Some experiences in IIT Bombay

I was a M.Tech (Matka) in IIT Bombay during 2007-2009. These are few accounts of this life.

HOSTEL 9

I stayed, all of my time during my post-graduation, in Hostel-9, Room No 133. In second year, masters student usually change their hostel to 12, 13 or 14. I did not like those big hostels. Hostel 9 is named ‘Pluto’ which was stripped of its planetary designation in solar system when I was spending my time there. That made me feel little sad. The illuminated sign-post which had the words ‘Hostel – 9’ on it was, over time, reduced to ‘Hot el -9’ .. ‘Ho  el -9′ ..’H    -9’. and finally to …. The biggest plundering happened when guys from IIT-R stayed there during Inter-IIT sports meet. From ‘Hostel 9’ to ‘Ho tel 9’ was done by us but from ‘Ho tel’ to nothing was someone else’s deed.

Since 2007 hostel 9 has seen a colossal increase of Matkas. This was visible when ‘T-Shirts designs’ were put-up for voting and the best-design was choosen had up-votes were only from ‘Matkas‘. In early morning, a comment was there on the paper, ‘Tatti, ek bhi B.Tech. nahi hai list main’.

This hostel is small and old. My room was on ground floor and the Monsoon could be very rewarding and irritating at the same time. After every rain you can see few crabs fightening each other. One of them would grab a stick and run like hell for his hole. Few crows would come and do a lethal ‘beack-work’ on tiny crabs. Sometime a crab would appear in your room, take a tour and then disappear from the same door. The lizard was also a curious animal sitting at a same place like a philosopher and getting fatter day by day making ‘tic – tic’ sound in the night.

The canteen is run by Raghu. I used to buy apple and bournvita milk mostly. Whenever I could meet Gaurav, we’d buy tea and then go to his room and watch some animation or some ‘god-movie’. One day, Raghu gave me a gift, a CD of animation movie of ‘Paddle Pop‘, apparently a ice-cream saving super hero.  I watched it in Vaibhav Room and Bally’d comment, “Kitna enthu hai inhe animation ka, CD la la kar dekhte hai. LAN par nahi mila kya?”

After a year, when my room-mate departed to H-13, my room was only to be knocked at election time. Seeing me lying on bed almost exhaused they’d smile and would say, ‘Final year?” “Yes, Matka Max..” That would increase their grin. Running away from them was the hardest thing to do. I missed my room mate on those occasions. He had the quality of getting interested in these kind of stuff. Elections in IITB are somewhere between the Indian General Election and JNU’s elections.

H9 had a pool table on which I played rarely and a nice small badminton court, on which i’d never played. Some small small programms were always there, but matkas hardly take part in them and I was not a different pattern.

DEPARTMENT

Electrical Engineering department is considered the best EE department in India. I was in microelectronics group about which Prof Vasi commented in physical electronics class, “There was a time that we found it very hard to find jobs for our graduates, now  most of you have come here for good jobs.” These days it is happening in Nuclear Technology and may be IIT Kanpur – Nuclear technology would be the next hot-shot.

This dept has some stalwarts, Prof. HN (networks), Prof Vasi (cmos), Prof DKS (as a teacher – vlsi and embedded), Prof MPD (VLSI design and embedded system), Prof Gadre (‘Bhims Pitahmah of signal processing’, My co-guide remark), Prof Agashe (Control systems, physics, funde).. Prof Lal (in Analog design , now left), Prof VRR (nano-tech, dept. expansion, PR), Prof S Chaudhary (image processing) and very promising young faculty members.

Few department in IITB uses all of its facilities as they are used by EE dept.

DKS & being a  DUCKLING

Prof Dinesh Kumar Sharma, DKS, pronounced DuKS is a remarkable man, ask any on his students. His students are known as Ducklings. A man of rare energy and enthusiasm; and of course has a loud voice. If you dissect him, you surely will find a small nuclear reactor inside him. That kind of energy can not come from food he eats. He doesn’t need a loudspeaker in class but uses one; passes some of the most witty comments is the class and ask his class that atleast 20% of them should come back to IIT. I’ve never taken his class and yet He was my guide for M.Tech project.

After chossing ‘Artificial Retina’ for my PG thesis, I met him. His room was utterly unkempt. A lot of papers and books on his table and you can only see his face over this table – ‘chasa and smile‘. He is a small man, a Ph.D. from TIFR which has the history of producing some of the brightest scholars. He asked me for a small presentation before my seminar. I’d prepared one and met him after a week. Actually the presentation was scheduled after 3 days of our first meeting at 2:00 pm but VLSI lab PC’s clock was not correct. When I went to his room he was leaving for another meeting, He saw me and said, “Kya hua bhool gaye the, ab to main busy huin, maine 3 din baad same time par rakha hai. Is baar mat bhulna varna maar padegi.

During the presentation there were only He and me. I did not cite the source of an image and He commented on this, “tum aisa hi karoge to tumhari gand fat jayegi.” Did I hear him right? I still doubt it. I was really surprised. He was smiling seeing my face which generally does not reveal feelings. I said, “Ok, I’ll keep this in mind.”

When DKS is in presentation, you should be damn sure of what you are talking about. The quality of presentation is best maintained when he is around. If anyone of IIT-B is reading this, try to get him in your presentation.

He walks very fast, and its really hard to catch him.While you walking with him discussing something, he’d walk slowly so you can keep up with him, almost in zig-zag fashion, just like a child with his mother. He never uses lifts and does not use A.C. of his office. Reason is simple and very profound. I got it this way. In EE-Annex NanoE facilities ACs always keep entrance of EE-Anex cool, when we entered , He would remark that this is really relieving from his hot-humid HOD office. On which I’d ventured, “But there is an AC in your office?” “Yes there is, but there is no A.C. for every faculty, This is my satyagraha and I cant use it till there is AC for every faculty.” He made me feel so small but that did not prevent me to switch on AC in CHAR2-Lab.

He wanted to see the poster I had made for INUP. After seeing my poster, there was a comment, “Why this comment, ‘The figuere is showing’…. Consider this ‘I am having three children’.. what does this mean?…. Either I am in the process of making three children or I am eating three children…. Make is ‘figure shows’……” And I burst into laughter.

Few small small things happened midway. Sometimes he’d say, “Tum uchak kar aa jaate ho, pahle details ko work out kar liya karo…” and “Arrey baba, I am also from same background.. unhe lagta hai PhD karna nautanki hai.. Get your degree, get a job, get married, have a family, this is a pretty picture!! But pretty pictures do not soothe everyone.”  When I was talking about financial problems my parents are citing for not letting me go for to Ph.D.” 

Then there was placement time. “What is happning in your placements.” “Getting shortlisted, but can not control my mouth…” “Seekho yaar, bolna chalna… Hero bano.. :-)”. “Un logo ne [my current company] phone kiya tha  tumhare barein main, maine khoob tarif kar di hai, meri lutiya mat duba dena waha.. :-D” This I told him NS who talked with DKS before confirming my offer. He laughed and said, “Haan, tareef to unhone bahut kee thi. IITB ke sare pschyco hote hai kya.”Tum IITD wale lafango se to theek hi hote hai.. :-)” I replied to him. NS is happy I joined them and I am happy I got a friend here, I can talk with him the way I like – this rarely happes.

When I took more than prescribed cources then Anil K email flooded the students inbox that they should take their guide persmission before taking up additional courses. I went to DKS to get approval signed and tell him I want to study ‘past Indian Scholarship’ this semester that is why I have taken this ‘algorithm in astronomy’ course. “Woh to theek hai par project main kami naa ho warna presentation wale din hum dono ki thukai hogi.”. “Sir, Main to chala jaunga is saal ke baad, aap apna dekh lijiye.”… “Lao idhar lao kaha sign karna hai.” After seeing this, Anil K said, ” If your guide does not have any problem, I also dont have..” 

At the time of my final presentation, his last remark was, “Tum bahut bade item ho, ab ye forms to le aate. Do din ki chchutti hai. ye lo inhe xerox karo, whitener use karke ye naam hata dena, fir xerox karna aur aaj hi submit karo warna 15 din tak rukna padega. ye log ja rahe hai. Is duniya main kabhi to kuch time to bitaya karo..” Well, from ‘tumhari gand fat jayegi” to this bashing I’ve learnt a lot from this man.

Prof HN

Prof Agashe was giving his introduction to one of his friend on third floor of GG building , “He is HN, he likes to switch-off the fan and tube-lights.” “yes I am quite an expert in that.” HN’d said. I though I should attend his lectures. I had the chance for taking ‘Fundamental of VLSI CAD’ instead of ‘Hardware Description Language’. But then I took advice and still regret it. So in the next semester, I have taken ‘Advance Network Analysis”.

Hardly 7-8 students were there in this course. Mostly his students! Only I and Manoj Johnson were there from Microelectronics dept. Manoj argument was simple, “Grades are easy in this course.” Mine was stupid so I did not tell anyone. During his first lecture he said, “…..This makes network analysis more stronger…” Then he realised ‘more stronger’ does not make any sense. He stopped and laughed at himself. Then I knew I did not have to think before I speak. So when he’d draw a 3-D geometry and ask us, “…it is right?”  I replied, “Yes, it is making sense.” He’d chuckle. I never missed any of his lectures even if they are in the morning. They were delight. Partly on his lectures, partly the freedom he grant his students to think.

During lectures, He’d tell us stories about ‘William Tutte’, “Sheshu and Reed’, ‘Whitney’, and about himself; then a disclaimer, “Its not a show off, but these are the only things you’d remember.. Marks, ranks, prizes.. no one remembers.. Best is when you solve a problem or do something which you appreciate.” Sometimes he’d ask one of us to be ‘bold’ and ask me to be ‘right.. you are creative but you have to be right..

Sometimes when He’d not get any response from someone, he’d preach, “How’d you survive.”  The he’d get thoughtful and close his eyes, “Have you heard the story of boatman and a Pundit.. I know all of this but I dont know how to cross road.. everyday it is narrow escape.” Sometimes He’d ask us to refer books of old writers and tell about a Japanese Scholar who was very harsh on him when he used a mathematical notation. Then he’d tell about his unsolved problems of ‘Hybrid ranks’ and declare that he does not have that material that good mathematician have. Apparently he’d promised himself that He’d not do anything for two month but solve it and he could not do it. Then he’d tell us about what other mathematician told him, “Yes it is a nice problem, solve it by yourself.”

He is a commited teacher, just like Prof. Vasi and Prof DKS. He also worries that JEE is losing its discriminatory power because there are lot of students who are not doing well despite of putting there best effort. he meets student 12:30pm every working day to sort our their personal problems. I also went to him few times. And He probably likes drinking tea.

When I went to him to get recommendation letter for PhD. position at Institute of Mathematical Science, He said, “No, I cant not give you for mathematics. You are having this quality and problem of not able to concentrate. See, you have gone through some kind of A,B,C,D kind of examinations. They say somethig about you that you are good at discarding wrong choices. What was your rank in GATE?” “1”. “Dont think you are great”..All time I kept smiling but I liked his A,B,C,D analogy of GATE exams. I also thought that way. In fact, after coming across few M.Tech and B.Techs., I started to doubt whether there is any point in these exams.

Then he gave me an advice, “Dont let people hit you else you will think differently.”Oh, that is not going to happen.” I replied. “Then It’s OK, I can give you back your recomendation letter.” I took my blank reco and went to Prof DKS, and told him the story. He said, “Now you have a true picture of yourself how you’d do in mathematics.. Isliye maine tumhe unke pass bheja tha. Woh aise nahi ghumate kisi ko, jo hai woh bol dete hai..”

 He fondly remembers his B.Tech. and Ph.D. days specnd in IIT B library when there was no AC and how he understood Whitney papers about matroids while sweating. Whitney  rose to prominence later, but HN was so happy that he figuerd it out that this man is great. While saying it, his right hand would mimic ‘vande matram’ kind of action.

He was the first man to figure out that I have the habit of day-dreaming and hoping that all the good things will happen. Then he’d ask to, “Stay like this.” Some time he’d say, “I was not much different from you, that is why i know what is going on in your mind.”

There are lot of professors these days who do not get tired giving you funde what to do for success (market?) – which in itself a nobel cause, creating jobs in my land is need of time. This man argument about publishing his result is simple, “You need to survive in this world so you publish your paper.” So here is a guy who don’t care about all these blah blah. I like him. Others will be remembered by those hands who labour only for success.


dilawar

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Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

1 thought on “Some experiences in IIT Bombay”

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