Through the Goggles of a Graduate: Gudi Ramcharan Reddy

For our next TGG, we have Gudi Ramcharan Reddy. Ramcharan graduated in 2021 from the IDDD program with a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering and an M.Tech in Robotics and is currently working as a product manager at Axis Bank. Read on as he walks you through his insti journey and ruminates on questions we all have in our minds. 

In my early years of insti, I always thought I would write a TGG article. But when there was an smail asking for entries, I couldn’t muster the will to write one after the past year and a half. I thought I lacked two things: courage and faith—the courage to open up and the belief in myself that my experience was worth sharing.

Amidst this thought train and a flurry of graduation emails,  I received my certificates on speed post. There were a few notification texts about the courier, and the next day, there it was, the delivery man standing in front of the door asking me to sign off the package. I opened the perfectly preserved file inside a pressure lock cover, and I saw the two laminated certificates bestowing these degrees upon me. Adorned with the institute goldenseal, they looked magnificent. “How fancy!” I thought. It was a monumental moment, one of the last strings materially tethering me to the institute. 

Receiving them from an e-commerce delivery instead of the director’s hand, I thought I would feel nothing. But looking at the certificates, a sense of pride and accomplishment kicked in. It took a while, but I realised how this small moment mirrored my insti life. I felt a subversive joy in doing things the unconventional way. Not sure if the joy is inherent or a coping mechanism of mine to come to terms with me not being the best or most successful. This piece will mostly be a look back, hoping some can relate to me, just as I did when Mythreyi wrote about free snacks you can get before seminars (yes, all those seminar mails do have a purpose). I am not the one to emulate, nor am I here to give any advice. My only hope is that it is interesting enough for the reader to satisfy the amateur writer.

Figuring it out

Let’s go back to 2016, a time when I had a lot less cynicism. TechSoc manual robotics was something that all freshies had their hands on in the first semester. I thought, “Why not?”. I was lucky to find a team who later became my wingmates and the closest group of friends in my time at insti. Our device was not even close to working the day before the competition. We weren’t any close to winning, but we worked with the intention to make it work and, at the least, show up. We did, hilariously, end up scoring better than the team that mentored us.

Cooking club and some experiments

Was it logical or flaky that I did things I was better at instead of trying to be better myself in things I was not so good at? I don’t really know. With academics, I didn’t have a master plan from Day 1, I just didn’t know what I liked. In retrospect, I should have been more planned and rigorous, but it’s never too late to pick up steam. If you worry about past mistakes, you will just sink too sad to float.  

I was interested in robotics, and fortunately, I was able to get into Anveshak, a model rover competition team under CFI. However, I also wanted to explore other things and worked with the team only for around a year.  I gravitated towards courses with connections to mechanisms, machine theory and eventually upgraded to Inter-Disciplinary Dual Degree(IDDD) in Robotics. While my friends were taking management and machine learning electives, I took electives that had a total of five people in the class.  My DDP report was beyond just being a 105 pager. It was a physical manifestation of my interest and exploration in moving links and mechanisms to the fullest.  

Shifting gears, today, I am a Product Manager in a field that has nothing to do with Mechanical Engineering. I did get an offer from a core company and my current job was a conscious choice I made.  7-8 months prior to placements, pursuing higher studies was my primary interest. But the research work I did under the guidance of my professor gave an insight into what months-long and even years-long research would do to you. I had to restart my DDP in November because the topic I worked on was not yielding. It was intimidating to think that I would do a PhD for 4-6 more years and I could end up accomplishing nothing. I also didn’t have the typical “highest GPA + foreign interns” resume. It is said that you can still get into a good program, but I felt too inadequate even to try. I still enjoyed every minute I spent on my DDP, even those that I initially dreaded. My love for the field remains, but I’m uncertain if that’s where I would want to be for the rest of my life.

The Extras

Given the career I chose, it almost seems like everything I learned in the past five years is just not useful to me anymore. I still am proud of the degree, but what did insti really give me in the time I was under its wing? When I think about it, a simple, self-important answer is my “personal growth”. This is where my extra-curricular ventures played a big role.

Cultural activities like writing and elocution always caught my eye. I participated in a few, if not all, whenever I could. What I realised throughout was that I wasn’t good at any of them. I felt out of place because my school town experience of these games was at a whole different dimension than what it was in insti. I took the easier path and discontinued participating a couple of semesters. 

SLC Parliament Trip 2019

Later, I realised that while there is a lot you can learn by being part of clubs in insti, there is so much you can learn in other avenues or just by yourself on the internet as well. Do what works well for you, don’t try to force it because you see others doing it. T5E was that avenue for me to pursue my interest in writing. I worked with editors who helped me learn many things, and Varun Shridhar, the exec-editor back then, was great fun. I still can’t forget how I turned a dinner out with my friends into a BTG – restaurant review article.

Parallelly, I also taught school children as a part of my NSS project, “Teach Your Neighbour”. Both my parents are school teachers, and I have always had an innate interest in teaching. When I became the project lead, I appreciated the power and responsibility that came with doing something that benefited others. At this juncture, I looked around to see where else I can get a similar experience. To say the least, you find it pretty clear that service and politics go hand in hand.

Elections and everything

I had been a silent observer of politics for years, understanding political ideologies, electoral systems, and online arguments before I contested for the hostel legislator post in 2018. It was a crazy experience, to say the least. In hindsight, given I won by 4 – FOUR – votes, I probably wasn’t a tactical politician. But I thought I did a good job as a legislator. I actively participated in discussions at SLC meetings, providing transparency and documentation. I had my fair share of arguments during my time and the goal was to communicate my point effectively – this was where my NSS experience helped. I didn’t want to be the person who is outwardly crass and rude in their pompous tirade about their issue. However, in an argument, no matter what, people take things personally. I observed that the only ways an argument ended were by someone giving up, someone making the other person feel guilty of even raising the argument, or someone making the other person feel too stupid to participate in the argument. This condescension frustrated me. But to beat this game, you have to be prepared; you have to listen to others and not merely respond. By the end of my tenure, I could recount a handful of moments where I stood my ground and saw through a fair discussion. It prepared me well for my next challenge as a member of the SECC (Student Ethics and Constitution Commission) and SEC – the Student Election Commission. 

Working as one of the commissioners in 2019-20 and as the head in 2020-21 was one of the most stressful yet gratifying things I did in my insti life. Post my tenure as a legislator, I didn’t think I would run for insti-level positions again. But SECC was a selected position, and it had a different profile, which I thought would be interesting. Still, I was not expecting what I had to encounter in the coming years. 

We received innumerable complaints during the election season, and we had to hold countless confidential hearings that had enormous consequences on the election process. With my co-commissioners, we tried our best to accommodate every perspective and worked with the intention of contributing to students’ welfare and rehabilitative justice. We were open to criticism but had to shy away from false equivalencies and artificial neutralities and trust ourselves to do a fair job. The best we could do about agents of chaos was to guilt them for being detrimental, which surprisingly works sometimes. But for the large part, it is to ignore them.

Moderating HAS Soapbox in elections 2020

Moderating the soapboxes was an unparalleled experience. There are hours of footage of me on youtube just saying “Ask a question! Don’t make a statement!”, but everyone wants a sweet taste of that public confrontational insult. Regardless, it still makes me immensely proud that the students have this great opportunity to ask questions face to face and see the democratic process through. 

My first year of SEC ended with having to run an election on 12th March 2020, when the COVID-19 panic surged. While everything was in order, five days later, we were all asked to leave insti for a few days. I was almost cavalier and over-the-top when I dressed up in full gear – mask, gloves, sanitiser, and a sweater in the sunny march. Little did I know what was coming. 

Pandemic and beyond

Life in the pandemic was different for each one of us. Unlike the 8 AM hustle in insti, the no attendance policy gifted (or cursed?) me a rested 9 AM slumber. Recorded lectures, as they helped me learn better. The isolation was a form of emancipation from peer pressure. I was self-conscious when I was in insti, but having very little physical interaction made me realise how little I care to keep up with the Joneses. It made me a much calmer person – much less jealous, albeit resentful.

This was the first time I saw the sea

Of all things that happened during the pandemic, the enormous amount of harassment on social media during the election of 2021 for just doing my job is the most unforgettable part. Looking back in time, I can’t imagine what could have happened if I wasn’t mentally prepared for the onslaught of hate speech. But I kept up with a close group of friends who have always been there for me from the start. I owe them for bearing my verbose, opinionated self. People say friends change you, and they do. Especially the unmorphed parts of you. I had no opinion of Hollywood movies five years ago, but today, I pick my friend’s brain about the latest happenings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Friendships that last the pandemic – the convocation was on November 20, 2021, but it feels like I graduated on March 17, 2020 – will probably endure whatever is to come next. I can’t say enough about the friends who made my life so much less harsh.

In a pizza hut, sitting in a puddle of spilled coke

I still think about a friend who had fallen off the face of the internet -. just one of the side effects of this isolation. At one point in June 2021, I too was detached from insti culture. But this was when RG forms were in circulation. The one thing omnipresent in all statuses, and I felt pressured to do it. Eventually, when I did, the responses made me giggle, and it was a mea culpa moment. I ended my insti journey by sharing a new song each day on my WhatsApp status. I received so many pleasant replies from people who were delighted to listen to a song they loved. After 100 days, my will and song well dried up, I was done in more ways than one, and it was my joining date at Axis. 

After writing all this, I can explain the word “personal growth” in a better way. All these experiences made me understand myself and helped me edit myself, sometimes to fit in with others or sometimes to just fit in with myself. The more I understood myself, the more I came to terms with the idea that I like myself, which is more gratifying than just about everything. 

In the beginning, I said two things hindered me from writing a TGG article, but a third is the pictures. I have finally, I gathered enough to share my friends and their faces, so here are a few more:

If you have made it to the end of the article, thank you. I have feared writing this for months now, but now that I have done it, I can laugh about it. I am still figuring out my path, but insti has peeled so many layers off of my thinking. I only hope I can figure it out sooner than what was intended for my wavering mind. 

Gudi Ramcharan Reddy

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