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2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

3 Idiots.... and a flood of memories....

(Image from the net)

A few years back, when my sister recommended 'Five point someone', I picked it up eagerly, hoping to re-live some of my wonderful memories of my days at IIT. Unfortunately, the book not just failed to do so, it was actually a big disappointment, since I actually had to force myself to complete the book (a problem I have never had to face before)!

When '3 Idiots' was due to release, I was least interested in watching it, in spite of Aamir Khan's presence. Again, it was my sister who first raved to me about the movie, and after a couple more people encouraged me, we finally went and saw the movie yesterday!

If you ask Samhith, he can easily tell you what he liked about the movie - It was quite obvious, since he kept screaming, 'Aal izz well', both inside the theatre (to my great embarrassment) and outside too!!!

For once, Shankar seemed to enjoy a Hindi movie too, since he actually laughed all along, and didn't once drop off to sleep!!!!

As for me, the movie brought back loads and loads of memories, something the book failed to do! I must congratulate Aamir Khan an co. for the wonderful work they have done with the book! Of course, there is the usual "Bollywood masala" added in liberal doses, but I guess that is what actually draws the crowds.

When I first sat down to write this post, my fingers started typing out, almost on their own, my memories, just as they came to me. When I read through them again, I realised that much of it wouldn't really make sense to any of you, since most of you who read my blog know very little about me. What you do know about me is the Anu of the present - a mother, a housewife, a traveller, a blogger. Of the Anu of yesterday, the student, the dreamer, most of you know very little, especially since I have avoided writing about it so far. Seeing the movie yesterday made me want to share a little more of me with all of you, and hence this post is probably the most personal one I have ever written.

For those of you who are wondering if I was a B.Tech student, no, I wasn't one of those lucky ones......In fact, Engineering was something I didn't want to get into, and thank God, my mother didn't force me. Of course, she had her dream, that her daughter would become a doctor or an engineer, but she realised early that her daughter wasn't going to fulfill such grand dreams, and allowed me to follow my own path, something I am really grateful for. I hope, when the time comes, I shall be able to do the same for Samhith too!

I went the much easier route, studying Physics, reading literature, and ensconcing myself in libraries with whatever books I could find, and managed to easily complete my M.Sc, earning reasonably good grades, looked upon by teachers as a bright student, one likely to go far! Who ever knew how far I would travel from Physics!!!!!

Well, I entered IIT Bombay as a Ph.D Student, full of dreams of wonderful new inventions and path breaking experiments. Little did I know that my ideals and dreams had no place in this place which was all about the rat race. I had no interest in the mad race to the top, had never wanted to have anything to do with it, and soon found myself totally out of place! Added to my problems was a guide as naive as me, and after a year, I was told to change my guide. Even today, I feel sorry for the young professor I had wanted to work with, and wonder if he has stuck on and adapted to the situation.

This isn't intended to be a tale of the woes and the problems I encountered, but the memories that resurfaced as I sat watching the movie, so I guess it is time I move on.............

The first half of the movie was especially poignant, for it brought back those wonderful first few years - the fun and adventure of hostel life, making new friends, the awe of being at IIT, learning things in a new way, looking at Physics from a totally different angle.... I can just go on and on, for those were certainly some of the best years of my life.

But the movie also brought back the not-so-good memories - the discovery that, for my department at least, what was really of interest were the grants which could keep the money flowing in.... that there was no money in trying out something new, which would involve more expenditure, and hence was not feasible........the realization, which, unfortunately came too late, that my guide had no intention of helping me complete my Ph.d in the requisite 5 years, but actually expected me to work for at least 10 years before I got any results, as I was doing something new!!!!

The movie, as movies do, exaggerates quite a lot, but there is no exaggerating the kind of depression that one falls into, when dreams are shattered and the scales fall from ones' eyes! In  the four years I spent there, there was just one attempted suicide, (thank god, the boy survived, but he did not return to the campus as shown in the movie), but there were many who succumbed in other ways - there were those who almost went mad, one who was found in the garden lying stark naked on a December night, one who disappeared for days without even a word to his wife....... I shudder even as I recollect those horrifying moments..........

The "I QUIT" scrawled on the wall by the boy who commits suicide seems especially poignant, for I Quit too, and thank God that I didn't succumb to the pressure by taking the extreme step. I simply walked out one fine day, and never went back...... not even to get back my documents.

Most of all, the movie reminded me of the wonderful friends I had made on the campus, with few of whom I still am in touch...... In a way, there were 3 of us too, all idiots in our own way - I quit, and found myself married, with a kid, and finally have found recourse in writing...... another completed her work, fighting against all odds, but now she is married and a mother too, and like me, has chosen to stay at home. The third, the one who had the easiest path of the three of us - a good and helpful guide, many friends ever ready to help out, a bright future ahead, is the one I have lost touch with.... I hope she is fine, and doing good, wherever she is......

So, this post is dedicated to my IIT friends, Pro, who stood by me through thick and thin, and whom I can call even today and be assured that she will hear me through and help me out, Pallavi and Vandana, whose whereabouts I have no idea of, but whom I think of, regularly, Sudha, who I am in touch with, off and on, and who has been equally supportive, and of course, all those others whom I cannot name individually, but who were all instrumental in making my life at IITB memorable!

Time, they say, is the great healer, but 9 years have passed since I quit, but the wounds haven't yet healed. I have not yet gathered enough courage to visit the campus, and face the people I once worked with..... Even when I pass the campus, as I often do, given the place I live, my eyes still fill with tears. One of my best friends ever used to tell me to first forgive, for only then could I forget. I think of him every time I pass the place, and tell myself again and again that it is time I forgive and forget. Maybe one of these days, I shall maybe make a detour inside the campus and try to see if I can, now that I have moved on, actually get over the most difficult phase of my life!

There are times when I wonder if I made the right decision when I quit, but I know, deep inside, that given the same situation, I would certainly do the same thing again, so I have no real regrets. If I do have any regrets, it is that I could not complete the degree I had set my eyes on, but the dream still remains, and I hope, I shall someday make my dream of prefixing a 'Dr." to my name, come true someday - if not in Physics, some other subject!! As of now, my priorities lie with my son, the utmost one to bring him up in a way which helps him make the right decisions, all by himself, so that he knows where he wants to go, and chooses the right path. My own dreams come after that, I have all my life ahead to make my dream come true.

Well, reading over the post, I realize that this is one of the longest posts I have written in a long time, and certainly the most personal one, as I warned you earlier. I hope writing down and sharing my experiences will help me, but that is something only time will tell.

If you have got through and read so far, please do leave your comments..........


  1. I liked it!!
    & I don't think u did anything'am.

    I was one of the guys who tried IIT JEE thrice and failed.. Butt soon after I actually thanked myself for not being there. I doubt if I wld have been able to handle tht pressure to perform, @ tht tender young age.

    But yes, this is in no way trying to take anything away from the brand and an institution IIT is.

    Keep writing. I follow u. :)

  2. Reading thru it I don't know what to say..How can I comment specifically on one's life that has passed gone...
    But you are not alone..memories haunt...even me... Keep posting

  3. I walked into yours from Srivats' blog. I understand to an extent the dilemma about reliving some of those years of yore which pricks even today at times. The rat race paradoxically is the boon (as some of the best brains are there) and the bane of IITs. Some of them ride the crest and some drop into the troughs and those troughs are hard to digest landing into depression. It is good that you came to terms with and broke out of your nightmare. Hopefully this post has had a cathartic effect on you. And wishing you good as you move forward on your priorities in life.

  4. I understand as I myself did a Ph.D. from IIT kanpur and worse still in HSS! Yet I was lucky as I used to play for 3 hours in the evening and would cope with anything on that strength. My hubby is a M.Sc physics though from the 5 year route and he too didn't like it and didn't even think of a Ph.D. after 5 years.

    And I still feel I am so close to the memories that I never even picked up FPS! Also I have stayed away from the movie.

  5. Hey Anu...
    This is the first time I am reading your blog and I guess this movie has touched almost everybody's life in some way.... good or bad is each one's take.
    I am no IITan (not even a distant aspirant),but I can relate to the circumstances created in the movie very much to my college days.
    I believe, at the end of the day, if we are content we our present life, we will never regret the days gone by....

  6. OMG Anu!!! i got goose pimples reading ur post, ur nostalgia, the hurt.. very poignant account it was..
    Im sure the Dr prefix will happen, my best wishes for that..

  7. Thanks everyone for all your comments.... Just one clarificationI would like to make to all those who have read this blog, and might do so later......

    While I had some of my worst luck and bad experiencesat IIT, those were also wonderful from many other ways.......All said and done, they remain the premier institutes,and nothing can take away their worth. What I learnt there was much, much more than I could ever have learnt elsewhere....
    However, the regret I feel at being unable to complete my work, and the attitude i had to face bring back more sad memories than the good ones.... and seeing the movie just brought all of them back.....
    And yes, it did help to share it with all of you!!!

    @Shyamgovind: Hey, its never too late to get in....and just because I have had some bad experiences doesnt mean that it is all many of my friends did an Mtech there, and its just great!!! Maybe u should try for a higher degree there!!!

    @ Tarun: Thanks so much!!!

    @RamMmm: Well, while i am certainly glad i came out when i did, there are times, esp when i tell my son to persevere, i wonder if i should have stuck on.. which is why regrets will always remain!!!

    @Mridula: Oh! some of my best friends were from HSS! see, the affinity remains even now :-))

    i can really understand why your hubby didnt want to continue.... and yes, both of you should really stay away from the movie... as to the book, it just worse...

    @kn0609: I totally agree with you...but contentment doesnt come easy..and while i am reasonably content with my life, there are always thoughts such as 'what if....?'

    so now you know why i blog so much!!!

    @AJCL: hey, thanks a lot!!!! lets see when my dream comes true, though... rest assured, whenever i do, it will be you guys who will be the first to know!!!

  8. excellent narration,just back from watching the movie,there is a time when ppl need to take that crucial decision ,certainly do remember mine ,glad you are having a nice time post your decision

  9. I'm sure Anu that your son will take the path he's interested the most in. And then, you'll be free again to complete your dream of getting "Dr." before your name :) My best wishes with you.

    Rajasthani Turbans

  10. The post is so interesting, I read it again :)

    Rays of Hope

  11. Thanks for sharing ur experiences of college days. Nice post! :)

  12. very very nice to read yr post
    it is not easy to quit and to admit it too honestly
    i have a lot to learn from this..yu have set my mind rolling..

  13. GoodLUCK to your Ph.D.
    Reg-3 idiots movie I hated Boman Irani acting.Personally I feel the 3 idiots is over rated but compared to the crappy hinidi movies like Blue,Dhorna this cud reach oscars!!!

  14. @THe Wild: thanks so much.....

    @Bhavesh: Hey, thanks a lot.. esp for coming back to read the post again!!! hope your words come true and Samhith makes his own decision and is happy with it....

    @Chandrika: thanks a lot....

    @ Ssstoryteller: thanks so much!!!

    @Srinivas : well, it was just a timepass movie... nothing great... but just like so many others,, made only for tp...

  15. So many comments! Wow! One more here from an ex-HSS junta of one of the IITs :P -- Yes, this post is most unlike the others u've written on this blog, however, is closest to the person i know :) Realising that something is not working and moving away from it is a great act of courage and you've done that. So, forgive the people who've soured IIT for you. You know you've moved on! As for the movie and the book, and my IIT experience -- you've heard me harangue endlessly on those!

  16. Hi Anu,

    First of all a big thanks for fwding this link and writing all that u wrote on this blog.

    Really don't know what to write after reading this touching article of yours. I am actually crying. Just fwded this link to Pallavi.

    Yes, what u say is very very true. Actually, we also saw the movie 2 weeks ago. And honestly, I didnt like it much (in comparison, what almost everyone who watched the same told me). It was ok -3 hrs fun. The usual bollywood masala, with traces of earlier movies by the same director. I felt Aamir Khan was too much glorified. anyways....

    Yes, even I havent been to IITB after I presented my viva-voce, though i have been to Bombay many times after that. Somehow, i feel scared to meet my Profs and other dept. members. Many might feel why am i sitting at home being a housewife after a PhD In Mathematics? But honestly, I am enjoying this role and I am quite satisfied pursuing my hobbies and taking care of our home and our five year old daughter Neha.

    Anyways, as you have put it, IIT days had its own mixture of many many good and bad memories. I still cherish all those endless chat sessions that we both have had. It was so comfortable talking about anything and everything under the sun.

    As your friend says, its better to forgive and forget all those unpleasant memories and look for brighter days ahead.....

    Wish you and your fly lots of happiness in the coming days...


  17. would like to see more of you , anu , the student and dreamer...i now understand why the movie did well..was wondering what was so great abt it...

    nevertheless you have written so poignantly ...pls write more

  18. Radha said:
    I was just trying to google something about wandering mind when I saw your article .The most impressive one was about the movie 3 -Idiots and how you got back those wonderful moments as well as the sad ones.I am an Engg Graduate myself though not from IIT, it did bring back some great memories good ones as well as the bad ones too.But eventually what you have to think is just compare yourself to what you were before you joined IIT how much more transformed and tuned you are now after the 5 yrs that you spent in IIT, yes I understand that you dont have a "Dr" degree.But you would have really got a treasury of experiences while you met some wonderful friends as you have mentioned and different kinds of people, the professors, the real world at a glance, I have heard that people persuing their education in such premier institutes have a totally different perspective and amazing views.It is that treasure of experience that you should value .I am sure some day You will see yourself as 'Dr' too.May your dream be fulfilled.I am impressed by your writings!


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