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The Making of An Institution – Chetna Sood

I joined IISER Mohali with my own share of apprehensions, partly because I was going to be a student again after a gap of more than 10 years and partly because I didn’t know much about IISER’s. Last few months have been exploratory for me on both the fronts and I am going to use this magazine as a platform to express some of my explorations. After all, a student magazine is all about expression of thoughts.
My constructed image of the new institute was a place where there are academic buildings, classrooms, hostels, the concrete walls, the landscaped lawns, the digital infrastructure, the formalized faculty areas and groups of students. And when I first came here, at the very outset, the place looked like a grassland, with a couple of buildings here and there. But as I began to get familiarized, I saw an immense number of sincere and intellectual minds at work in this humble looking place. Among these are the students, scientists, researchers, builders, workers; all coming together in the organic process of making of an institution. And I have realized how much more than bricks and concrete, it’s the people who build a place. I have realized how the vibes that people in a community generate, overshadow the presence or absence of certain, taken for granted notions of a geographical space with a set of resources.
This realization has evoked a series of questions in my mind. Well of course it’s the people who built societies, nations, airplanes, computers, bombs, governments; isn’t it? Then why do we start taking ’things’ for granted in our everyday lives? Why do we expect things to be in put place for us by others? Aren’t we the creators of our own spaces and our own paths? Should we question the abundance or dearth of resources; or should we rather question our own sense of entitlement?
So coming back to the fact that this institute is still in the process of making, I see this as a challenge as well as an opportunity. The challenge to pave our own path, set examples and be original. The opportunities to belong, interrogate, contribute, evolve or even watch it evolve. It is like the bonding that happens between a new parent and a newborn, when the parent holds the fragile infant in his arms and undergoes a transformation being responsible for the nurturance of another life, in such a fundamental form.
About being a student again after a long gap, I am actually intrigued by the level of awareness and enthusiasm of student community about their own respective areas and also their interest and awareness towards the general issues of society at large. And my initial meetings with some of the YATN volunteers and subsequent knowledge about the activities going on in so many other student clubs, confirm that view. The inclusive approach, that many of the members of IISER community are adopting, weighs much more in front of the challenges that a new institution poses. Lastly for me, from the viewpoint of a research student in Social Sciences, the absence of a large peer group bothers me sometimes, but at other times it is compensated by the observation of this small society at work within the campus, with overlapping boundaries with the society at large outside the campus and it gives me food for thought. I hope the process of observing, questioning, interacting, thinking and writing continues and I hope to get to know the thoughts of many of us who have been engaged in similar processes.

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