Sunday, 2 August 2020

NITTE – The Architect of My Life | Written by Somashekara Bhat, Professor, Department of ECE, Associate Director (Development) MIT, Manipal

It was 1986. After doing my 12 th in the science stream, I too had to decide on one common question wavering in every student's mind, what next? My father, a tailor cum farmer, was averse me taking a big risk. He wanted me to start working immediately and possibly do a part-time study. My uncle, a practising doctor in Mumbai, was ready to help me in furthering my study. Against my father’s wish, I decided to try my luck in advancing my study. Like everyone in my class did, I too wrote the entrance examinations. But I wrote without any serious preparation. Hence, there was no hope of getting admitted to a medical or engineering college. I joined BSc Physics in Udupi and partly started working for my brother in law in his hotel.

I was interested in medicine and never wanted to be an engineer because I did not understand
trigonometry and algebra, or in simple words mathematics. I never knew what was there in it. I had no one to guide. In engineering, I had heard of only a few names, such as Automobile, Civil, and Industrial Production. I opted for these branches. When the entrance result came, I received admission to engineering (!) in Industrial Production at Basaveshwar Engineering  College, Bagalkot under rural area quota. Even though I took the admission there, after visiting the place, I was not sure if I would continue my study there. 

To my luck (!) due to issues in the documents produced, my admission got canceled. I had to rush to Bangalore and speak to Directorate of Technical Education and explain my case. Meanwhile, I got an opportunity to mingle with people and talk to them. With these interactions, I started realizing that streams such as Computer Science, Electronics & Communication Engineering were futuristic. Sorting out the issues connected with admission, took some time, seats in top colleges were all filled by then. To my surprise, I also came to know that Nitte had started a new engineering college and was offering all these branches. I was so innocent that I had not heard of Nitte, and I didn’t know where it was located! But people who were helping me in Bangalore informed me that it was about 13km from my village! I had to decide; if I should opt for a futuristic branch in a newly started college with no facility or continue with my preferences in established colleges. I was advised to join Nitte with multiple benefits. First, I could travel from home and save expenses on hostel stay. Secondly, joining a futuristic stream would improve job prospects on graduation. Thirdly, ours being the first batch, Nitte would put all its efforts to take care of us and get good results, so that they can attract better students in the future batches. With all this advice, I decided to join NMAMIT, Nitte.

With all these hardships, somehow, I happened to join engineering. As already mentioned, when it was time to study, I was struggling in mathematics and due to this, in all other subjects too. As a God’s gift, being a turning point in my life, management appointed B. Shashirekha Rai, a fresh MSc graduate at that time, and now Dr. B. Shashirekha Rai, as a mathematics teacher. She taught us the subject from the heart, and she loved her profession. She took care of every student in her class. From here, I started understanding the subject, started loving it, and started solving most of the problems from the books which in turn solved my problems. I cleared my first semester with the first class. 

One day I was called to the principal’s office. Those days, receiving a call from the Principal's office was only if you were caught doing any offensive acts. I went to his office, shivering and sweating. To my surprise, I was proved wrong. He had called to appreciate my performance in the semester exam and to encourage me to perform better. These words of appreciation really helped me. I passed successive semesters with distinction. What a transformation! From derailed train to running train, from lost hopes to lasting memories! I graduated in time as a toper from the Institute. Our elders have placed Guru next to parents, but I place this lady before my parents. Madam, you are everything in my life, you showed that a donkey can be turned into winning horse. 

In class, I always asked intriguing questions. Even though many times it was painful to the teachers, they understood the genuineness in my questions. They encouraged me to ask more questions. Both teachers and I were putting additional efforts to find answers to the questions. All these activities made me an inquisitive person and improved my self-learning skills. I was hungry for new knowledge. Every semester, college arranged for additional lectures from the best professors from NITK and MIT. For many questions of mine, I could get answers by interacting with these stalwarts in the field. 

While studying I was helping my friends who had difficulty in understanding the concepts. This refined my teaching skills and helped me build my fundamentals with more clarity. Even though I was a day-scholar, during the exam time, my friends used to request me to help them in their studies. They used to arrange for my stay with them in the hostel. This also gave me an opportunity of experiencing hostel life. When I had difficulty in buying mini drafter in my first year, it was friends like Mecky (diploma student from my place), Satheesh, and Suneetha who lent their mini drafter to me. When I used to remain hungry with no money to have my lunch, many of my friends and teachers brought lunch for me. When I had trouble writing and talking English, it was friends like Srini, Madhukar, Anil, Bhaskar from various states who helped me build my English vocabulary by forcing me to talk in English. 

With all these, my advisers were proved right. In my whole academic career lasting for 16 years till then, these 4 years at Nitte were highly rewarding. Personally, professionally and academically it was highly enriching. With no confusion in my mind, and with no shame, I can say that I had my real education in these four years. I will be indebted to Nitte for whatever I achieved in life from then onwards. 

As soon as I graduated in 1990, Nitte offered me a teaching job. Without any hesitation, I accepted this offer. A student previous day suddenly became a colleague to my teachers the next day! To all my juniors with who I shared jokes and acted naughtily, the very next day I was their teacher. To my luck, all of them accepted me and my new role with ease. The same year, I wrote the GATE examination and cleared it. Just with one year of service, Nitte agreed to support my higher studies by extending financial support and by securing my service. I
received PG admission at NITK (then KREC). On completion of MTech in 1993, I reported back to Nitte and continued my service. From here onwards, I was enjoying my service at Nitte and had plans to continue. However, in 1995, God provided me a chance to switch my college. I received an opportunity from MIT Manipal for the teaching post. 

Interactions with students and faculty at MIT gave me a different perspective on life. It allowed me to upskill my knowledge. I went to IIT Madras for my Ph.D. During my time at IITM, apart from me, five more alumni of Nitte were doing a PhD at IITM and one more was doing PhD at IIT Kharagpur. All of us could do this, mainly due to academic enrichment we all had at Nitte. Manipal gave and is allowing me to exhibit my leadership skills too. However, a strong
foundation for all these was laid while I was in Nitte. It could be encouraging words of Sridhar Hegde, BSIK Murthy sir’s skill of identifying and calling everyone by name, concerns of G R Rai to slow learners, Mutannas way of handling lawbreakers with an iron hand, Shalini Sharma's concern for people under stress. Many a time, even though it looked like I hated them, without my notice, internally, I appreciated what they did! 

Today even though I am part of MIT, I try to contribute to my Alma matter through whatever little knowledge I have acquired all these years. In every interaction, I have gained much more than what I have given back to Nitte. For readers of this testimonial of mine, it may look like I am going overboard in praising Nitte. But I write this with tears in my eyes. If there was no Nitte, I wouldn’t have been where I am today. With all humbleness I bow down in front of my alma mater and the founder Dr. N Vinaya Hegde. I wish Nitte will remain to be a guiding spirit for many more generations to come. Long live Nitte and long live Dr. Hegde. Society needs your service.

Somashekara Bhat
Professor, Department of ECE
Associate Director (Development)
MIT, Manipal

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