Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pilani Diary - Part One : An Info Post

The height of geekiness is in looking at a circuit design layout and exclaiming 'Isn't that beautiful?' The height of eagerness is in selecting a project guide without even meeting him. The height of stupidity is in asking questions without knowing what the question is about. The height of professionalism is in...well, I do not know. For all I have done in Practice School-I (or PS-I) as I call it in the past few days, learning about professionalism has hardly been one of those things.

Like all other batchmates of mine, I've been spending the last week (the first in a series of eight consecutive weeks) at 'work' - where work for me means being a trainee at the Central Electronics Engineering Institute, Pilani (CEERI Pilani). So from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday, you can find me working either on Embedded Systems in the Digital Signal Processing laboratory or looking around in the library (they call it the Knowledge Resource Centre in CEERI) searching for information on the assignments at hand.

As far as CEERI is concerned, it is a part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi and was conceived for the purpose of advanced research and developmentin the field of electronics. With three major focus areas, namely, Microwave Tubes, Semiconductor Devices and Electronic Systems, a lot of good work is going on in various fields like Integrated Circuit design, Smart Materials and Nanoelectronics.

Overall, with seven days of good weather along with a bit of learning and a lot of fun have made for an interesting start to PS-I. Hopefully, Part Two of this Pilani Diary will be a similar upbeat and interested tone...

P.S. On a different note, for those of you interested in the current debate over rising food prices, read Prof. Amartya Sen's views here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pilani Travelogue...The Prelude to Pilani Diary

Well, I am not dead...not yet anyways. The weather Gods have been kind and the days from the 22nd till now have alternated between making me apprehensive about the onset of the summer heat for real and enjoying the dust-storms and the thunderstorms being thrown this way - I have counted three of those since I reached here less than a week back (not that I am complaining!)

And so it is that after six days, I have finally found the necessary energy to write about my journey from Delhi to Pilani. And I am going to make this a balanced, colourless and bland account of the entire thing, that I can guarantee.

The journey to Pilani in itself was interesting - it was the first time I was travelling alone from my home to BITS (usually I am a part of a group of at least twenty). Of course, I had a fellow passenger who hailed from the nearby town of Bagar and he promptly began listing the names of all the famous Indian businessmen (or rather business families) who hail from the region around Pilani. Then came the usual running around Delhi trying to get a bus to Pilani (although this time I had taken a refill at McDonalds :) ). Of course, it didn't help that it had rained cats and dogs earlier in the day; so what I got was two buses which were supposed to turn up not turning up (of course, buses don't turn up by themselves, but I reckon everybody but the daftest person would have caught my drift).

So...what I ended up doing was take a bus from Delhi to Bhiwani (which is 80 km from Pilani) in the hope that I'd get another bus from there to my destination. Of course, like all other things that happened on the day, the decision turned out to be bad, very bad...If sitting through two successive B-grade Hindi movies from the 80s that had 60-year old passengers leering at the slightest show of skin of the female kind (well there is only one kind of skin though, isn't there) wasn't enough, the journey which should have taken three hours took four and a half hours. So there I was in Bhiwani having missed the last bus to Pilani (God, everything rhymes!!!!) and better still, the bus stand was closed because of waterlogging due to incessant rains (in the middle of the summer).

So after waiting at an unknown place in the midst of unknown people with no idea of how to go forward, I had to resort to trying hitch-hiking for the first time in my life. So the thumbs came out (though I doubt half of the cars with defective headlights would have seen them) and after an hour of desperate courting of the few who actually stopped, I found myself inside the cabin of a truck with ten other guys - the ten included the driver and his companion.

What followed was a cat-and-mouse game of "Bend your arms and cringe your nose and breathe in to contract your chest and create a millimetre more of space". One has to actually experience it to actually realize the level of expertise that can be attained in this game in two hours of a tiresome journey. Of course, I think I might have won since I was dropped off at the outskirts of Pilani in one piece. It was a closely-fought encounter and I had aches and pain for the next three days to attest for that.

Nice, wasn't it???

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Transition

After a long while, a change in looks seems to be the order. Evidently, I have little time left before I catch a train from my hometown back to Pilani, for what would be the start to my 6 weeks as a Practice School student at CEERI, Pilani. So, the completion to this change will have to span two days and thirteen hundred kilometres...In short, lemme get back to Pilani first... :-)

Of course, a drawback of the timing of my journey and my subsequent stay at Pilani is that I'll miss the Champions' League Final on 21st night (or more accurately, early morning on the 22nd here in India) between Manchester United and Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. Of course, I am not predicting anything for the risk of tempting fate.

Anyways, see you at the end of this transition...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Being a BITSian

Of course, it is very difficult to actually define something that stays with you every waking moment and has done for the past two years (nearly :-) ) It is incredibly complicated when someone talks about a common thread that links you, your friends, your bhawan mates, your fellow college students and everybody else studying on campus, as well as thousands of others who have passed out of the university - some last year, others thirty years before that. Surely such an incredible number of people with different backgrounds, current geographical locations, different jobs (and job descriptions) cannot have a culture in common; plus for the current on-campus students, there is also the small matter of a limited field of vision, a bias that creeps in due to nine months spent in the middle of nowhere among people who have to do the same thing themselves.

But being a BITSian is beyond the regular whines about the location of Pilani, the animated discussions about course averages (or rather Avs I should say), the futile attempts and unfulfilled resolutions pertaining to attending classes, the rush felt on getting up at 8.57 and realizing there is a class at 9 (a class with an evaluative component of course), the realization on entering the exam hall that the open-book test you're about to give is actually a closed book one, the arbitrarily occurring moments of wing enthu where break into hysterics (usually happens on the eve of exams), the birthday bumps, the growing immunity from outcomes and other countless other things. Maybe, the BITSian spirit is what you get when you put four thousand students still confused about whether - on the threshold of adulthood - they should act like smitten, crazy, desperate-to-get-a-girl/guy teenagers or mature, serious adults or in between.

But what makes the experience special is that through every moment you live here, for all the grievances and ill-will you harbour against the entire BITSian system, you can't help but develop loyalty towards the BITSian tag. For it is your identity. For all your claims to indifference, detachment, escapism and whatever, the tag sticks to you as soon as you enter the gates of the campus as a gullible, slightly apprehensive (in some cases, more so) freshman.

Ultimately, being a BITSian isn't probably about whatever I just wrote. Maybe, it is an individual interpretation. To each, his/her own each, his/her own meaning.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


There are some words that define time periods - whether they be ages, years, aeons or even such short time-spans as semesters. Discovery, assurance, exploration - all these phases have come and gone as they willed. The newest one in this list has been detachment...

Well, for one, detachment does bring out a funky ethereality in every thing that one does; after all, it is associated with things like aloofness, stupidity or misunderstood genius (this one should appeal to you if you are particularly influenced by fantasy or alternate reality or you just think that the aforementioned term describes you appropriately)...But that's deviating from the point really - just a sad attempt to add some colour to an otherwise bland, insipid, uninspiring post.

Being detached might just mean feeling nothing but feeling everything at the same time. It is one of those perfect, uncertain states (only the uncertainty is perfect, that is) - there is never a perfectly detached state as such...only an illusion to the believer in his/her own ability/inclination/desire to remain 'above and beyond' everything.

So, does detachment work? That is the all-important question...Well, on certain levels, when applied to certain things, it probably does...

Expectations, Face-value Friendships, Trivialities, Lies or Untruths (as the case may be), Companionship, Self-appraisal, Self-gratification, Mollification, Self-esteem, Confidence...

Isn't freedom from all these enough? Isn't a moment without all these worth craving for?