The Visiting Student

I wrote this article for NIT Surat’s (my alma mater)  college mag, Renesa. You can download the mag here http://issuu.com/svnit_renesa/docs/renesa_may2010_2011

I can still vividly remember the first time I stepped inside my first year hostel room with luggage in hand, hope in eyes, fear of ragging in mind and stench of urine from the nearby washroom. The room (BF-3, Gajjar Bhavan)was nothing like anyplace I had ever lived in; a decrepit, disheveled, disintegrating excuse for a room that was smaller than my bedroom back home and was somehow supposed to fit 3 living human beings. To say that I was disappointed would be a massive understatement, I was devastated. It is in these times that you really start appreciating your mom and begin to sympathize, even long for, her obsession with cleanliness that always irked you.

First year is probably the most important year in your undergrad life, both academically and personally. You learn to adjust with complete strangers, get used to invasion of your personal space and learn to put up with quirky habits of not just your room mates but also their friends. Some of my very good friends are those my roomies introduced me to. I got introduced to southies (or as I called them Idli, Dosa and Uttapam) through one room mate and Jats and Punjabis by the other. One of these, who should rightly be compared to an Uttapam because of his size went on to become a KVPY scholar and has 2 patents to his name (considering the nature of his patents I am sure the abysmal toilets and latrines in the hostel inspired him to a large extent and the hostel office rightly deserves 40% of royalties from those patents).

 The fear of ragging was obviously there but it turned out to be largely hype and very little substance and seniors soon became friends. I was also introduced to ‘Ginglish’, the Gujju accented version of English, in due course by the faculty and staff – it sure did take some time to figure how a beam could rest on a ‘hole’ (also pronounced as ‘wall’ in Queen’s English) and a boiler could have a ‘cape-city’ of 20 MW, but things soon fell in their own sweet place.

 Seniors played a significant role in shaping me up and I was lucky to meet some awesome seniors through my association with ACM and Drishti. Exams had become unimportant to me in the very first month and I found myself at a ACM Linux workshop the night before the first internal. ACM was like a baby and we nurtured it, we made mistakes, had some triumphs but things worked out eventually. We also started ACM Quest with the intention of having a totally computing oriented event having a ‘no frills, no garbage, minimally sponsored tech-focused event where money is to be spent only on prizes’ policy. I also spent some great time at Drishti labs but never really managed to learn much about electronics (I still remember having shorted the entire 8051 board while soldering in first year and then painstakingly unsoldering it).In retrospect, I really should have learnt more electronics.

Oh yes, the acads bit; well I took the suggestion of two awesome ACM seniors (one of them, a 9 pointer here and a MS from Texas A&M who has written patches for NMap and now works for McAfee; and the other, now a MS student on full scholarship at Carnegie Mellon University Language Technologies Institute, who never gave a damn about pointers) a little too literally and really hoped that you could “easily get a 8 pointer by studying one night before the exam” and ended at the bottom of the academic pecking order – a 6 point someone. Classes were something I scarcely attended and once a teacher remarked “What happened Sandip? How did you enter a class so early in the morning?” when I swayed into her 8:30 class 20 minutes late (I also once entered a class minutes before it was about to end so that I could give my attendance and once I entered the wrong elective class insisting vehemently that this was ‘the right class’ ). You could almost say that I was a visiting student and went to class only when I wanted to meet up friends.

 I got involved with Renesa in 3rd year as I wanted to have some side activity beside tech and Renesa was the perfect opportunity. Working there taught me to put words together to form a decent sentence and it was one of the liveliest and most stimulating interaction there could possibly be. I really miss the team and the people.

Among my batch mates and friends I can count a guy who has made it to a CompSci program at University of Michigan, another who scored AIR-4 in GATE and is now at IISC, another who scored AIR 11 this year while another friend who came 5th worldwide in the Top Coder Studio Collegiate design contest in 2007, chucked a regular engineering job to join a online music magazine as a staff writer. Then there was this CAT phodu who’s doing an internship with Coca Cola and another who is doing her Masters in Germany. There is also this guy who is doing an M.Tech in Rural Technologies at IIT-B and intends to join the Civil Services one day. Have I missed anyone? Hell yes. My batch mates were awesome and it would take an entire article to list down their achievements.

College life is all about making the best of four years, learning new things and building up yourself to face the challenges once you are out of those four walls. Getting an admission at NIT Surat, does not mean you have arrived and are ‘set’ for life; far from it. It only means you have it in you what it takes to become a good engineer and it’s up to you whether you are willing to put the necessary effort to become one. For those in 1st and 2nd year who have already decided that they want to do an MBA, I strongly urge them to give engineering a chance. Engineering is awesome and I you will miss it once you are out of that place.

So here’s wishing my best on behalf of the entire class of 2010. Be awesome. Take risks, be foolish, dare to dream, don’t opt for the ‘safe’ option. No risk, no return. That’s the fact of life. You are young and have very little to worry and the backing of a undergrad degree from a prestigious institution. If you don’t take risks now, you sure can’t take it after you are 30 and have a family to support.

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My Letter of Resignation From Renesa

Respected Sir,

I have been a Senior Editor of Renesa for more than a year now. During this time I have seen it scale greater heights and undergo tremendous change in terms of content and design. Over the past few months, our readership had exploded and people had actually begun to sit up and take notice. Our untiring efforts had finally bore fruits.

However, the decision of the administration to reconstitute and expand the editorial board of Renesa and to review the scope of the content, has come as a rude shock to me. I am unable to see the need of any changes, whatsoever, in the editorial board. Like most other well functioning organizations in the institute, viz Drishti, ACM etc, Renesa too follows a free and fair procedure of selection where the seniors select their juniors based on their actual skills rather than CGPA. The ever increasing quality of the magazine bears testimony to that.

I personally see this as an infringement on our freedom and creativity. As an human being and more so as an engineer, it is of utmost importance that we learn to think for ourselves, question established norms and express our creativity without any fear of repercussions. I am not sure this will be possible once the proposed changes to the editorial board are made and the scope of Renesa is reviewed.Since I do not see eye to eye with the new directive and cannot work under an atmosphere that might stifle creativity and expression, I hereby offer my resignation from the editorial board of Renesa. My best wishes to the new team that takes over. I hope they succeed.

I am honoured to be part of an enthusiastic and dedicated team and I leave behind a part of me in Renesa. I am thankful to the faculty advisors for guiding us and standing by us in times of need.

Please consider this email as my official resignation from Renesa.

Yours sincerely,
Sandip Dev
Senior Editor and Website Head,
Renesa

Obituary: Renesa

Someone byt the name “The Fourth Estate”  sent this in last night to the all students mailing list of SVNIT. Given below is the email and a obituary. Check it out. Hillarious and heartening at the same time

Fourth Estate:

This mail has not been created out of any sort of personal hatred or
animosity towards any person or establishment whatsoever. It has simply been
created to preserve the nature of free speech in the engineering college in
question. The authorities of the said college have tried to suppress free
speech by showing aggressive desires to control it. But the author wishes to
remind the authorities in question as well as his readers that free press
has an indomitable survival instinct. Using a better analogy, it is like a
hydra. Whenever you cut a head off, two new ones will invariably take its
place. This, then, is the new-sprung head of the hydra. Watch this space.

And this pic

Death of Free Speech

Will keep you updated on further developments

The end of the beginning

What happens when a group of motivated students decide to turn around a flagging college magazine by completely revamping the magazine? Well they succeed, they bring in guest writers like Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, Richard Stallman, Dr. Shashi Tharoor and Rashmi Bansal. Readers take notice, they wait eagerly for the next issue to come. In a institute where elections are already banned, this magazine starts creating opinion with a view to bridge the gap between the students and the faculty. This means two things, explain the actions taken by the faculty or administration to the students and ensure that the greviences of the students reach the concerned authorities. And sometimes, this means criticizing some incidents , particulary the complete lack of response or timely action when a fire broke out in a hostel. These students reported what they saw – college authorities clueless as to how to put out the fire, where the fire extinguisher is and most importantly the fact that there was no water in the hostel at that time, a rather frequent phenomenon at our hostels. These foolish students thought that this would make the faculty wake up to the incident, learn from their mistake and ensure that fire-preparedness is maintained in future, lest we have charred bodies to unravel next time such a thing occurs. And what fools they were. And to add to their foolishness, they also added another article on the various disciplinary committees that are formed and the fines that are imposed for such crimes as forgetting to switch of the lights or using the word “Sexy” inside hostel premises, fines anywhere between Rs. 50 to 300, whatever comes up in the lottery that minute.

The authorities did not take this kindly. After all, students were not supposed to speak out, not when this could be read by outsiders, and certainly not when this magazine was largely funded by the college. What ensued was a disciplinary committee(Disco) with the unsaid agenda, “Show’em whos the Boss”. The editors were called one by one into the closed room, questions fired from all directions, students were reprimanded for their conduct including (but not limited to) their lack of mastery over the Hindi language. Each student is grilled for 30 to 45 mins and the,predetermined, verdict announced. The offending articles shall be removed, the original magazine too will be removed from the website and a new one put up along with a written apology stating that the facts we presented were wrong and ill conceived. The students grudgingly do it. May be we were really wrong with some of the facts. May be we shouldn’t have pointed out flaws like that. They are after all our teachers. We accepted all their conditions, of course the decision was made easier by the fact that we had no other option after all.

And we hoped, things were back to normal. We don’t critisize them and they let us do our thing. A perfect arrangement. But it seems the establishment had other things brewing. Already curbs were put in place to screen every word going into print, the final draft of all articles had to be passed by a chain of 6 faculty members and after getting signatures by all of them, could we go to print. And we accepted it. But on the 4th of Feb, we received a rude shock, the magazine committee was to reconstructed  (read dissolved) and expanded. A committee was formed for this purpose and its job was, as the official memo says

1. To review the scope / contents of the news letter
2. To invite nominations as editors from the students and carry out
selections
3. To suggest a system of information collection / retreival, screening,
editting, documenting, printing, circulation and feed back
4. To review  / suggest financial support for the news latter.

(Pls notice the  word “news latter” 😉 )

We had no idea this was coming. There is already a team in place that brings out Renesa, the college magazine, every month and are doing a great job of it. So why form a new team right in the middle of the academic year? The whole team had a meeting at night and we decided we were not going to take it lying down and we will all resign before they could dismantle us. Also we would not be part of any new committee that is formed. We would rather love to watch the new committee come and fail, fail miserably. A meeting with faculty advisers, the next day, confirmed our worst fears. Yes, the team would be reconstructed, with more bureaucracy added in the form of a General Secretary, Cultural Secretary and Lady Representative, besides a few more members of the faculty as ex-officio members. Apparently, all this new additions were supposed to give the magazine the supposed required legitimacy and official recognition. Keep in mind that the magazine has always been official, there have been two faculty advisers overseeing our work and we receive funding from the college, it is a mouth piece of the students of SVNIT. Also we were invited to send in our resumes for the post of editors in this new team.

Our grounds of discontent are many and obvious. For one, why is the administration bent on putting in place its own selected team? For those who are not aware, our university banned elections 3 years ago and since then the General Secretary, Cultural Secretary and Lady Representative have been selected by the administration based on their CGPA alone. And we have seen how well these elected representatives have managed the affairs of the students. Most of these elected representatives had never worked in a single committee or event of the college, you can’t really do that when you have a 9.9999 CGPA to maintain. And once again it has been mostly us, some low CGPA idiots, who have stepped forward at the time of crisis and work behind the scenes, round the clock, to make thing happen while our appointed representatives were running clueless.

We did not want these people to tell us what to write, most of them had never sent in a single article for the magazine. We have our screening process in place to select articles and it has served us well. Also first they would disband us, and then ask us to sit for interviews to form a new team. Damn unacceptable. Our selection process has always been transparent, the seniors selected the juniors based on their writing skills. We were asked to write an article and bring it to the panel which then made the selection. And no, none of our faculty have the time to go through that many articles to select the best, after all wasn’t the selection for General Secretary, Cultural Secretary and Lady Representative over in less than a hour.

Renesa has always stood for freedom of speech, we are the fourth pillar of democracy in this institution. But apparently, democracy here is passe, its a dictatorship baby. And we protest. We have asked our members to think for themselves (after all that’s what freedom is all about) and then decide if they want to be a part of the new Renesa or resign. As of now many have sent in their resignations and I shall send in mine shortly.

We refuse to sit mum when wrong happens. We value our freedom and will protect it all costs. Ironically, the theme of our last issue was Freedom and it featured Richard Matthew Stallman as a guest writer.

Finally, I have nothing against the elected GS,CS or LR. The hold they post they do because of their CGPA and many of them would be happy to vacate it for a more interested candidate. They are at no fault, they are my friends. They are part of the system. But they are awesome people, and helluve smart too.

Our February issue was going to be on love. Here is the cover for that

If you want any of our previous issues, just let me know. Some students have decided to make a peaceful protest on Monday (8th Feb) by wearing black. Lets see what happens. In case you want a unofficial PDF based Febraury issue  of Renesa to come out, drop an sms at +919825730603.  That will be our parting shot.

Until we meet again,
Senior Editor, Tech Chaser and Website Guy, Renesa



Renesa January

Finally, its out. The January Issue of my college mag, Renesa. The theme this time: “Freedom and Free World”. And the guest writer is none other than Richard Matthew Stallman. Also 2000 CDs of OpenSolaris were distributed with the magazine. Thank you Sun Microsystems (er…Oracle) . Also included is a Howto on Installing OpenSolaris.

Read it and do provide your feedback on our site http://www.svnit.edu.in/renesa

Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam in Renesa October

Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, the ex President of India has written the guest column in the October issue of Renesa.  Get it here

For those who do not know, Renesa is the monthly magazine of Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology (NIT Surat). Its a complete student magazine, partially funded by NIT Surat and the rest comes from sponsors. Do read it and let us know what you think.

Awesomeness as I see it

I have been part of various committees and organizations in this college. I was deeply involved with the ACM Chapter as a volunteer, then a Secretary and finally as the Chairperson. One other organization that I have been involved over the last one year is Renesa, the college monthly mouthpiece. I have been the editor of the tech page for over a year after Sunayana quit Renesa (Yes, like in almost everything I followed my Tech mom’s (Sunayana) footsteps here too).

The last year we really did not work much. We could not bring out the promised number of issues and never made it on time. I would not blame any particular person or persons for this. It was a collective failure. A failure to understand what Renesa meant to the college, a lack of dedication and enthusiasm. We used to have meetings where some gave ideas but which never got implemented or were implemented poorly. I myself wrote boring articles for the tech page and mostly they were hastily written. Another reason why the editors were not interested in writing good articles was probably the fact that nobody ever read those. People were mostly interested in the college gossip page called “Rumor Mill”. The rest of the pages were used for various innovative purposes like tissue paper in the canteen, making kites etc. So that dampened the enthusiasm of the writers. Of course this is not just a fault with the readers, if the content fails to generate interest a large part of fault of course goes to the content writers and planners. In all Renesa had become just another thing that the college does. Just another slightly colorful piece of paper.

Now come to this academic year. A new team was formed with Nijeesh Padmanabhan , Ashwin (a)S(s), Srividya, Thomas, Swati and Shruti at the helm. Nijeesh is the editorial consultant and chief designer. Ashwin S and Srividya are the chief editors. Thomas along with Swati and Shruti are the impact consultant (btw, do magazines have such designations? 😉 ) . And what was the difference this time? Well these guys had a vision. They really wanted to “Change our world” with Renesa. They wanted it to be platform for people to think, to learn and also have fun. Most importantly, they expected people to read it and love it. Renesa, to these guys, is not a thing that they have to do, it is a responsibility they love to execute. And this is the vision they propagated to the team, specially Nijeesh, Ashwin and Thomas. And motivated they were. Earlier where we had to pester editors to write articles, this time we had an avalanche of articles and most of them very good ones. It was hard to decide which one to print and which one to reject. Our first issue had 33,000 words in 16 pages. To include that many articles, we reduced the font size. Readability suffered because of that and I have assured by Nijeesh that this wont happen again and I take his word for it because he wants his balls intact.

The design too was awesome. Never before did Renesa have so many colours and my respect for Nijeesh’s designing skills has risen considerably. We printed Renesa in glossy paper and people loved it. Our editors debated endlessly on what to write, how to write on the Renesa mailing list. In fact, my mailbox received at least 15 Renesa mails a day. Last year there used to be 15 mails per month. We put up a new Renesa site. As of now, the site does not contain much content but we expect usage to pick up. The site is my job so I am thinking of ideas to promote the site. Our alumni read the issue and loved it. We got lot many mails of appreciation from them. Some even circulated the issue among their colleagues and relived their college life through Renesa. Students sent SMSs of appreciation with one even saying that he loved the issue so much that he was afraid to read it, lest it get damaged or wrinkled.

The editors are putting in everything they got. No one calls it work. We call it fun. Some of us are now accused of not having a life beyond Renesa because Renesa constantly crops up in our discussions. Some of the new things that have been included this year are “Jack and Jill” where we publicize about a guy and a gal of our college who have had significant achievements so that others can emulate them, “Reviews” where we have reviewed not just movies and books but also gadgets, restaurants etc, Guest articles by famous people (Shashi Tharoor wrote for the first issue), “Faculty Speak” where we ask a faculty to write, “Walk when you talk” where we interview a member of the college administration and College Band Review where we review the music bands (all Rock bands as of now) of the college. Also the Hindi editors are doing a fine job. And with this month’s issue you can expect some really good stuff from them.

All this was good. Now the bad part. Where we went wrong? Well for one the font size was too small. Some people even asked for a free magnifying glass with the issue. There were too many spelling and grammatical errors in the issue. I am sure we can all do with a bit more proof reading.

As for my tech page, I am trying to move it from being a Computers only page to a more general tech page. I want to cover all branches of science and engineering. So suggestions and ideas are welcome.

Do visit our site www.svnit.edu.in/renesa and download an ecopy at http://www.svnit.edu.in/renesa/files/renesa.pdf

And finally, I would like to praise the marketing and distribution team for distributing some 1800 copies in 8 hours, delivered room to room across 11 hostels. And thats an awesome feat considering that there are only 4 people in Marketing. They rock.

As for my role in Renesa, I do the tech page and a bit of humor articles apart from making useless funny comments on the mailing list, abusing people and using expletives that would put many rappers (and Christian Bale) to shame. In all, I have taken it upon me that we never have a dull moment on the mailing list. Kudos to me  for that.

Finally,
@Thomas: The above praise to you was probably the first and the last time I did that. Please do not expect such magnanimity again.
@Ashwin: I still love my abuses and nothing will stop me from using them.
@Renesa Team: You guys rock and so do I.