IIIT-B, My Alma Mater

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It says it all !

Two years have passed! Yes, two awesome years 🙂 It seems like yesterday when i had applied for masters at IIIT-B. It seemed to be perfect to me in every way. The news of being shortlisted for interviews… The preparation for interview… And then my first visit to Bangalore, which became my favourite since day one and then IIIT-B! The campus just wooed my heart. It is a small cozy place. I distinctly remember sitting for my turn for the admission interviews and looking outside of the windows to the huge trees which lined the entrance, that’s when i had thought that i just want to be in this place. Interviews were good and i had a nice quick trip. And then the acceptance letter sent me on cloud nine 🙂 I was sooo happy!

Our Main Block
Our Main Block

Joined IIIT-B on July 13th, 2012. Met people from all over India. Its always a bit difficult for me to make friends, however somehow we just all got together! I had the coolest gang of gals here 🙂 Initially everything felt a bit new, somewhat different. But since i have already stayed in hostel during my undergrad days, i could gel in soon. New place, new friends, new weather, new food, new languages and thus overall a new life 🙂

Initially for around one and half months we had prep semester, where we studied the basics and got ourselves adjusted to the new life. I still remember the Linux installations and system crashes 😛 The seniors were all very helping and ready to guide their “juniors”. Our 2nd floor hostel corridors used to be packed sometimes when we all were listening to seniors’ advice. It was just the beginning of the life ahead. During this time, learnt and practiced basic programming and mathematics.

Very soon it was time to begin the first semester. The SAC elections, the campaigning both online and off-line. The freshers party! And then the serious stuff started. Four subjects, random project team allocations, whole night project meetings, coding, numerous demos and vivas by TAs, quizzes, mid-sem and finals. Sometimes it all seemed too difficult. But then we had seniors as our inspiration. They had been through this and so we felt that we could do it as well!

But it was not all that hard! There was always preparation going on for some festival. Had a great time celebrating so many Indian festival with friends from all over India. Enjoyed the matki-fod Janamashtami, awesome Diwali with firecrackers, beautiful flower rangolis on Onam, one day Ganesh puja, Republic day and Independence day and many more. These special events added spice in daily life and made it more colorful. And then there were Ravali calls every now and then on birthdays 😉

Second semester started and it was time to choose the specialization. Time to choose two electives. Time to be part of a lab. For some it was easy, while for others it was very difficult to choose. However very soon things fell into place. Everyone was busy again doing some awesome projects in courses and labs. Second semester is awesome for two reasons:  SPANDAN – It is the time for all IIIT-B students and alumni to meet and enjoy playing and watching sports for three days. You ask any IIITBian and they will say that Spandan is perhaps the best time and it seems as though we are in a different world altogether! And the second special event of the second semester is Open House. This is the time when we present our work to the outside world. Had a great time giving demos and presentations and got some amazing feedback and suggestions. And then very soon, again its time for final project submissions, demos and exams.

Then we had a mini semester called the summer sem. During this time, we studied some management lessons and technical communication. Being tech guys, management lessons were somewhat difficult for us to grasp initially. Had a great time in TC presentations, movie and book reviews and most of all the Mad-ads 🙂 Our group’s product was an umbrella, and i must say it was a really cool multipurpose umbrella 😉

Third semester started and it was time to be ready for placements! Oh those days! It was difficult to handle both studies and placements. Those group studies. Those intense problem solving sessions. Karumanchi, the hottest book on campus during placements. It was so much in demand that it was out of stock on every online portal. Some amazing KSMs by our classmates. It was all very stressful but finally worth it! The placement week. The written rounds. The coding rounds. A few rejections… This is the time when “real friends” supported and motivated. And then sweet success 🙂

At IIIT-B, one does regular coursework+projects for three semesters and the last semester is for either internship or thesis. In these three semesters i studied some amazing subjects, taught by some of the most awesome profs i have ever met. They were always there to guide and support and to clarify doubts if any. I was a member of OSL lab (later renamed to Web Science Lab, WSL) and got to do some cool projects. Experienced some fantastic unconventional ways of teaching and learning. The projects taught us to get our hands dirty, work on some real problems and to work in teams and manage the group. Overall it was awesome experience.

In my final semester, i choose to do thesis as i was highly interested in an area and had an amazing Prof. as my guide. And i am very proud to say that it has been one of the best decision of my life. These six months have been perhaps the best days of my life till now. I have never been so happy 🙂 I did some cool experiments and simulations. Had numerous brain storming sessions and discussions to crystallize the ideas and generate appropriate results. Time just flew when i did my work. It was not work but play for me, as i enjoyed doing it. During this time, I realized that sometimes, its difficult to understand the implications of one’s own work! In such scenario, one needs a guide who has wisdom to see the bigger picture and who can connect the dots. I also understood that academic writing is very different from regular writing. It needs to be a lot more diligent and precise.  This semester showed me my area of interest, my potential and what all i can do ahead! Also i have completed a full circle at IIIT-B. Gave my M.Tech thesis defense in the same classroom where i waited for my turn for admission interview!

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View from my window 🙂

Some random pointers of IIIT-B – the green lawns, the mini pond, ducks and rabbits, lots of squirrels, the orange tree (African tulip tree) in front of my window, awesome independent room, MCR, smart boards, colorful canteen, mid-night Maggie, sandwiches and fruit juice, walks around the campus, small terrace on the 2nd floor, the musical fountain, the basketball court, table-tennis games, Spic Macay programs, Philosophy Club meetings, Movie sessions, i guess i can go on and on 🙂  There are so many things that flash in my mind when i think of IIIT-B.

And now time ticks by. Earlier i used to wait for the convocation day but now i want time to slow down… Very soon it will be time to throw the graduation caps high in the sky. To be there, together, for the group pic. And then to wave good byes. I know it’s going to be difficult. Very difficult. IIIT-B has been like heaven for me. I have realized my potential here. I have understood what i am capable of doing. I am ready to face life ahead. It gave me some close friends for lifetime. It showed me, my area of interest for which my brain jumps with excitement and interest. I was lucky to study and work under the guidance of some of the most amazing profs here who are experts in their field. IIIT-B thanks for making me what i am today ! When i see myself now and myself two years earlier, i can clearly see a transformed myself. Adieu to MT2012 batch! Had a great time with all of you. It’s the memories which will be cherished forever! And finally, IIIT-B, my Alma mater, thanks for everything!

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Batch of 2012
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IIIT-B made us and we made IIIT-B 🙂

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Patience & Attention : A Lost Art

Every coin has two sides. And same is the case with today’s technology. It has made our lives simple and fast, or rather lightning fast. Things which took days or weeks can now be done in mere seconds. But things are not all that rosy as they seem to be. We are paying a price of this convenience by losing some of our precious skills like patience and attention which are more like a lost art these days !

Patience

A new unknown word ? Google it ! Who has time to search it in a dictionary ?
Want to inform something to someone ? Email or message ! Who has time to write a letter which will reach the destination in atleast a week’s duration ?
A bug in code ? Google it ! Why waste time trying to correct it yourself ?
Want to read a book ? Download an ebook ! Who has time to buy a real book ?
Want to cook a new recipe ? Search online ! Why experiment ? It may be a disaster !
I could just go on and on …

I don’t mean that doing any of this is wrong. However, some of its aftereffects are ! It has made us so much accustomed to getting results instantaneously, that we have lost our patience. If a webpage takes more than 3 seconds to load then its not worth it ! We want everything immediately. A time lag is just unbearable. And then the same impatience is also evident in our day to day life. We expect everything to be instantaneous. Immediate success, immediate replies from others, immediate delivery of goods, immediate results, immediate solutions. But it is not possible always. And this results in broken expectations leading to anger and grief.

Another shortcoming is that this instant gratification prevents us from trying things ourselves. We would rather believe what others have to say about something that experiencing it ourselves. That’s because others experiences are available instantaneously, however trying out something ourselves requires time and efforts. But the amount of joy and knowledge which one gains by experiencing things oneself can never be learnt from other’s experiences. Also one is more likely to remember and internalize the lessons learnt by oneself than by just knowing other’s experiences and lessons.

Solution – It’s important that we recognize our reducing patience levels and work towards improving it. One of my favorite technique is to learn a new skill. Try learning a new musical instrument or some sport. Learning something new requires a lot of time and patience. One needs to repeatedly do the same thing multiple times in order to perfectly master it. I still remember the numerous number of times i played the seven notes on my keyboard after which i could play it without seeing the keys. Only then did my teacher teach me to play a song on it ! I know it can be difficult. Monotony may lead to boredom and that’s when one feels like giving up. But a little persistence and patience and take us a long way ! Also its very important to remember that the instantaneous results of technology are not applicable always. Some things like growing a tree require time and patience.

Attention

Our attention spans have significantly reduced. As one of my Prof. rightly says, one of the major challenges of today’s generation is to survive death by thousand distractions. We are constantly being swarmed with a lot of information, most of which is not all that important. Just count the number of tabs open in your browser right now and you will know what i mean. Email notifications, Facebook updates, News updates, Messages, Music playing in the background and the ever coming Whats-app messages. Just try leaving all things aside and concentrate on a task and the mind jumps back to these sources just to see if there is any important update.  We believe that we can do this multitasking, however actually the brain is constantly context switching from task to another leading to an illusion of multitasking. This continuous context-switching deteriorates the quality of information stored in our brain. It is also difficult to filter all the useful information and store it into long term memory. The mind is in a constant state of flux and sadly it is unwilling to return to its original calm and peaceful state.

Solution – “Do one thing at a time !” When you read, just read. When you eat, just eat. When you work, just work. When you enjoy, just enjoy. When you code, just code. Leave multitasking for the gadgets. It may be difficult, but not impossible. It makes life much more simpler and enjoyable. Even i am trying hard to practice this. And i am sure with a bit of patience we all can master it !