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Wrack your brains till it drains

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Wrack your brains till it drains   - by Bageshwar Pratap Narain, 3rd May 2012
Wrack your brains till it drains Well, the journey goes back to the January of 2008, when Nettech visited our campus. I was initially arrogant about the whole hacking/Linux course, but then decided to give it a try. Went to the demo class and met Swapan Sir for the first time. His intriguing words immediately kindled my interest into the subject and I decided to enrol myself.

Speaking of Linux, I was a complete novice in this domain and a failed attempt at installing Linux is what I could call as experience. The initial round of course went off pretty smoothly and my interest in Linux grew by leaps and bounds. Grew fond of Computer Networking, the passion I am carrying till date. The fact that multiple people were issuing commands to the same server using different terminals was amazing. These and other such things pushed me further into learning about it. Starting with learning how to make LAN cables, to installing Linux, to configuring it, to administering it, and up to troubleshooting, it was a “wrack-your-brains-till-it-drains” experience.

Many interesting things happened during the course, and saying “Swapan Sir is the best teacher I had till date” is a cliché by now. I believe he also became fond of me in some respect (but not my “flashy’ hair-style, which ultimately, I had to get rid of as a payback to learn configuring Squirrel Mail from Santu Sir !!! ) I was also a part of the “Zed” Batch which was supposed to solve specially designed problems, although I failed at that miserably, never-the-less Swapan Sir, considered me worthy enough of giving an opportunity to work with him.

This calls for an interesting anecdote of sorts. On the final day, i.e. certificate distribution, we all took the certificates as usual, which followed the photo-session as usual too! Everybody was asking Swapan Sir, to sign their Certificate Envelops, so I too jumped in. On my Envelop he wrote the following:

Wrack your brains till it drains "If You can work 24 hours
a day 25 days __ __ ON
Join Me at SMIT."


Frankly speaking, I was not sure what this meant. I, till the last moment thought that this was an invitation to do the “Advanced Networking Course”. Anyways, when I first arrived at the venue, the first person I met was Sanjeev Sir, A truly remarkable person and friend to work with. He helped me with my luggage which included (to his annoyance) a desktop computer. (Yes, those days I used to travel with my Desktop!) I was still under the preposition that these were fellow students, just like me, although was quietly wondering where did they get these awesome Nettech t-shirts from. I was also introduced to Abhishek Patra, Tara Sir, Ashish Sir, Prashant Sir, Asit Sir, Kamna Ma’am, Priya Ma’am and Purnima Ma’am, and I was still under the impression that we all are students. Then went on a walk with Swapan Sir, who took a quick quiz of how much I retained from Nettech, and that was the time I nearly came to know that OK, I’m here NOT as a student (much to my surprize).

The time that followed was one of its kind and my first, to work as a team, a team which was autonomous too, since Swapan Sir was looking after other centres. I got along well with Abhishek Patra within no time, who, to this day, is an awesome buddy of mine. Had loads of fun with Ashish Sir, Prashant Sir, Sanjeev Sir and Abhishek a.k.a Golu! I learnt a lot of things from Sanjeev Sir and Tara Sir. Although Asit Sir was with us for a brief time but it was very nice knowing him too. Working with the team was so much fun that every morning I looked forward to going to the Lab, backing up the servers, checking all systems. I was better known as the trouble-shooting guy and I liked it too. It was fun to solve new and small problems every other minute. That gave me the insights into the system. I also loved the part where I gave practical problems to the students. It used to be nice to see some of them trying really hard to crack it . Trust me, the best feeling a teacher can have is to give a problem hard enough that none of the students can solve it, but simple enough that they don’t quit trying. Anyways, days passed by and the course finally came to a successful end.

The Nettech experience left me with a desire to learn more. I think that is exactly what Swapan Sir envisions in every student. He lights the torches and its up to us to take it forward. My inclination in Linux and Computer Networking grew manifold thereafter.

The third experience with Nettech was in XIMB, where I met a couple of new and interesting people. Abinash Nayak, Aditi Mishra and Nikhil. Was working 2nd command to Sanjeev Sir here, and the experience was different altogether. The technical aspects here were animative. They made you think how powerful, the wise use of technology could be. The Thin Clients, the BootP machines and the WPAD configurations are the couple of things that amazed me. The team of geeks around me built a perfectly conducive environment for me grow in this field. Swapan Sir was always supportive in bringing new ideas to the table. Be it, adding a tiny little topic to the course or adopting a new technology. It was here, that I could, for the first time, understand the power of effective management. Each team member held an important, distinct position in the team. No one was senior or junior, but it worked like a well-oiled machine. It was here, when I became an ardent fan of Swapan Sir’s Managerial Skills. The Team-Nettech gelled together very well, each one undertaking his responsibility and helping others. This is what they call “Team-Bonding”. The team lunches/dinners were a fun part too! I remember this one time, when we 6 people ate 5 Full Tandoori Chickens. It was breath-taking. No sorry, we could not breathe thereafter!

The fourth and final experience with Nettech was the most involving one. I was part of the team for a full 2 months covering XIM Bhubaneswar and BIT Mesra Kolkata Extn. Centre. This time around there was no Sanjeev Sir to guide or Tara Sir to help. Swapan Sir had put in a lot of trust in me, by giving me the opportunity and I hope I fared well. This was the time to take responsibility and be accountable for one’s work. I learnt the difference between hard work and smart work, and when to choose between the two. It’s always nice to be in company of smart students, and the batch in BITS was one of the smartest that I had come across. The students would come up with problems of their own, and expect an instant solution. It was a tough challenge to cater to their needs. Staying with Swapan Sir in Kolkata was a great learning experience. He kept on teaching me tiny little things, most of which I still follow. This time around, met a few more interesting people including Ishan Parmar, Sumit Chakraborty and Neha Majumdar. Had fun working with them too.

Nettech helped me in ways more than one. Directly, as well as indirectly, at every step helping me shape my future. Hats Off to Swapan Sir, and hats off to the Nettech Team!

mango@nettech logging out …

Bageshwar Pratap Narain
Amdocs, Pune

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