For our next TGG, we have the amazing Parvathi Madhu. Parvathi graduated in 2019 with a Dual Degree in Metallurgy and Material Sciences and is now a consultant at McKinsey & Company. She was an Events core, and was briefly with us as a T5E correspondent also (she facilitated quite a few t5e interviews with Saarang spotlight speakers). She shares insight into her insti life and learnings, and how to be a stud at it all!
If somebody had told me on my first day of college that the next 5 years will define you more than the past 18, I would’ve laughed at the incongruity of the statement. But sitting here, three months out of college and writing this – I feel like someone fresh out of a break-up. I cannot imagine loving another place more, or being as happy as I was in insti anywhere else.
It wasn’t always like this.
I vividly remember my first day on campus – one tiny lost mallu kid among a sea of other kids who all seemed to know each other and spoke in some strange language (I later found out that it’s called Telugu).
Having studied in the same school for 12 years, I was severely lacking in social skills since the last friend I made had been 6 years old. As I walked into my hostel room through corridors smelling of monkey poop I was convinced that I was in for a horrific five years.
But insti has a way of sneaking up on you when you’re least expecting it – this time it was in the form of three wonderful roommates. We were a curious mix of introverts and extroverts, but one all-night gossip session and a joint love of avakkai pickle were all it took to make us life long friends (it’s been three months since college, and they still seem to like me). Growing up together on campus brings people together as few other things can, and at the end of it, you’ll find that you have a friend for every situation – from the trusted Biriyani friend to the absolutely irreplaceable Proxy friend.
Apart from the people, another wonderful gift that insti grants you is the opportunity to reinvent yourself. There’s something about the sheer vastness of the forest that makes you feel free of any prior expectations and definitions.
For people who are already comfortable in their own skin, this may not seem that great – but for me, who walked into insti with a bag of insecurities and banana chips, insti was my chance to create a new version of myself. It wasn’t easy – I still remember going for freshie night auditions and then never going back a second time. But when I was asked to volunteer a second time, I jumped at the opportunity and ended up finding something I truly loved doing. That’s all it takes here – one teeny, yet huge leap of faith.
That leap of faith was the best decision I ever made because it gave me so many unforgettable memories. A particular favourite is that of me and the organizing team standing on the OAT stage on the last day of Saarang. It was the first time in my life that I truly felt a sense of accomplishment – because I had been a part of something bigger than myself, and had worked my heart out for something, no strings attached, no reward expected. And hence Saarang will forever remain my benchmark for what the perfect job will be.
There are so many other stories that I wish I could somehow cram into a hundred words – from running around Saarang without chappals and dancing to Lean-On on the Carnival stage to going for random early morning pongal vadas or sitting at Ramu for hours on end.
And while all of these are great memories, the thing I miss the most about being on campus is getting Mummy Daddy meals with friends, eating way too much, and collectively making the decision to bunk the 4 pm class and succumb to the food coma.
I am eternally grateful to IIT Madras for teaching me a lot of things, and the lessons range from phase transformations to cycle repair. But if I could distil it and with my 6 month-old alum wisdom give you three main things to remember, it would be these:
Invest in friendships
There is nothing that the campus does better than give you a group of people you can count on throughout life. There is something about living together in this forest, and surviving classes and running fests together that transforms a soup of strangers into a closely-knit family. In my first year, I would have baulked at the idea of spending three hours drinking tea and talking to friends, but at the end of my fifth year, I was trying my level best to cram as many chai-hours into my day as possible. While this may seem like a zero return activity, I strongly believe that even a single friend with whom you can just be, and with whom you can discuss life and love and laugh with, will make all the difference in the world. When things get difficult and the brain gets too crowded I’d rather have a good conversation than a crocin. And if your friends suck at conversations, they’re always useful for food coupons and free cycles too.
Take time for yourself
There’s a lot to do on campus, even if you don’t want to do anything. With EMLs and NSO and Clubs and Labs, you may often feel like you’re just running from one thing to another. While that energy is great, and is one of the things I love the most about being on campus, it is also equally important to take a breather in between, and do something on your own.
Whether it be cycling on campus or making origami or just binge eating pizza in your room – it is important that we take the luxury of time that insti offers to truly enjoy being on your own.
Trust me when I say that it’s the key to surviving after college. Plus, nothing beats the joy of sneaking KFC Chicken popcorn into the theatre and unabashedly laughing at bad mallu movie jokes on your own.
You can never fail better anywhere else
There is no doubt that IIT Madras is a competitive place to be in. You are tested on multiple fronts each day – physically (mostly by monkeys), emotionally and intellectually. Amidst all this turmoil, it is easy to feel dissatisfied and unmotivated to take even the smallest step forward. I cannot count the number of nights when I have lost all faith in myself simply because of one discouraging comment. Two things have helped me get through such moments – one is the strong belief that I had a solid safety net in insti, one that I could jump back up from. The second is the realization that even if I did fail, I had a group of people around me who would make sure that I gave my best the next time around. Leverage these support systems all you can, and do everything that you’re scared of. As someone who often let the fear of failure get in the way, I can only promise you that ‘All will be well’
At the end of it all, use insti as your calibration scale. Use it to know right from wrong, use it know your friends from your non-friends. Use it to know when to ask for help and when to be kind. Use it to know when to make chai. And most important of all, use it to remind yourself of the happiest you’ve ever been.