Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Memoirs of a Class

"Don't Panic"

Those were the words our Prof wrote on the white-board after distributing the question papers for the final exam.

I tell you, those were the most assuring words in that situation. The question paper was great (i.e. quite difficult, but "manageable"), frankly, it was terrifying at the first glance. And hence the words gave a great sense of self-belief: Don't Panic!

This incident happened about two years ago: in my second semester's term-end exam at IISc.

The entire course he taught was quite memorable: for better reasons! This data-communication course involves a lot of mathematics, and where there is mathematics, there are symbols, more symbols, more confusions and what not. There are peculiar wordings of theorems, where each word has been chosen with utmost care and for every justifiable reason. As Prof. Vittal Rao used to mention in his classes, "Mathematicians are lazy," so they use only minimal (i.e. optimum) number of words to drive home the meaning. In one of those (three-per-week) classes, our DataCom prof. was explaining, "When we want to mean so-and-so, we write, no - we say, no, ok - forget it - we write and say, so-and-so"! And we were already smiling aloud!

He had given us an assignment to code Lempel-Ziv compression algorithm in Matlab. As it turned out, even after correct coding, we were not able to achieve compression, but the input data would blow! When we reported this to him, his reply was, "Oh my God!" He later managed to give us some kind of cooked-up raw data, which we could finally compress. I don't remember much of Lempel-Ziv, but, I remember his reply!

There are so many other memories, "Think about it" was his favourite expression to conclude a question he asked to the class. We would take a great pleasure in reciting all his one-liners at other places. And since the class-strength was small, (~8 I think), it was a cult feeling at times :)

He had planned to cover many things, which he could not complete by the end of the term (it was a short term). But whatever he covered, he covered very well. His homeworks were also interesting, and as he had already declared 15-20% of the final exam questions were from these homework assignments.

All in all, it was a very memorable course. I am sure, he too shared the same feeling at the end of it, as it was his first course that he taught in IISc!

To conclude, I would say, just as he would at the end of the class, "I am done!"

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