Guest Blog Post : From Peace to Piecewise Continuous by Atish Parekh
Ah, another interesting guest post. Atish Parekh is a dear friend from way back in 2005 when we were both attending the same coaching class (PACE) for JEE. He was one of the smartest guys in the class. One of my goals at that time was to get higher marks than him on the tests. But it never happened. Not even on the JEE exam. And we would pull each other’s leg about this all the time. He’d outshine me in some areas and I’d excel in some others. And for the last seven years or so, we have had an ongoing friendly rivalry – He did his Bachelors at IIT Bombay in Chemical Engineering and I did mine at IIT Madras. He is now on the pursuing is PhD at Purdue, and I’m at Stanford. And never has it been so awesome and wonderful to compare and observe each other as we grow and pursue similar interests, albeit in two parallel universes. Read on, as Atish reminisces about his life at IIT Bombay as an undergrad and how somethings never change, no matter where you go.
I guess one always loves their college more than anything else in their life and I’m no exception to it. It is the best experience one can have – the growth, the maturity, the understanding of that interaction with new and unknown people, that tackling of your own problems yourself, it is a period of immense personality development I believe.
At IITB there were no worries, just get done with courses one semester after another. It was kind of terminal work every semester in the sense that each semester had a new beginning, and I would start afresh no matter what happened in the previous one. I hated Matkas for being maggu and nabdu people who were always disconnected from us but now I understand the reason behind it and why it was the way it was. Those crazy PJ’s I cracked, when people said peace I would say “piece wise continuous”, when people said “kya paka raha hai” I would say “gas ke bina kaise pakaunga”, (there’s a whole list of farts that I can write down here but for sake of brevity I won’t. However, if you like the examples do not hesitate to contact me!), that change of my name to fartish, it felt so amazing like being on top of the world. It was the joy those jokes gave me that made me happy rather than seeing others laugh at it. That night out where “kidzone” wingies watched the Matrix trilogy borrowing speakers from Maggi, those nights when I was at Praveen’s room watching movies and bunking lectures so easily. It was so easy to mould myself as per the situation. 3-4 hours of sleep could get me through the day. Those crazy NFS days when Parth and I would try so hard to complete the milestones just to get to the next blacklist rival, those days of re-discovering 64 in 1 on DC++ servers and playing contra will never come back, never ever and I can only cherish them. At Purdue when I tried joking around hardly anyone understood what I meant. Consequently, that farting talent just decayed exponentially. The connect that I shared with people at IIT was no longer there. Add to that the pain of translating your PJ to English, horrible!
Through all of this one thing has never changed and I don’t think it ever will. My parents still send me food, mailed from India. At IIT it was dabba waalas, here it is vacuum packed and dried food packets. Without home food I cannot survive but I’m too lazy to cook.
There’s still a part of me who wants to try million new things but that energy has to be channeled properly and things have to be prioritized. My co-advisor who I look upon as my idol always says, “Life is a mosaic. Your entire life you build that mosaic piece by piece and at the end that is what you would look at”. It is here that I would gain specialized knowledge about spectroscopy, something that I would have never known about had I not pursued graduate studies at Purdue. It is here that I’ve learnt to be more structured, to do things in advance, rather than procrastinate – a habit picked up at IITB. At college I never thought that I would ever start studying for an exam more than a week in advance, at IIT it was always last-minute studies and night outs. I’ve realized that life isn’t about short-term high intensity pulses; instead it is consistency in the long-term that matters.
I’ve made quite a few good friends here but I still feel the distance sometimes. That feeling of belonging is still missing somehow. Once I am done I definitely want to go back home, to my family, to my friends, to where I belong, to India!
I was careful to do research for this speech so I went up to the Web site — the IIT Web site — and sort of browsed around, and after I did that I thought, well, I’ll go to the MIT Web site and browse around just to see, you know, these things seem very similar. And on the MIT Web site the hot news was that the coffee house was closing down because people weren’t spending enough money there. On the IIT Bombay site, though, things were far more interesting. They said that they had caught a leopard on the campus recently. And that’s something these U.S. universities just can’t offer in terms of an experience. ~ Bill Gates
If you’re new here, this is the sixth awesome post in the series of guest blog posts. This experiment has been successful so far because of people like you. If you have a story to share, I’d love to hear from you. You’re welcome to write about anything under the sun. The more, the merrier. Drop me a line, and I’ll get back to you.
Since we were in different colleges, we would only occasionally be in touch and one day, out of the blue, he asked me if I wanted to join him on a hike to the Himalayas. I assumed that it was just one of those grand plans we all make occasionally, perhaps after being inspired by a book or a movie, so I agreed. I was convinced the idea wouldn’t see the light of day, but little did I know, how persistent, Atish was. Those two weeks that we spent on the mountains became a turning point of our lives (in various ways), but that story, is for another day.