On campus, labels are very common. “Techie”, “Sports stud”, “Lit God”, “Muggu” – these are only some of the many. Fall prey to the labels and their attached presumptions at your own peril. Insti can give you a lot of moments where your presumption about a person is proved horribly inaccurate. I read somewhere that the problem with stereotypes is not that they are inaccurate, but that they are incomplete, and I couldn’t agree more!
Once the biases are removed, you can hear some of the most wonderful and inspiring stories from the most unexpected sources. My next takeaway for you would be this – keep your minds and ears open. Exchange ideas, listen to stories. They may not always be what you agree with and that’s a good thing. I will always cherish the conversations that happened over nightouts in the wing, tea at Ramu, on the way back to the room (the Tapti junction being a favourite spot for me) or even at the library (yes, it’s not all silent mugging there!). When your conversations go beyond the intention of gaining fundaes, you’ll encounter some of the most inspiring ideas, because fundaes are about what has already been done, while ideas will be about why and what hasn’t.
Not everything has a direction
In my sixth semester, I entered a grueling coreship application process. Coupled with Schroeter and academics, there wasn’t too much breathing space. I already had a couple of things that I wanted to do but couldn’t because of the lack of time (Comedy Club is coming this sem junta, a big shout-out to Anjani and Sapta for doing a fabulous job in structuring it!). In such a scenario, I decided to take a step back and do something “illogical”. I joined the efforts of one of my close friends (and final semester vetti senior) in organizing Insti’s first open Antakshari event. What followed was a series of night outs (believe it or not, Antaksharis aren’t all that easy to organize). The subsequent weeks proved to be heavily sleep deprived. When I told my friends that I was exhausted because of a night spent on Antakshari plans, they thought I’d lost it in the sixth sem. It just didn’t fit into the logical scheme of things. To be honest, it could only detract from the bunch of other things that were happening at the same time.
But retrospectively, the time organizing that Antakshari with some of my closest friends is easily one of my fondest memories from campus. There will be many occasions when your heart might want to do something which doesn’t fit into any logical, optimized plan. Many times you might end up pushing that aside to do what’s best productivity-wise. But at least once, take the step outside your scheme of things and experiment with your heart’s longing. Avoid regrets because as a close friend once said (and keeps using every time he wants to convince me to something) “ten years down the line, what do you think you will remember?”
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
The reality is, that’s how it will always be for most of us who aren’t superhuman or super-efficient. But in the end, the most cherished moments are those late night walks and cycle rides, sometimes in the company of your loved ones and other times alone, just you and your music and the cool breeze.
The flip side of getting involved in different teams and activities was that I felt for quite some time that I didn’t do a lot of the “typical freshie things”. I didn’t have stories of that Mahabs/Tada/Pondy trip or those 12-hour long wolf sessions. Prioritizing things between acads and other commitments meant cutting down on some other things. Initially, that made me a bit unhappy. However, with time I realized that it wasn’t actually a compromise that I regretted. I was doing things that I enjoyed and I was surrounded by people I loved doing them with. The reality is, that’s how it will always be for most of us who aren’t superhuman or super-efficient. Of course, having that final semester in the end to tick off the rest of your bucket list always helps.
But in the end, the most cherished moments are those late night walks and cycle rides, sometimes in the company of your loved ones and other times alone, just you and your music and the cool breeze. I’d definitely say that don’t be under the pressure to go out there and do what all the other people are doing. When one day you do find something that motivates you a lot, don’t let labels or norms hold you back. There might be people who scorn you for the path you choose. Choose what you want to do and shamelessly pursue it without caring what others are judging you to be.
Leaving insti isn’t easy. Four years just zoom past you and on convocation night, four long hours of boredom are interspersed with sudden moments of nostalgia and emotion. The list of lasts becomes unending – last cycle ride, last bus ride, last class, last exam, etc. Or so you wish, but there always comes that moment when you walk out of your hostel and turn around to see it one last time – the last “last”. Well, I’m going to close this article right here (I hear those sighs and yawns!). I’ll leave you with these main ideas – you’re worth taking seriously and everyone (including you) has a unique story. That story can be developed in unknown directions on this beautiful campus of ours. All you have to do is keep your mind open and in typical insti fashion, “the only requirement is enthu”!