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I went to IIT Kharagpur last week to attend this IEEE workshop on Medical Image Processing. Having spent just 4 days there, I can only offer you a tiny glimpse of what the institute seemed to be. Writing a post on IIT Madras would require me to be a lot more insightful. Here, on the contrary, I can be my usual biased, judgmental self. It’s a whole lot easier.

The trip was planned in a jiffy, as is usually the case when you have a mentor as spontaneous as mine. We were initially told that we could go only if we got train tickets, which being the horrendously difficult task that it is, meant that we are not going. But then we gave a neat presentation on the project one day and he was all happy and all of a sudden, we find these Spice Jet tickets in our inboxes the next morning.

Amongst the first things that caught my attention in Kolkata, apart from that misty, fishy smell in the air, and the notably distinct shift in looks and accent from tam to bong, were the yellow ambassador taxis and the trams on the roads, which, to be fair, were not as dirty as people had told me they would be. The colour accent feature in G1’s camera gave us this:

We also managed to click a few pictures of the Howrah Bridge before being threatened to be fined and almost getting thrown out of the place. Apparently, photography is not allowed there. It isn’t that magnificent anyway.

Anyway, we boarded a train from Howrah and alighted at the longest railway station in the world! Extra bragging points, I say!

The Good

The institute, oldest amongst all IITs, also boasts of having the largest campus, spanning over 2000 acres. It makes my campus look like a hole! Hostels, departments, even the various sports fields are much more spacious than ours. There are service lanes alongside certain main roads. Moreover, they haven’t had to cut as many trees in order to accommodate the recent increase in student intake.

The best thing is that they have Wi-Fi access all over the campus. And at very decent speeds too. There are no internet ‘cuts’ either.

Then there are the Bengali sweets, of course. At Rs. 4 apiece, the hot and soft, not to mention very, very delicious roushougullas and gulabjamuns are a steal! Then, there are mishti doi (I didn’t know it was mishti dahi!) and sondesh, which are fairly delectable as well.

In Bengal, everyone is Sourav Ganguly. Dada, howrah station tak kitna hoga? Dada, 6 roushougulla dijiye. Dada, yeh lbs hall kis taraf hai? It’s fun at first, but at some point you got to start feeling guilty for making your grandpa do so much work.

The Same

The workshop did manage to avoid starting on time on each of the four days. Some standards have to be maintained across all IITs, religious ostracism from punctuality being one of them.

The Bad

One thing that immediately struck me about the campus is that it is much more ‘open’ than mine. In about an hour’s walk I encountered more outsiders than I would in say, even a week here. Construction workers, rickshaw walas, other non-student non-academic looking people casually stroll into the campus. No security guard asking you the purpose of visit. No signing a register. No token business.

Talking about being open, the institute is incredibly candid about smoking. One can find people – both, students and Profs alike – smoking at just about every nook and corner. Cigarettes are even sold inside the campus itself – an unimaginable situation back down here.

For a campus so big, it’s hard to imagine why they don’t have an internal bus service. There are cycle rickshaws around, but that’s if you’re ready to part with 50 odd bucks for a ten minute ride.

As much as I hate Chennai’s climate, I found Kgp to be even worse. It’s not even on the coast, but it’s easily twice as humid as Chennai (although that’s not theoretically possible). I know my sweat glands are a little hyper active but that still doesn’t account for the profuse perspiring that I experienced each time I took as much as ten minute walk, no matter what time of the day it was.

Perhaps the worst thing about Kgp is that there is absolutely nothing to do outside the campus. In fact, when I got out of the railway station, it was like I had stepped into some village. There was a small chai shop playing some 70s ka hindi song. Classic it was! But seriously, there are no movie theatres, no good restaurants, no reasonably decent place to shop. If you’re from a city, you’ll certainly find it very difficult to spend four years there. I know for sure I would.

Returning to Chennai, it almost felt like coming back home. Funny things, time and perspective.

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