Monday, December 26, 2011

The NAOP Conference Story:Part II

The next 3 days turned out to be those 3 days of my life in which I became aware of the scope of psychology, the fascinating research works being carried out by the psychologists all over the country and also discovered that I was the youngest member of the conference!

The conference, apart from being the annual convention of the NAOP for 2011, also included various international symposia on the multidimensionality of poverty.

It is difficult to talk about all the sympoia I managed to attend and so I will only mention the ones that most highly impressed me.
If asked to pick out one event of the conference that I treasure being a part of, it has to be the talk on 'Military Psychology:Non-Traditional Research' delivered in the audi by a renowed professor from DIPR, DRDO, Ministry of Defence. Every single minute of his lecture, I sat transfixed and my hands mechanically, at a super human speed jotted down all that could be. From the super interesting programmes at DIPR to the current endeavors and the future challenges, everything was simply awesome to me and the professor with the silver hair appeared to me to have come from a different world speaking of wonders hitherto unimagined of. I know I am only 2 years old or rather 1 and a half, as a psychology student and know nothing about the huge ambit of my subject, yet, it was fascinating or simply thrilling to discover that something that interested me so so very much was an area of research in my subject, very much open to me. Yes, It was decided in that talk itself, if ever I work on something in psychology, some research after my post graduation, I will do it in DRDO!

Apart from this talk, another highly interesting and even enlghtening event was the workshop we attended on writing publishable manuscripts. The top psychologists of the country, all having authored and co-authored several books and journal papers, were giving us tips! Everything from the ethics of publication to the politics of it, was lucidly explained and I thanked my stars and Sonal di also, to make me attend the workshop when I had decided to attend a symposium on Organisational Psychology a day before. The richness of experience I gathered in this workshop will only come to light when some finding, some research of mine in the future gets published in some psychology journal and I draw lots of accolades for it lol.

Oh yes, what made the conference super memorable was actually my own presentation.
Now it is very clear that had my own presentation not been upto the mark, all these memories would never have been penned down. And I absoloutely mean it when I say my own presentation made this event super memorable. The chair person heaped praises on me on account of my age, pointing out that I must be the youngest member of the conference and giving away the gift he was given by IRMA for chairing the session to me! Also amazing was the fact that I could very confidently answer all the questions that other panelists shooted at me. Not only I was appreciated for taking up qualitative analysis, and not some standardised tests and just using some statistics to come to a result, but was also appreciated for the choice of my subject as it drew on something very practical. Obviously what made my presentation different and impressive was my oratorial skill. Taking up my presentation as the final of some big debating event, right from the very begining I spoke to the best of my capabilities, persuasively and answering myself all questions I could think of that could be shooted at me, myself.
The credit of course, goes to Dr. Preeti Kapur Ma'am whose social psychology classes are actually debating contests where we talk about anything and everything under the sun and try to interpret them from a psychologist's point of view. Those numerous lectures had sharpened my presence of mind and the ability to defend my point of view using some or the other theory. In fact the realisation on the very first day of the conference that umpteen researchers here had come with good research work but not with very good presentations and oratorial skills was what had given me confidence that I could pull it through. And the way I did it still makes me grin from ear to ear :)

The NAOP Conference Story:Part I

So, picking up from where I left it, I reached the railway station well before I needed to, thanks to my watch showing me time one hour faster than what it should ideally have.

Now I believe in totally judicial utilization of my resources (which includes time of course), so without whiling away the extra one hour I was bestowed with, I started scanning the interesting milieu around me. I mean, that's also pretty useful you know, considering that I am a psychology student lol. However, I was bored pretty soon and took to reading the book I was carrying(Eat Pray Love if you are curious).

Sonal di, the senior who was to accompany me to the conference arrived in half an hour and the rest of the time till we boarded the train was spent in happy chatter with her and her affable mom.

The train journey was uneventful as it was dark when the train started chartering territories unknown to me. And yes, we had to de-board at 5 in the morning so we slept early. Now it was impossible for the neurotic me to sleep peacefully when we had to get up before 5(I, for one, have this bad habit of getting up not before 7 even during exam days). I woke up a number of times, the last of which was at 5:30! In total horror I ran to the door and realising that the train was approaching a station, asked the frighteningly tall man standing at the door which station it was. Baroda. No tragedy then.

We finally got down at 7. Totally typical of the Indian Railways' sense of time.
We reached IRMA in some 15 minutes or so, and were promptly escorted by one of the watchmen to the rooms alloted to us. Sonal di's room and mine was separated by close to half a kilometer! However, the good news was that these rooms were unexpectedly squeaky clean and every possible need of toiletries was taken care of by the hospitality team.

I had forgotten to carry my mobile phone charger, and so, after breakfast in the mess hall for the students, I and Sonal di went to the market. Being a Sunday, almost every shop was closed, and though we did get a charger for my phone, we couldn't see much of Anand and came back to the institute.

Oh yes, the institute in itself had much in it to be explored. True to the description in the institute's website, it had serene, sylvan surroundings, a sprawling campus indeed, spread over no less than 60 acres.

The coolest of all its features was the huge library building(which was incidentally closed to the visitors lol)

and the tower with a number of bells, a gift from Amul, which sent lovely chimes every hour of the day.

Clicking pictures and doing vella panti in the campus, the day came to an end with not much to write about. Oh yes, we did get ourselves registered in the afternoon and got our delegate identity card and a conference bag with the usual accessories all conference bags carry and then a non-Gujarati(!) dinner(this was not in the mess hall anymore, the conference was signalled to have been started with this proper conference like dinner; pity that I had kept waiting for some Gujarati food and didn't get any).

This was a day we had sincerely hoped to be occupied in some manner and were painfully bored. Little did we know that in each of the next three days, we would be occupied for more than 12 hours in the conference and would return to our rooms tired, and in my case, too tired to even practice once for my presentation!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The NAOP Conference story: Prologue

Being God's favourite child, my life has never been hunky dory. 
Wait I'll explain. 
My dear creator has this very normal wish that his favorite child gets to know how super intelligent and creative her creator is and how wicked(and brilliant) his sense of humor can get at times mortals call tragic. 
Yes my life has never been too difficult. But it has never ever been smooth either.

Smooth is boring, na? How could God's fave child have a boring life, haan?

OK, without elaborating on the intro further, let's get to the story.
Now, there was only a week to go for the 21st annual conference of the NAOP National Academy Of Psychology to be held at IRMA (Institute of Rural Management Anand), Gujarat which was also holding an International Convention on Alternatives to Poverty Management, and in this conference I was to orally present a research paper (turned out that I was the youngest over there and drew a lot of accolades and attention :)). Exams were just over for which I had worked like mad for there was this one subject in which I was severely under prepared. And then, like every other normal student I had not paid much attention to my subsidiary subjects(who would tell me, when the main subjects and practicals are enough to burn you out without asking much?). So, do din ka break toh banta hi tha.

Now what did I do to destress myself in those 2 days? Picked up a book that I was dying to read since some days. Gone With The Wind. I thought I could carry that book with me to the conference to read in the train. But I dropped that plan as soon as I packed my bags 4 days later to mentally prepare myself for the amount of load I had to carry. My suitcase was already overflowing, in fact I had great difficulty to close (hehe I know this may not be the correct expression) the zip. Now I still had to pack many things more that would go inside my handbag. So carrying that erudite tome(800+pages) would have been impossible.

In short, I not only had to finish my project, prepare a ppt and see if I could manage to say all that I wanted to in 15 minutes, now I also had to finish that novel in the next 4 days. The latter I would happily do, as I discovered. It was the former for which I was worried as Tragedy no.1 had already played itself out. Here's how.

 Tragedy no. 1- Project file deleted from pen drive(by mistake, of course). Now why that's a tragedy? Well, there was no back up for it, I mean I had not copied the file to any location in the laptop! So, my labour of those 2 days after the 2 day break went down the drain. 

I was left with a hard copy of what I had done earlier, so yes, not all was lost. Now I had to consult my professor at least once, face-to-face, and not through text messages or calls, so I decided to go to college with my ppt presentation and worry about the word file later.

Tragedy no. 2- Woke up late. Breakfast was gone for the kitchen was locked. Now the cook bhaiyya couldn't have waited for just one girl. Fair enough. Next I discovered that there was no balance in my phone, in both the sim cards. 

And in the moment of frustration when I discovered this, I forgot I had a message pack. So, yes, there I was going to meet my professor in the college without giving prior notice. Anyways, she would be there, I thought, after all, didn't she have to check our exam papers? Hastily I went to the college in a rickshaw cursing my mobile that didn't wake me up at the time I had set alarm. DRC could have aptly been named XYZ Khandhar or ABC Bhootbangla by its looks that day. Noticing that there was nobody to give me odd looks at the way I was running(considering that it was not an exam day), I further upped my speed and hastened up the stairs. Even my beloved department bore a haunted look. WHERE IS EVERY BODY?

 Tragedy no. 3- All labs closed. The classrooms closed. Even the staff room and the department office closed. So I had ran to my college to find out from the good looking sweeper that it was Muharram. Or some other festival of the Muslims, which I don't remember very clearly now. Oh yes, one more day gone. Wednesday gone.

Tragedy no. 4- Something told me to look at my purse. My intuition, never being wrong, discovered a blunder I was about to commit. I was close to halfway my college and I didn't have the pen drive that contained my ppt file. Going back halfway is better than going all the way back and so, I ran and got that damned thing and again ran to the college.Fast forward to Friday. 

Tragedy no. 5- I still didn't have the packet sent by my father via speed post and I had my train the next day at 3. So I decided to go take the packet from the post office. The Jawaharnagar post office people said they won't have it anyways. I would have to go to the larger, MalkaGanj post office. This place I went, and they said my packet had not yet reached and considering that I had to have it as soon as it reached here, I should come to the place at 11 the next day.
One good thing happened that I completed 'Gone with the wind' finally, crying all through the last 30 pages till 4:30 in the night(or morning, watever).

Tragedy no. 6- My phone's alarm betrayed yet again and I woke up at 10. Yes 10! Damn, my hair was oiled and the heavens knew that I won't go outside in such a condition even if an earthquake strikes. I was running short of time and here I had to take an oilbath and pack the rest of my things and get to the post office...all in an hour! 
This was tragedy indeed.

Tragedy no. 7- The packet was still not there. I had to leave for the Nizamuddin railway station which was quite far from my pg, and had to board my train at 2 and now these people were telling me to go collect the packet from the Speed Post Centre itself, in New Delhi. 
Good news was that I would have to cross the New Delhi metro station in any case. Bad news was that this thing called SPC was jot near the New Delhi metro station. Turns out there would be unforeseen expenses. Great. Another tragedy.

Tragedy no. 8- The friendly auto wale uncle didn't exactly know where SPC was, so we had to do a bit of exploration and then assuring him that it won't take more than 10 minutes and luring him with the additional Rs.100(he took Rs. 130 extra in the end) that he would get if he dropped me at the station, I went inside, ready to recount my story yet again. Tragically enough, and typical of a sarkaari office, I was sent to 6 people, the last of whom was the missing manager. Does it need to be told that I had an argument with his P.A (I never seem to get along well with women in authority as I do with men, dunno why)who told me to keep my problems to myself and not bother her one more time?

No more immediate tragedies since I was sent by the sympathetic supervisor to another man, this one again quite friendly and not helpless for a change, who listened to me very patiently and assured me that I wiould get my packet in time. 

All this while Mr. Manager was sleeping on the couch and had just got up. Now this man was super friendly and totally manager like. He quickly told me what I had to do: Attach a photocopy of my train ticket(to show that my problem was indeed urgent), a photocopy of my identity card and an application explaining all that I had just told his associate. It was already 10 to 1 p.m. and these people had taken away the identification number of my packet, which had long ago been traced to have been opened in a bag here, and these people wanted me to get photocopies of documents I was showing them? But as the manager said, his file had to be fed.

My conversational skills came to my rescue again with the angry auto wale uncle whom I had assured it won't take longer than 10 minutes but who had now waited for me for close to an hour. Thankfully, and funnily, there was a photocopy shop right next to the complex, a mere 5 minutes by the auto. 
Panting, when I wen to the manager, with the auto wake uncle in tow this time, I got hold of my packet in 5 minutes. Huh! But the manager was taken aback at the train timing. 14:05. 
This was no reason to get surprised. Wasn't it already 1? Will it not take me at least 30 minutes to reach the station? Then another 10 minutes or so to get to the correct platform?
 To the amusement of the manager uncle, auto wale uncle, and all others standing there helping me with the formalities (had to write my name, phone no, adress at 4 different places) and to my utter embarassement, I discovered that the clock in my mobile was, only God knows how, 1 hour fast!

P.S.- After a lot of reflection and a particular 'aha' moment, I discovered that while setting my alarm the previous night and trying to find out what was wrong with it that I could never hear the alarm bell i.e. playing with the settings, I had changed the 'time' settings as well and seeing a mismatch between the time showed by my watch and my mobile sometime during the day, I had chosen to go with my mobile. Considering the kind of mental tension I had to bear due to the paucity of time I had to face, this probably, was the biggest of all tragedies.

P.S. 2- Keep coming back to know the full NAOP Conference story. Unlike the prologue, the story is all-happy-happy-but-not-boring kinds. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Professor who...

Though testimoinials are supposed to be eloquent, I fear I can't make this one any bit so due to the tearing hurry I am in.
Yes I am supposed to  pack my bags and well, before that, give final touches to my ppt file(I am leaving for my first ever paper presentation day after tomorrow will keep you updated, keep coming back). But my punishing superego tells me not to bend before my ego and go ahead with the 'thanksgiving'.
Well I am talking about my Social Psychology Professor, Dr. Preeti Kapur (the one in saree, below).

If in two days I will be received as a research delegate in an international conference of psychology and management, it is largely due to her interest and initiative.
It was she who first suggested that I should send my abstract, when I wasn't even aware of what the acronym NAOP stands for.
The geek in me has always been enchanted by all that comes with good marks (probably my only mainstay in life ;)) and I was not very confident that I could manage my exams as well as project simultaneously since there was to be only a week's gap or less than that between the end of exams and the commencement of the conference, which meant I had to finish all my project related work before the exams (yes pressure often brings out the best in me, but I don't like taking uncalculated risks), and it was Dr. Kapur who gave me the confidence that I could handle both.

Still not convinced, I expressed my fears as to how my father would react, who would never accept any excuse for not-excellent marks, and she replied with: I will be very upset if you don't go and if your father denies permission to let you go, I will talk to him.

Now that egged me on like none other force. And to add to all this, if I have been lax in any subject this year, it is social psychology. Initially I took it too lightly, and then, after the remarks on my home assignments, I was afraid to prepare my notes all over again. God knows I was thoroughly under-prepared for social psych, but the fact that I was thoroughly prepared in  the rest of the subjects, gave me oodles of gumption and I kept working on my project till a week before my exams with the faith that I was doing a pretty good job of preparing for both exam and conference. 

Thank God, the exam was satisfactory or else, I would have had to cut a sorry figure since I have shouted on rooftops that i find 'jannat' in social psychology lectures! 

And now the project. 
On every step she has been with me. Showing infinite patience, not being bugged up by my thousand corrections and the thousand times I consult her to see if this time I got it correct and encouraging me throughout, she has been a pleasure to be guided by. Though she is of the age of my nani, I have never felt 'generation gap', with her.

Oh I see I had intended to write a testimonial! And like all other posts of mine, this has become like a page from my personal diary. Oh! I had even intended to post the link to this page on her fb wall, but now no, certainly nothing of that sort :D

The extremely approachable and thoroughly amicable person that she is, students find it easy to lay bare their vulnerability in front of her(at least I do :D).

 (This pic was taken a year ago when the whole department was on a day long picnic. Those in the back row are some of our professors and those in the front are our seniors- the 4 toppers incidentally)

Ok, to carry on, her response in such circumstances is what has endeared her to me. She makes you feel comfortable, encourages you to tell her in plain words that you couldn't come up with something of the level she expected and then guides you again without spoon-feeding you.
Yes, she never hesitates to answer any query, yet never gives the complete answer herself.
She implores the psychologist in you to think a little harder, go beyond and appreciates and encourages you on every small step, reminding you all the time how far you could go.

One particular instance, a month back, when I was low on confidence regarding my paper presentation due to the voluminous data which I had to analyze in a short time, and her memorable dialogue (with dancing eyes) then, has become etched in my memory: in class, you all might feel that you are pretty average, but go outside, outside DU, and you will know where you actually stand. This line never fails to pick me up and get me going whenever I am afraid that my project may not be very good.

In the classroom, she is graceful. Yes, I mean it when I say graceful! She is all alive with interesting anecdotes and live examples from all walks of life, be it literature, history, politics or media. Her lectures are by far the most interactive I have ever been a part of, and that is extremely pleasing for somebody who just can't keep quite for a very long time in the class. She understands people like me who want to share all that they know regarding the topic, and she even encourages us to discuss what we read in DT or HT City if that happens to be relevant to the discussion. No holds barred discussions. Engaging debates on anything and everything under the sun that we try to analyse as social psychologists. Lively atmosphere. Jannat, as I said.

There are few teachers who work so hard on her students as Dr. Kapur does. She just needs to get a glimpse of the unpolished diamond in you and interest on your part to learn and improve(her words these are, btw ;)), and lo! she devotes all her energies in an effortless manner to make sure you realise your potential.

I just hope my work is appreciated in the conference and I see that lovely smile on her face due to my efforts. Working hard has never been so much joy!