Monday, November 26, 2012

Guest Column - GPS: Teacher, Mentor, Blogger Extraordinaire - Supratim Sengupta

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I walked into GPS’ office on my very first day in IIT-KGP. As a new MSc student I did not know who GPS was then. 

A Professor of mine in college who knew DB had advised me to talk to DB to find out more about the IIT-KGP physics dept. So, in I went, not knowing that it was GPS’ office as well. Out of the two desks, one was occupied and in a way I was relieved. Meeting one unknown IIT-KGP prof was intimidating enough (though DB soon put me at my ease).

Very soon however, I started hearing about this prof called GPS. When one wing-mate, a second year B.Tech student, found out that I was doing Physics, he asked me: “Is GPS teaching you anything?”  Later on that same day, I went to meet an old school friend of mine who was a fourth year B.Tech student residing in Azad Hall. He too asked me – “Is GPS teaching you anything?” and then added – “GPS is one person who can quote Sanskrit shlokas and Michael Jackson in the same breath”. (I did not verify from GPS if the latter was true but I can vouch for the former.) I then met some of my friend’s wingmates in AH who on learning that I was in Physics had the same question - “Is GPS teaching you anything?” I was intrigued! I had to find out who this GPS with a giant reputation was and I soon did. GPS turned out to be a thin and rather serious looking guy, who as luck would have it, was one of the profs taking the first year MSc lab. At that time, that lab was essentially an electronics lab, a topic I was mortally afraid of. Not wanting to reveal myself as an ignoramus to the best teacher according to the popular vote, I did my best to avoid interacting with GPS during the lab. 

The situation thankfully changed next semester when GPS was scheduled to teach us Quantum Mechanics and what a joy that was from Day 1. The serious looking prof whom I had tried my best to avoid during the electronics lab always turned up for class full of “joie de vivre” and conveyed the thrill of QM with the ease of a seasoned pro. 

Over time, I started interacting with GPS more frequently, helped in no small part by the fact that I did my MSc project with DB and had a valid excuse to enter that famous office C-229 more often than I would have done otherwise. Having a small reflecting telescope helped break the ice as well.It provided the added benefit of wangling invitations for tea and snacks at GPS house by making the promise of showing GPS and Sonu the craters on the moon and the four satellites of Jupiter. After keeping in touch with GPS and often visiting his quarters during my occasional trips back to KGP till his retirement, I lost track of GPS for a while. Then one February morning, nearly four years ago, I got an email from my friend SK who was then a prof in KGP telling me to check out GPS’ blog. And that’s how,to my delight, I rediscovered GPS in his new incarnation as the blogger extraordinaire.

In IIT-KGP, GPS’ teaching skills were legendary but,“reco-mela” samples notwithstanding; all of his students were unaware of his skills in weaving magical tales out of everyday experiences. GPS’ prodigious output belies the effort that goes into the creation of every single blog-post.Having taken nearly four months to come up with a single guest-post has made me appreciate the challenges of daily blogging even more.Fortunately, the task of a reader is easy and the benefits manifold. I know I will keep returning to GPS’ treasure trove of stories and limericks often and especially when I am in need of a “pick-me-up”.So here’s hoping that GPS continues to dish out his delectable stories for us avid readers as well as for little Ishani to read when she grows up, and learn about Muthukur village, IIT-KGP and life as seen through the eyes of her doting grandpa.



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