With so much good writing, is it worth struggling to write some more?

An editor at The Economist once remarked, as advice to me on how to write: “Aim to write a piece that gets featured on The Browser.” Edited by Robert Cottrell, The Browser is a website that recommends only five to six articles everyday, which it considers are the best of all that is published on the web that day.

Cottrell, who spends every possible hour of the day reading new content on the web, has written an article in the Financial Times that has some important lessons for young writers like us (if you can’t get through the FT paywall try this). I’ve distilled them for you here:

  1. Only 1% of all writing on the internet is great writing, and even that is an “embarrassment of riches”.
  2. Great writers produce great writing, and the bad ones cannot be rescued.
  3. His golden rule is: the writer is everything. And a corollary: the publisher (with a few exceptions) is nothing.
  4. We live in a world of ideas and they are not restricted by source or medium.

All of the above taken together paints a rather depressing picture for young writers. The honest truth is that the market we’ve entered is full of great writers who produce ever more great writing, leaving ever little time for us to find a readership for our work. Despite the difficulties, there are some ways to overcome these huge hurdles.

The antidote

To cheer myself up, here are two things that I read/watched after Cottrell’s article:

First: Robert Krulwich’s 2011 commencement speech to the Berkeley Journalism School

Krulwich shares some of  Cottrell’s views, but he serves them on a kinder platter. Krulwich says that journalism has reached a point where there are no guarantees that any big publishing house will give you a safe job, irrespective of how good you are. So if you are waiting to get picked, your chances are pretty low. Instead go out there and start doing. “There are some people who just don’t wait,” enthuses Krulwich. This is not a fanciful advice. There are examples like that of Ed YongBrian Switek and Alexis Madrigal, who’ve managed to build a career on their own terms.

Second: Avi Steinberg’s article in the New Yorker: Is writing torture? (on Gilbert vs Roth)

The article tells the story of Julian Tepper, a wannabe novelist, who was told by Philip Roth, an accomplished novelist, to quit writing. Roth said, “It’s an awulf field. Just torture. You write and write, and you have to throw most of it away because it’s not any good.” In response Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray and Love, wrote that there are few professions that come close to the pleasure that writing can give.

But it was Avi Steinberg’s take on the whole matter that most convinced me. He says that authors like Roth are correct in that writing can be a torture, especially if it is something that you want to make a living out of. And what Roth tried to do by dissuading Tepper was perhaps good too, because it is better to be aware of the harsh reality of being a writer than to go in to it being ignorant. It is those who can say: “Listen, I don’t care what you tell me. I know it’s a bad idea, but I’m determined to do it, and I will do it,” are those who will be able to succeed in this profession.

Science writing is not fiction, but it is still writing. And at the heart of our profession is our desire to convey thoughts and ideas, mostly through scientists’ work. But we do it because we enjoy it. We are fascinated with the world of science and we want to share stories that amaze us. That to me is enough reason to keep trying.

So what can we do get to that 1% of great writing?

Somewhere in Cottrell’s article I can smell the rotten stink of the innate talent hypothesis, which says that great writers are born to be great writers. I’m sorry but I don’t buy it. I hated English in school, but that was because fiction was not my thing. My education was structured in a way that fiction was given undue importance in writing. Then when I finally realised that non-fiction writing is just as great (if not better), I started to work on it. If I read my blog posts from two years ago, I can see myself in that writing but mostly I see how much I’ve improved since. Of course I have a long way to go, but great writing can come from lots of practice. Period.

I’ll also argue that, while the publisher may be nothing for Cottrell, it is a great place for young writers to vie to be. Great publications are great because they have fantastic editors. Even now articles that I submit to the same editors come back with lots of red marks. Every time this happens, I learn what it is that I need to improve the next time. And I’m not the only one, even accomplished writers have their work decimated. So writing for publications is not just a way of reaching an audience but also it is the secret of rapidly improving your writing.

Finally I would say that while there is a lot of science stories out there, most of them aren’t written well. For instance, it kills me a little every time when I see someone share a link to sciencedaily.com or physorg.com, which are news aggregating websites that share press releases, when some science writer has actually written a story about the same piece of research. And while Cottrell is right that we live an age where ideas matter not the source or the medium that carry them, there is a lot of value that writers can add to make the ideas clearer and spread faster.

Cottrell’s article was a nice slap in the form of a reality check, but it only makes me want to work harder and write better. And someday I know I’ll have an article featured on The Browser.

First published as a guest post on scientificamerican.com (SA Incubator blog).

Why I chose journalism over science

Warning: You are about to become victims of my introspection 

The motivation for writing this is the conversation that was spurred by a post on why doing a PhD to become a science writer is a bad idea. While those conversations helped me crystallise my thoughts for this post, it was not where they first began.

Earlier this year I submitted my PhD thesis. While graduate students go through common experiences (that Jorge Cham so beautifully portrays in PhD Comics), every doctorate is unique because everyone has different reasons to pursue it.

I applied to graduate school because it seemed like a very attractive option. First reason was the prospect of studying in a university that had people from all disciplines and not just chemical engineering, as happens to be the case in the Institute of Chemical Technology where I studied before.

Second was the desire to master a subject. My undergraduate degree was a menagerie of subjects across engineering, chemistry and biology (I specialised in pharmaceutical sciences and technology). While that was great, I just did not have enough time to be able to fully appreciate how amazing each of these subjects were.

The first two reasons might seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. It is rare to be able to appreciate the messiness of science without a broad understanding of arts and humanities. While many from my undergraduate days might feel that they got that broad understanding in the four years they spent in Mumbai, I felt that my education was incomplete.

That is why the third reason sealed the case. I had an offer letter from Oxford. Just in a short few hours that I spent in Oxford in 2007, I had fallen in love with the city of the dreaming spires and the idea of the knowledge powerhouse that lay hidden behind those stony walls. It was a place that would allow me to widen my horizons and still focus on mastering one subject.

At the end of four years of having made that decision, even though in the process I have decided to not go down the academic path, I feel that I have somewhat succeeded in achieving my goals. But I would not have said that a year ago.

When I started the PhD, apart from “completing” my education, I knew that I wanted to be an academic. The profession lured me because I felt that it will give me the freedom to pursue all my intellectual interests; that it will allow me to mingle with the best minds of the world; that academics are not bothered by the administrative hurdles of other jobs…

Another bubble?

The bubble broke just after a year of being in the lab. While I still have immense respect for what scientists do (I wouldn’t write about science otherwise), from up close I could see that the profession faces the same challenges that many other professions do. What sealed my decision to not go down that path, though, was the question: do I love my subject enough to be able to dedicate my whole life to it? I wasn’t so sure.

I am a restless person with many interests. I knew few young academics who were able to pursue more than just one interest (ie their own subject) with their full heart in it. I’ve also heard many horror stories where people have spent 15-20 years waiting to secure that dream job of having their own lab, but never got there.

But as it happens, on leaving academia, I chose journalism—a profession that commands a lot less respect (compared to scientists who command the most), has fewer permanent positions, offers smaller compensations, is known to have poorer career progression and, finally, most importantly, I do not have “proper training” for.

Will I regret this?

It is not such a mad decision, after all. I chose to be a journalist because I loved the job, but I am also a pragmatist. Each of the criticisms of a journalistic career over a scientific one can be dealt with.

Although people have less trust in journalists, it is a statistical average. An honest journalist is often well-respected, and great journalism also happens to command a lot of influence over its audience.

It has far fewer permanent positions, but it is also a career that has a lot of freelancers. Although freelancing early in the career is hard, there are ways to reach there which have been tried and tested.

It offers a smaller compensation, but I am happy to balance that with job satisfaction.

Although there are many trained journalists out there, many of the top journalists I have spoken to have told me that journalism is more a craft than a science. A lot of the people who do a master’s in journalism have the same experience. So as long as you have your fundamentals in place, you can become an excellent journalist through practice and apprenticeship.

And, finally, if you think about it, scientists and journalists are in someways doing the same thing. Both aim to decipher how things work and disseminate their findings to the world, just at vastly different timescales. Where as things in the sciences are considered objective, that in reality is a subjective notion.

But the decision wasn’t that straightforward. Those defecting research, especially having pursued a PhD or post-doc, are viewed as failures. As Jenny Rohn, a cell biologist who is considering leaving academia, recently wrote: scientists may consider such defectors “as turning away from the “right” path to something that is more lightweight, more flimsy, less worthy of their talent and effort.”

It is sad that some scientists are that small-minded to consider their work to be superior to that of many others. And, yes, that happens even in a place like Oxford which is full of brilliant people on either side of the divide.

PS: Yes, I haven’t failed to see the irony in that. At the end of my PhD one of my aims was to “complete” my education…

What if we were to go back to the 80’s

My mum told me a story which moved me and made me think about a bunch of things. Before I tell you those things, here’s the story:

I was born in 1987 in Nashik. Only a few days after I was born, my Dad got a job in Calcutta. He moved from Nashik to Calcutta at a short notice leaving me with my mum and my nani (mum’s mum).

Without dad, my mum and my nani did a lot for me. She developed a very close connection to me spending all day and night taking care of me. Then after three months, my Dad came back to take my mum and me with him to Calcutta.

Suddenly, all the joys of having a baby around disappeared. My nani felt very lonely. At the time, the only means of keeping in touch were letters and trunk calls. Of course, I couldn’t write a letter so the only communication that happened between nani and me was that when, during a very expensive and rare trunk call, she heard me make some noises. That almost always made her cry.

If I were born today, things would have been so different for the relationship that my nani would have developed with me. We would have the modern forms of communication – she could talk to me on the mobile phone even if my dad earned the same salary as then, she could see me grow up on Skype and if she really really missed me she could even take a flight to Calcutta (because they’ve become so much cheaper than those days!).

The story made me wonder about how much technology has affected us. I tried hard to understand what it must’ve been to have a relationship in that era but I am unable to. Sure, people must’ve dealt with it and got on with things. But I am more interested in the quality of the relationship of those times. We may never realise what it meant to long for someone.

I remember my mum telling me that when my Dad went to Europe in the early 80’s, he used to write her a letter a day which she usually received in bunches after a couple of weeks. Letters from India to Europe took even longer and because my dad was travelling, I am not sure how many times he actually heard back from mum. What must it have been to be my dad who had a one-sided dialogue with his newly wed wife for months?

Somehow, I am not sure that everything is better because of newer technology. We seek immediate responses and quick replies. Many have forgotten the art of letter writing. We’ve developed LOLspeak and gotten addicted to IM. Knowing people’s ‘status’ makes us happy even if you don’t know what is really going on their life.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be a Luddite. Technology has done lots to help. A frequent story that is repeated to show the power of technology is that of an Indian farmer who can now afford to make calls to the local market to figure out a better price for his crop. The grassroots have definitely been strengthened. 884 million Indians have a mobile phone today, that’s 73% of the population!

Even in my case, technology has done plenty. Skype is such a blessing. Every weekend when I talk to my parents for an hour or two, I leave the conversation feeling satisfied. It’s not just about knowing what they are doing but also seeing them and hearing them (so much is communicated through body language).

And yet, stories like the one about my nani make me think about the time without the internet, without mobile phones, without social media… 

Heading in to the unknown

This week I had the opportunity to speak to students of Class IX at the Rasbihari International School in Nashik, thanks to an invitation from Mrs. Suchitra Sarda. I was pleasantly surprised to see a class of 80 students sitting quietly ready to listen to what I had to say. There were a few giggles during the time I was talking but nothing like the mischievous Class IX that I remember myself in! I had been given the freedom to choose what I wanted to talk about and here’s what I had to say:

Last October, I entered the fourth year of my PhD studies. At this point, I became the senior most student in our lab. A student who just started her PhD at that time asked me an interesting question – What would you have done differently had your PhD started now?

It’s a question which first took me by surprise but after a little bit of thought I realized that given the knowledge I have today I would have done so many things differently. And if that was really possible, I am very sure that I would have made fewer mistakes, developed better skills, and contributed more to my field.

When I got this excellent opportunity to speak to you and was so graciously given the freedom to choose what I wanted to talk about, I thought hard.

I wanted to talk about something that would benefit you but at the same time not bore you. You are about to enter a defining period in your life. Some of you may be unaware of what is that you want to do, whereas some of you may be unsure whether what you have decided to do later is really the right thing.

In that spirit, today I am going to tell you some stories. I hope that in these stories you will find some connection with your own lives today. There are lessons to learn from the stories themselves but also, looking back, there are things I would have done differently to make these stories better.

The first story is about friends. We all know that friends play an important role in our lives. Their importance, I feel, only increases as you get older.

Even today, whenever I need someone to talk to help me through my problems, I speak to my best friend from high school. She is someone who has known me for more than half of my life. And despite being fortunate to have a friend like her, I feel that I did not do enough to keep up with my friends from high school.

As is the tradition for those aspiring to become engineers, which is what I had decided to become after leaving school, I focused all my energies to prepare for engineering entrance exams.

The years immediately after school are the years when you are still very close to your school friends. It is also a critical period to keep those friendships alive. I did not give enough attention to this as the preparation for the exams kept me busy.

Ever since I realized this mistake, to make up for it, I’ve been the guy who organizes reunions for school friends. Yet, I feel that had I done more in the 11th and 12th, things would have been better with my high school friends.

Here’s the lesson – had I been in your place today I would have done more than I did to keep up with my high school friends. You may realise soon enough that there is nothing like revisiting old school memories. Many times you will feel you want to relive these years and the closest you can get to that is through your school friends.

The second story is about the importance of being a good communicator. All through the years since I left Nasik for higher studies, I found that it was those who could communicate best that progressed the fastest, made the best connections, formed the best first impressions… Eventually those were the people who stood out and did amazing things.

When I say communication I mean not just the ability to use a particular language flawlessly but also be able to deliver the message effectively to your audience. To be able to speak in a manner that is easily understood by your audience, to be able to write by using as few words and to be able do all this with clarity.

Two examples come to my mind whenever I think about good communication.

The first is from my initial days at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai where I did my chemical engineering. When new students come to the institute, the seniors take the initiative of interacting with them. In these ‘interactions’ we were asked to do a plethora of things. Many of them involved being able to talk impromptu or being able to give lengthy answers to difficult questions.

I remember well that those new students who were able to stand up to these challenges which required you to think on your feet and express yourself clearly were those who made good impressions on the seniors. The impression mattered because being connected to seniors who had so much more knowledge than us, the new students, could help us tremendously.

In my case, it was these seniors who shaped my thinking about my career. I had started engineering studies hoping to later get an MBA and earn lots of money. My seniors showed me the possibilities in the world of science and research. They made me realise that I would enjoy it more to be a scientist who seeks answers to difficult questions than someone who seeks money.

The second example is from my initial days at Oxford University in the UK. I started there as a naive 21-year old who did not know much beyond chemistry and chemical engineering having spent four years surrounded by chemical engineers in the Institute of Chemical Technology. As is uncommon in India, at Oxford, people studied every imaginable subject under the sun. The only thing I had in common with most other students there was that I knew English and I was curious.

Much of what I did in the first few days there was to ask probing questions to students and learn as much as I could from them. There were students who studied Mongolian paintings, China Towns in Australia and the works of Borges, a French writer – things I had absolutely no clue about.

My job in these interactions was to keep the conversation going so that I could learn more. The way I did that was by trying my best to explain my PhD project in interesting ways.

Little did I know that this exercise in making my subject sound interesting would eventually lead me to start writing about chemistry for a lay audience. An ability which allowed me to meet 60 Nobel Prize winners at the world’s biggest meeting of its kind, it helped me to get an opportunity to work at the oldest and most respected scholarly society for chemistry in the world, and it also led to build connections all over the globe, much beyond what was already on offer at Oxford University.

Here’s the lesson – If I were to go back to 9th standard today, I would pay a lot more attention to developing better skills of communication. I would take all the languages that were taught to me more seriously.

But being a good communicator is a lot more about the thought process than the words. It is something we are not taught in school but something we learn eventually. If I were in school today, I would have participated in events such as elocution competitions, debates, and essay competitions. Something I did not do in school at all but I realise that when we expose ourselves to situations where we are forced to communicate, we not only develop our language skills but also refine our thinking.

The last story is about thinking hard about the big decision in life.

After I finished my 12th standard and only days before I was about to leave for Mumbai to start studying chemical engineering, I had a moment of panic. I knew engineering was going to be a lot of work. It was going to take four long years and because my dream was to become a businessman, just like my dad, I did not quite understand the relevance of studying science.

Chemical engineering seemed like a good idea to me because I liked maths and chemistry. I had given little thought to how that will help me achieve my dreams.

I asked my dad that evening, “Why am I studying engineering if I only want to become businessman later?”

The answer I got from him is the reason why I entered college more confidently than I ever would have. He said, “An engineering degree at an institute of such repute will open doors for you that you never knew existed. Being amongst intelligent people will give you a perspective to life that will help you flourish later. Studying difficult subjects and excelling at them will allow you to gain skills that you can apply to any difficult task that you may be faced with in the future.”

My Dad could not have been any more correct in the response that he gave. By the time I finished my engineering degree, my dream to go and get an MBA and earn lots of money had changed to becoming a scientist who spent many hours in the lab in pursuit of difficult answers, not in the pursuit of money. It was all the things he mentioned – the opportunities, the people and the difficult but fulfilling work – that played a role in helping make such an important decision in my life.

Here’s the lesson – I would have asked the question ‘Why?’ a lot more when I took any big decision in my life. I would have asked that question to as many people as I could till I found a satisfying answer. This habit of asking ‘Why?’ has been a very useful tool for me. And yet, I feel I did not ask that question enough number times for the big decisions in life.

If you take nothing else from these stories today, just remember that friends are many more times valuable than you think, being able to communicate well is a necessity to succeed and asking difficult questions at the time of taking big decisions in life will help you tremendously.

Thank you for listening and wish you success in your your future endeavours.

Indian Family: a weird social contract

We are born into a family. We don’t have a choice. We’ll remain associated with it till our dying day whether we like it or not. We can either accept the quirks of its members and enjoy them or fight against them and live an unhappy existence.

I don’t know very much about non-Indian families and I won’t pretend to either. This post is about Indian families. And even if I talk only about Indian families, I have to respect the fact that what I am about to say is not going to be applicable to many of them. For within India itself, families with different religious, cultural, social, and geographical backgrounds can be as different as a pear is from a pineapple.

Despite their differences there are some features that are common to most of these diverse families. Firstly there are those common characters which I am going to boldly attempt to list:

  1. A loving grandma
  2. A kick-ass grandpa
  3. A successful cousin (not so good looking, mostly male)
  4. A good looking cousin (not so successful, mostly female)
  5. A tell-everyone aunty (gossip queen)
  6. A fashion conscious aunty
  7. A smart uncle
  8. A know-it-all uncle….

Of course, then there are some special characters (like the comedy uncle, the stupid cousin, the hot aunty, etc.) which make the whole experience with the other common characters completely unique (or completely weird).

Secondly, there is an untold rule that Indian families tend to follow – respect the elders. The hierarchy is set by age. Experience is the best teacher. Period. You do what you are told and the opportunities to question big decisions are rare. If someone starts selling a T-shirt which says on the front, ‘Listen to me, because…’ and on the back ‘I’m older than you’, I bet it’ll become a best seller among the adult population in India.

Thirdly, priority is given to the family. Whether it is for choosing which event to attend (a friend’s wedding < a cousin’s wedding) or it is for choosing an employee for the business (an MBA grad < a cousin without a degree). I am not sure this formula works that well but I don’t have an alternative model to look at and wonder about how things could be if family wasn’t a priority.

The funny thing is that you are bound by a social contract that you did not have a choice to decline, modify or destroy. It’s just there and it’s as weird as the name pomegranate.

Things in my family are as weird as any. Most of my Mum’s family is in Maharashtra, heavily concentrated in Nashik. They tend to be on the conservative side of things. The one question I tend to get asked the most when I visit them is ‘How much do you earn?’. Somehow the possibility that I could still be a student at the age of 24 does not cross their minds. Most of my cousins from Mum’s side by this age are either employed in their own family business and/or maybe about to have a kid.

My Dad’s family is originally from Jodhpur in Rajasthan. There are some of the members of the family still there but so many of them have moved to every imaginable (mostly English-speaking) corners of the world. They tend to be on the progressive side of things and the one question I tend to get asked the most when I visit them is ‘What are you doing next?’. I think if I said that I am moving to Australia that would be considered the most appropriate answer.

Right. Forgive the exaggerations in the previous paragraphs. This social contract that you sign by the fact of being born in a family is weird but also special. The experience of being at home is defined by a family and it is one of the most satisfying experiences anyone can ever have. You don’t have to worry about too many formalities, you can be yourself. The years that have gone by only tend to give you more fun memories to talk about. Things can be so good sometimes that family members can sometimes be better than your best friends.

OK, you got me. I miss my family and so I had to write something to keep me happy. Hope you enjoyed it anyway…

It’s ok if the Spirit dies

The very first issue: October 2006

As a student in the third-year of my undergraduate degree, with a few friends, we brought to our Institute a bi-monthly newsletter called The Spirit. It was an attempt to give a platform to the students to voice their opinions, explore their interests, develop good writing and editing skills but most of all it was an attempt to have fun doing something interesting. If the newsletter were still in print it would have been in its sixth year of publication. But like everything that is born, it will die…

While I worked on the newsletter, we spent many many hours putting little things in place. There used to be some special kind of energy that I derived from working on it. Not just while I was there but even after having left the Institute. Believe it or not, I followed up on the progress of the newsletter till last year, its fifth year. Whenever I had a chance, I used to speak to the team working on it. Of course, all the work was done by the particular team but it gave me tremendous pleasure that our baby was still being looked after and I was always ready to do what I could to help them in some way. But the signs of it’s ‘death’ were visible.

Things had started to change as soon as I had left. The teams that came did not seem as motivated as the teams I had the pleasure to work with. They had new ideas which was great but implementation of those great ideas, more often than not, did not happen. The co-ordination amongst the teams fell quite rapidly and it was not hard to see why the number of issues being printed kept falling till finally in its fifth year the students decided to make it an online-only publication.

One of the reasons that I was very keen to keep it going was because we had made a promise that we will ensure that it will go on. We weren’t allowed by our faculty members to start a newsletter until we had thought of how we would be able to sustain students’ efforts to keep it going in the future. We were also told that we had to find our own money to get it printed. For the first two years, we managed alright. It was hard work but the enthusiasm of the team and the response we got from the readers made the effort worthwhile.

I don’t know what went wrong. I wasn’t there to watch what happened. Sure I spoke to people but there wasn’t a clear reason. Money was a concern but it wasn’t a big enough worry because one way (Institute’s backing) or the other (contributions from alumni) it could be tackled. The lack of motivation might have been the biggest reason. Looking back I think our team was so motivated because we had made public commitments and also because we were the guys who started it. The responsibility combined with the thrill allowed to us to go that extra-mile.

Amongst the other reasons, of course, could be what has been one of the most difficult questions that the print media faces today. People spend more and more time reading online than in print. (I probably pick up a newspaper once in a month!) When we started the Spirit, it was the time when internet was becoming cheap enough to afford a personal connection in your own room in the hostel. I imagine that now everyone has their own in the Institute. Of course, the move to making it an online-only publication should have worked then, no? But it hasn’t. Or so it seems.

Moreover, the Spirit unlike Manzar or Sportsaga (both inter-collegiate events of ICT which I believe are still going strong) was not a one-off ‘event’. So a team of ten people had to work round the year to sustain the newsletter as opposed to a team of fifty or more people who worked for a few months to make the events happen (I am not trying to undermine the work put in to make the events happen but merely commenting on the sustained efforts needed for the newsletter).

I suppose once the team that had started these things had left, the main motivation for students to keep doing anything would be the value they get out of doing it. Value in learning new skills, in having fun while doing it, in making new relationships and, of course, adding to the CV fancy titles that come with doing these things. In that respect, all these activities taught people how to manage people and relationships, how to market/sell what you are doing, how to be responsible for your actions, etc. But one unique advantage of working on the Spirit as opposed to other activities was that the students would develop the critical skill of writing and editing.

Many of those at this esteemed Institute will one day be leaders in their own fields and one way or the other will have to learn how to communicate effectively using written words. In my opinion, the sooner that skill is developed the better it is. But may be that isn’t a priority for the students in the Institute anymore.

You may be wondering where am I going with this. Well, I brought up this issue today because of two reasons. First, I wanted to put down in words my experience of working on the Spirit so that if by chance in the future someone decides to bring it back to life (even under a different name) there will be something that they can read about and may be do it better than we did.

Second, I am now ready to close this chapter of my life and wanted to do it justice by giving it the respect that it deserved. The Spirit meant a lot to me (as it must to the teams that worked on it), I learnt a lot of time on it during those days. Whatever little writing that I do today, I know that the Spirit played a key role in making that happen. As such, I feel a little hurt that I am closing the chapter much sooner than I wanted to. In our days while working on an issue of the Spirit, we used to talk about coming back to the 10th anniversary celebrations of our graduation and still finding copies of the Spirit. I don’t think that will happen but I hope I am proved wrong.


Don’t believe a word I say. See for yourself what people had to say about The Spirit:

M Sriram: Hope you and your team are able to come up with the second issue rising to the higher expectations which your first issue has triggered.

Raghavendra Ravi: I saw “The Spirit” It is very nice.. UDCT has changed a lot. In our times ( sorry to sound old – 1975-78 ) such thing were not easy. Though the notice board journalism was on.

Prashant Mullick: Surprisingly fresh! It was interesting that H(B)ollywood figured in a substantial number of stories. Overall a nostalgic eclectic mix of UICT news and social topics. I enjoyed it. Hope to see you guys continue putting this together.

Smita Lele: UD – UG = Body – Spirit!!!!

In other words UG’s are the fire, the electricity in the UD environment
and the knowledge pool created by PGs and research will loose its charm
without bright UGs who are the star personalities at this young age.
Let me share a secret of UD’s research story — why most of the UD
teachers want to combine teaching and research and do not want to be only
full time researcher in any National or International Research lab? The Undergraduate teaching charges the battery of the researcher’s mind
and intellect and keeps him (her) young at heart!

That is why I feel, UD – UG = Body – Spirit!!!! Best wishes to “spirit”.

Asmita Atre: The issue 3 has come up really well. The presentation is very attractive and I am certain that you people will continue working the same way.

Anil Nair (the guy who motivated us to start this newsletter): More than anything, it is your verve and the enthusiasm which brought Spirit to such levels. As in case of any magazine the passion tells the story. I don’t know if it is inappropriate to tell this — the first day when Akshat sat with me through the night skipping a date with his girl-friend to design Spirit, I knew where the magazine will reach. Most often, when I got the magazine I read it cover to cover. Everyone’s contribution was excellent. I am not surprised by all the accolades for Spirit. At the risk of sounding patronising I should add that the new team should keep the good thing going. Also, all of you should try to touch base with your friends in the pretext of Spirit. Friendship is more important than anything.

From a proud brother by Anonymous

I see a shining new star and I am amazed at this pure bright light.

Although I am too far I can feel everything is falling right.

I had felt the same two decades back when an angel had arrived.

I knew it even then I will be proud one day

That my little girl will soon carve her own way.

Now that she has proved me right,

my heart swells with pride.


All that I want to say

is ‘my dearest princess although I am far away in my heart I am with you everyday.’

My wishes are yours and your success makes us proud.

As the privilege to call you my sister is mine, today I feel like I am really on the 9th cloud.



In every moment that has gone

life unfolds all the joys you want.

All that this brother wishes today is that higher and higher you rise.

And every time you need me you’ll find me by your side.

Love, happiness & success all will come to you

and in everything that you do I will be with you.