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Govind Nanda

We bring to you a story to relish in our next installment of My Experiments With IITD. Govind Nanda talks about his experience with IITD.

One of the biggest risks I took in my life was to believe that I can take on JEE and crack it, so it would be entirely pointless if I did not take any risks after I ended up in IIT Delhi. My four years were filled with a broad spectrum of experiences academically, socially and professionally. My will to experience more than a normal human being or student is what has made my IIT life so crazy, yet so beautiful.

The first time I got here, I had a bloated head being the only one from my city to crack JEE. I had billboards with my face on them all over Jalandhar . The first aim I had was to have a department change to computer science and live the best life because well, I was used to getting the best that was available. A life with just successes does not make a cool biography to write. So as expected, I failed to get my department changed, my then-girlfriend moved to Toronto and broke up with me. I never attended lectures because things were not in my control anymore, that feeling of being underwater, not diving but instead drowning. I was just a nobody in college. I attempted to attend a debating practice, but the English speaking skills everybody exhibited made me feel that maybe this place isn't for me. I was not confident about having conversations, because I always thought my ideas are conservative, and my knowledge is half cooked. Eventually, I would fumble and be made fun of. So my first year of college was just a reality check. As if someone forced me to open my eyes to see the light that was always there. Life was good anyway because I had learnt how to stop caring, or at least pretend how to stop caring.

I made some friends in IIT, and most of them came out of the insecurity that I am not 'famous' enough. I was also insecure about my grades, my physique and what not. Fake friendships, which are built on personal insecurities, don't last long. Fun fact, earlier I would not upload much on Instagram unless it was a group picture because I thought I looked hideous. And now I can't stop posting my photos on Instagram, and even when I do look hideous, I do not care at all. Something I thank IIT and its fraternity for is to teach me how to accept myself and use everything that I have to its full potential.

Life was good. A GPA means nothing if IIT can, in any case, land you a job so that you can cook and eat your own food. Passing JEE is at least that rewarding. So I remember, this one fine day, I went to a quantum mechanics class by Prof. Ajit Kumar. He asked me what do you like doing, and I just said- "I party". Although he liked my answer, he also told me I won't be able to pass the course. I kind of started caring again because I may be getting validation from my friends, but not the people who I actually wanted it from. So I started studying a little in the middle of the semester and managed to pass his course. His course, till now, is the only course I may have command on and guess what, I have a D grade in that course. I like proving professors wrong, telling them that their degrees don't tell them how students can prove their rationality wrong by pure human will.

In the meantime, I was also applying for an internship. I finally landed one at UNSW, Sydney after a million emails, which allowed me to party more often, but after around a month, they rejected me, saying that I have a low GPA. It was a heartbreak– the people who couldn't go for their foreign internships due to the pandemic will be able to relate. I had been sending emails to Prof. Kherani in the University of Toronto, so I could move to Toronto somehow (hope can make you do weird things), but he never responded. When he did finally respond, he also rejected me because of my GPA. After a million more emails, I landed an internship in NUS. I still wish I could land that Toronto internship, it would have been one of my dreams come true. I had a low GPA and an internship in NUS, but I was motivated to improve myself in academic spheres.

So I went to NUS, did a good job. Came back here, started working hard on my GPA and quit all substances. However, I got extraordinarily suicidal and was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It is a scary place to be at, anything can trigger breathing issues and night terrors. I have woken up multiple times at night, scared that someone is aggressively punching on my door. Thanks to SCS, I was diagnosed early, and I was on anti-depressants for a year. SCS really helped me to understand myself, and they made me accept whatever toxic there was about me. I have talked to a lot of people about SCS with mixed reviews. I personally believe that it is always hard to accept what you are, and not all therapists are going to ask you to do or understand things which are easy for you. Mental health wellness is a hard path. One should have the discipline and the ability to embrace them. The good thing about IIT is that you get to do humanities aka hukka courses, which felt useless at first but helped me increase my worldview in retrospect. Of course, the attendance policy is pointless, and the assignments are too much. Still, I think taking five courses under Prof. Thayyil has motivated me to reconsider and reconstruct my career in a way so that my work can directly be perceived by other people. The way he taught has helped me come out of my "I can't debate or talk" phase, I have been talking about all world issues for two years now, and my arguments have got better. Even though I was judged during most of my first three years for whatever I said/did, I couldn't care less. A world without people who judge may not be cruel, but it is awfully boring.

After the third year, I applied again for an internship under Prof. Kherani, but this time I had a sudden increase in GPA, moving from 6.3 to 7.3 in one year and good research experience. He asked for a report, a presentation and a final interview. I successfully landed the opportunity and also got accepted for a MITACS GRA. The only thing remaining was the visa. On 29th May, in a clever twist, I was rejected for my visa. Even though I was super late, I applied for the visa again, this time with a letter of support from some government officials in Canada because that is what you get for being a Punjabi, thus getting my visa in mid-June. At the end of the internship, I showed Prof. Kherani my 27 emails to him from three years ago which he didn't respond to, and he said he knew about them but didn't think I was prepared enough. I was offered a graduate researcher position in his lab. I thus made it to Toronto, the land of ice hockey and legal cannabis.

Being back at IIT, I again worked hard on my courses, kept my record consistent and never scored a GPA below 8.5. From having zero confidence in addition to being irresponsible about and risking my mental and physical wellness, I ended up where I wanted to be since Day 1. All of it would not have happened if I wasn't mirrored by professors in IIT who told me I can barely do any good in life. Most importantly, it wouldn't have happened if I ever felt like I cannot try or experience anything new. Courage and persistence were always essential for me to, be it drugs or academics, which sounds counter-intuitive, but it has given me the right balance of right and wrong, careful and carefree.

This is Govind Nanda, B.Tech in Engineering Physics, and if I could say something to myself in the first year of college, and even right now to the class of 2020, is that "Everything will be fine at the end, and if it's not fine, it's not the end."


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