Favourite commencement speeches part 1

This one here, was during a high-school graduation. One of the low-key,super-effective and very funny ones!

This speech by J.K Rowling is a close second. Love her accent!

Sheryl Sandberg’s address at HBS is superb too. Her rocketship analogy was terrific!

And finally, the ever famous “Stay hungry, stay foolish”

The other parts will follow as I find more that I love!

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College crackdowns

This led me to reminisce about my days back in college. Our campus was a new one and hence was more like an open slate for us to write upon. We were the second batch and far more explosive than our seniors in terms of raking up controversies, fights and DISCO’s. But this was a phase that I witnessed from 2005-2009 in BPGC as well. All these crackdowns on students in IIT-M becomes national headlines (or atleast regional) whereas we fought our own battles in relative obscurity. Being an established campus has its merits and demerits. Availability of resources is one huge plus but the long list of student traditions sometimes becomes an uphill task to change.
I spent quite sometime in IITM campus as well and the only things that struck me was the freedom they had to roam hostels, their huge labs and their swimming pool (sigh!). Our playground was still swaying between a cricket field and a football field. The badminton court floors were still mosaic (which almost broke my ankle in the second semester) and our shopping complex was mostly barren. Internet was almost non-existent and everything was still sparkly clean or being constructed. Then, we had an incident with a dog and a transformer and boom, our basic electrical supply was non-existent too. We struggled for water and electricity and our demand for decent internet supply was still on-going when I left. Last I recall, we had some sort of shifts to give internet to hostels. Ha!
Now, now I dont need updates on how everything is set, running to perfection and amply supplied to everyone on campus. Our miseries had bonded us like nothing else could. The fun we had standing in lines for the water tanker or the hollering when lights went out in hostels is more memorable than any of the normal days we had. Our mess food was bad, but there was collective joy in criticizing it. No streetlamps paved way for “lovers-lane” or “the boulevard of broken dreams”. When professors decided similar crackdowns on the couples of campus, it was more of sympathy we shared (and of course reams of gossip) for those poor folks caught in the act. DC++ changed the face of student-life. Activity outside rooms was minimal and far more fun. ( I had the best time on DC mainchats!). I made quite a large group of friends too who otherwise would have remained unknown owing to CS and AOE and dota and other things that I was miserable at. Academics was never discussed and no discrimination was ever made based on cgpa. In short, we did not have freedom or the world class amenities, but we were a group of people who lived together in that picturesque, expensive campus and had more fun than many other established ones.
You might ask me what the purpose of this post was.I strongly believe that student interaction or quality of life cannot be hampered by crackdowns or restrictions. If anything, it’ll being them closer as a unified group. Of course the IIT campus is much larger with a much higher enrollment, but I know people are smart enough to find ways to do whatever they want. Ask anyone from BPGC who stayed on campus from 2004-2009. I bet you wont hear a single complaint now!

Disclaimer: This post has no references to a direct comparison of campuses be it Pilani campus or IIT-M. I just am making a point using examples from my experiences.
Also, the smartness of people involved is not being compared at all. I am aware everyone is almost equal in the IQ department. I’m sure everyone’s college life is fun and unique in their own way.

Ps: Damn,I miss campus like crazy now. 😦

The Gift of the Mag(g)i

It is the ultimate symbol of the Indian student life rather, single life. Any trip to the Indian grocery shop would not be complete without picking up the delectable, branded as junk food of the highest order (competing closely with the big Mac),easiest meal in the world and bliss to the hungry stomachs abused by lowest grade-brown goo garnished liberally with glass pieces – tiny yellow packets. Yes, to the experienced I needn’t say more – Maggi.
I am not a regular consumer of these noodles. All the lure to eat this was drained out during my childhood when my mom steadfastly refused to make any of this at home and forbade us from eating any of this. She used to make awesomely tasty Hakka noodles and satiate my hunger for all things noodley. The only exceptions were those cup ramen noodles that my sister and I used to eat on train journeys after long walks, wobbling and rattling through bogeys after bogeys to make our way to the pantry car. I wonder why the hawkers never sold them in person. ( Now you know why I loved train journeys. It was the best way to pig out and eat all sorts of junk and delicacies – cutlets, chikkis, samosa, omlettes (the best one ever in Itarsi station), vada pav, kachoris etc. within a span of 30 hours) Okay enough of digressing from the main topic. All this resolve not to touch Maggi ended when I came to college and in the second year Nescafe made its way into all our pocket money and finances.

Exhorbitantly priced at 12 rupees, that small aluminium tray filled with yellow noodles cooked so slowly that one would wonder if they are just harvesting the wheat crop, became my dinner every single day of college. Of course, my health took a beating since I was getting the nutritional equivalent of butter. So in my fourth year when the health conscious conscience in me arose, I gave up all things Maggi. After eating it continuously for three semesters I could bring my taste buds to believe anything I was eating was maggi. The other factor being the seemingly healthier, cheaper and tastier option of oily omelettes and pav with cheap tea rose to popularity. To the uninitiated – J or Jhopdi was the hot spot to bust exam stress and all the tension about future plans. (Usually in a cloud of passive smoke).

Aah, I realize I havent really got down to what I was about to say. So ever since I came to the US, I have seen countless crates of maggi being bought and consumed, never giving in to the temptation to eat it myself. But yesterday was different. Insane work-load and unbearable anxiousness restricted my entry into the kitchen and I was left hungry and craving for something which would soothe me. Lo and behold! The answer lay in that small yellow packet lying at the very back of my pantry ( the section I call emergency purposes). I marvelled at how my brain automatically remembered where maggi was after so many months but doesnt remember the location of everyday spices. There is something about Maggi that no other dish can provide!
So when you are in a mood to tell your body ” Hell yea! You think you can brainwash me into feeding you everything healthy, now take this for revenge” Maggi serves the purpose. It left me feeling full, was finger-lickin’ good and was made in 10 minutes. (I really really really want to find out who can make perfect maggi in 2 minutes). It brought back memories of when folks roamed dark hostel corridors past 2 am shouting “MAGGI HAI?”, all the dirty kettles in the hostel sink with maggi stuck to the bottom or usual demands “Hey get me 2 packets from the supermarket no?”. No explanation for the packets was ever necessary. I also remember maggi trades happening and diligently noted. “Last week you took my maggi no, now that makes it 2 you owe me total. But I owe Shalini three so you can buy her one directly instead.” It is a way of life I tell you.

No matter what Pad-thai, Lo-Mein, Chopsuey, Garlic noodles at P.F Changs or Udon noodles you name, Maggi is ingrained in the psyche of every Indian student. Soul food indeed!

ChemE Major

I’ve completed my second semester here and I’m alive!! Gosh, I never have studied with a more competitive batch of students in my life. Anyway, with this I complete my core-course requirements that gives me a Chemical Engineering major. When I think about it, I tend to go a long way back in time.

Unlike my peers (most of them) who had no idea about what major to choose in college unless they were sitting in the counseling seat, I was pretty sure I wanted to do electronics. Computers didnt excite me as much as that motherboard did. I was fascinated by what I was seeing then, technology shrinking everything and all because of a chip. Gee, I would wishfully glare at the TV whenever those (then-rare) Intel ads popped up on screen. A bad entrance exam and all that confusion-that-follows-a-typical-12th-standard-pass-out later, I was doing my Bachelors in Chemical Engineering.

I read up a lot about it since now I was supposed to become one (see, this is a MAJOR loophole in Indian education) and was convinced that it had a lot of potential. After half the world had mistaken me to be a chemistry major and me clarifying “Nooo…its not chemistry, its more like Mechanical engineering”, and all the Oh-that-branch-aint-great treatment from everyone in college, I had given up. I joined in mocking my degree and the awful placement prospects my college had for that branch (apart from a few who landed up in the best jobs) and virtually grew accustomed to everyone imagining that the only hope of chemical engineers was to either do an MBA or join politics (i’m not kidding, this was told in class by a faculty!). All that was until I came to grad school.

Chemical engineering, folks is simply not respected much in India because it is difficult. Simple. If you need to know it, you NEED to study. The jobs in the field are not as comfortable (albeit very high paying) as the ones you do sitting in those buildings..atleast most of the jobs are not. And the consequences are simply not crashing a system (which is actually a big problem) or some such mild glitch. You can lose lives, millions of dollars and make a company go bankrupt just by turning the wrong knob! I am amazed to see the difference in perspective when I tell people I am a Chemical Engineering major here. They go like ” Oh! You must be smart, I never can do those things”. Which is the truth. It is a tough thing. Very tough.

After completing what would be perhaps the most advanced level of chemical engineering courses here, I feel good.I might not have topped the courses or been exceptionally good at them but still I seem to like it so much now. I learnt so much and strengthened my core sciences in addition to successfully designing equipments and predicting phenomena that happens on such a large scale. I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain and am sitting on its summit. Though the mountain I need to climb (my research) is still awaiting me and the mountain I wanted to climb (electronics) sits beside me.

More than anything, grad studies has re-instated the most important thing – respect for my field. Though, Intel ads still make me drool , I realized they do need a huge chunk of chemical engineers as well. And I feel proud. And happy. 🙂

YAAY! Its FRIDAY!

After a long period of time when the days and dates were long forgotten and lost track of (read: Vacation!), its back to gruelling weeks and even sad-der weekends with three assignments due and two essays on some stupid safety issue the next week. Still, friday brings a ray of hope giving that extra time to sleep in and finally finish those chores you always postpone for the week-end.

Grad-life is not easy. But it is enjoyable. Everything here is an experience in itself. Though the academic part is rather similar in terms of content and competition, the whole experience makes it so much fun. It is fun to grab those free pizzas lying outside the class and then after a couple of burps and downing two Dr.Peppers ask,’What was the food for?’ or the ability to munch a sandwich in class and sip coffee as the professor drones on about Helmholtz energy functions or to go check for boiled peanuts in the vending machines or discuss chinese high-school system with your neighbour in class. Though it is not particularly enjoyable to sit through 8 subjects a semester and brainstorm when 4 people get 4 different answers for the same question, I am liking the fact that my grey cells are being used again and over stretched . Its fun being busy. Though I always tried to keep myself occupied in BITS, the load was never the same. The motivation strangely lies in the opportunity. You want to milk everything that comes your way and that drives you to work hard.

Ah, I started off discussing my weekend and ended up writing about my week. There is a cute little club which drives down Indian students to the Indian grocery shop (located a far 25 miles away) every month to stack up on those frozen parathas and garam masalas. Usually the seats fill up in like 5 minutes after the mails are sent out, and this time I made it in! So I can finally give my Iranian store some time off from me! Food is not a difficult option if you are open to new tastes and are not too fond of the spicy fare you get back home. The world’s cuisines are at your disposal and you can really make the most of it (only if you want to!). Apart from that I’m really really happy that I have nearly 2.5 days ( i’m trying not to think of my workload which can easily swallow that entire time) and I dont need to wake up early tomorrow. Even the gym opens only at 9 on weekends!

PS: I finally found two really amazing professors (totally a.w.e.s.o.me and they leave me mesmerized everytime they teach or talk). Wow, I am back in love with engineering and academia and have never been happier!

And here we go again…

Classes, homework, assignments, deadlines, presentations and the worst of all exams are all back in the spotlight. After nearly a year of having touched my books (Thanks to the excellent system at BITS where engineering is essentially a 1 year course – the third year), it felt as though I was getting back to studying after eons. I stepped into a beautiful classroom with over-comfortable chairs and a working air conditioning system at 9 am for the first class here and boy, it felt like familiar territory. The same slides, the deadlines, the consulation hours but there were certain things which made me smile and finally realize how deep technology has really seeped in.

No paper and notes systems here. Of course the Indians make notes diligently, forced by habit but everything else is online. You get course urls with downloadable material links, your login and password to access notes and print them if you want to and everything else is only by email, the grades and every other correspondence. After watching American teen and other shitty movies all through the undergrad, it takes quite an effort to appreciate the fact that you also have them talking about Navier Stokes equations and bessel functions (At the risk of sounding very partial and prejudiced, I gaped when a typical blonde raised her hand when the professor asked ‘Who is very confident of their vector calculus skills?’) You usually dont associate them with such things. Anyway, I guess I’ll get used to it.

Books seem to be a major problem. I never really loved my seniors more. I went to the bookstore to check out the price of my one textbook and it was just was 120$!!! Of course, you have ebay and amazon and others to hunt for cheaper versions but the seniors saved me. It has been raining the last couple of days and my severe allergy-cum-insect-bite-rashes have also subsided. So things now working in a good direction. Though, looking at this semester and the 21 hours of classwork that I had to register for, I dont think I can really enjoy myself too much. All my exploits on reader and others just pile up..I logged into reader only to retract when I saw 1000+ articles unread!

Life is settling down. I cooked for myself yesterday. Not bad, as long as I am able to eat whatever I cook, I guess it is fine. But one thing is for sure, cooking is not rocket science, when a newbie like me could cook something decent, it really aint such a big deal at all mostly!
It feels like im back in undergrad, only this time, I’ll have to really study!

PS: Oh man, I’m so much in love with the mac keyboard, I just keep wanna typing!

Symptoms of Graduation

You know you have graduated from BPGC when:

– 10:30 pm is just another passing hour.
– You have smelt fresh outside air beyond 11:30 pm.
– You manage to speak complete sentences without using even one swear word.
– Monginis and Nescafe do not form a part of your daily diet.
– Maggi or paneer puffs are not the only other dinner alternatives.
– Choices go beyond old monk and IB.
– You actually contemplate going to bed by 11:00pm.
– Group discussions are more than CS Strategies.
– You have stopped having dreams about snipers, guns, maps, clans and tourneys.
– You own more footwear than that rugged floater and the all-purpose bathroom slippers.
– You finally have clean and ironed trousers and shirts in your wardrobe.
– Good internet speeds have finally become normal and not a cause for celebration.
– You logged into your orkut account after 2 years.
– You have begun responding to your real name again.
– You don’t complain of lack of ‘birds’ to ‘watch’.
– (For girls only) You finally meet guys who have real conversations with you.
– (For both girls and boys) Your prospective of getting a ‘real’ date has improved.
– You bathe regularly.
– You dont need to eat Chole Bhature every sunday morning.
– You actually find cheaper modes of transport and dont have to shell out 600 bucks for a single outing.
– Good food is no longer a rarity.
– You actually use your cell phone economically and have balance in it most of the time.
– You can finally search for ‘ANALog devices’, get songs of the band called ‘ORGY’ and even see pictures of ‘MiddleSEX county’ on google.
– Every website can be opened.
– AVK and notices are not a reality, only a faint hilarious memory.

Welcome to life beyond BPGC.