By Shivani Patel
The beginning of this semester brought with it a hugely-welcomed decision for the postgraduate students in the institute – the stipend hike that they had been hoping for. However, this was not the only reason for cheer; this academic year marked the beginning of a new initiative aimed exclusively at PG students – Misram, the first PG inter-departmental cultural competition held in the institute during the first two weeks of March.
Conceived by the Cultural Affairs Secretary (Arts) (Varun Teja Salady), the purpose of Misram was to introduce PG students to the lit-soc (Literary and Social Affairs) scene in the institute which is currently dominated by undergraduate students. Despite the fact that the lit-soc schedule is prepared in consultation with the secretaries of all hostels, there is minimal participation from PG students in lit-soc events for the institute. This can be attributed to two things – inhibitions about participating as lit-soc is very competitive, and clash of schedule, says Varun Teja Salady. The secretaries, during election campaigning, felt that PG students are more likely to be in touch with and aware of the events in their department rather than their hostels. Hence, the idea was to conduct an inter-departmental competition that provided a separate platform to PG students to showcase their talent. Following the same logic, the PG branch councillors of each department, instead of hostel secretaries, were made the point of contact between the organizers and the target group of students. Keeping in mind that PG students have a different schedule from UG students as their research work engages them for the major part of the day, it was decided that events which required minimal preparation would be organized and held late in the evening to facilitate maximum participation.
Organized by the Events Cores and hostel secretaries in tandem with club conveners after numerous discussions with PG councillors, Misram consisted of over 10 events spread over two weeks (March 3-12), of which two — the Media Album and Flash Fiction competitions — were online. Polls were conducted to decide the time-frame and type of events. The Research Scholar’s Day (RSD) was identified as a potential day to hold these events; however, a good fraction of PG students felt that it would be too constricting. Further, based on their response and interests, events falling under various verticals such as fine arts, music and oratory were organized. While some of these events, under verticals such as Fine Arts, music and dance, saw a very good turnout, some such as elocution and mono-acting did not. Also, mechanical, chemical and civil engineering departments saw the highest turnout while the department of biotechnology saw the lowest turnout. Registration for events was done both online and on-ground, especially as a lot of participants turned up directly at the events. The general trend was that as the events and the week progressed, the participation dwindled. But for every event, the level of enthusiasm made up for anything else that was lacking. A good chunk of the organizers and participants felt that for a brand new initiative, the turnout was really good and were pleasantly surprised at the success of the events.
The sketching event under fine arts, for instance, saw a very good turnout with more than 10 participants out of the total 30 being from Civil Engineering. However, the charcoal sketching event that was held towards the end of the two-week period saw very little participation with only four students having turned up. The organisers Sunitha and Purandar (members of the Fine Arts club) felt that this was due to inadequate publicity. This sentiment was echoed by the participants, who otherwise praised the initiative and were happy with the organizers, to say the very least. In the words of Girija, one of the participants: “The organizers were present at the venue on schedule and provided us with all the materials required. Once I started, I was completely lost in the work. ” This was true of all the participants; despite the music blaring from the music room, the participants were utterly engrossed in their work. Their enthusiasm was evident in the fact that some of them took a break from research work to participate in these events.
The enthusiasm of the participants that turned up for the group dance and solo dance events was even more infectious and the opportunity to catch up with the Engineering Design group dance team revealed just that. The ED group dance team consisted of students who had come together just for the sake of the event and did not know each other prior to Misram. This, they felt, was one of the positives of organizing PG-centric events: “We did not know each other personally until we decided to form a group and participate in this event. This is a very good initiative; it was required to bring us out of our monotonous schedules. Not only do we get to unwind and participate in extracurricular activities, we also get to know people from other research groups. We can discuss our work, ideate and learn more about the various research avenues being pursued in the department.” Their thoughts about the need for an event also concurred with the organizers’ thoughts. They felt that they could shed their inhibitions and participate with more confidence and enthusiasm as this was a small, PG-centric forum. They felt that because they have different priorities and schedules compared to UGs, they were often alienated from lit-soc activities despite the fact that even they enjoy participating in such events outside of their research. Hence, the optimism regarding Misram was high; the general sentiment was that this one push was required to engage the PGs and now that the awareness and enthusiasm was spreading, the coming years would see much more participation and enthusiasm.
Having said that, the two things that possibly worked against Misram were its hurried organization and inadequate publicity. While the idea had been brewing in the minds of the secretaries for long and numerous discussions were held to execute it, both the organizers and participants felt that given more time, they could have done a better job. Among other things, the majority of people opined that the schedule should have been released earlier. Further, while targeted publicity was done to attract the PG students such as releasing the Misram poster during OAT movies, it was perceived to be inadequate. The secretaries felt that while the BCs did a commendable job, more publicity was required to have greater reach. Participants felt that reminder emails, among other things such as posters at departments, are a must.
However, the common opinion is that having kick-started the tradition, the enthusiasm will only grow and Misram will grow bigger in the coming years. Aspiring and future secretaries have been given detailed instructions and a timeline to expand Misram, say councillors and secretaries. The future plan is to have Misram spread out over two semesters, with more time given to organizers to plan and execute the organization and for participants to adjust and tweak their schedules to accommodate these events. The schedule of Misram will be released much earlier than this year and integrated into the lit-soc calendar of the institute (which will be hosted on the upcoming lit-soc website). The tradition of having a PG-centric event will be continued for the next two or three years after which, depending on the response towards Misram and the opinions of PG students, it will either be integrated into the institute lit-soc events or continued in its present state. Further, Misram is not going to be the only PG-centric event in the institute. The Sports secretary plans to kick-start PG Schroeter from next year. This year will see a cricket tournament for the PG students in early April which will be expanded into PG Schroeter in the coming years. The PG students constitute nearly 60% of the student population, says Varun Teja Salady, and these events are a way to integrate them into the institute extracurricular and co-curricular scene.
This, indeed, was a commendable effort by the organizers – the secretaries, branch councillors and club members – and will hopefully gain more momentum in the coming years.