Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Engineered - Part 2

So after the storm of Year1, a slight change is what is seen in the next year. By the way, did I forget to tell you about the bandh we had during our exams in Year 1 because Raj Kumar was kidnapped. That left us with just a few days off between year 1 and 2. Yeah! Things that happen!

Enter year 2 happened with half the class moving to their branch which was telecommunication, a few others who have moved on to take a branch change and few new faces who have moved into our branch from others. We also have a whole floor to ourselves in the building dedicated to Instrumentation, we have our own classrooms, department labs, HOD, lecturers and feel already quite an esteemed part of the process. Like a sense of cheap pride in belonging to something. 

There was still the factor of 'unknown' as I stepped through this year. I was aware of most things with the course - the 6theory+ 2labs per semester, the concept of internals & externals, the library books being unavailable, the 30p Xerox notes. But with every new year, new challenges happened.
We had our own lecturers and each came with their specialty (on and off the classroom). With it came the 'favouritism' and I obviously did not stand out in any way as a student, which did not help.  We either wrote notes all through the 1hr class or were distracted with the chain-smoker HOD holding the chalk-piece like a cigarette more than listening to him, or was trying not to laugh in the class of the lecturer who was Oh-so-delicate, or not move in the class of the hyper-alert-want-to-be-strict-lecturer, or try not to get caught in the foot-tapping-duster-banging-new-lecturer or try to understand what this lady-lecturer-who-dressed-like-a-housewife was doing here. (btw...learnt later that she was a gold medalist) 

The labs at our department were a disaster. They looked like they had not been cared for in a long long time.  We used to go in and spend almost 1/2 the allocated time in trying to find the components for the practicals in a big rubbish dump. Getting them to work was another story in itself. Don't know whether trying to understand the experiment was a bigger challenge or getting the components to work. To top that, we were divided into about 6-8 sub groups with 2 things working and we had to request fight to borrow the components from who got hold of it first. 
So, this whole episode introduced us to shopping with a completely different perspective. Commercial Street was replaced with SP Road, the plush shops of Brigade road was replaced with the electronic component shops on this SP Road, names like Adidas, Nike was changed to Vishal Electronics, Sangeetha electronics and a few others we frequented. Buying new books was never an option, so Avenue Road book shops and the road side pre-owned book stalls became our new best friend. It felt like I was running around like a headless chicken at times trying to get things rather than do something with them.
All this for joining a college which was termed a good one! 

Having classes in the morning kept us free most afternoons and evenings which gave us ample time to do the fun stuff. In between the dreams of we-will-do-this-when-we-have-more-money, we enjoyed the various adda's (hangouts) in the college. The staircase on the 7th floor where we shared the home-brought-food, the katte's (stone benches) around trees, hanging out in the dirtiest canteen one could have been to, cheap pleasures of having samosas and kachories and tea/coffee from the stalls outside college, the many lunch-outs at the various restaurants in Gandhi Bazaar and nearby areas became an every day life. We did treat ourselves to a matinee show or two and of course the trips to brigade road, MGs & commercial street had it's own excitement. 
Just stepping into the world of internet, we had our email accounts and played around sending each other one liners everyday. I remember having an account with which also sent me a cheque with Rs.50 for a month long use of emailing people. It seems like another world today.

Well...the 'studying' for exams would never have happened if not for the friends who helped do combined studies with me. Anyways... we only studied a few days before the exams and not otherwise. It became a norm. Oh! what fun it was doing those combined studies, I can't think of passing anything or 'understanding' anything in this year if not for the  studying together. Occasionally enjoying movies on DVD for a break. 

Semester 3 did end up being the nightmare I was dreading. I failed a lab. Well, let me not be humble and blame a few things -  a combination of me-not-understanding-the-subject + the components-not-working + i-got-one-of-the-toughest-experiments did not help me complete what I had to in the allocated time. The viva-voce was no more than a Hmmmm + Aaaah + Not sure + I-don't-know-the-answer-to-this.  Needless to say, I was totally shaken, I knew it the minute I finished the lab that this was not going to be a success. I broke down, cried like a baby with a friend beside me showing how a spring clip worked (See, Engineering all the way!), the way a spring clip bounces back in spite of being under pressure all the time. I think about this example even today when I am feeling crushed. 
So, the end of the 3rd semester was a FCD which we had previously craved for (First Class with Distinction- anything above 70%) however what it really showed up on my marks card was a big fat FAIL.  I don't have to mention what went through my dad's mind. The look he gave me when I announced my failure made me pray for the earth to suck me in. So, that was that. 

Just when I want to leave it behind and start fresh in the 4th sem I had to go through the embarrassment in class when every lecturer makes it a point to parade the topper of the class and failures of the class and me being the latter! Those who had scored less than me were still ok as they had managed to pass everything. It left me thinking I had to show this lot that I am not a bad student. So, 4th semester went through with the usual nuances of the course but with the determination to prove something. I don't think I had felt this bad about anything I had done or this determined about anything I was about to do ever in my life.  

Though with a bit of a chaos in planning the studies, the uncle (mentor) and cousin who had been through this course gave me all the books and notes they had which did come in handy. A K Sawhney's big fat book of Electrical and Electronic Measurements & Instrumentation became my new best friend. I joined Lab tuitions (eating more money from dad's pocket) to get through the 'failed' lab. This made it 6 theory + 3 labs for this semester. Again, the combined studies were a blessing and got me going. 

It was the day of the results and everyone from class were pouncing on the little department window with mesh on it inside which read the outcome of what you were in the past 6 months. The hyper-I-need-to-witness-the-reaction-of-students-getting-their-result lecturer and the I-love-to-give-a-piece-of-my-mind-to-every-student-and-make-them-feel-guilty-for-having-a-good-time lecturer were there to announce that I had failed again. Thank God that this was just them not-being-able-to-read-the-results-in-a-single-row - you see the name and university ID number are on the left hand corner of the results sheet with Internal marks, External marks and Pass/Fail for each subject in the middle area (which is 8*3 - 24 columns of data) and to the far right hand corner is what shows the grand finale of pass/fail and the Class in which you passed (if you did). So.... I was dejected all over again until this friend of mine shook me up to say that I had not only passed with an FCD but my marks were the highest for the entire class. That I had come first! Well... as they say, there is a first time for everything. 

What a mixed year that was. The first time I failed a subject and the first time I topped a class. I was happy, content and the heavy feeling I had carried with me for the 1/2 of the year was lifted but the sadness that I had failed stayed a little longer. The results of the lab came as a pass and I was relieved more than anything else. 
My dad just did not believe it and the uncle (mentor) was surprised how that happened!

Well.... I know it has been a bit of a story so far...1/2 way through the course and need to sustain the other half of the journey but at this point I was saying thank you to everyone who helped me get up and quietly enjoyed the moment. I would like to thank each and every one who stayed by me and let me know that it was no big deal. After all, today it doesn't matter that I had failed or that I had topped. 
Let me take a break from this.... Be back soon with 3 & 4. To be Continued.....

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Engineered - Part 1

About  a decade ago was a time when I was excited about stepping into a new world, Having completed my university degree this was the time for me to get a job, have my own earning, be financially independent in a little way. 

The 4 years of engineering before that was some ride. Unlike most others who might have known what they wanted to achieve in life, I had no clue what I was getting into. This is my attempt to re-live those years of my life where I enjoyed what I did, but somehow had remained confused where it would lead me.

So, this is how it all started.....
I didn't score enough to get into a medical college which was my ambition in be a doctor. I scored just about enough to get into a dental college but did I want to spend 5 years plus some more on studying teeth? Definitely didn't sound like the thing, it seemed like too much hard work. So, without further thought I jumped into the most obvious choice (obvious because I was getting a seat, many in the family had done this course and survived, the rest of the friends clan seemed to be opting for this as a choice of degree and career). 
I also had a mentor in my uncle who gave me that little extra push that this is a good option and reassured it won't kill me. The only illogical inputs I had were that I didn't want to pick architecture as a stream as it was a 5-year course and that I didn't want Computer science either as I didn't want to study anything where I couldn't touch and see things! So, I ended up with Instrumentation Technology just as it sounded alright and I knew two others in the family who had taken this subject.
All this for one of the key decisions in life!

I cannot really recollect the first few weeks in the college as there seemed to be crazy tension. We were in a class which had the 'Instrumentation (IT)' batch and the 'Telecommunication(Telecom)' batches together. Little had I known that the first year was common to everyone irrespective of what you had picked as your stream of engineering. Now, my mind which was full of IT had to park that thought for a year and get into the roller coaster ride of studying Physics, Chemistry, Maths (yes! all over again), Introductions to Mechanical, Civil, Electronics, Electrical, Engineering Drawing and any other branch of engineering one can think of, all in one go. I think back of it as so bizarre to have a basket of different subjects thrown in. 

I hadn't a clue why I was welding and soldering sheet metal wearing the bus conductor's uniform on one day and carrying a huge T-square and drawing sheets to draw objects I had never seen the use of, on another. I had no idea why I had to be scared careful of SOM (strength of materials) or understand the details of (re)-reading clarks tables or why 'Pointers' was so important as basics to any programming. With C-programming by Balaguruswamy to SOM by Bhavikatti as the books I always carried, I had no idea what gibberish was entering my brain trying to make sense of what was written in them. 

Having friends from Telecom meant that we wont be together from year 2. So, just as you were getting to know someone they are gone too soon. Some uber-bright students were already thinking about branch changes. My little brain did not think of this even as an option as I had been through this 'choosing your branch' process during CET (Entrance exam to get through a professional course) and did not want to re-visit those days of utter confusion again!

Unlike school and pre-university I was introduced to the world of 'reference books'.  6 theory + 2 labs every 6 months (semester aka sem) with each subject having at least 3 books to pick the notes from! To top that, the only place to go to for books being the college library and darn, even before you think about it as an option, the 4 copies of that book you so badly needed have already been taken by this geek-clan of your batch months before you knew where the library was!

So, here's welcome to the world of 30paise kerosene xerox (photocopies). So, by the end of each semester you have so many xerox notes from every tom dick and harry who called them important or 'superb-notes', that your room and your bed would smell like a petrol station. And you would have no way got through even 50% of it. So much for student-friendly options. 

In between the sessions of trying to imitate the lectures who kept us going - from the bespectacled Maths lecturer, to the lanky-I-hate girl-students chemistry professor, to the HOD of chemistry who dictated his love letter in the class, to the dramatic-new-trying-to-impress-and-get-a-grip-on-the-class Physics lecturer, to the I-put-THE-before-every-word in my sentence Drawing master, to the ferfectly funny mechanical engineering frofessor we prodded along from one class to another. 

Just as I was trying to find my bearings was yet another tension of internal exams and externals. The seniors seemed to take internals very lightly and so did I, after all I was trying to learn a thing or two from them. They qualified to know the system better as they had survived a year or two in this circus.  

Well... the gamble is this - Internal exams are for 25 marks and the externals are for 100 with a total of 125 that one can score per subject in the semester, The pass mark being 50/125. Well, you'd think that if you have 25/25 in internals all you need in the externals is a 25/100 which should not be hard. So very WRONG! You need to get a minimum of 35/100 to pass the externals however internals have no such concept of passing marks. 
So, with just 7, 11, 13 in some of the subjects I had managed in internals, I had to get the remainder in the externals which comes up to more than 35. The lesson about taking internals lightly was not quite right. For someone who had never really scored below 70, 35 seemed like so little but with the tension + Not-understanding-the-subject + I-don't-have-the-books + 'which-xerox-notes-to-read' its seemed like a herculean task. Well, somehow with or without the math I did manage to get through the year (even before I knew where it went) with a mere 65% thinking about those 95% days a year before and having upset my dad a tad bit. 

So with that I'd say Bye for now, I'll go and treat myself to the Rs.4 samosas and chai outside the college gate and have a quick semester break to continue the saga....

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

My Virtual World - II

Well! As if it wasn't enough to have published being a total saddo once, I am doing it again. There is a method in the madness though, I had written about the web widgets that I adore and think as either useful or nice thing to have. It's been a few months now and I see the list has grown, so this is an attempt to talk about the add-ons to my original list. 

Instagram - Perhaps the best portal I have seen to store and share pictures, the hitch being that this app can be used to load pictures from a mobile device and not from your computer. Even better as I see it. In this age when we carry phones which can do a lot more, we end up clicking loads of pictures of things, places, events and what better way to keep them in one place other than instagram! You can also jazz this up a bit by applying one of the many design templates given, add tags and share them with friends. It's the best place I can think of for pics on the go, you don't need to have put in thought or used a great camera to capture this moment.  I was a fool to have ruled this off initially as not good. 

Quora - This is what I call a newspaper with a personal touch to it. A portal where questions can be asked about anything and everything and the common (hu)man replies - it could be you, it could be me...though I am more of a reader on this portal than a contributer. There is a way to vote up an answer that you agree to or follow a topic or a specific question that you are interested to know more. I now spend a little time reading through this and there is always something good to pick up from the conversations. 

Magzter - Who doesn't like magazines? This is really a one stop online shop to find, browse and subscribe to any magazine (of some reputation) anywhere in the world. Having had a habit of picking magazines every week from the local library, I had missed flipping through them for a quick read. This fulfills the gap. The subscription options are really inexpensive and there is a free magazine section too. 

What's App - Who doesn't know about this one! Perhaps the best thing that has happened to technology in a long long time. Feel blessed with this that I can catch close family and friends with a note. No hassle of email, being available, being expensive, a simple way to communicate and it even tells you if the person has seen it or not, is online or not. 

Nike+ Running/Endomondo - Well, I wouldn't say that this gets you running, but sure helps to keep you motivated. While Nike is meant for tracking your runs, it does have a system of collecting miles, adding friends, creating challenges and giving you awards on your profile to offer those cheap thrills. Endomondo is brilliant to capture any outdoor activity/sport you would do. I love to use it for cycling and walking. The best part is how you can give kudos to friends you have on your profile.