A terrible day at IIT

The day began for me when I was woken up by Anoop at 12 o'clock at midnight. He says "I am through with the book, now you can start studying it." It was the notes of the Major exam that I had today*. This was the last exam of the semester and that too for a course which was an audited one.

Let me briefly descibe about the course and my performance in the minors. The course is aptly titled 'Selected Topics in IEC' meaning 'Selected Topics in (Inevitably) Educator's Control'. Whatever the teacher wants to teach, can be taught under this course name, irrespective of the relevance of the course to the students who are supposed to take this course. That is a way in IIT by which the faculty can teach whatever they want. No prescribed syllabus, prescribed by seniors as 'Not to be taken'.

I wont be that harsh on this course. It was a course on Applied Mathematics for ELECTRICAL Engineers. (Now for the benefit of all the readers I am not mentioning the course content. Or else you would stop reading my blog). Interestingly, the course is being taught by a retired professor from Mathematics Dept of IIT Delhi, who is a CIVIL engineer. I, or rather we, were asked to take this course by our phd guide. He mentioned that I cant understand the use of the course at the present moment. But I will realise it after a few years, to be precise 6-7 years. That itself had reduced the motivation level to half. But still, it was our guide who told us so we had registered for the course. (It again brings back a memory of yet another 'Selected Topics in IEC' that I had registered for during my MTech. Again on the suggestion of the same guide, just to make sure that the course gets floated. There is a funny process in IIT by which the courses of each semester are floated. A course will be floated only if there are sufficient number of students pre-registering that course. And the course will run only if there are sufficient number of students attending it. During my MTech, I was lucky enough to withdraw that course later as there was enough number of students attending it.) When the semester began, we (myself and Anoop) found that the number of PG students registered for the course is just 2!! There were some other B Tech students also but the total number was small. So we couldnt withdraw the course. In the end, we had to be satisfied with an Audit. That means we have to do the course and the grades wont be counted in our CGPA.

A few classes were fine as we were listening to few concepts in Linear Algebra which were familiar. But little did I know that the fate of the course was decided in Minor 1 itself. I performed very badly. The reason for poor performance (every one gives one but mine is genuine) was not attending the classes. After all it is an audit course! After that, the topics started getting more abstract and I used to miss classes as usual. Now was the big problem. As I missed classes, I couldn't understand the next class. And since I couldnt understand, the tendency to miss the next class was more. Now that is called positive feedback. Minor 2 was not any better. Now even the faculty had left the hope of teaching "me" the subject. He once commented, "Oh, Girish! You have come today. We should celebrate this."

After all those ordeal, you can imagine how I must be feeling today to study for the majors. But I didnt want a Audit Fail grade on my grade card. So I got up at midnight when Anoop called me. With sleepy eyes, I started brushing through the topics taught before minor 1. They were understandable and I devoted 3 hours to it. After that I got tired of reading, and decided to open the yahoo messenger. Smile was there on my lips to find my cousin oniline. We had a chat for an hour, after which I realised that I have an exam. (That chatting was the good part of the otherwise terrible day at IIT)

Study Study and Study was the slogan for the next one hour, during which I managed to complete some portions after Minor 1. At 5 am, I declared "Cease Fire", called up Anoop (who was sleeping) and went to sleep. The exam was scheduled at 8.00 am. I got up at 7.45, realised that I had lot of topics left out, and skimmed through a few more pages. When I reached the exam hall, I found the smiling face of the professor. Immediately he remarked, "I thought you are not going to give the exam. You told me yesterday that your exams are over!" I gave a faint smile. What else could I say!

The question paper was not so tough, if it was an open book exam. But this wasnt. And I had forgotten the art of remembering things after I came to IIT. Here most exams are open book, and that became a habit during my 2 years of M Tech. So this exam was very simple for me. All I had to do was to figure out which questions I could recognise and leave the rest. I spent the whole 2 hours, I donno doing what, and in the end I was happy that the exams are over.

More terrible events were yet to come! I was only the witness for those events. Luckily they didnt happen to me.

Next was the demos of CAD. I was in the evaluation party along with Anoop and another professor. A lot of M Tech students had horrible time, trying to convince the faculty about the work done in the projects. Almost all of them were given some task to be done on the spot and that made their life difficult. (I knew how tough it is to run a code which is tested only on one example, but I couldnt object to the queries of the faculty.) I remained silent most of the time. I spoke in bursts to help the students in whatever way I could. (Now that is my point of view. I donno whether the students also think the same about my attittude!) CAD demos continued till evening and that ended a hectic day.

In between was another terrible incident in the history of the VLSI group. One of the first years, took the Major answer scripts with him. We are supposed to return the answer scripts then and there. Now you may think that is not a big deal. How will anybody find out? The faculty found out when he went to give it back. How nice of him to realise the mistake and correcting it. But he didnt know that he was up against the most strict faculty in the group. !!! M.J.K. !!! The faculty just took his answer script, stroke it off, marked a zero, told him that he will get an F grade, and above all a simple GET OUT. No listening of reasons, no arguing. Interestingly, this happened to the topper of the class! After a lot of running around, the student gave an apology letter to the program co-ordinator, who was kind enough to listen to him and agreed to take up his case. I dont know what happened later. But hopefully it will get solved.

After this busy day, we were relaxing in our lab when comes the thunder. It was in the form of professor GSV. He is the lab incharge. He had earlier brought in a new PC in the lab. He had informed me that some B Tech students will come to work on it for some days after which the PC will be removed from the lab. I had mentioned this to Anoop also. (Anoop and myself manage the lab) No student came to work on th PC for a week. So when asked for, Anoop gave the permisson to reinstall the OS on that machine. (That was actually due to some misunderstanding) That is history. Now GSV comes in the lab and sees the machine running on Windows and gets heated up. The students were working for their BTP on this machine and all their data was on Linux. Is it all lost!!! Now how will they present their BTP without all those files?? We had no answer. Anoop quickly acted upon it, did some initial tests and found that one of the hard disks was not converted to Windows. That was a faint light at the other end of the tunnel. He then got the installation CDs of Fedora, installed it on the PC, and luckily found that all their data was stored on the second hard disk which remained as ext3 partition. All data intact!!!

That was the happy ending of a terrible day at IIT...

* Today refers to May 10th 2006.


Anonymous said…
OOPS!!! That was a narrow escape! How could you install Windows on a machine on which at least one user has worked for his project? Anyway, wish you a good grade in that good-for-nothing course and wish that the juniors will realise the benefit of having you for their TA - sometime in their lives, if not now :-)

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