Watch Out!
Student Media
Body of IITR
About Guide Get Involved


Memoir: There is a romance in knowing these people before they're famous.

June 5, 2019
- Ankit Vyas

We left home for Roorkee at around 4:30 AM on 23rd July 2015 as I secretly made an entry in my diary, ‘Time to live the dream’. A confident, outspoken, middle-class first-generation IITian was about to land in Roorkee with a vision no humbler than casting this place in his own image. The first semester went by more or less unceremoniously with a few seniors vying to recruit me for their political purposes while others admonishing me and amusing themselves on hearing anything related to academia. In hindsight, I feel that spending the first year in Azad Bhawan (yep!) in ignorance of the good, bad and the ugly of this place afforded me time to enjoy cricket in the evenings and take leisurely walks in the campus at nights.

I stayed on campus during the first-year summer vacations to work on a project in the Math Department. One day, a friend invited me to accompany him to a nearby village to teach small children. We enjoyed the exercise each evening but could not continue it after the vacations due to our heavy schedule (or so we believed). On his suggestion, I started reading novels and have built myself a small library now. By the end of summers, I had already rejected a relationship proposal from a long-time friend and been rejected by two others.

In the beginning of the second year, I joined the Student Mentorship Program(SMP) and the Institute Alumni Relations Cell(IARC) while both these programs were being introduced to Roorkee for the first time. While SMP offered me an amateur perspective of many ambitious, energetic and inspirational college seniors, the IARC introduced me to gray-haired CEOs, entrepreneurs, civil servants, social activists, etc. from across the globe. These alumni made me realize that the most important asset to hold dear are the friendships that we develop during our time here. One of the alumni remarked on his Silver Jubilee Alumni Meet ‘There is a romance in knowing these people before they are famous’. To this day, I am surprised as to why they almost always spoke of Roorkee in good terms and never spoke a harsh word against it. Maybe the passing years teach you to feel gratitude towards the positives while comfortably letting the negatives pass into oblivion!

Meanwhile, the allure of ‘#machau’, a glorious social media presence, the pretense of ‘coolness’ and the toxic idea of busyness equals productivity had already started to sting me. With each day, I grew restless to do more, to be more and to have more. The peer-pressure was intense and giving in was easy. These insecurities, combined with some past incidents of my life and my habit of living inside my head turned out to a perfect recipe for long-term depression. I too considered myself ‘too smart for therapy’ as mentioned in one of the previous memoirs. However, I did undergo counseling later on during the final year.

The beginning of the third year opened up new cracks in our insecurities regarding internships and an urgency to decide our careers. We were given the impression that this internship would define, for the most part, which field we were to pursue during our initial careers; an impression which like most of my senior’s opinions and my beliefs is subjective and hence only partly true. With some hard-work and stroke of luck, I was selected to NTHU, Taiwan and KAIST, South Korea. I got selected to KAIST owing to the project I did during the first-year summer vacations (which I abandoned midway). The dots had begun to be connected looking backward. I decided to avail both these offers and divided 3 months evenly between the two places. These 3 months were undoubtedly the most productive time of my college years. I had traveled to a foreign country for the first time and used this opportunity to interact with the locals and know an alien culture. Taiwan is a peaceful country with the most gentle and helpful people you’d find anywhere whereas Korea is a workaholic country with extreme competition owing to widespread capitalism and consumerism. It came as a sweet surprise, and learning to see how people in a different world can live and thrive with a completely different set of principles and value system and be at peace with their lives.

On my return, I had exhausted my mind and spent my health and needed refreshment. A couple of my friends invited me to join them on a trip to Dharamshala where we were to stay in silence (yeah literally silent except for 1 hour each day) at the Tushita Meditation Centre for a week, without any electronics. I readily agreed. I had always been repulsed by the dogmas and rituals of religion and maintained a safe distance from them. However, I did believe that spirituality could be a way to find the satisfaction and peace that many authors preach in their books with much gusto. The experience at Tushita was enriching and refreshing. This was followed by a tense couple of months of the placement season. Amidst much confusion amongst a job, a Ph.D. and a Master degree, I decided to take a job. During the final semester, we converted a friend’s room into a kitchen and cooked our own food.

The IIT tag gave me the opportunity to speak to professors from the HBS, MIT and Stanford and a former student of Stephen Hawking. My desire for new experiences led me to interact with soldiers from the Indian army who served in the Siachen Glacier at -50 degrees, a retired Navy officer who fought pirates in the Atlantic Ocean near South Africa, an Irish girl who has been taking care of injured stray dogs in Sri Lanka, Israeli people who had served in their army and US troops (I actually spent a day with them in South Korea), Europeans and Americans who make a trip to the Himalayas in search of peace and travellers who have been on the road for many years. I have cooked my food with Pakistani students, explained the Indian electoral system to my communist Chinese professor and dated a Taiwanese girl. Many of them did not know what the IITs are which was humbling. Within the confines of this campus, I made hundreds of acquaintances and a handful of friends. All my experiences – good or bad – have convinced me that the confines of this 365 acres campus are too narrow a boundary to procure the necessities of a ‘good life’.

I realize that we all have come here from vastly different (un-)privileged social, cultural and economic backgrounds. Our little head wraps around events and automatically builds meaning from experience utilizing our biases and preconceived notions. Hence, I would like to invite you on a journey to the R-land, to question your biases and do the hard work of altering your self-centered default setting. To see the world through the lens of others within this campus and beyond. And to be a little less sure of yourselves when you leave this campus.