Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Matter of Luck

How I got the intern!!

Most of you know how I got my intern and how luck played a vital role in it. Now I am going to explain how exactly that luck helped me get the trip of my dreams.

During the third sem of my college, out of nowhere(by luck of course), it occurred to me that there is a possibility of doing a project in IIT during the short winter break in December. And was it my good luck or a bit of overemphasised eagerness, that convinced Prof Joby Joseph to allow me to do project under his guidance, the same prof who’s busy with some research having a budget of 40 lakhs or something. Anyway that is immaterial. I happened to be fairly regular to the lab, and a lot liberal when it came to the time spend in lab (more off it!!)
Now, I would only call it by ‘luck’(and because my Prof mentioned it and invited me)that I chanced upon this stupid conference that was being held in Delhi by IITD. A bit curious and lucky again to get the conference passes arranged for free(worth 60USD by the way), I was apprehensive whether to go to the conference or not. After all getting up as early as 6am to reach the venue by 8am, travelling 20 km from my home in chilly December morning was nothing short of a heroic. But eh.... maybe my luck was too good, I somehow gathered enough courage to get out of my cosy bed and reach the conference before time. That was when I came to know what the conference really was about.

It was an international conference, biannually held in India by the name of PHOTONICS. As you might have got some idea by the name, the conference was a platform for many nerdy researchers from around the world to pour in their research papers in photonics(a branch of Optics, physics, Science), and for eminent personalities to come for free and listen or look at the new world shit presented all around. I learnt from 3 of my friends there that we were supposed to manage a stall put up by SPIE (was put up by us actually for we were a part of SPIE...... how I became a part of SPIE is another luck story), the same organisation that funded our conference visit. Well, the venue for the conference was Indian Habitat Centre. Oh, don’t you start smacking your lips and licking your fingers, I know this is the place where you get the best food in the world. I can talk on and on about it, but I think it would be off the topic at present (many of my dear friends would thank me for this). So here we are, standing behind the stall that says SPIE USA, surrounded by all sort of delicious food, stalls of all kinds of Optics companies and organisation and the lecture halls where we would sometimes go to catch up on our sleep. In addition to it, there were people; people from around the world; students, research scholars and renowned Professors from around the world.

Quite remarkably luck being a factor again, One old white bearded, white haired guy just came up to our stall and started enquiring about this organisation SPIE. Very patiently, my senior colleague explained that the organisation was actually a group of Optical Engineers active in research and development in this field. As per the instructions of the SPIE commanders, we had put up a box on the counter to collect the visiting card of every visiting person. In the end of the conference, we had it planned to draw a lot and the lucky person would get some kind of free subscription to some boring strings of paper. Therefore, we asked this old guy to pop his card into the same box, explaining him its very purposes. After looking for it in all his pockets (and there were many many), he finally drew out his visiting card holder with the joy of a child who just found his favourite toy and handed a card to us.

Prof. Brian Culshaw
Past President, SPIE
Univerity of Strathclyde, Glasgow

The awestruck look on our face was broken by the cracking laughter of the Prof, mellowing down the formal mood a bit. After some candid chat about IITD and India in general, he moved on to other stalls leaving the card with poor us. Well call it another lucky accident that at the end of the conference, this kind senior of mine, Utkarsh, handed me the visiting card(he thought it would be helpful to me, I wondered how!)

Now let me tell you about part directly concerning my application and invitation for the intern. Like everybody else in my batch, I decided to apply for intern to good universities abroad in hope of getting a paid trip to some exotic place. Out of the numerous applications that I sent around the world (just kidding. there were few), I sent a mail to this Funny guy Prof. Culshaw(ah, I found some use to the card). No response for weeks, and the matter was gone and forgotten.

Just when I had begun to convince myself that I’d be better off staying at home than in some stupid alien place abroad, this Prof replies to the mail. He says,” We would like to know bit about you, why don’t you send in names of two character referees on your behalf for our satisfaction.” A very positive and promising reply for sure!!! And I don’t know how it happened, maybe the goddess of luck was too favourable on me, I ws able to get a letter of Recommendation from the dean of students himself!! Maybe he knew me because I was there at the conference assisting in the setup organised mainly by his efforts, maybe he just remembered me as the guy who came in pleading for a hostel room during the 'voluntary' winter project, or maybe he only remembered me as the guy who used to sit there on the first bench in Optics class(used to come in late though) and ask pestering questions!! I would attribute it all to luck!!

Again, if it wasn’t for luck, then how would have I managed to get a good reputation in the eyes of my HOD, who happened to be close pal of Prof. Culshaw. I don’t remember anything except going to him like 5-6 times begging for some odd research papers by his group for strictly non-academic purpose. A lucky bit of help there and a handy reco from Prof Joby(the guy who took me for winter project) and whoa..... this Culshaw guy was all excited. He sent me a letter right away inviting me for the intern, paying me 2500GBP for the stay!!!! It was much more than what any of my friends were getting for their intern. I was overjoyed and thanked God a zillion times for this, but lo! God said there’s still more to come.

Maybe after a word with my HOD or the Dean, or as I’d prefer to say dumb luck, my dear Prof Culshaw grew more and more enthusiastic about having an idiot like me to be a part of his research group(Which I guessed was filled with bigger idiots than me, a fact that I later learned was not true). A few days later, in a reply following the invitation letter, Prof Culshaw decided to increase my total funding to 3000GBP!!!!!!! What to say!!!...... Luck Luck, oh my good luck, I hope I never run out of it!!! Not only was this sum far more than what everybody else was getting, it was enough to pay for an extravangant stay in UK. Even after that I’d save a LOT!!!

Well that's pretty much how I got my intern. A smile from the Goddess of Luck and a bit of help here and there. All I can say is ‘Thank you God’

Now about 10 weeks after I set off for UK, I can say that I’ve finally completed my intern, the proof of which lies here. As you read this, I’d probably be on my way back home or there already, with a bunch of lifetime experiences and a pot full of fond memories. This is the signing off post by me from UK. For those curious to have a closer look at the stud, Prof. Brian Culshaw, click here.(For those who don't have an orkut profile - Get one!!)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Question Mark 2

Hi people!! Today I am going to ask you a question. I know philosophical stuff is easy to write and boring to read. But imagine a situation wherein you have an information you wished you didn’t have. What if you knew that someone is suffering from a kind of cancer that would surely kill him and you were the only person knowing about it. You need not be his doctor, but you just happened to stumble upon the fact. What would you do? Will you tell the guy everything? Kill all his hopes; shatter all his dreams, hoping that this knowledge about himself will brace him up for his inevitable end. What if the guy just breaks apart and gives it up. Who would be responsible for it? Well yeah there is a fair chance that he would decide enjoy his life thereon, and go out and do what he feels like. That is the kind of bravery you make movies on.

What I am asking for is not whether you would tell the guy about his problem or not. Instead I ask you whether you would like being in possession of any information or fact that may place you in such a problem. A no would be a mean but a very sensible answer. There is power in knowledge. Therefore, people are always curious to know. ‘Oh! What would I get when I mix nitric acid with toluene?’......BOOM!!----TNT. Now you have it, go blow some humans up!

Laws were discovered and discarded, things were invented and outdated. Of late, there has been a huge surge of interest in this though, what is referred to as the ‘scientific revolution’ the point is, do we really need it? The ever changing and fast improving world demands you to keep apace or you will be termed as underdeveloped. This race for power and resources has made governments pump enormous amount of money and human resource into research field. I have no grudges against these research people, in fact I am one of them, but what they need to think about is the future they are going to create. The discovery of nuclear power was hailed as the solution to the scary energy crisis and look, what man made of it. Too much of knowledge is dangerous!! What are the odd that in the quest of the solution to this problem we may not end up with a much deadlier tool of destruction!

Is it just me who gets a feeling that the future is going to be much more complex, much more demanding! All the kinds of stuff that we create or “invent” have a good chance of being catastrophic. Plastics, Green house gases, Space junk; all these started as a ‘eureka’ moment for some chemist or automobile designer or a space scientist. Ever seen one of those movies where the villains(human or nature) threatens to destroy everything and our much applauded hero just comes in and miraculously saves the world. Oh! There are 100s of them. Giving us 100s of different ways by which everything could be destroyed. Be it the biotech experiments going horribly wrong in ’28 weeks later’ or the satellite laser in that bond flick. You may pass it off as fantasy, but old fantasies of man have been seen to come to life, just like ‘flying’!!

To end this shockingly philosophical blabber, and I would like to take the liberty to quote Julie Delpy from 'Before Sunrise'.

“Ever wished you could go back in time. Just to remember how it’s like when things make sense.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

We, because of our young blood, tend to think only about fun, but think of a student in larger point of view. Here in IITD we have many fields to excel in, many things to yearn for. But, whether you like it or not primemost importance is demanded by academics.This institute, this world famous faculty, this money is all spent so that we become 'good' engineers.Some people, either because they're not willing to or are not capable enough, score low grades, low enough to call for attention. For that, there is the SRC which "punishes" such students by limiting their credits and disallowing them any post of responsibility. The idea behind this is, that IIT wants them to devote time for studies. They lessen the workload by reducing both the amount of studies and amount of extra-curriculars.If in this way, he can at least get some passing marks, than what's the problem. We are here to develop our overall personality in all dimensions, fine, but we forget that we still are IITians first and then a dramatist, or a footballer, or a guitarist.

Our country has marked us as above average and is providing us the best possible resources to develop our minds. We are supposed to be excellent in the technical field. Why do we keep forgetting our national responsibilities. The burden of nations expectations should feel heavy enough to make as sweat for our studies. If by this small 'punishing' act of SRC, they assure that a bright star is not completely lost, then why complain?

OK, even if you forget about your country(which would be a very mean thing to do), think of your own future. You are here,spending your time and money, to get the label of an 'engineer'. As a professional, it is of utmost importance that you excel in your field. If you score too low, than obviously you are a goner in your field. If by 'punishing' you, SRC saves you from making such a big blunder, then why crib about it?
I think everyone must sit down and reflect, ask yourself -"What am I here for?". "What is best for my future?". The answer is more than clear my friend, and I don't think these questions can be termed as immaterial.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Who doesn't like the taste of a mango? When that thick juicy pulp fills the mouth, it ignites that magical sensation of cool sweet bliss and everything else in the world seems immaterial. And then, the heart says," Ummm….." in our local language, we call it 'aam'. What an apt name!

Ummm, the fire of my tongue. Ummm, the scream of my buds. The all refreshing Ummm. Most certainly, you are a gift sent by God. When the devotees of God were fed up of baigan and karela soups, God said," Hmmm, let there be Ummm." Now you know why the yogis always chant 'Aum'. Actually, it’s the archaic form of Ummm. All they desire from the God is a big juicy mango.

For that matter, even the common man in our language is called 'Aam Aadmi'. You know why? Because when these leaders, industrialists and criminals relish the innards of common man, they say Ummm. This Ummm which seems to be growing at a rapid pace, is becoming more and more vulnerable to such Ummm-eater.

Lets get back to our real, juicy, pulpy, ultra yummy Ummm.
It is now being exported to the U.S.A! let me tell you the truth. This Ummm is actually a bait. When the unsuspecting Americans get the taste of this notorious Ummm, they will come begging on knees to our country for more. That lays ad 'No one can eat just one', is just an indication of the things to happen when this Ummm goes global.

Not for nothing is the Ummm called the king of fruit. Not only does it rule over all other fruits, it is the cause of war amongst other kind of kings. It's rising price in the market is just a start! This mischievous thing has plans to take over the world. And this time, we peacelovers are defenceless, unless some tongue-less aliens come to our rescue.

I have completely surrendered to the demands of this king. There is no hope, no point being hostile to it. Go, get a big Ummm and swear fealty to it. NOW!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


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Question Mark??

The thing that they show in the Matrix. Can it be true? There is no way to tell. Our fantasies and stories portray the world as something completely unexpected but perfectly fitting. The story of Harry Potter or those written in our epic indicate one thing. That this earth is not what we see it is. That there are powers, people,brains beyond all this.Of course these suppositions are not proven to be true, but they aren't proven wrong either. Amusingly so, neither is the modern science equipped enough to prove these things wrong.

Maybe we are all computer programmed organic robots kept in a simulated real life environment.Maybe beyond the skies and the sun live the angels and Gods in heaven. Again, the things are passed off as baseless.But what if there is something we are totally unaware of, something that is an integral part of life but still we miss it.

According to fantasy writer Douglas Adams, the earth is just a supercomputer built by rats to find the ultimate meaning of life. This sounds gibberish that one cannot overlook the possibility that maybe we are a part of some gigantic system, a small cog in a complex machinery. The vastness of universe often creates such doubts.

No law of science can be treated as totally universal. There are countless examples where old scientific theories, which were very readily accepted by people, were discarded like a piece of nonsense when new facts were discovered.

When the world was wide beyond our eyes, we accepted it to be flat. Only when some people tried to think beyond this 'unshakable truth' did the real truth come out. What we truly need is unbiased fresh approach,which challenges every pivotal belief in the world. Only if one starts afresh from the basic developments such as languages, civilizations and religions; will the answer be found.

Question what they say and never discard any possibility only because its too odd to be true.What Darwin said was unbelievable, but true. Again the definition of truth is skewed here. What Darwin proposed was accepted and followed by the world thereafter. But now, even the Darwin's theory has been modified. Modern biology doesn't believe that Darwin's postulates are entirely true. God know what really the truth is.

The biggest question that poses in front of us is the presence of God. Does God exist? If yes, then what exactly is God? It he a human, or a source of power, or a centre of force? Is it a thing or just thoughts? If yet God is not proven to be there, then why do so many people believe in God? So many people cannot be blindfolded at the same time. Or maybe they can be!!

In our quest for the answer to everything we humans have come a long way. Questions like this have always enticed us and keep on doing so till eternity. That said, does anyone know how long eternity is? maybe God does.