How to stay calm

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By 9 AM we all settled in our inquisitive chairs and looked up beaming at the big screen in front of us, that would stage all day long for 2 days, 15 minutes power point presentations about the B. Tech. Projects of the brightest specimens of the future of India.I almost took out my rayban, to save my eyes from the scorching screen of knowledge.

One guy comes in and yaps about heat transfer but not sure if it is conduction or convection or radiation, yes it is not conduction because he thinks so, it is not radiation because it is less than convection but more than conduction but he still neglects it for reasons known to him but not to us, so it has to be convection that too natural convection because he doesn’t know why and is impatient to think leave alone bothering to explain it to us.

And when another bloke was asked to draw a temperature profile in a situation where he agrees natural convection would prevail, he yaps on something about isotherms and tells us that the walls are at 100 and 0 degree Celsius and draws a curve which doesn’t touch any of the walls in his diagram, and later when asked to draw the temperature profile, connects the 100 and 0 by a straight line but says he didn’t and goes on defending his blunder by faking ignorance with real arrogance, snobishness, non-chalance and other healthy brew of this insti cockishness that camouflages, many times successfully, sheer stupidity and incompetence.

Another guy comes in and every time one of us asks a question he asks another question to us, without answering the one put to him and if pressed for an answer feels annoyed and uses a tone on us that a reprimanding father would think twice to use on his faulty child, and tries to pass off his arrogance as his confidence. It seems he already is a CAT (going to do his MBA in one of the IIMs) and so chose to behave as a DOG to us, from now on.

Yet another one comes in and snorts at the mild mannered professor who asks a doubt politely, that he (the bloke) simply regurgitates what he memorized from the literature (meaning, research papers) and that act in itself is final and binding and above any further questions (from the professor’s part) or thinking on his (the bloke’s) part.

Some other bloke showed a good presentation about his project status but couldn’t explain why his matrix will always have an inverse and how he is ensuring a determinant of a matrix in his program cannot and should not go to zero.

What is porosity, what is the difference between precession and swirl, what is calibration and for what property a calibration is being done were questions that were met with answers that made us hit the books that night, just to brush up our understanding.

There were some five blokes who presented well with good results and I hastily put some good marks for them and refrained from asking any questions for the fear of bursting my bubble. The guides of two of these blokes told us later that the results were generated earlier itself and these blokes didn’t do much. Somehow I managed to partially burst my bubble and keep the rest of it intact.

Two other blokes didn’t present because they haven’t prepared any presentation and didn’t give us any write-up on what they have done because they have not done anything. They wanted one more day to do all of this. It is heartening and amazing to realize what this insti student can achieve in a day.

Some other blokes waved their hands a lot and yapped on something that they haven’t done and got warned by us that we are ready to suffer their presence in the department for one more year, if they didn’t turn in something passable within the next month, which would help us pass them out immediately without any “extensions” and save the guide from passing out.

The day in the life of an assistant professor who is caught in an evaluation committee is triply painful. Firstly, I feel any form of judgment is arrogance on my part. But in my profession I must do it in some form or other. This constitutes the first pain. The second pain is the wrong answer and the persons involved with it. The third pain is the correct answer and the persons who were not involved with it. By the time you experience this third pain for the same bloke, you are already comfortably numb. You consume the tea in front of you and ask for the vada that you normally shun, in the hope that, by eating it you could get some mild stomach upset and skip the triply painful meeting the day after.

What should one do, if he is working as an assistant professor who tries to educate the country’s cream with simple manners and reflective thinking? How to make a generation which is just 10 years younger to him to realize that arrogance is not confidence, that memorizing stuff is not thinking, that jargon splashing is not understanding, that a series of coordinated mouse clicking within a software doesn’t make one (or a group, if it is a joint project) a CFD expert, that a callous and vacuous snob is not the engineer that this society requires?

In other words, how to stay calm when interacting with a bunch of idiots, who are otherwise intelligent?

I took out my rayban, when I came out of the evaluation committee, and covered my eyes that weren’t crying.