For our first TGG of the year, we have RV Pooja! Aarvee finished her integrated B.Tech/M.Tech in Biological Engineering and is currently a Software Engineer at Societe Generale. Read on as she talks you through her insti life and her experiences with the Writing Club.
A girl, donning her lucky dress, is walking towards the entrance gate of her JEE center. Following her is her mom who claims she hasn’t eaten enough for the six-hour battle. With the gate about a few meters away, she stops, not to relent to her mom but to throw up of anxiety. As commotion breaks out due to this act, her mom hears her say ‘I am going to crack it either way’. She keeps walking. Cut to the shot of her walking through the gates of IIT Madras with her proud entourage of her parents and her brother. Yep, that is me.
Hi, I am the same girl who talks of Saarang first as soon as someone mentions IIT Madras. I am the same girl who still does not know the difference between U and W grades because I had told myself that I need not know it till I get one. I am the same girl who is sick of explaining to everyone the difference between the terms ‘Biotechnology’, ‘Biological Engineering’ and ‘Biological Sciences’. I am Pooja, also known as RV or Aarvee. And through this piece, I would love to share and recount some of my favourite memories and lessons (of which, some I learnt the hard way).
You want it? Go get it!
After dancing our hearts out at SAC this Willkommen, while me and a couple of my friends were walking out, I wondered ‘How did 5 long years fly by so fast?’. A few freshies come running to us asking if they could ask us a few questions for a video. I was asked “What is that one day from your insti life that you will always cherish?” That was such a difficult question. I closed my eyes for a second to think of an answer and some of the craziest and coolest things that I had done in my insti life flashed by. I opened my eyes with no answer and replied “The day I became the Writing Club convenor.” And here goes the backstory. With the courses of my first year being pretty chill (apart from that one CS course), I had a lot of time on hand to explore. I attended events of almost every club there possibly was. I have been writing poems since I was in school and I was excited to find out more about insti’s writing club. But it wasn’t until January 2018 that I found the club I belonged to – WRITING CLUB. On one fine day during Saarang 2018, I walked into one of the CRC rooms to take part in a poetry writing contest. It was just so peaceful and welcoming. Writing has always been my escape but with this added feeling, I just knew immediately that the writing club was my place. With every writing club session aka Inklings, my aspiration to become the convenor of the writing club only became stronger. Becoming a coordinator in my second year was just part success till one random day in April 2019 at midnight, my aspiration to become the convenor turned into a beautiful reality. I was beyond elated and I don’t think I will ever forget that cycle ride back to my hostel Sharavati from Quark. It was now my time to give back to writing that I so dearly loved. Great friendships, philosophical conversations, getting to read multiple crazy creative pieces, starting my own blog, and writing with like-minded people were some of the best additions to my time with the writing club.
You never know what the future holds
It was all fun and games for me till my second year started. My curriculum was loaded with department-specific courses and over time, they obviously got heftier. After having begrudgingly gotten through the course CS1100 – Introduction to Programming, I now had to deal with a mandatory coding course related to Biology. I had already convinced myself that this was not my cup of tea. On an ugly day when I had to deal with this course, I started ranting about it to a friend of mine right after the class got over. He sat me down and explained how one of the coding problems had to be solved. Not only was I intrigued, but I was also left inspired. With the passage of time, I started liking coding. Little did I know that one such ugly day in my second year would be a beautiful start to a journey of doing 2 computational biology interns, voluntarily picking up coding courses to end up with a computational biology specialization, preparing for competitive coding to bag a software intern and a PPO to join Societe Generale; and base my final year thesis on Computational Biology. It has been a beautiful journey after all.
‘I thought you could deal with rejections better…’
My third year was the wackiest of all. I returned home in the March of 2020 as insti “temporarily” shut down due to lockdown. I already had too many things on my plate and to make it heavier, insti intern season was approaching and I started prepping my mind. I now had to deal with aptitude tests and coding practice along with the courses and chaos. Hell broke loose among the students as this was the first time ever that placements were to take place online. I gave it my all. It was like the JEE phase all over again. I was shortlisted for an interview after having cleared “only” 5 rounds of tests. Following this, if I could clear 3 rounds of interviews, I would be offered an intern. I cleared the first one. I still remember being completely shaken as I was told “You are too smart for this company”. I was rejected. It broke my confidence. 2 more rejections followed but this time the reason was my lack of confidence. I knew the problem. I just had to solve it and I did not know how to till one fine day when I was talking to one of my favourite seniors. I told him the problem and all he had to do was reply with “I have known you for such a long time and I never once thought that you would lack confidence. Rejections are parts of the journey. Come on, I thought you could deal with rejections better.”. The words did remind me that this was not the first time I was dealing with failures and looking back, I thought I did overcome them eventually. Just one more time. And those words were enough to instill in me the confidence I needed. Not only did I nail the next interview and intern with the company but I also received and accepted the PPO.
If it is meant to be, it will be.
Wasn’t COVID the weirdest phase of all of our lives? For a social butterfly like me, a tough time was going on. With the COVID scene, intern season, placement season, assignments and exams going on, I found little time with friends. I do agree that I did get more time to spend with my family and I am grateful for the same. This was the phase that actually humbled me and showed me the value of people and company. It was this time that taught me that I should be living more in the present, “live in the moment.” But back then, I was concerned that I was losing friends. I remember talking about this to my mother. All she said was “Real ones always stay.” And guess what, they did! My friends and I started working together while being on video calls. 3 hours and no talks. Isn’t that funny? The photos that we used to take whenever we hung out together now turned into grinning faces on screenshots of gmeet. Something that we follow to this day. And it was then that I realised that if it is meant to be it will be, come what may.
Fortunately, I was called back to insti as it was reopened in my final year. And like they say life comes to a full circle, after all, mine did. I went back to insti just to live like a freshie again. Chilled more with friends and definitely studied less. Made new friends and obviously partied harder. It was all meant to be.
No guilt, no regrets and no jealousy!
As you read this, all of it might look so simple and optimistic on your screens but not all of it actually was. I have lived through the S grades and the E grades. I have made both the best and the worst decisions. I did break some hearts and have been heartbroken. I have partied hard and at times, cried harder at my failures. I have studied day in and day out for my favourite courses while doing the bare minimum for the toughest ones. I have craned my neck to look at the stars better while on a random night walk with the best people I know and craned my neck to catch the last glimpse of the logo of IIT Madras till my cab takes a turn as I leave insti as a graduate. But hey, isn’t life supposed to be a roller coaster ride? I did have to deal with some tough times to appreciate the good times. Looking back, I feel every single day was different and every experience felt like it was the first time. I am sure that the younger version of me made the best possible decision given the context and I respect that. Aren’t guilt, regret and jealousy the worst kinds of punishment anyway? My bucket list definitely stands all ticked off.
These were some of my best life experiences. And I hope, your favourite memories hit you too, out of the blue, and fix your smile just like counting stars with a cup of coffee in my hand fixes mine.
Through this piece, I would love to express my gratitude to the people who have played a role in making me who I am today.
To my parents, who have always and to this day pushed me to strive for the best; to my coaching teachers from my factory, who instilled in me the confidence that I needed to get through; to the coolest professors of insti, who happily helped me with all the academic difficulties; to my favourite seniors, whom I still turn to and listen to for life fundaes; to my friends, the ones who effortlessly chose to stay and the ones who effortlessly chose to leave and to my dearest pet cat – Oreo, which to this date accompanies me as I tick off my to-do list, all I want to say is “Thank you for everything! I owe you big time.”
Design by Harshavardhan Bhosale