March 29, 2010

JDIR Experiences

I was attending JDIR from March 24, to March 26. This was the first time I was presenting a paper at such an event and I was not sure on how to go about it. Most of the presentations were in French and I was afraid of being the odd man out. My presentation was on Friday, March 26, and my advisor, Arnaud, and my lab mate, Stevens, had given me nice feedback about my presentation on Thursday. I missed the excursion to MarineLand on Thursday as I was busy modifying the presentation.

My initial presentation was in Beamer, however, based on the comments given by my advisor I was tempted to use PowerPoint. Sadly due to my inexperience on Windows and Office, I just couldn't get the effects I needed; hence I stuck to Beamer. I was done with the modification in the night at around 11. The presentation was in morning at 9 in INRIA and I woke up early at about 5:30 to rehearse. It was around 7 when I started rehearsing, and for some stupid reason I decided to practice on Windows. The machine booted and I finished my presentation in about 15 minutes. I had skipped the text I was to speak at the outlines; this was a mistake and my advisors email sent to me during the presentation was a confirmation of this. But as the presentation was over my eyes fell on the clock on the bottom right of the screen; it was showing 8:30. My heart lost a beat. My office mate, Roberto, had warned me that daylight saving time kicks in this weekend. I had read that it doesn't happen at the middle of the week but I thought my computer cannot be wrong as it normally syncs the clock with the timeservers. In the hurry I even forgot to check the current time on worldtimeserver.com.

I packed my bags, took the pen drive which had the copy of the presentation, and ran. Murphy's soul was playing a joke with me as it was pouring like it does in Mumbai while I was rushing to INRIA. My phone, which was manually set and doesn't understand day light saving, was showing 8:45 when I reached the INRIA gates. I swiped and my card gave an error. I was petrified; my card stopped working on the day of the presentation, 15 minutes before the event; I thought I was screwed big time. The guard, with his big white beard which will remind anyone of the foreigners representing the East India Company, came out with a frustrated look; it was quite natural as no one would want to begin their day with some problem. He showed me the time; it was 7:45 and he said my card would be activated only at 8. The guards office had been shifted to another conference room that day and he was kind to offer me a seat near his table.

I reached my office at 8 and left for the conference hall at 8:30. My slides were copied on the notebook connected to the projector and I confirmed that the latest version was copied. The presentation went fine and during the course of the presentation I realized I was talking in my normal pace (which is very very fast) . I slowed down and decided to concentrate on the pronunciation of the words. Overall the presentation went fine, however, for reasons unknown, while answering the questions I realized my pace had returned. My advisor was present for the presentation and it was nice as my mailbox had all his feedbacks and the time at which each of the feedback was sent. Stevens, my lab mate, also had a presentation that day and his presentation was amazing; he won one dolphin as an award for his presentation.

However, the JDIR had stored the a surprise for the end. After the event was over, I was approached by a guy who had asked questions about the error bars used in the plots and the TCP implementation for which the experiments were conducted. I was impressed as most of the other crowd just wanted me to finish (I guess my accent and pace had a lot to do with this); but this guy was unfazed. He was a French national and when we met me, he asked from where I was. My reply was India, but he was not convinced and asked, which part of India. On receiving Mumbai for an answer, he asked if I was a student of IIT Mumbai. I said that I was a masters student at IIT Delhi. His face lightened and he said that even he was a masters student at IIT Delhi. I was shocked. Here in INRIA Sophia Antipolis, I am meeting a French guy who said he was a masters student at IIT Delhi. He was an exchange student from EPFL and spent 1 year of his masters in the Maths Dept at IIT Delhi; he was currently a part time student at Eurecom and was working in Orange Labs. I felt really glad as I had met a French national who was in India for his masters.

Overall JDIR was really an amazing experience for me and I am hoping to publish another paper in JDIR.

March 13, 2010

Questions asked during my visit to Pune/Bangalore/Mumbai.

The most common question asked to me in the last few days is शादी के लिए आये हो? (Have you come for marriage). My mind would answer शादी के लिए नहीं, शादी के वजह से आया हूँ, लडकियाँ देखने के लिए आया हूँ ; I have not come for marriage/Shaadi, but I have come because of Chadi, I have come to see girls (my nieces and cousin sisters :p). This answer would be really complex to explain hence I would respond by a smile and let them interpret the smile.

The Planete team in INRIA has a permanent researcher named Chadi -- pronounced शादी by the Lebanese; his wife recently gave birth to a baby girl. His excitement and happiness in the last few months was one of the primary reasons that motivated me to come to India and visit my cousins, nieces, and nephews. My mother is also to be given a lot of credit for this visit as she ensured that whenever I called them on Skype she would make my sisters two year old daughter say - मामू यॉ (Mamu come in Konkani) with a toy airplane in her hand. This trip has been successful till now as I was able to meet most of my cousins, nieces, and nephews. I was able to see them dance, sing poems and most of all their tricks, flexibility, and climbing skills while trying to run away from their mothers who in turn give their 100% while trying to feed them :).

Another question which was asked was, Will you settle down in France? Now this was unexpected as no one asked me if I would settle down in Delhi while I was studying in IIT Delhi. My answer was a smile and I left them to interpret it. To be frank, I have no answer to this question. Preferably I would like to come back to India and teach, however, that is what I would like to do. I am no sooth-sayer who can predict what can happen three years from now; further, given the events that have happened in the last 3 years I am confident that I cannot predict what will happen in the next 6 months. I had not expected nor planned a PhD while I was studying in Delhi. In fact it was because I was not sure about a PhD that I decided to pursue an M.S. in IIT Delhi even after being selected for a PhD in IIT Kanpur. When I came back from my masters and while working in a start-up I finally confirmed that a PhD is what I need, but even then I had not decided as to where I would study. It was because of Arzad, my advisor in Delhi, and his post-doc experience in the Maestro team in INRIA Sophia Antipolis that I decided to apply to INRIA; however, even now I do not have satisfactory reasons as to why I decided to do pursue PhD studies in the Planete team despite all the good things Arzad told me about the Maestro team - the team which shares the floor with the Planete team in INRIA. So studying in France was unexpected and given all this unpredictability I have only one answer -- I need a good PhD with good publications; what happens after that will be decided after I defend my thesis. I only know that my advisors, Arnaud and Walid, are good and INRIA offers me the resources that are required for a good PhD. I am not bothered about what I will do after my PhD and where I will go after 3 years.

I also got to face many questions about my other plans of the future such as marriage, and as in the case of the above questions, I answered with a smile :). I realized that this is what my sister meant when she advised me to keep my mouth shut and mind open while doing a PhD :).