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By The Powai Lake

By The Powai Lake

” A day’s work at IIT“… tough theme…. Each one here is peculiar in his/her working style, time-table and pace. Perhaps, you will find all varieties of working styles and personal choices in people here. But, since we are more acquainted with the research ecosystem of IIT Bombay, we will discuss about the researchers and their lives. If you observe researchers closely for a few months, you can write a thesis on the people working here, their lives and their behavioral patterns.

From ultra work freaks who spend 24X7 in the labs to people who spend 24×7 in hostels — sleeping, watching movies, roaming around unshaven/unbathed for days or taking more beauty sleeps than required, you will find all sorts of people here. From hyper-social to hypo-social, atheists to ascetics, geniuses to mediocrity, each one is a sample in their own right. In the last three and half years, I have had the privilege of watching, talking and observing my fellow specimens from a close perspective. Again the course work phases are different from the post-coursework times. But an average day for a researcher differs in its output and magnitude. Sometimes the day doesn’t move beyond a 0.00 output and at other times it just soars into +100. Well, I am a sample in my own way ;).

Let’s narrate the story of “Radha”, another researcher at IIT Bombay and get a peek-a-boo into her life and working style.

Radha snaps angrily at the alarm clock buzzing next to her bed at 9.00 am (early morning!!). She decides a 10 minutes snooze will do the job of getting her a little more accomplished sleep. The 10 minutes snooze moves into a 20 minutes snooze, and again to a 30 minute snooze. Every time, Radha wakes up with the buzz and she decides a 10 more minutes of sleep will do the job, she doesn’t forget even in her deepest dream to put the alarm into snooze. From 9.00am the alarm keeps snoozing and buzzing…till its 10.00 am…and then…the phone rings! Still half asleep, Radha takes the call and droopingly says…“heeeeeeelooo! who..os that?” the voice on the other side curtly replies…

“Hello, Radha are you busy? I want you to meet me by 10.30 am sharp and don’t be late.”

Lol!!!!! all sleep vanishes with the “hello”

Guide!! πŸ˜› … .

Wiping away traces of the last lovely sleep, Radha is alert and wide awake, “Oh no maam/sir! I am just coming back from the breakfast table. Of course, I am ready! Will be there @ your office by 10.30 am sharp! Thank you maam/sir!” She struts out of the bed rubbing her eyes badly, hits the bed post, curses it loudly: damn! why do I always have a zero ground clearance?” and runs.

Oh! Gosh! Only thirty minutes left to go to the department!! Radha takes the brush and face wash…pours the largest quantity of face wash and literally bruises her facial skin in order to remove the last traces of sleep. The face wash goes hand in hand with brushing…one hand you hold the brush and the other you keep massaging your face with the face wash — in the last few years Radha has become an expert in multitasking and “risk management” πŸ™‚ … . While brushing, she decides, “OK will come back after the meeting and take a bath… can’t afford that luxury sweety!” Hunts the almairah for some decent salwar kameez…but “oh gosh! forgot to iron them after washing… forget the salwar kameez! Let me hunt for that jeans which I wore last week…oh here it is!” Promptly a tee-shirt and jeans is hunted out, Radha changes into it…forgets to comb her unkempt hair… looks at the watch…10.20am…picks her bag and runs downstairs. She hunts into her bag for a Tum-Tum ticket, but… “oh! heck! I left the ticket bunch in my last to last jeans pocket! I put that jeans in the washing machine…It must have been cleaned away along with the jeans. Ok, let’s get an auto-rickshaw.” No auto in the vicinity, have to walk to the department! Through the entire distance people observe Radha mumbling curses to herself, “Dammn! I shouldn’t sleep so much! Why God, why does it happen with me! ” People smile at Radha and she’s oblivious of the world.

10.35 am: Radha reaches department, panting, red-faced (the way from girl’s hostel to the academic area is a steep hillock)… Guide is already there in his/her office. Radha takes a second to calm down before entering the office, forces a smile, “May I come in”…Guide looks at the watch and looks up at Radha from his/her computer stifles a smile and sternly says…”Come in Radha…you are still five minutes late. Anyway, come in, sit and drink some water. I want you to tell me your progress. What happened to the book that I gave you two weeks ago? Have you read that? Can you summarize it for me?”

She has not even opened the Preface page of the book πŸ˜› . But…”Oh yes! Actually you see I am still stuck in the tenth page of first chapter. I didn’t get the philosophy behind the lines of the sixth paragraph, but I forgot to get that book today else you could have helped me understand …” . Guide cuts her short, “Alright… I got it! You take one more week and come back next time with the complete summary. Radha when will you increase your pace…I am worried about you” … Radha looks out of her guide’s office window, spots a chimpanzee making faces at her from a branch of the tree outside, immediately averts her gaze and thinks, “yeah I have to increase my pace…will work day and night from today and “STUDY”!How happy that chimpanzee is…it doesn’t have to write a thesis.” 😦 The guide understands and looks at her speculatively asking, “is everything Ok?” “Yeah…yeah…fine…I wrote that paper…it’s almost complete“. Some more sessions in the meeting and Radha comes out of the office, panting and puffing, determined to work more diligently.

12.00noon: Radha comes to her lab from guide’s office…sees that others are lost in books, papers and notes. She walks seriously and grabs a PC hurriedly, opens her own books, opens her paper that she’s been editing since last four weeks and seriously decides to “STUDY” ! One half page later, she thinks…“Oh some important mails…I haven’t checked my mails since morning” …. Opens her Gmail, GPO, Yahoo, Rediff … EE mail πŸ˜‰ and ponders over them, including the forwards. Suddenly, people start popping out from chat boxes of her Gmail… “Hey Radha…”, “hi Radha”“did you see Rab Ne? Slum Dog Millionaire” … Radha happily chats with the red, green chat buttons….

And then… “Radha! are you busy? Please come after you finish to my office…have to give you some papers to review”! … Guide! πŸ˜› …He/she saw her chatting, Radha knocks her head down on the table…“yes sir/maam coming in a moment…!”

1.15pm: Tired and bugged with her half day stint Radha decides to go back to hostel for food and decides to “STUDY” in the afternoon. Hostel-11 mess is crowded…Radha grabs a chair close to some friends and colleagues. Puts her bag to reserve her seat, goes inside the mess to get a plate…comes out to get food…realizes that she forgot to get bowls for dal and curd … goes inside to get two bowls…. She is starving! The food is chawal and lauki sabzi (a kind of vegetable), she makes a face at the sabzi, quickly serves herself some dal-chawal, pickle and curd…comes back to the place she had reserved for herself…all her friends have already finished and left. Tired…her hunger by this time is already forgotten. “But oh heck! I forgot to get a spoon and a glass of water…Shit! Why am I a researcher?” 😦 …She rushes back all the way inside the kitchen and gets a spoon and a glass of water…quickly pushes spoonfuls of food, keeps her plate at the wash area, ascends the three-storey B-wing to her room in the third floor πŸ˜‰ .

2.00pm : Radha loves her room…neat, gorgeous and a girl’s heaven. It’s a den in the afternoon, you pull the curtains and it becomes a cool-dark cave. She decides to get up at 3.30pm and “STUDY!” … Takes her favourite quilt, sleeps….zzzz…..

5.30pm: Phone buzzes… Radha wakes up with a start. “Is this a missed call for breakfast or tiffin? It’s morning or is it evening? ” Radha can’t decide…she keeps rubbing her eyes…but the clock refuses to budge from a “5” and a “30” pm 😦 … . Determined to “STUDY” she goes downstairs with her satchel, eats and gossips with friends…6.00pm, 6.30pm…”Oh I have to run to the department” …. Gets up, walks with her bag towards the department…half way down…she talks to herself , “evening is beautiful, in fact poetic…let’s go to the lake side for a short-brisk walk…an evening walk boosts memory power scientists say” πŸ˜‰ … And, then she scoots down the convo road, takes a short-cut and lands near the Powai lake. The evening is gorgeous indeed! Radha sits “evening-dreaming” …spots a young couple (probably B.Techs) sitting close to each other and talking sweet nothings…. Radha decides that after she “STUDIES” she will like to have such a boy friend …. The clock says it’s 8.15pm…”Oh God why Does this clock run marathons! Dinner time! Why did I come to lake side? can’t go to department now…will go back have dinner and “STUDY” 😦 “…

8.30pm: Mess, same people, same faces, same gossips…. One girl says: “you know I have twenty five papers accepted in thirty two journals, 30 conference papers and a handful of corporate offers with a package of 28lakhs p.a” …. Another lady keeps asking, “so when are you submitting your thesis? I have been here only for a year and half …I am ready with my pre-synopsis” …. Radha thinks “I will go to my room and “STUDY” ” Another beauty conscious lady suggests “Radha why don’t you do something about your pimples? And for god’s sake stop wearing those grey tees and red-framed specs…you look so god-damn oldie!” There’s another lady who’s ultra-interested in others’ lives and other people’s researches. She knows the “a,b,c…z” of everyone’s personal and professional lives, including who joined PhD in which lab, who left PhD from which lab…. Radha too has her share of gossips, she discusses the couple sitting by the lake side and in her stupidly romantic clichΓ©s, she manages to extract a mass sigh: “hmmmmmmm”….

9.30pm: Back to room…all quiet on every front. Radha opens her books, papers and really “STUDIES” till 12.00 midnight…. LAN Ban in hostel and so no more work …

12.05am: Movie time! Radha had downloaded her favourite Dev Anand movie from DC++ …. She’s lost in Dev Anand and his left-bent puffed hairstyle πŸ˜‰ and sings loudly with him: badal bijlee chandan pani jaisa apna pyar lena hoga janam humein kayee-kayee bar… aaa…”

1.00am: Knock! Knock! Radha, still singing with Dev Anand, goes to open the door…”didi can you lower the volume of your singing and of your movie…we have our assignment and midterms!” “Oh sure!” Radha comes back fuming, gives a kick to her sound box so that it stops playing, shuts down her PC and mutters mimicking her neighbour: “didi! volume…unhh! when we have APS these people dance on the floor on ‘bidi jaleyile’ and now my Dev Anand, my sweet Dev Anand is creating problem for their assignment! Bull s****!”

2.30am: Still no sleep…Radha keeps turning and twisting…and with each turn she decides to “wake up early in the morning…do some Yoga…take a bath (she could not bathe the entire day)…pray God…and “STUDY!” She tinkers with her phone, then sets it to FM mode and a voice huskily announces: “doston yeh hai Akashwani aur aap sun rahe hain FM Rainbow… main hoon apka pyara humsafar Milind Inamdar aur yeh hai humara show “Dil se”…aaj humare paas jo dil aya hai woh hai padhne wala diljo dil ek nazar mein sab kuchh padh sake” and then the RJ plays, “kitaben bahut si padhi hongi tumne magar koi chehra bhi tumne padha hai?” (Transl. “Friends this is All India Radio and you are listening to FM Rainbow. I am your friend Milind and this show is called “Dil Se”. Today we have the studious heart on our show, the heart which can read eyes”) Radha is now satisfied, she sets her alarm for “9.oo am” and with every new song slowly trails to sleeeeeeppp and in her dreams decides to “STUDY”! πŸ™‚

10.00am: Phone rings, “Radha! can you come…?” πŸ™‚

IIT streets

P.N.: This is a fictional character and the only resemblance that it has to any person dead or living is “Anne De plume” πŸ™‚ …. But it’s just one aspect of our daily lives…there are many more….I thank my readers to have extracted the “honest” narration from Iris πŸ˜‰ … But, on a serious note this perpetual thought of “STUDY” is common to all researchers in IIT Bombay and this thought itself is enough to keep you always on your toes and makes research such a gratifying job.

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