I was recently asked to write memoirs of my college life for a guest editorial for my alma mater's alumni newsletter, and I jotted down a few thoughts while reminiscing the past. Long-time readers may not find these stories new. For the others, I have hyperlinked the related old stories for your online reading pleasure:
Every time I remember PESIT, it reminds me of three things - hectic schedule, great peers and great teachers. In hindsight, that's what a good life is all about.
Let me explain.
About the hectic schedule - PESIT made us attend a lot of classes and do a lot of extracurricular activities. Like any other typical student, we used to curse our fate for that. When I look back now, it was a great training for us to prepare for life "in the real world", i.e. the professional life. They prepare you for the hustle. It's not enough to have opportunities, it's how you make use of them that matters.
Speaking of peers - we had quite an eclectic batch who had a wide range of interests which made for interesting discussions. Today, they are musicians (Gaurav Vaz is the bass guitarist in The Raghu Dixit Project), screenplay writers (Pawan Kumar wrote the screenplay for Manasaare and Pancharangi kannada movies), entrepreneurs, managers and, of course, robot scientists and engineers. Imagine people of such calibre hanging around together in college. Fun times indeed.
Speaking of teachers - there are two teachers who have made a distinct impression in my mind and my appreciation for computer science - Shrividya madam who taught us Compiler Design (I'm a Computer Science student) and Shylaja madam who taught us Data Structures. A good teacher can make all the difference between a subject being drab or it being exciting and interesting. I must thank lecturers such as these for keeping my enthusiasm for computers going and prodding me to enjoy and learn the subject deeply.
Seniors - There are many seniors in our college to whom I'm indebted. Right from how they used CAT (the Clarion Aptitude Test) to prepare us for campus interviews, to teaching us the upcoming areas of interest such as Linux. Everyone takes Linux for granted in the industry today, but it was not so 6-7 years ago, and I'm glad our seniors took the effort and interest to introduce us to the topic when we were in college.
In fact, that was what led me to my interest in entrepreneurship and technology. Let me give you two examples.
Entrepreneurship - Back then, in the days when dial-up internet was the fastest service you could get, it was hard to get the latest versions of Linux which used to be multiple CDs, for example, 3-4 CDs of 700 MB would take months to download over dial-up. So we hit upon an idea to acquire such CDs and then sell CD copies over the Internet. I think we were in 5th or 6th semester at that time. We called the service lincds.com (no longer present) and we sold it all over India and even sent a few CDs all the way to Mombasa, Kenya. We also sold CDs to our own college, thanks to encouragement by Nitin Pujari sir. He ordered 100 CDs from us so that it can be used in the college. I still remember burning CDs all night long while watching a cricket match and I used to walk over to the desktop every six minutes to pop in a new blank CD to burn! And I spent the rest of the weekend installing Red Hat Linux on all the computers in the Aryabhatta lab. Great memories.
Technology - When Red Hat Linux 9 was released, thanks to LinCDs.com, I got access to it early and was learning my way through and learned a few things. In CS stream, we have to write a project using databases. Everyone used VB and Oracle. My project partner and myself, influenced by our seniors, wanted to use open source, so we requested to use Qt and MySQL respectively instead. This was met with resistance from our lecturer saying "MySQL is a small utility on Linux, it is not a real database" and did not let us proceed. We were lucky that Nitin Pujari sir and Badri Prasad sir intervened and let us do it our way. In hindsight, they exercised great faith in us and I thank them for that. We built a software for managing a medical laboratory and had a good learning experience. Little did I know that that experience would eventually lead me to an internship and subsequently a job at Yahoo!. At Yahoo!, we used MySQL to run massive critical systems :). I'm grateful that our HoD supported us in our quest to learn.
On the same note, we used Qt to build the user interface of our software. At the last minute, we were informed that we had to write an installer that we have to run in front of the external invigilator to install our software on any new machine. Other students had it easy because Microsoft Visual Studio would automatically generate it. We had no such alternative. So I ended up learning Python language and writing the installer in that because that could run on any machine. One thing led to another and I ended up writing my notes on learning the language and called it a book with the title "A Byte of Python." I was recently informed that this is a compulsory text book for computer science students in PESIT! I wish those students who read the book know that I wrote that when I was still in PESIT :)
A mentor of mine keeps telling me that "There are two times in your life that you innovate - one is when you're in college, and the other is after you retire." If there are any current students reading this, my humble request to you is please don't waste your precious college years. It's a great time to both have fun and to learn - please make the most of it. PESIT gives many good opportunities such as PPR and many other avenues. You will not realize the value of this until you step into professional lives, so I would advise you to not regret later and put in all your efforts now when in college. It's better to struggle now for four years and enjoy the rest of your lives than have masti now and struggle for the next forty years!
Lastly, I want to thank all my teachers in PESIT, I am constantly amazed at their untiring efforts in teaching students and working towards their best interests despite the students' general lackadaiscal attitudes. I hope this small note reassures you that you are all making a difference and I thank you for that.
Swaroop C H
Student of 2004 batch of B.E. in Computer Science.
Note 1: Special thanks to Sriranga Chidambara for sending me the scanned copy of the printed newsletter.
Note 2: No, that photo and profile was not my idea.