college, exams, India, Musings

How is remote work/learning going?

The pandemic struck and there has been one reality that has been binding the world. It is of remote work and learning. Remote work and learning is a reality in India as of today. With three laptops (and an almost working laptop! :)) and Teams meetings and Zoom calls in my home, it has not been an easy experience.

Prior to March 2020, I was the only one doing remote work and now, my whole family had joined in! πŸ™‚

What have we learnt from the whole remote experience?

  1. Small children can manage with phone/tablets but those devices are not suitable for older kids
  2. If older kids and working parents are involved, then, each will need a separate laptop(maybe some manage without the same)
  3. Bandwidth issues, network connectivity, dropped calls are all a reality
  4. Many had suggested a Wi-Fi extender, but we had shied away from it – but a Wi-Fi extender is a great boon! πŸ™‚ Even though phone companies advertise for great bandwidth, we realize it falls short, once we start using it! Hence the Wi-Fi extender is the greatest boon to help us.
  5. With meetings and classes in different rooms, different sounds from different rooms becomes a reality! πŸ™‚
  6. However good the laptops maybe, with time, they seem to crash! 😦
  7. The mic does not seem to be work or the camera does not seem to work or the unmute button does not seem to work or everything works great sometime! πŸ™‚
  8. School/college seem to get over by a certain time, but work never seems to get over! 😦
  9. Zoom fatigue or Teams fatigue is real
  10. Schools/colleges have figured how to conduct online exams after struggling with it for some months
  11. Teams is good IMHO! πŸ™‚

How has your remote work/learning experience been? Have you finally got the hang of it? πŸ™‚ How do you and your family manage?

Here’s to wishing that the end of remote work/learning is around the horizon! πŸ™‚

This post is the eighth post for BlogchatterHalfMarathon

college, exams, IIT, India

Ist year at IIT Roorkee

And just like that the first year at IIT Roorkee is over. For those of you who don’t know me might think I am studying at IIT, Roorkee( I wish, I was though πŸ™‚ :)) … but that is not the case, it is my son who is doing his B.Tech at IIT Roorkee!!

It has been quite an amazing ride to be a parent and watch your child compete and clear one of the most toughest competitive exams in India! It was just 1 year back that we heard the news that he had cleared the JEE advanced and we were busy selecting the college after various rounds. We finally locked our college selection at the 3rd round with IIT, Roorkee(though if we had waited for a few more rounds, he might have got into IIT, Delhi which is ranked higher)

IIT, Roorkee:

I have never lived above the latitude of Mumbai in India and the son had never moved anywhere apart from our beautiful southern states in India. We were curious about the new North Indian adventure and how life would treat us/him.

Roorkee is a small and simple town(from my first impression) located about 3 hours from Dehradun. As I have already written in an earlier post, IIT, Roorkee is one of the oldest educational institutions in India. Being an old institution, guarantees that everything is settled and everything is in its place. Professors know how to conduct classes, they know the student mindset very well and most of the things move like clock work. Life as with any undergraduate course work is hectic and students are always kept on their toes.

We initially thought crossing the geographical distance from Bangalore to Roorkee was painful. We didn’t know the correct path to arrive at Roorkee – but who is a better teacher than experience, right? After 2 or 3 times of travelling, we knew the correct flight/train/bus to take from our origin to destination.

Academics:

Now, like I have already said those IIT kids are total “brain boxes”. The sheer intelligence of kids(can I call them “kids” at 18 or 19 years of age? :)) blows you away. If we think we are smart in an IIT, there is always somebody smarter than us!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ The Computer Science kids in IITs are just mind bogglingly brilliant .. there is no doubt there(of course, smart kids doesn’t mean immune to the disasters of life!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Of course, with that kind of immense competition also comes stress. To handle that kind of stress and increasing number of suicides in IITs, IIT, Roorkee has come up with its own “Wellness center”. The first year in college is always a tough time for kids and parents to adjust. It is the first time that kids are leaving their nest and it is the first time that parents are letting go.

IInd semester:

Just as we were warming up to Roorkee and were happy to see the son getting settled in his second semester, the pandemic struck! 😦 Luckily, the son was home by then- but the question now for colleges in India was how to complete the second semester. Online mode of education was tried but it was difficult to achieve it completely since students in IITs are from remote corners of India where basic power and Internet problems persist.

Even as it looked( and it still does) more and more bleak for colleges in India to reopen due to the pandemic, it was finally decided to wrap up the current semester through various grading means. The semester has finally been completed and first year at IIT, Roorkee for the son is done! πŸ™‚ (it was quite a bummer that it couldn’t be completed in the traditional way, but we have to have to bow down to the pandemic rules, right?)

Some tidbits about IITs:

  1. There are many economically challenged children who make use of the education at IIT and that is always heartening to see
  2. In IIT, Roorkee, all students get a single room from the second year
  3. Some students get a single room in the first year too
  4. Many students have their own YouTube channel which flourishes
  5. Many write technically awesome content on ‘Medium’ and more
  6. And many students do feel the academic pressure in IITs and will get lower scores
  7. And unlike private colleges, we have to clean our room on our own! There are no maids to sweep and dust our room! πŸ™‚

Here’s to looking forward to a better 2020!! πŸ™‚

Note: All these are a mother’s perception alone – a child/students’s perception might be different…

college, exams, Musings

2009 – 2019 – A #decade of persistence and perseverance

Whew! A decade went by? I am so glad it got over finally!! Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t all bad except for the beginning…but good to move along right?

So, what did I accomplish this decade? We moved to India after a long US stint(any move is hard but this was especially hard), I completed my Master’s degree after a long gap in education, I learnt to swim, I started writing, I made tons and tons of new friends, had umpteen number of social gatherings, made numerous remote and warm business relationships, did three mini marathons(more like walkathons!! :)) , ate out like there was no tomorrow πŸ™‚Β  and laughed and laughed…. πŸ™‚ …ALL IN THE PAST DECADE!!

Maybe the thing that really stood out, was trying to complete my Master’s degree with two kids in the past decade…and here goes that story…

Why was it so rough initially?

The initial part of the past decade had nasty surprises in store for me… No, I did not step into motherhood in that decade(I already two young children), nor did I have a new job either….but I had the desire to do something crazy – I wanted a Masters degree !! πŸ™‚ Now, most Indian wives in the US do their Master’s degree just as they arrive in the US… but , I decided to do it when we were planning to move away from the country with 2 small kidsΒ  !! πŸ˜‰ (in 2009)

Note: If you don’t entirely know me or a bit of my personal life, here goes… – I lived in the US for 14 years post marriage and returned to India for good. My US-India stories are chronicled in this ebook…do give it a read..

There were always thoughts as to “Why is she doing her Master’s degree now, after 2 children?” and more, but I don’t think I cared much… πŸ™‚ I needed to do it and I started it right away…

It is not easy to be a stay at home mom and do a degree(or any work from home for that matter) The US course work keeps you on your toes all the time. The assignments were quite mind boggling and very, very different from the Indian style of education. I had to complete “this” assignment by 12 a.m. and I had to complete “that” assignment by 12:00 p.m. and so on… there were tests, quizzes, papers and massive projects to be completed.Β  I enjoyed every bit of it and tried to get an ‘A’ in every subject! πŸ™‚ Those ‘A’s are tough to get… πŸ˜‰ Just a slight slip in one of your assignments, and there…………away went my ‘A’!!

As long as I did one course per semester, things were in control…but once, I did 2 courses per semester – I had to multi-task like a mad mom!! πŸ™‚ ( and with no maid and family help in the US , things do get totally crazy :()

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The good thing about my college was that there were many courses which were entirely online and only for some classes I had to meet in person. I drove in the rain and snow for my classes because I really loved it and learnt so much. This was also the time, I discovered a new passion in the subjects that I studied – Information security!! Now, just as a FYI – Information security was a brand new subject even in the US in 2009 and I lapped it up with full gusto!! πŸ™‚

September 2009:

In the middle of one of my semesters, I had a nasty accident for which I had toΒ  compulsorily have a foot surgery!! 😦 What did that leave me with? I needed to be in a foot cast for close to 4 weeks and even walking was a chore with those crutches – and driving and travelling distances was next to unthinkable…(and no Uber then)

I had already paid for the courses for that semester and if I had to quit, I would lose all my money(close to 3000$!!) and all my work would go waste too…

So, what happened then? I sat the very next day after the surgery in front of the computer(with cast and crutches) and started doing my assignments and trudged along till the end of November by working on my courses online, when the semester ended. I did have complete support that semester from all my Professors and college! (thanks to every one of them!! :))

So, degree over? Nope – not quite… there were other health concerns as well and it was quite an emotional roller coaster ride for close to 9 months after that.When, things start going hay way when you are close to graduating with just four courses to complete, you are completely at your wits end(and I had already put in close to $15,000 for my coursework till then !!)

July 2010:

All well? Yes, almost…. but we returned to India for good in July 2010 and I still had two more subjects to complete to get my Master’s degree!! (luckily, both were online)

So, did I complete it finally? Yes, I did…..Β  finally in March 2011, I completed all the course work and got my degree!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

As you scroll through the story or skim through it, you might or might not be able to realize that there were many points in my degree where it looked very bleak – if I will be able to complete my degree. After all, the common retort might always be

“Why do you need to complete it now?”

But complete it, I had to…and I do have to thank my better half and all my Professors and most importantly the divine power who enabled me to complete it and realize my dream!! πŸ™‚

Rest of the decade:

For the rest of the decade we dove straight into Indian life after having lived away for 14 years. I learnt to drive in Indian traffic conditions, and learnt to manage a geared vehicle after a long time.

It was also a decade in whichΒ  I tried ethnic Karnataka cuisine (holige, ragi mudde, Maddur vada, Jolada Roti, Mangalore buns and more) They are yummy, I say… πŸ™‚

In addition, I also threw all caution to the wind and tried unconventional things and learnt to swim and did marathons(5K) much later after the surgery.

It was all in all a productive decade with a major lesson – when life just throws you around, you have to be patient and persistent and stand through all the storms to get what you want!

Thanks for getting this far and hearing me out!! πŸ™‚

Have a wonderful day!! πŸ™‚

Jayanthi

This post if a part of ‘DECADE Blog Hop’ #DecadeHop organized by #RRxMM Rashi Roy and Manas Mukul. The event is sponsored by Glo and co-sponsored by Beyond The Box, Wedding Clap, The Colaba Store and Sanity Daily in association with authors Piyusha Vir and Richa S Mukherjee

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exams, India

Our IIT journey!

Even as my son is planning to leave for IIT to join the 2019-2020 academic session , I feel like I have to recite the whole journey to the whole world!! πŸ™‚ Also, the whole IIT preparation drama ceases to exist once the lad enters the hallowed grounds of the precious institution! Here are a few(or a lot of!) of my thoughts on the whole process:

What are the IITs anyways?

India and IITs are synonymous with each other. Ask any parent whose child is in grade five or six in India and their aim is always to get into an IIT. For the uninitiated, IIT is ‘Indian Institute of Technology’ for securing an undergraduate or post-graduate degree in engineering and there are a total of 23 IITs in India today. TheΒ Indian Institutes of TechnologyΒ (IITs) are autonomousΒ publicΒ institutes of higher education(Wikipedia)

There are roughly about 13,376 seats up for grabs in various streams of engineering like Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and more. India’s young students and their parents are always allured by this institution.Β  Competition is fierce and this year about 9.35 lakh candidates competed to get one of the 13,000 seats. The IITs though cannot accomodate everyone, can they? So, what do they do? Have entrance exams that will definitely the raise the stakes and make the students to prepare harder…

The JEE entrance exams:

The JEE or ‘Joint Entrance exams’ are the gateway to the esteemed institution. The JEE(Joint Entrance Exam) has two parts to it. They are the ‘Mains’ and the ‘Advanced’.Β  The JEE tests you only in Math, Physics and Chemistry(which is actually a huge relief for my son – as he is not too fond of any sort of English testing!! ;)) Only once you clear the ‘Mains’ exam – will you be allowed to participate in the advanced exam. As of this year(2019), the ‘Mains’ exam itself was conducted two times – once in January and once in April( and he took the exam both the times!!) There were a few students who scored 100% percentile in the Mains exam! (hats off to them!! :))

The ‘advanced’ exam is probably one of the toughest exams in India today. This year, the ‘advanced’ exam was held in late May. Students start preparing for the JEE exams right from fifth or sixth grade!!(unbelievable, right?)

We started our earnest preparation for the JEE exam only in 11th grade – even though he attended some sort of coaching in 7th and 8th grade too.

my travel diary

JEE Main and advanced exams:

The JEE Main exam was reasonably easy this year and my son scored an excellent percentile 99.4 percentile but with an AIR of 5922(can you imagine?!!) The JEE advanced exam though was an entirely different matter. It was set by IIT Roorkee and almost everyone was shaken by the paper.

Except for me!! πŸ™‚

Why? My son always prefers harder papers and loves the challenge rather than the easier paper. I knew he would do well in a hard paper and he had brighter chance of entering the IITs! (how odd, know?!!) Finally, the results were declared on June 14th and true to my thinking he had scored very well in his advanced exam with an AIR of 2588.

JoSAA:

Once the advanced marks and ranks are in, the counselling process with JoSAA(Joint Seat Allocation Authority) starts. The whole process is entirely streamlined.Β Seat allotments for the different branches and colleges happens entirely online and with amazing precision. The rules are laid out beautifully and the movement happens perfectly. After going back and forth and dilly dallying on our choice of colleges and branches between the 23 IITs we finally accepted one IIT on Sunday, 7th July 2019.

The IITs give reservation only to the Scheduled castes(SC), Scheduled Tribe(ST), OBC(Other backward classes), EwS(economically weaker sections), physically handicapped and girl candidates. Since the ratio of boys to girls in IITs is very low, there has been extra reservation allotted for girls to enter the prestigious institution(which is a wonderful move, I would say!) IIT Delhi, even had open house exclusively for girls to attract girl talent into the institution.

What is so special about the IIT?

1.First and foremost, the students get to interact with a lot of like minded students which will definitely enhance one’s growth.

2.Β  The students from the best and top IITs get placement offers from international and national companies such as Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Shell, Honeywell, Google and… you name it and they will be there!Β  The students can get placed at an offer of about 13 lakhs or more.

But of course, not all are going to be placed at that amount and a lot depends on your GPA and other factors.

3. An IIT degree has international recognition.

I am sure there are plenty of other factors but I could think of this only for now…

How much does it cost to study in an IIT?

This is something you will love to hear – it costs roughly about 3 lakhs per year! Now, 3 lakhs/year is actually mind bogglingly cheap from our standpoint(considering that we are in the most expensive part of India!!) This type of education from most international colleges and universities will definitely leave you with a standing student loan…or you would need to figure some other amazing ways to pay for it.

And finally from my son’s own words, the answer toΒ 

“What sets the JEE Advanced apart from other engineering entrance exams?”Β 

  1. Most other engineering entrance exams consist of only a single paper. But as for JEE Advanced, it consists of two papers, each of 3 hours duration!
  2. The format of the JEE Advanced is not fixed, it varies from year to year.
  3. Questions in the JEE Advanced can be of many types, such as multiple choice (single/multiple correct answers), match the following, integer answer type, comprehension (or ‘paragraph’) type, and numerical answer type (correct to two decimal places). Most other entrance exams usually have all questions in the ‘multiple choice single correct’ format.
  4. The questions in JEE Advanced generally require a very deep and proper understanding of the topics, and some may test you on multiple concepts. They also generally take more time to solve.
  5. Because of the difficulty level of the questions, the number of questions in each paper is very small when compared to other entrance exams of similar duration. (For example, each of the two papers in this year’s JEE Advanced had only 54 questions!)
  6. The ‘multiple choice questions with multiple correct answers’ often have a different marking scheme compared to the rest of the questions. For example, in this year’s JEE Advanced, the marking scheme for such questions was as follows:
    1. If ALL the correct answers for a question are selected, and no incorrect answer is selected, 4 marks are awarded.
    2. If some (but not all) correct answers are selected, and no incorrect answers are selected, 1 mark is awarded for EACH correct answer that is selected.
    3. If no answer is selected, no marks are awarded.
    4. If any INCORRECT answer is selected, 1 mark is deducted from the total score.
    5. Example: If the correct answers for a question are A, C and D, then marking A, C, D will result in +4 marks, marking only A results in +1, marking A, C results in +2, but marking A, B, C results in -1.

This is the reason why most Professors and academicians throughout the world take JEE exam paper and analyze it and re-analyze it…

After IIT – life is smooth and easy?

Many of you might remember my IIT/IIM post from a few years back. ‘IIT’ is neither a beginning nor an ending but a great milestone for those who have achieved it.

The life at IIT or the degree obtained from an IIT can only get you up and running initially and have a nice tag behind your name throughout your lifeΒ  – but it cannot immunize you against life’s ups and downs.

Life’s curves can only be handled by a lot of positivity, calmness and divine belief!!

Stay tuned for more on our IIT saga…:)