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IIT Photo Competition

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On Thursday 1 September 2011, Shashank Srivastava came to my hotel to take me to the IIT Campus, this was a day after he and Divya had kindly picked me up from the airport. Along the way, I was fascinated by the sights and sounds (while we all braced ourselves as the mad taxi driver hardly removed his hand off the horn because he was driving so aggressively, wanting to be the king of the road). Anyway, as I travel the world, I take note of which organisations are promoting themselves in each city. Naturally, we can’t escape the major brands like Reebok and Apple. However, I look for the odd or peculiar brands. In one small town in New Zealand, I noticed that there was a company promoting the fact that it sells glass eyes. I do not know anyone who has a glass eye. It’s not a common operation. So why would a small town have the need for glass eyes? So much so, that serious medical advertisements are placed in local newspapers?
In Guwahati, I noticed that there were several cement companies promoting their products. Why was it so important for cement companies to compete in Guwahati? Such a product is not something everyone needs. Builders and property developers might need to know about it, but not the average person in the street. For this reason, I was attracted to such ads and billboards. The photo above was taken from the taxi, on the way to the Campus. What puzzled me was the message ‘Solid Setting’. Did the marketing manager at Star Cement think long-and-hard about that slogan? Were there meetings with the CEO to agree on the ‘corporate positioning statement’ that tells everyone that the reason consumers ought to select Star Cement was that it was a cement that set solid? Don’t all cements set solid? Are there some cements in India that do not set at all, or some that set semi-solid? Such a slogan raises more questions than it answers.
As we got closer to the Campus, and just before we crossed the river, there was another billboard whose message I had seen several times. So while the taxi was travelling along, I quickly pointed it out to Shashank and tricked him by asking him to tell me what the advertised product was, and he replied that it was for orange juice. Alas, it was for Surya Cement. The photo above is fuzzy because I took it while the taxi was meandering through the traffic. What I still do not know is what the message on the bottom right side says. It offers ‘50% MORE’ but I am not sure to what it refers. Could Surya Cement be 50% more solid than its competitors? Perhaps IIT Students can tell me, the next time they go into the city.

While at Techniche 2011, I noticed that most students (perhaps all students) at IIT had a camera phone. I also noticed that they liked to take photos. Everywhere I went, students were clicking and snapping. Before I left IIT, I mentioned to Marmeek Kosambia that it might be a good idea to conduct a photo competition. I was hoping to see some of the hundreds of photos that were taken of me, and with me. Sadly, not that many entered the competition. If more had sent their photos to me, I would have prepared a fun music video to re-live the memories of Techniche 11.

Anyway, two people might not have been aware of the rules, because they erroneously sent ‘general’ shots to me. The first was Gowtam Dora whose image is the lead shot used in this article, showing the back of a t-shirt that featured the Techniche 11 text. The second was from ‘N Sahu’ as shown here on the left. These two do not qualify because I had called for shots ‘of me’ or of people ‘with me’. However, for their engagement and enthusiasm, they win a prize nonetheless. Below I will show you some of the photos taken by those who were kind enough to submit their entries. Each of the entries below wins a prize. All prizes have been sent to Marmeek via FedEx. He will distribute the parcels shortly. I will keep track of the FedEx consignment and update my FaceBook to let you know when the box arrives.

The first photo to be taken of me was by Utkarsh Mishra while a group of us sat at the top level of the auditorium. It was so much hotter up there. We were waiting for ‘KAASH the band’ to get started. Utkarsh was showing me his iPhone app called FaceGoo. You can see the result of his fanciful manipulation of my photo. It was a fun atmosphere up there, with a few students offering me juice and bottled water, while Utkarsh and several others were acting as my personal punker wallers. An extra surprise was sent in the box for Utkarsh. When it arrives, he can explain it to you.

This photo was taken on the run. We were being ushered out of the room by the organisers. The Conclave session was great fun with a lively full house of students and special guests. One thing that fascinates me about people who huddle together for a photo, is the way they tilt their head in, fearing that the camera might not catch them. Notice the nice man in red, on the left. He leans his head in to the centre, wanting to make sure that he is in the frame. Why do people have this urge to lean in? Don’t they know that modern cameras have a wide perspective? Anyway, I thank Aashish Amber for this photo.

Abishek had done his homework. He knew a fair bit about me before I had arrived on Campus. When I met him, he offered his kind assistance and said that I should feel free to call him if I needed anything. By 11 pm, I realised that I needed help connecting my Apple Mac to the College. So I sent him a text, and by 11:30 pm Abishek had arrived with two of his technical friends. They connected my Mac, and the four of us then enjoyed a wonderful midnight chat. The prize for this photo goes to Abishek Bandejia, and another gift goes to Simrat Singh Chhabra who took this photo. Simrat looked after me very well. He was so busy yet always found time to run around and make sure that I had all I needed for the event.
Indian Food is one of my favourite types of cuisine. The Hospitality Team at Techniche always made sure that I ate well. At such busy events, I usually skip meals, trying to attend to the many demands on my time. I was not aware that this photo was being taken. It reminds me of the delicious meals I had, followed by some dessert. The kitchen staff were always welcoming and obliging, and they made sure that I had a variety of dishes to enjoy.The prize for this photo goes to Kamal Madishetty.
Raghav Mittal receives the prize for this shot taken at dinner on Wednesday 31 August 2011 in Guwahati at a restaurant whose internal decor resembled a jungle. The music was hip, and the food and drinks were exotic. We tried everything, and it was all tasty. The only sad part was that we were in a rush to leave. Had we have stayed, we would have eaten way too much. Afterwards we visited a t-shirt store and a chocolate shop. Utkarsh and Raghav would tell you that I cannot be trusted in a chocolate shop. I bought one of everything.
Laxmi Reddy brings us these shots from the night that the Panel discussion took place. The star photo was the one that featured my red socks which drew a round of applause from the audience.

This is one of my favourite style of shots. Tanmay Maheshwari snapped this while nearly a thousand students were walking back from the 3D Wall extravaganza. I like photos that capture moments in history, as opposed to posed shots where people stop what they are doing to service a camera. It was mighty humid that night. I was dripping in perspiration. The walk back was an opportunity to catch up with some of the hundreds of students who wanted to continue the chat that started after the Panel Discussion. By the way, the campus was much darker than normal because the lights had been turned off especially for the 3D wall.
Sudarshan Dutta dwarfed me with this photo of the main lecture to a full hall. I recall when the electricity failed and we were all in the dark. I just kept on talking and everyone just kept on listening in 100% darkness. Which makes me wonder if there could be an innovative idea in that approach. I would like to try it one day: give a lecture in complete darkness. Wow, I think that would be so cool. All phones off. All distractions off. Just listen and absorb. What shall we call this kind of lecture? Any ideas?
This photo from Kolaparthi reminds me of the moment I tried to exit the stage after the Panel Discussion. The car was waiting for me, and the organisers wanted me to go to my next port of call. However, hundreds of students wanted to come up and say hello. Each one wanted an autograph. I was swamped, but felt honoured to have met so many of the students that night. Each interaction was but a few seconds long, with a huge queue of students wanting photos and a hand shake. I am so sorry that it was all so rushed. I missed my transport. The rest of the panellists went to dinner and I stayed back signing autographs. If anyone else has photos of this moment, do send them to me please. Amit Khoiwal had sent a similar shot to me, but it was way too dark to be used. He received a prize as well, even though his photo was not clear, I think his intentions were clear. He was keen to take part. Participation and engagement must always be rewarded. Thanks Amit.

Divyam Beniwal was trigger happy. Thanks for so many shots. The first two were of the Panel Discussion which I thought was funny in parts. I just loved how the charming American dignitaries, with their American accents, just could not understand students due to their Indian accents. And then, a few minutes later, it was clear to me that the lovely Indian students found it difficult to understand the American accents (they were not alone because I struggled with both!). It was so hilarious for me. Those who know me well, would understand why I say this. Accents have always fascinated me. The first of the three shots of me in a vest has me pointing my finger. I was aiming it directly at a person who was filming me. I had asked the students to please sit and enjoy the lecture, and to put their camera

This shot was taken by Marmeek. It’s nice how the white shirt gave off a subtle glow. Marmeek was my main contact. He was so helpful and professional. I had conducted several phone conferences with him in the months leading up to Techniche. He is such a capable young man. It was no surprise to me that he was appointed the 2012 Convenor. I am sure he will do a great job. He and Ankit and the team, as we all agree, worked tirelessly, around the clock, for months on end, to produce an amazing Techniche 11. I know that hundreds of students will remember Technique 11 as a highlight to their year. It was certainly a highlight to mine, to meet so many fine young students with fire in their belly, eager to make a contribution to the world.


All the people whose photos appear above win a special prize from the ‘Jonar Collection’ in one of my special gift boxes bearing the ‘Jonar Nader’ crest. The contents of this box will remain a secret until the parcels arrive at IIT for Marmeek to distribute them to the ‘photo competition’ winners. I will update my Facebook when FedEx advises me that the box has been delivered.

WHAT ELSE IS IN THE FEDEX BOX?Students who expressed an interest in reading my books will have an opportunity to borrow these books from the IIT Library very soon. When the FedEx box arrives, Marmeek will arrange for these books to be listed in the library. If you would like to pre-plan which book you might like to read first so that you can get on the waiting list, here are the links, where you can read-up on what each book or CD is about.

1) How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People.
2) How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Your Boss.
3) How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Lovers.
4) Z — The Novel.
5) How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Thinkers.
6) How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Your Boss – Audio CD — which is a free gift to IIT students if you would like to download your own copy by clicking this link.
7) Prentice Hall’s Illustrated Dictionary of Computing.

If you would like to delve deeper into each chapter, you can click here to read the first 1000 words from each of the chapters at my blog site.


If you come across other photos in your collection, please feel free to send them to me via this email link. I am indebted to Ankit and his Techniche ’11 Team for their kind hospitality. It was a joy to have met you all.


This is what I had written on Facebook after so many of you sent kind messages to me. I said, ‘Oh you are all so kind. May your teachers always see you as I saw you: delightful precious students who are inspiring and joyous. May you grow to teach others how to live each day with joy. My time with you was the highlight of my year. You are all amazing. Stay kind to each other. Engineer moments of peace for each other. And please sit together and be inclusive. Find someone alone and invite them to join your circle of friends, just like I embraced each one who crossed my path. I found you all warm and lovely, so please go and find the warmth in strangers around you. Cheers and blessings.’

P.S. If you bump into Utkarsh Mishra, ask him to explain this!


Vivek Ghangas sent this as a late entry. He apologised about it. Well, dear Vivek, no need for an apology because no, you did not forget to send it on time, you forgot that you were one of the first to send yours in. I simply forgot to use it because you had sent it to me so promptly, that it was placed in my travel in-box, which meant that your file was in a different place. Hence my forgetfulness. So sorry about that. Anyway, this photo was taken after I had made the point that all photos look the same, with people just standing there smiling at a camera, so we four decided to do something different. And here you have it. Thanks for the memories. Oh by the way, I think all cameras ought to have a rear-vision viewer, so that when a photo like this is taken, we can all see what and who was behind the camera, because I recall that behind the cameraman were MANY people just looking at us, and wondering what we were doing. I think that shot would have been even more interesting. I think there were at least 35 people staring at us!

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