For our next TGG, we have Dhruv Sriram! Dhruv finished his B.Tech. at Aerospace Engineering department and is currently a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Co. Read on as he sprinkles around some witty tips you might definitely need someday because who knows, you might just be charged by a deer or rickrolled out of the blue when you least expect it.
“Saar, I am calling from India Post, where to deliver package? It is from a deputy registrar… IIT Madras degree certificate.”
“Please leave it at the gate.”
For many of us, as we walked into insti through those hallowed gates as freshies, there was a part of us we gave to insti. A part of us that we did not know we wanted to give. A part of us that we thought can be left to insti to be improved. After all, we made it here. Surely good things ought to happen, right?
Insti finds a way of not giving you exactly what you want but giving you exactly what you need, unapologetically.
As we graduating junta strive to become no dues Homo deus, it is but fitting to reflect on an interesting chain of events that led to this point. From reading TGGs with starry eyes in my freshie year to writing a TGG starry-eyed (Read: teary-eyed) now, life’s come full circle.
If you are a student, a professor, a parent of a student, an internet troll or just about any sentient being, there is something in this reflection of my time at insti for you.
- “Gates are magical beings” – Rick Astley (citation needed)
- Don’t wake up a sleeping deer. It will cost you dear.
- Picasso sadly co-created the “collage”
- Procuring insti mess coupons is an exercise in building character
- Nothing good ever happens after 2 AM, unless it’s hanging around Ramu
Part 1: Never underestimate the power of a charging deer
A fast-approaching deadline is like a charging deer, you only blink once before you’re fast asleep and help justify the etymology of the term “dead-line”. As freshies, it is but natural to take on more than you can chew, learn that your chewing capacity is only so much, only to later realize that you’re not actually hungry. Hence, you either miss deadlines or stretch yourself too thin and offset quality. And that’s okay, occasionally. I’d argue that the net present value of the learning from this process is worth more than the delta in your CGPA. Having said that, I think it is important to be mindful while this happens. Insti has a very natural way of making you confuse urgency with importance.
Exhibit A: Eating nutritious food every morning is important (i.e) breakfast is important
Exhibit B: Going to your senior’s room at 1 AM for time-pass masquerading as fundaes is urgent
If it is to be believed that the average realization of mess fees is less than 2/3rd (food consumed/food paid for), we know who wins in the battle of urgency vs importance.
(L-R: Collection of food memories that will be missed-not missed-missed respectively)
If there’s one thing you take away from this section, it is to be mindful of urgent and unimportant activities eating away your time and to get a grip on prioritization – a very helpful tool to have at your disposal. A very important second takeaway is to not find yourself in the path of a charging deer. If you can’t help it, then hope it is female. If you can’t help that either, ensure you write in your will about the next owner of your rickety cycle. Trust me.
Part 2: Gonna take things with a pinch of salt once in a while (unless it’s the chaat at Suprabha)
Insti is sure to help you out-perform your absolute expectations but not necessarily make sure you feel comfortable with the relative outcomes. Being dropped into an echo chamber of excellence will no doubt show you what the best could be, but also make you feel like an imposter from time to time. So, it does help to have one foot inside and one foot outside the campus most times or find a passion linked tribe on campus. For me, that was the quiz club. Ironic that a diversion from imposter syndrome in an intensely competitive academic sphere was an intensely competitive extra-curricular activity. Outside in, people wonder why knowing that Picasso co-inventing the concept of “collage” is useful information to have. Inside out, people wonder why Picasso couldn’t have just invented “collage” alone and not with Georges Braque and whether (or not) to give part points.
(Exhibit C: Conm1n: ”It would be cool to quiz in March 2020 during a pandemic no? The trophy could be an expensive sanitizer bottle”, conm2n: “Say no more”, conm3n: “Wait what?!”)
(Exhibit D: Mixed emotions unrelated to the fact that we went to the one Festember that happened in October)
Whether it means long train rides to far off places, sitting on the edge of your seat on the last question of a quizzing championship while watching the greats of the sport wield their craft, scoring free food (and drinks) at popular watering holes doing what you do best, keeping a popular insti joint open as the last remaining table yelling “pounce da”, the quiz club has been a home away from a home away from a home for me. Of course, the ample prize money and opportunities to travel didn’t hurt either. With the quiz club, I found my tribe, a bunch of amply weird, amply dedicated and amply fun folks.
(Nihilanth 2018 at IIMA, Nihilanth 2019 at IIMC, Nihilanth 2020 at IITM)
(L-R: Suhas “Dujas5” Pai, Dhruv “Dhurv” Sriram, Pranav “Brain-picked” Hari, Sathvik “Chad” Ananthakrishnan)
Part 3: Give as much as you can, take as much as you need
A wise person once told me that at the start of your career you sell your time, later you sell your expertise, and finally, you sell your network. Insti is a living, breathing networking machine that enables students to meet some truly fantastic people. You never know who you would be your guardian angel at some point in your life. I owe multiple internships, timely career guidance, a home to stay in a foreign country, funding for an insti event and more, just by decoupling expectations with engagement and showing up.
Perseverance is a key element of opening new doors and opportunities just as much in insti as in life. If you just about keep knocking loud enough patiently at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody. Gracious hat-tip to Velachery gate security for those 2 AM walk-ins. Whether it’s spending 30 minutes, getting 2 signatures, moving across 3 counters, waiting to physically receive a token to be worthy of getting lunch at a mess for your dear ones when they visit insti, or sitting in your room when the LAN is down, perseverance is key.
(Throwback to a time when the only word we knew that started with QUA was not quarantine. #inquadiwetrust)
There is no dearth of passionate people in insti irrespective of the target of that passion. Most of the friendships I made on campus were forged under duress. I like to call them random pressure memories (RPM). Whether it be putting up a contraption that aspires to be intelligent for millions of bike users in this country on one case competition or advising international leaders on how they should enable mobility for their employees at the UN, it never ceases to amaze me how people can take you seriously if you give them a chance and not necessarily vice versa.
(Many stages, one team, Java the Hutt <3)
The beauty of PoRs in insti is that you don’t really go wrong as such by being a part of any team. There is a lot to be learnt and a lot to be experienced just by being a part of some team. If PoRs were a field of sunflowers, some of my batchmates were bees, some of them flower farmers, some of them polar bears, and some of them the actual sun, going to show that there’s a part for each of us to play in the game of insti.
Part of the reason why my time on campus was highly fulfilling can be attributed to my experience as a student consultant. Through my time at 180DC IITM, I developed a deep sense of appreciation for the various Social Enterprises and NGOs that do phenomenal work, day in and day out. Gracious hat-tips to everyone I had a chance to work with. It’s curious how a shared purpose can bring vastly different people so close… even virtually (you know who you are, #Valmece). After taking so much from insti, giving back just a little felt good.
Came for the structures, left with a culture
Part 4: You are worth more than the fundaes you receive
There is no dearth of fundaes or quotable truth bombs floating around in insti. However, I have come to the realization that nothing prepares you for the stock-market-esque corrections in your insti life like the real thing. During those times, I think it is important to be mindful of the fact that fundaes by design have diplomatic immunity (See: Exhibit C)
(Read as “X-axis” leading to “Y-axis” implies “quadrant outcome”)
The seniors I truly respected for their inputs had one thing in common. They were comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities just as much as their relevant fundaes. Nobody truly had it easy achieving anything worth achieving in their own eyes. So, if you are the taker of fundaes, be sure to always read the terms and conditions of the validity of said fundae. If you are the giver of the fundaes, it is not easy sharing the vulnerabilities along with the fundae that puts you on the pedestal, but I would argue that it is important.
(L-R: Mom, 2017: ”The mess is pretty great, it shouldn’t be too hard to eat here everyday”, Mom, 2021: “The mess is pretty great, pity that you didn’t eat here everyday)
Part 5: Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky
At the end of the day, whether you’re getting back to your room from:
- An intense sporting session in Watsa,
- a visit to China that ended up in Bangladesh,
- FFT with a feeling of contentment after having absolutely irritated the Italian Bay guy behind the counter asking him to put extra olives on your pasta,
- a whooping on a mid-sem at CRC,
- a first date at CCD that perhaps might just trickle into a second,
- a solitary ramble down Madras Avenue,
- a gossip session that you didn’t plan to stay on for at Ramu till 2:00 AM,
- a visit to the insti temple,
- your first (maybe second or third or wait a sec…) visit to Westin,
- a move of all your stuff from the dump room and having replaced a kilo of sweat with a layer of dust,
- a fulfilling lab session at BT department to inch closer to your DDP,
- pushing your cycle to the repair shop near the library because you don’t want to get ripped off at Saras,
- a Saarang/Shaastra team treat you definitely couldn’t afford to pay for by yourself,
- putting/having gotten fundaes at Quark,
- a paneer-less paneer butter masala gravy dinner at Gouras,
- or coming back from nowhere because you never left.
When your head hits the pillow, rest well knowing that your time in insti is precious and you’re a star. We’re all just trying to live with purpose, to enjoy the means to the end, more than the end to the means. From the first moment to the last, it’s a magical experience.
Those hallowed gates hold a lot of promise and it’s now time to retrieve the part of me that I left behind at the start. Till we meet again, insti. Onwards.
I can be reached here on email, LinkedIn, and Twitter.