First appeared in The Spirit in March 2011. ICT is the Institute of Chemical Technology, my alma mater.
When I first chose to come to ICT, I had in mind a very different future for myself. I had come to get a professional degree, expand my horizons, gain perspective and go on to get an MBA degree, hopefully end up with an MNC with a fat pay check.
Of course, I got all I wanted but instead I chose to do a PhD in organic chemistry and live on a meagre studentship. Those years at ICT profoundly changed my way of thinking. And no one thing in my four years caused me to change my decision. It was a combination of many things: Samant Sir’s lectures, encouragement by the PG supervisors in the lab, many words of advice from the seniors, the opportunity to explore the practical side abroad, encouragement from the faculty about research, watching the seniors get into good universities and the inspiration from the alumni who have added much to their entrepreneurial skills through research.
The fact that I can actually look back and count on the things that made me choose my future path is indeed something almost all of us can do. We can connect the dots and realise how the little things in the four substantial years that we spent at ICT made us take the decisions that we take.
By no means are these factors only going to affect our academic choices or career choices, they affect our hobbies or even life choices. The efforts put in to starting this newsletter called The Spirit were substantial. The people involved spent a big chunk of their free time working for it and learning from the experience. It changed me and I am sure it changed many others who were involved.
What began as efforts towards building a newsletter at ICT ended up today being the source of my passion for science communication. Over the years, I’ve become more and more passionate about writing. The editorial experience that I gained with the Spirit have enabled me to access better places during my studies at Oxford.
The network of friends that we build during our days at ICT becomes the source of many things, unrelated to our careers and yet of prime importance to our lives. I’ve seen many seniors get married very recently, people who either met during their days at ICT or met because they were from ICT.
Our time at ICT has affected us in many big and beautiful ways but there many small things that we may not appreciate which we can give ICT the credit for.
I will always remember the struggle we had to go through to convince the faculty before we could start The Spirit. We had to make sure that we had a good plan. One that will not bring any financial burden on the Institute and yet last for a long time, not stop after we left. The exercise although at the time seemed unimportant has actually kept us all connected to the newsletter even after 5 years. Having successfully done that, somewhere in the back of my mind I know that if you try hard and work towards something that you really want, it is possible to do it. However insignificant an achievement it might be in the grand scheme of things, it has left me with a must have life lesson.
It’s not all been about learning from just succeeding. More lessons were learnt through failing. Working in teams has been a great experience. It has made me realise that in all teams there are a few people who will always object or oppose progress and it is those few that you really need to convince. If not, they will convince the rest of the team to do exactly the opposite.
But it is humbling to know, as dubbed in the popular culture that the butterfly effect affects all of us:
When we look back in detail on the major events of our lives, it is not uncommon to be able to identify such seemingly inconsequential random events that led to big changes.
– Leonard Mlodinov in The Drunkard’s Walk
The beginning of the Spirit was one such ‘seemingly inconsequential’ event. It was meeting Anil Nair, a journalist who wanted to do a story on ICT in summer of 2006. At the time, the TA had decided to give special importance to getting some media attention to the Institute. Alok Patil and I were responsible to take things further and in the time that we spent with Anil talking about the Institute and about the article, was when the idea of the newsletter was conceived.
The quote comes from a book that discusses the effects of chance on our everyday lives. We human beings aren’t wired to take into effect the randomness that affects us daily. Instead, many of us live under the psychological illusion that we alone determine our own future. Of course, I am not denying that we play the biggest part in shaping our future, as you all know, but at the same time we must never forget the many things that have contributed to make us who we are even if they might have seemed inconsequential at the time.
ICT is, and will remain, an important parts of our lives. Sooner or later we all will appreciate the major role it has played in shaping us. And having left the place, we must all remember that there is much we can do to contribute to the experience that we all gained from.