Guest Blog Post: What do IIT professors talk about when they talk about running
With the increased readership and feedback that I’ve been getting recently, I thought it’d be an awesome idea to have guest blog posts. So, kicking of this new tradition is of course, the one and only superwoman – Pee.
Pee a.k.a. Kenny, is a professor at IIT Madras (she blogs here). She is also my mentor/role model/running-partner since 2009 (we became friends when I first took her course at IIT). She’s the reason why I started running and blogging. Needless to say, without her guidance and friendship, my life wouldn’t be half as awesome. Having seen faculty at two world-class institutions, I can confidently say that I’m very fortunate to have met a professor like her. Don’t take my word. Read on and tell me you don’t think she’s crazy..
“You don’t look like a professor” – ten years in, I still get that reaction a lot. I don’t know how to react because frankly, I don’t really know how professors are supposed to look. Not that I would make efforts to conform in any way if I did. On any given day, I am a runner, a household manager, mother, wife, professor, daughter-in-law, friend, mentor, teacher, but it is fair to say that I look like none of those things. Except if you see my calves, you will know for sure that I put in a lot of running miles per week compared to the average individual!
I was way too skinny and young when I returned from the US to India as an Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering. Since I didn’t know any better, I did labs, classes with nearly 100 students, typed up my class notes and put it up on a web-page, wrote research proposals, signed on several PhD students, applied for numerous awards, sat in meetings galore, and worked on committees, uncomplainingly, and before I knew it, I was in my thirties, not so young anymore.
The running bug bit at some point and the miles started adding up even as my responsibilities exploded when I had my baby girl back in 2004. With my husband’s increasingly busy work schedule, his insane commute and a growing baby for housemates, the juggling – parallel processing – became more intense. But then I am not the Jack (or Jill) of all trades for nothing! My friends and I were running an after-school programme for municipal kids then, and I taught the kids math, & used my races to raise money, all alongside my academic and household commitments.
I have had some time to breathe, in fact, since I moved back to my alma mater, IIT Madras, a couple of years ago, because I scaled back on a few of my activities. Which is why I could start piling on extra miles – enough to run a full marathon recently. Well, that, and the Chennai weather, which I like, and running-crazed friends that I have made out here…
If I look back at my academic career, I must say I have no regrets. It’s in my nature to do too many things all at the same time, to work hard at things. As long as I have the energy, I don’t see why not. I love Chemical Engineering, but I don’t spend all my day doing that. I run. I blog. I run my household. I spend time with my family and friends. Sometimes I think rather wistfully, that I could be that person, you know, the one that is in the lab at 10pm, post dinner, for two solid hours of research. Then I remind myself that I have always managed to do my work around whatever schedule is required of me for various reasons, partly because of my nature, and partly due to forces beyond my control, and I am fine.
I am a lucky person – I win lots of awards (in recent times, some Engineering awards and some running prizes – contradictorily enough!) and generally do well in anything I attempt. My husband is my BFSC (biggest fan severest critic) and generally thinks I am superwoman & is not in the least bit surprised when I win something. But I don’t really like tags like that, or limelight. What I like is to work hard, and of course to see the results of my efforts. My motivation is mostly internal – has always been – and I don’t do regret or come up with excuses. I love everything that has come my way so far in my 38 years of living. Including the fact that I am a woman in a decidedly male field of work, not to mention being a working mother – that most looked down upon person in the world, and the fact that I have long days involving lots of disparate responsibilities. Heck, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. Even if I feel out of breath just looking at my list of tasks on some days. I am super excited about everything that lies ahead for me – about all aspects of my life! I guess professors are not supposed to admit to such things, but for the past month, I have been waking up and saying ‘Today I am going to kick some serious ass’ – as I put my feet down on the ground and start my day.
I’m going to try to feature one guest blog post every month, so if you have a story to share, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email and I’ll get back to you.
I was trying to recall my first impression of Pee, and the first memory I have of her is when she sent an email back in 2009, canceling class because she was flying to run the Mumbai Marathon. I was like what? Who does that? How can you be so crazy to run 13 miles and if that wasn’t enough, fly all the way to Mumbai and pay to run in the heat? How stupid can people get.
Little did I know I would be flying from California to run the SC Mumbai Marathon in 2012.. ironical, huh?