We took a train from Uudpi to Mumbai, which arrived a couple of hours late at the station. The journey was very scenic, running parallel to the west coast of the country,
We were in Mumbai for a day before leaving for kanpur. Travel from Mumbai to Lucknow was a 2hr flight and then we were to supposed to catch a bus that would take another couple of hours to reach ITTKanpur.
Thanks to cold and bad conditions, the bus got cancelled, and we eventually settled for a private taxi.
IITKanpur is an amazing place. The climate at this time of the year was ‘chilling’. The day begun and ended with a lot of fog – both in the physicality and in the mind. The hostels and the environment were a lot more different than Manipal, and the four of us would so often be on a long walk in a series of jokes and contemplations about science, careers and life itself. The company of the three of them was amazing!
IITKanpur is set over a large area, and being one of the oldest iit’s in the country, there was a lot to see and observe. We observed the time capsule and the aeronautics club , among other things. The people there were friendly and the conference team made sure we got the hospitality we needed. We explored hostels and the performance arts centre too!
I have been in a whirlwind since the trip has started.
There are so many things that have crossed my head throughout the trip, and I absolutely love the experience.
First things first. The conference was a big hit!
The topics like non-linear optics, biophotonics, green photonics and meta materials are the leading ones in the field. The speakers were marvellous too! Top cited authors, highly respected scientists, hot heads in the subject and those who could question fundamental concepts and amend them too. The who’s-who of the scientific community were present.
Others in the crowd were PhD students – looking for a stage to show their work, post-graduates – trying to perhaps strike a cord of a fruitful collaboration, members the OSA – trying to publicise the organisation to get more fellows. There was an air of maturity – a sense of ‘work being done’ and filled with discussions that were at the forefront of the field.
Then there was us – the small representative group of undergraduates – trying to squeeze into the intellectual space of those who know better. We would try to overhear talks, we would be busy writing nearly every term in the presentation, we would be noticing the kind of questions others posed – and most often – be lamenting about how little we know and how much more there is to explore.
There were times when I just couldn’t understand anything in the presentation – just sitting there blindly staring at the screen, lost in procrastination. There were times when I understood the presentation on a completely different tangent. There were times when I was exhausted only 30mins into the talk.
This conference was reality. It was an exposure to reality that I needed so badly and so much. That feeling of being far back in knowledge was unsettling. The conference was the now! All around me were men and women who knew much more than I had thought of, and all of them were collaborating and growing as a community.
Just so many times I was just staring at those men with white hair and a fancy beard, a blue suit and a loose trouser, standing with a bag full of papers and a laptop, laughing and thinking and answering and conversing with the alike – and I thought to myself – this is what they look like! Enjoying a fruitful company, outside the lab, having a vacation in their own way.
Yes, I do agree at this point that practically, I was a fish out of water there. Perhaps the level of my intellect was below the average. Perhaps I dived into the water too soon!
Optimistically enough, there is a lot that I am taking back, too.
In a first, I am taking back a tonne of homework.
This conference changed my outlook of the community. Images of scientists, that were only in the mind, were now a reality.
It was almost like a flashlight right in the face – Blinding me with the power of knowledge and unsettling me to the knees.
And lastly, leaving me in a calm and refined ambition, as I begin to look clearly again.