Thursday, August 27, 2009


What is it that I want to do with my one wild and precious life?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

"When in jungle, look for mangal."

The dense forests of IIT Madras offer us exotic spots to rediscover ourselves, apart from the rare and prized biodiversity that is there for entertainment value, what with species like Deannosaurus Rex, Profo Electricus Cupus, Mechagon, Chem-fu Panda and Jabol.

In an endeavour to be unbiased and righteous, let's pick up an arithmetically mean Joe's story for today's gyanbaatore session. Honouring the divinely pure minds of the thirteen tribes that thrive here, we hereby proclaim that our protagonist be addressed as Swine Loo. The funda not being some connection between him, pigs and loo but just that a senior tribesman had an unhealthy liking for this name. As expected, our man tries to protest against the unfair practice, but to no avail. When a Western playwright once asked – what's there in a name, he was being completely unaware of what's going to happen in some eastern part of the world in near future. It wouldn't be unfair to say that he was lucky not to get exiled into this jungle and get a name like - Well I'm (the one who) Shakes Spear.

Once his nomenclature is ceremoniously conducted, our man Swiloo, as he is affectionately called, finds himself lost in the midst of a hundred get-togethers being organized one after another with two-three of them being organized simultaneously. Everyday, a few of these parties catch his eyes. But our man, being clueless about which one to join and wondering why one should bother joining them, spends his time in activities that can be termed simply as time pass.

Sometimes, his friends drag him to parties under the sports umbrella, some seniors advise him to attend the literary themed ones, and his conscience nags him to dance in the technically superior parties. Along with these celebrations, there are the daily chores which include increasing attendance in classes and working towards remaining eligible to listen to the Chief Guest's long speech during a convocation party to be held after four-five years.

Cutting the chase, Swiloo seems to be at a loss about his purpose in life. As soon as he identifies that, the next step would be to explore the means to realize the same.

There is no defined answer to when and how one realizes the purpose one is meant for. An appropriate metaphor would be true love. You just know when you have it, there is less reasoning than realization. Under such circumstances, how should our protagonist move ahead in his life?

Mr Steve Jobs, the man with two jobs during recession times, says that the dots will get connected (ref: Stanford Commencement Address 2005). Taking his advice with a bite of apple, one way to go is facing life with courage and love - courage to try out new and unexplored avenues questioning conventional ones and discovering new things one loves to do which can add value.

Nobody knows what lies ahead but optimism cherishes the faith that all the open and loose ends will tie up to form something worthwhile. An alternative is to leave oneself to sail in the direction the wind wishes to take one towards. The conventional mentality of our culture, after all, gives us immense pleasure in sticking to the secure and comfortably stable course we happen to land into.

At this juncture, there is no denying the significance of being aware of what exactly one is doing in the present moment. It is imperative to know that one needs to identify one's purpose and also the stage of the game one is playing in.

One of the greatest lessons of life comes from video games. Mario knows that he is going to fail seven times and face the disheartening message – Sorry Mario, but the princess is in another castle, before he breaks into the castle with the princess. Still, he accepts failure as part of the success story and keeps fighting his way forward in his quest. Similarly, fear of being ridiculed or fear of failure must never deter Swiloo from giving something an honest shot.

So now, with a sense of quest of purpose and thereafter its means, courage and inquisitiveness to try out something new, perseverance and appreciating the existence and learning experience of failure, and just to have a firm grip on the ground before we start running, humility with confidence, we set out to explore the exquisite menu IIT Madras offers to get an extra life out of the curriculum.

To rev up his veins and acquire the best of management skills, Swiloo should run to footer, hockey or cricket ground or pool for water-polo. Hostel's quadrangle is an easy option to learn the basics of a few games but it's a dangerous addiction that could cut down on his fitness and skills. Indoor games like chess and bridge can enhance our man's strategy-making skills (I-banks!). Being an astute player in table-tennis, lawn tennis or Badminton will certainly shine on our man's resume.

After all, Swiloo is a geek. And a geek will always have that tech-thirst to quench which, he may choose to spend nights in Cø, exploring his creativity with circuit-boards, motors and engines, unleashing that spirit of engineering.

No matter what our man does, where he goes, he will always need to convey his opinions, raise questions, deliver discourses, and talk to people. Strong communicative skills are like nitro-boosters in his career race. Lit-soc events and campus publications exist solely to cater to that communication need for him, be it in the form of writing, speaking or body-language.

IIT Madras' vision says –

"To be an academic institution in dynamic equilibrium with its social, ecological and economic environment striving continuously for excellence in education, research and technological service to the nation"

Indian philosophy can't stress more on the expansion of one's conscience through the joy of giving. Contributing to the beauty of our ecosystem, and helping our fellow beings can make a garden inside as well as outside one's mind. The business world recognizes this fact through Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and win-win-win situations and strategies. GCU, iVil and NSS are there for that humane being in every human of the jungle. They can do a great deal of good to our man's career too.

The motivation to do something is usually high if one can see an immediate gain coming out of it. The visionaries get more motivated if they see huge value-addition in the long-term. Man is a social being and something that benefits him as well as his community acts as a real strong testosterone booster. Hence can be explained the intensity of inter-hostel competitions.

With so many opportunities to learn, the four-five year exile in the jungle can become a life changing experience for some and just another phase of life for others. The difference lies in the quotient of pro-activity. On a high-intensity note, Swiloo must keep distance from grass and let the black bucks get high with it instead. He has got to go much higher in his life.

Nothing worthwhile lies in a coordship if one doesn't get to learn some palpable skills on the job. It has been found to benefit too few, and ruin many. Our man must make sure he knows what he is doing and how it is going to add value to his life.

A quick measure of any activity's value is on the parameters of being enjoyable and productive. Something that scores well on these axes will create an attractive opportunity for Swiloo to become an achiever in the field. Being shy is not the trait of winners. Winners create and seize opportunities. With the mindset of "Let's give it a shot!" to ponder upon, I hereby wish all Swiloos the best of luck to make the most mangal out of their lives.

Moral of the story: Pigs fly, Swine flew.