Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Experiences - part 1

I started this blog without any specific purpose, planning to document my experiences as I apply for jobs in Indian academia. As a pleasant surprise, the readership went much beyond than what I expected primarily because of  a couple of mentions in Kaneenika Sinha's and Giridhar Madras' blogs (Thanks!). Since my job search is over and I have returned to India, I think it would be now appropriate to document the experiences as a new faculty in an IIT.

Here are some observations in no particular order. Some are negative, some are positive. Readers should not think that these experiences solely reflect the situation in IITs but also consider the fact that these are my personal experiences and the reasons are: (a) I've returned to Indian after spending a significant period abroad (b) It is my first faculty job (c) I'm working in just one IIT that happens to be a new one. Others institutions might be very different from mine.

  1. Colleagues: There are good, competent people and then there are rotten apples who survive using politics. Generally (not all) the latter group comprises of people who joined IIT in the initial period when standards of faculty hiring were very low. These people have since then been promoted and now head several committees thereby using their power to take stupid (sometimes harmful) decisions that annoy everyone.
  2. Punctuality: Nothing, sometimes not even the classes, start on time. I've been to departmental meetings that started 15-20 minutes late and people reacted as if nothing happened. Classes usually start 5 minutes late. There is no concept of taking an appointment before a colleague wants to meet you. If they do fix a time, they can easily keep you waiting for 20-30 minutes without apologising.
  3. Respect: The administrative staff and the students are very respectful. Not just that they are pretending to be nice due to hierarchy, but you can feel the respect with their politeness and their efficiency while working.
  4. Comfort: Personal life is better in many senses. There are multiple maids to do all kinds of household work, and we are able to purchase quite a lot of stuff from previous savings. India has become a little expensive in past few years but a faculty's salary is pretty decent in my opinion and we have considerable purchasing power.
    I wish I could say the same for our professional life though. The campus is far from ready and the ad-hoc faculty housing, offices, labs, and classrooms are of abysmal quality. With even less money coming in from MHRD and poor management of those funds (see point 1 above), I'm not very optimistic.
  5. Food and culture: This will vary for every individual. I miss the great variety of world cuisine and cheap alcohol that I used to enjoy. Although we do have some amazing restaurants, eventually it's Indian food everyday. It's nice to have a situation when the multiplexes have more than one Indian movie showing and the default language of the city is the one that you understand.