Life Beyond Academics

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It was a tad difficult to hunt for a vacant seat at the Netaji Auditorium on the Friday eve. The only empty ones were those reserved for the Deans, Professors and panelists in the first row. Even those were partially taken up by some guilt-laden students who couldn’t manage a place for themselves and had to encroach on space designated for the Faculty.

That there could be a flipside to an otherwise India’s premier academic Institute, was something newcomers were extremely curious about.

Professor Anandaroop Bhattacharya, Associate Dean, International Affairs, took up the microphone to welcome a packed hall of around 1200 students gathered to attend a panel session by IIT Kharagpur alumni on ‘Live and Learn – The KGP Way’. The panelists included 2002’s President Gold Medalist of IIT Kharagpur, Prof. Soumyajit Mandal, Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. And then there were the star performers in fields beyond academics and industry. There was the swimmer and athlete – Mr. Koushik Banerjee, from Nomura.Inc, Singapore, the Sitarist – Prof. Pallab Dasgupta, Dean Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy, IIT Kharagpur, the Violinist and Author – Mr Sudipto Das. And, of course, an amazing vocalist – Prof. Bhattacharya himself.

Professor Dasgupta, who was moderating the session, spoke for a couple of minutes giving a brief about how much effort, devotion and dedication it takes to maintain a good CGPA all throughout in order to bag a decent job, or pursue higher studies. He turned to Prof Soumyajit Mandal and asked, “Soumyajit, you are a President’s Gold Medal recipient. Did you ever bunk classes?” The expression on Prof. Mandal’s face clearly conveyed that he was not prepared for such a direct question. “So many of them… Don’t remember what time the first class started at…” was all he could say. “Professors knew that if there was one place where I had 100% attendance, it was the swimming pool,” added Mr Banerjee. The entire hall broke into a roll of laughter.

Perhaps the most dreaded part of hostel life in India is food. Hostelites across India complain that they might have received the best education but that came with a huge cost – hostel food. The two-minute noodle was their only mode of escape.

“What about mess food?” asked Prof. Dasgupta wryly, this time to Mr Banerjee. The panelists seemed to observe a one-minute silence at this question amidst the roar of claps and laughter from the audience. “There’s just one thing I can say,” said Prof. Dasgupta turning to the students, “Your future better halves will never complain about your eating habits, trust me.” “KGP mess food strengthens your digestive system to a different level altogether and you can survive on almost anything available under the sun.” added Mr. Banerjee. His words got drowned in a deafening roar of claps, whistles and laughter.

Turning to the audience, Prof Dasgupta asked, “How many of you have got bicycles here?” One hand from almost every seat went up in the air. “And how many of you wear slippers to class?” Amidst the rumbling sound of confusion, some smarty said aloud, “But our classes haven’t started yet…”. Prof. Dasgupta pointed out that Kgpians have devised a technology that connects bicycles to slippers.  Slippers are used as bicycle-brakes– newcomers would soon realize that once they start their classes in full swing.” The students cracked up.

Amongst all the anecdotes, fun, laughter and sarcasm, the entire session centered around introducing IIT KGP from a new horizon altogether – a place that has much more to provide than just labs, lectures CGPAs and placement. There are things that the Institute, very subtly, drills into the psyche of its students. Humility, as Mr. Das pointed out, along with teamwork and leadership skills become second nature. “The best part of the Institute”, he continued, “is that it gives you an incredible support system in the form of classmates, roommates and hall-mates.” “Never fear failure, because there is space for everyone here,” quipped in Prof Soumyajit Mandal.

As the session drew to a close, Prof. Pallab Dasgupta pointed out that parents these days teach their children to compete more than to collaborate. He advised the students to stay away from this league

Now that was a googly. For students who had competed nationally, often with each other, even for that one mark, it would take some time for the message to sink in. But perhaps it had already started to sink in. When students left the hall, they were laughing and jostling with each other, almost with the carefree abandon you see among children who have just started school.

Book Release at the Event:

‘The Broken Amoretti’, a book authored by Mr Sudipto Das was released by Prof Pallab Dasgupta on this occasion.


Graphics : Suman Sutradhar

By Sreeparna

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