Recounting The Classes That’s Still Intact – Part I

Surely I can cover all those wonderful classes since childhood that left their mark, if only I preserve any souvenir for reminiscence. But then either they won’t be the best for the very essence of being the best or they would overshadow the ones which I really want to write about in this post.

Fortunately I don’t remember any such class before college. They were all conventional – essential subject, text books, read, understand, devour, write exams, score marks, be happy over scoring the perfect, cry over losing that 2 marks because you overlooked the question, get result, throw it, forget about the course, move on. And conventional classes don’t make up for the best or being memorable for that matter. I never took any singing, dance or music class, so no chance of discussing about them as well.

I attended drawing classes for few months though. I was in 6th standard then – a nervous chap with an awkward feeling as drawing was somewhere at the top of my dislike list back then. Late & wet because it was drizzling, I entered that large verandah with the top like a dome where few students, scattered on the floor, were lost in scratching in their drawing books. My cousin introduced me to the teacher as he has already been attending the classes.

Drawing teacher was quite young compared to the traditional teachers I was used to seeing, my father being one. He took my drawing copy, drew a wonderful bird in one go and handed it to me to draw another one besides it. Then he took my brother’s copy and drew an intricate floral design with a pen. Little me was impressed. Atleast I was assured of the right guidance.

But it was time for my start. I tried and erased, tried again, cursed myself for being bad at drawing, drew crappy curvy lines, somehow managed to get a bird outline, showed him. He acknowledged it normally and told me to practice. Fast forward 10 years, that’s the only drawing on top of my head which I can draw in seconds.

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The bird my teacher drew had stroking &  hedging on branches – esoteric words!

Next I had drawn a horse that I proclaimed as the masterpiece I would draw in my lifetime. I kept appreciating it day & night, squinted whenever I caught a glimpse and boasted in front of those asking what have you learnt in the drawing class – atleast I had my one cent. That drawing copy is nowhere to be seen now. Probably it would be lying in some abandoned corner of my storeroom or probably it went too far surfing on the tide of time. No drawing, no copy, no drawing class anymore – it’s just the memory. Whoopf!

I think the best classes are short lived. Like a workshop or a seminar. Like a boot camp you attended or like creative arts courses we have in our curriculum. I also believe that generally (and mind when I say ‘generally‘) the best classes aren’t our usual semester classes. It’s quite possible that you meet the grey beard who would change your life forever.

My prof. starts his day with a drawing addressed to growing up of his little son

It’s phenomenal! Sometimes the best drive for your work is your emotion for someone else 

You would be attributing a part of your success to him but it’s the person whom you would be remembering. You would remember what subject he taught the first time but you won’t remember the learning and fun you had in that course for two prominent reasons – first, it would be suppressed by more significant portion that comes further as a result of your association (like you ended up doing research work under that prof.) or your personal liking wasn’t reflected in the same way by your peers and so psychologically its intensity faded over time.

Above all this, a class will stand out only if it appeals to your aspiration, provided other parameters remain as usual. If you aspire to be a screenplay writer, there are high chances that you would’ve much better time in your English class reading stories than the fellows who despise it for the same reason you had hard time coping up in your Physics class. If you’re good with textbooks you would appreciate theory classes. But if you’re more on the practical side, lab classes are pure bliss and a delightful alternative to your boring lectures, provided its intended execution and your enthusiastic involvement.

Why can’t the usual semester classes be the best? I didn’t clarify on that part.

In my personal opinion, it’s because that’s how they’re supposed to be. They’re predictable. The course content is redundant. Very likely that it’s been taught by the same professor whose classes you took in your previous semesters. But even after all this, if everything is favorable, then again it won’t remain special for the entire duration of a semester and thereafter because the fun will be diluted with time. It’s like a hangover party – obviously you would enjoy it if it’s for day or two but what if you do it non-stop for months.

It’s just my realization. Tell me in comments if your perception varies or cite an example from your fun journey if this post took you back to those joyous moments. It’s just a build-up post ( that’s why Part 1 😛 ) In the next part, I would tell you about specific classes which inspired me to write about this topic. Till then keep learning, keep enjoying and yeah do remember that classrooms aren’t always enclosed with four walls and a roof. Peace out! ✌

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For A Little While…And Then Forever

This is my 50th blog post and I dedicate it to the wonderful relation of friendship I’ve fostered on my exuberant journey of exploration.

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Another milestone – Thanks WordPress!

It all happened so fast that I hardly had any time to retrospect. While appreciating the charisma of serendipity, I forgot that it wasn’t my usual realm. This was new & this was exciting. Led by our destiny there we were, brought together, ready to add another element to our fate. A bond sparked by circumstances, fueled by humanly emotion.

Of course there is usual friendship – people whom you’ve spent considerable time with, to ensure your compatibility. They make your life beautiful and you adorn them. They are the ones whom you attribute major part of your personality to. But this post about a new kind of friendship – ones which are instantaneous.

friendship

Source – Freepik

How improbable does it seem to bump into a stranger only to find out that person to be the answer to your perpetual search for a companion? A person, totally unknown, seemingly lost in the labyrinth of life same as you are. But we remain oblivious – may be because of our proclaimed trait of introvertism or maybe we’re apprehensive of xenophobic consequences.

So how do you find out? How do you probe into the world of theirs? How do you relieve them of their perpetual weight of stories?

You have two options – either to put aside the pseudo-awkwardness and talk or to live with the guilt of ‘what if I had‘.

If chosen the former, you’ve a story lying ahead to be written. Believe me it’s gonna be wonderful. You’re the protagonist and its your portrayal in a yet-to-be written story. What’s unusual is that it just clicks. Without any planning, without second thought, everything would fall in place – sometimes remarkably beyond your expectation.

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Similar was the case of mine. I was always bounded by overthinking. How could I? What would he/she think? What would I talk about? How should I initiate the conversation? There are hundreds of questions that occupy our mind just because we let them to. Instead channelize your inquisitive potential in classes or any other event where you need to speak up. Don’t let the possibility of good discussion die within yourself 😛

Over the years I’ve spent countless moments contemplating over the things that could have been. It was all futile. ‘In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take‘ – it couldn’t have been more true. Gradually I realized that I was missing on so many opportunities. There’s no point in being in your comfort zone and later repent than to take a leap of faith – just greet. Or may be ask a question. Or may be just smile at the helplessness of the situation and get a beautiful smile back in return.

Many a times we’re brought together by circumstances. Be it that hackathon which you were about to miss or the college fest which you never planned to attend, be it a community project undertaken by an organization you’re volunteering for or be it just being there at the right time at the right moment. Yet the aforementioned holds true. Just make the first move – that’s all it takes. Everyone has a story to tell, you just need to listen. Be a good listener.

Need a start? Or do you seek motivation about how it could transform your entire perception? These TEDxers talks about exactly that –

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/kio_stark_why_you_should_talk_to_strangers.html

Many of us might have come across stories about talking to strangers or striking off unexpected conversation only to have one of the most wonderful moments of their lives. It’s time that we write our own chapter. There are many such amazing possibilities lying around, we just need to break the inertia, come out of our shell and make those possibilities real. Who knows it might be the most memorable thing you live with.

Signing off with an imperative quote from one of my favorite short films ‘We’ll Think About It‘ –

They say, you just need to go with the flow sometimes. Our problem is, that we hesitate. Our problem is, that we pull ourselves back everytime. And never get to know how things could’ve been. Our problem is that we think too much. And feed to our insecurities. Our problem is, that we fool ourselves with our silly pretense.

What we need to realize is that there’s nothing really to think about. It’s like taking a guess, when the only answer is yes.

Author’s Note – My vocabulary isn’t succinct to justify the emotion I wanted to convey. It’s when you’re moved beyond your usual domain, you realize its intensity. True friendship is something that we all seek but it’s hard to find as well. Sometimes it’s OK to be vulnerable. May what people search for their entire lifetime unexpectedly knocks at your door. So go ahead and open it 🙂

Startup Weekend: Learn To Unlearn

If you follow me on Twitter then you must be knowing that I attended ‘Startup Weekend‘ powered by ‘Google for Entrepreneurs‘ recently. It was organized at ISB Hyderabad. If you missed the stills through my tweets, no problem. Catch the action in motion in this show-reel I made –

ISB (Indian School of Business) is one of the premier B-Schools in India and that was pretty much apparent from the facilities we got there. The campus was huge & green, throwing away a lovely scenic beauty. The inside infrastructure was none less than a 5-star hotel. We took our chances to roam around the campus whenever we got time out of our brainstorming sessions.

Startup Weekend‘ was much more than just an entrepreneurial event. It was a huge learning experience for me in terms of problem identification, devising solutions, team dynamics, market research, presentation, networking and it all happened in just 3 days.

Format – How it happens?

The format of the event was pretty much like hackathons where you go at the venue, come up with problem statement (either pre-defined or decided on spot), form team, devise solutions and present your prototype in the end. But it goes one step further in terms that not only you have to think from the tech perspective but rather you’ve to discuss about the market feasibility of your product as well. In short, you’ve your startup at the end of the weekend.

Now here’s the problem for engineers. Being a hard-core techie, we always tend to think from the solution perspective. Integrate a bunch of sensors, build an app to aggregate data, perform analytics and that’s it. That’s where it taught us a hard but well-learnt entrepreneurial lesson.

Look at the judging criteria and it would give you a fair idea on what all aspects to incorporate in the multi-dimensional discussions –

judging_criteria

The judging panel consisted of some eminent names from the startup ecosystem and they looked thoroughly into the whole idea. They exactly know what it needs for a product to reach the target audience successfully.

I went there with my CHE co-fellows and we had some idea about what we were going build. Few days back we were given a capstone project from our ‘Center for Healthcare Entrepreneurship‘ to build a digital stethoscope and integrate it with ECG. Now here was the catch. Though we knew what we have to build, we were totally clueless about why exactly are we building this. Who are our target customers? How do we wish to enter the market? What’s our unique selling proposition (USP) as compared to the other competitors?

Featured in The IndianTalks – seriously, what am I thinking?

Furthermore we had to pitch our idea on the first day in order to get selected. Only then we could’ve gone ahead and build our prototype. Many ideas were plainly scraped during the initial voting phase. What and whomever remained teamed up and there the hackathon began.

Somehow we had two more teammates on board after the pitch. Let’s talk about them later and how it affected our entire plan.

One wonderful thing about our team was its diversity. We had people from all three categories – Hacker, Designer & the Hustler. So building the solution was not at all the problem for us. We were able to build our entire prototype within 2-3 hours on the last day. But what happened on the first 2 days was the absolute nightmare and probably the biggest learning I got about the startups.

The biggest challenge for us was to clearly define the problem statement.

If you can’t describe why you’re building whatever you’re building then you’re in deep trouble. Any good engineer can make a fascinating technical stuff  but then almost none of the projects we build in college go to the product phase. So where’s the difference? What lies in between that is so largely unknown?

Read this wonderful Yourstory article on what you shouldn’t just rush for it.

There’s a gigantic ocean between a crude prototype and a finished product.

Confused and annoyed, we kept on brainstorming to clearly understand the need. Multiple phone calls, field trips, Internet searches, market research, product validation – we did it all. And this was the result of all our efforts –

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Finally we sat silently, discussed and made this at 1 o’clock in night.

We discussed on each and every point of the judging criteria, refined our solutions, gave freedom to everyone in the team to think and give their inputs. Also we were provided with few mentoring sessions from the management side itself and that cleared a lot of our doubts.

mentoring

It’s good to get the feedback from the domain experts

But beware! Sometimes mentoring sessions could be confusing as well. Not everyone could clarify your doubts if you’re not able to convey it properly. Also mentors might try to impose their own though process which could further complicate things.

Team Dynamics

This is probably the most crucial things I learnt. First of all, it is very important to maintain your calmness throughout the event. If you or any of your teammate is unstable, you would keep on jumping on multiple boats and never land on a single island. It would hamper the entire team and consolidating the idea would be much more difficult.

Our main intention behind going for the event was to understand our own CHE team. We were just acquaintances to each other so far. Having 2 extra on-spot teammates was something that made us question our decision.

Not only having a big team was a hindrance in effective communication but it was equally difficult to get everyone on the same page.

You never know a person completely until you’ve worked seriously with him/her.

CHE-TEAM

Team CHE-IITH

Speaker sessions & Informals

The event wasn’t all about ourselves. We had fun informal sessions to break the ice. Its great to meet new people and work with them instantly. This is something I’ve found in almost all such events I’ve been to. These minuscule events are great accelerators to set the things in motion. The real fun is it all happens within minutes.

Also we had some big shots to share their life long experiences and motivate the participants. You can’t hide your excitement much longer when you see people, whom you regard as inspirations, speaking in front of you.

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Padma Shri Arunachalam Muruganantham – one among 100 most influential people in the world by TIME in 2014

What we built? – The final touchdown.

We ultimately narrowed down our effort to develop a recommendation based personalized healthcare system to monitor elderly population. I won’t go much into the technical detail here but we built a hardware aggregator than collects various health-related data from the patient, send it to an app for visualization and the doctor for recommendation. Also in case of emergency, it triggers a call to the concerned person.

The final prototype looked like this –

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Lots of wires! And mind you that electrode isn’t easy to peel off 😛

That is me wearing that wacky thing. The final form factor we suggested looks something like this –

https://sketchfab.com/models/2096c47ab25a457389f29d17861e1055/embed

It’s in the form of a watch without the strip. Here’s a sketch I made to understand the morphology & the presentation that followed –

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The Aftermath Analysis –

4 hours!

Yeah that’s the duration for which we discussed our whole performance post event. Each of us learnt something valuable that would help us further. It was rather important to analyze so as not to repeat our mistakes further.

There would be many more events like this in future but what remains constant is the team. Our bonding is essential for smooth working and that I think is our biggest takeaway form the event.

The conclusion is simple and now it sits in front of my working desk –

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For your product to be successful, it should satisfy these 3 criteria. Don’t directly go for the solution, think clearly about the problem first. Then only you can devise something useful. This is ‘design innovation thinking‘.

So if you’re thinking your idea sitting in some cubicle or college dorm, stop for a moment and question to yourself – why before jumping to what.

After all the serious talks, we did joked around for another hour about what else we did during the event (it’s understood, after all we are humans :P).

Wrap Up – 

The food was quite good during the event. Though I don’t have any photo to show. And of-course t-shirt can’t be forgotten 🙂

 

There’s a whole another story that went in parallel and my next blog post would be on that. Here is a photo prompt to fuel your anticipation –

Image result for friends fun

Till then sit back, relax and enjoy! Hope you had an interesting read 🙂