The Star of my Convocation: Ratan Tata

A moment most students yearn for: the graduation ceremony, better known as ‘convocation’.

One of the personally likeable things about my convocation (at IIT Madras) was Sh. Ratan Tata’s message. Amongst other things, he mentioned the following in his convocation address:

“… Our moment in time has come. It’s very opportune that you will be moving out in the world at this particular time. It’s a time when India has been recognized as an emerging power, and above all, India has been recognized for the value of its human capital.

… while you will have the opportunity of participating in a very interesting and exciting moment (in India’s growth as a power), you will also carry with you a special responsibility… I hope that will also carry a responsibility of giving back to the country what it deserves.

… I was pleased to hear the chairman mention research. That’s exactly what this country needs. It needs its engineers to devote their full-time minds in to inventions, discoveries and enterprises, and not have to go to other countries, to multinational organizations, to have this happen.

… One would hope that a premier institution like this would turn out engineers who would not see a need to go on to a business career, but will focus on providing their mental prowess to the engineering industry, to the scientific industry and in fact, contributing in their own technical fields.

… Most of you are going to seek leadership – at least, that’s what I hope you would do. I cannot help but express my views in terms of attributes that I hope you will have as a leader. I would hope that you would go in to the world – whichever area you are in – first and foremost, driven by a sense of integrity. I think we need to build this country on a high plane of integrity and values…. I would hope that you also have a sense of social responsibility, so that you give back to the people and build the country on the basis of your skills. I would hope that you will be driven by technical challenge and not money alone. I would hope that you will foster teamwork, because no single person will be able to achieve excellence on his own. And that you will go through your life by being fair and just to the people around you and all the stakeholders that you deal with.

We have been… thinking small. And if we look around us, countries like China have grown so much by thinking big. I would urge that we all, in the coming years, think big, think of doing things not in small increments, not in small deltas, but seemingly impossible things. But nothing is impossible if you really set out to do so. And we act boldly. Because it is this thinking big and acting boldly that will move India up in a manner different from where it is today.

… Let’s be One (and not be divided by religion, community etc).

… Give to the world and country what you as an individual can… ”

A lot to learn from the words, and a lot of inspiration from a man I respect a lot. Chairmanship of Tata Steel, Tata Chemicals, Tata Motors and other Tata enterprises, a Harvard education, boundaryless vision and integrity makes Ratan Tata a man who’s speech one would like to reflect upon.

After this speech and a lot of roll numbers, my roll number was called, and I got a degree certifying me as an engineer in ‘Metallurgical and Materials Engineering.” It felt nice to hold the degree, though I am hardly sure of how much of an engineer I really am.

There can be no life better than that of a student, especially when your mind is without fear and you have the opportunity to explore and examine various facets of life. I hope that my continued stint as a student in a different culture will be an enlightening experience. I hope that the research I pursue will help me make significant contributions towards the society that has brought me so far…

As I move towards a path unknown, I have my little doubts and fears as an individual. But there are also a lot of dreams, a lot of hopes, and courage. I pray to God to help me make a contribution towards improving the world that I live in, to spread joy, light and happiness.

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The Jean-Cap Teacher!

After having returned from the convocation, I’ve been visiting my school, this time as a teacher. I am taking classes for 8th and 9th.

When I enter the class, there is inevitably the bursting of chuckles from kids who see a guy dressed in jeans and T-shirts, comically sporting a Reebok cap, having come here to make the improbable attempt to teach them. When I start, someone would interrupt immediately, snapping “Sir, be loud.” When I’d resume another boy would suddenly say “Please switch on the side fan.” So yes, I do realize now that the other side in the school has difficult beginnings.

Surprisingly, however, once I start, things move effortlessly on their own. There is no “fixed agenda” which I carry to a class. The discussion evolves differently depending upon the mood of the students. We discuss about life, about the universe, about science, about attitudes, humility and character. We talk about Einstein, Feynman, the wave-particle duality and the mysterious nature of reality which makes life so interesting.

I and the students, we all do not even realize when the bell for the next period rings. In the recess, kids huddle around me and say “Hi, Saurabh!” (I asked them to address me by my first name.) They ask questions, look with a fondness towards me in their eyes, and that gives me a lot of happiness. I’ve always wanted to teach in school, to teach without fear, to teach with freedom, and am getting to do that.

There’s another week of lectures scheduled, and I hope I’d enjoy them as much as the ones completed. Meanwhile, packing and immunizations to do before I embark upon another adventurous chapter of life, far, faar away from where I am right now…