Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Paying it forward

It is an interesting thing, to study about human behaviors. I have seen people coming to me for they want to be heard. I always had and have people to hear me as well. More than that, three were angels, I do not even know names of many of them. When I was going to my college, 28Km away from my home and missing the only morning bus, I see angels in the form of people who picked me up.

More than that there were people who came to my life for a very short span and made me think, what did I do to really meet such people. There are three incidents I would like to tell. First one is when I met a lady at music class. She was from CSIR. It was just an year after my B-Tech when I had my GATE score. She told, there is a scheme in CSIR where I can do PhD directly with complete CSIR scholarship and asked me to come and meet her next day. I went to CSIR next day, met her. She made a few phone calls for getting two people who are heading the research there. All these people she called, really spent time for explaining to me, about the work they are doing and possibility of an admission and the risks.

Second time again was about PhD. This time Dr Achut Shankar (Achu) who barely know me; spent an hour with me and wrote a recommendation letter for my application to IIT Kanpur. At that time, he was the director of Centre for Bioinformatics. The third incident was when I was applying for passport. I already have two posts in this blog on that. The only reason I got the passport from Thiruvananthapuram passport office was because of a lady. She was verifying my documents. That is her job. She signed it and forwarded to senior passport officer, who denied it. I came out, disappointed. If I get it, I might get a chance to go to Switzerland for presenting my paper. She found out from my face that I did not get it and said, "anyway u came till here, spent ur energy and tried this much; why not just speak to the Regional Passport Officer?". And I got the passport approved on the very next day.

Did I join CSIR? Did I succeed in IIT Kanpur admission? Did I go to Swiss for presentation?. Well I did not join CSIR, failed in IIT Kanpur test and department did not give funds for my Swiss travel. I learned one thing from these incidents and tried to keep that as a quality in me. These people who helped me, all of them were strangers, holding very high positions, having so much things to do. They never said "I do not have time". They did not even ask what was the result. They did not expect anything in return as well.

Later I tried to improve myself. Blogging was a new method I tried to reach out to more people and to see if the things I learned as a part of my MS program at IIT Madras was helpful. I started a technical blog apart from this one you are reading. The response was overwhelming, from almost all parts of the world.

So many people wrote to me in person, came to chat. One such incident was when a lady from GE called me. She wanted to learn the technology I am working on. I was totally busy on the day she wanted to come. Still I said, please come and meet me. She came and learned quickly. In return I said, I do not expect anything back for me. Write the application you just understood, and post it in my blog. Coincidences, I believe in that. On next week I had a request from someone asking for similar application she was developing. I made a request that, please send it since there is a person who is waiting. I did not get a response in time, wrote a mail saying that,


"So, your priorities are still not up to "pay it forward". I could have said the same excuses of priorities and meeting with "bosses" to you. At least a curtsy reply that you could not do it
Or am I expecting too much for a "silly help" to you". There was a link of the new blog post with the basic application along with that mail.

This was just one incident. I have received appreciations as well. Just while I was writing, I got a mail saying that "Hi, Girish, Your post really helped me. B'cos nowhere is the amt for a non-judicil stamp paper specified. It is assumed that all indians are born with this knowledge much like the salmon which knows...." .

As a matter of fact, this job I am holding currently, was because of the technical blog, despite the fact that I did not answer even simple technical questions in the interview.

I later thought that I should avoid such comments like I did to that lady from GE. Thanks and sorry does not make sense to me unless it is supported by an action. That is something I learned in hard way. I hope it stays with me and will continue to inspire me for paying forward, while ignoring the behavior from others or expect others to act on my request.