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15th March 2019 . Volume 9 Issue 1 . 16 Pages

Students’ Newspaper, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology

The One That Took Too Long Too far from the start, too soon for the end Greetings, fond readers. Four more of our kind have joined the clan and by that, have added an unfamiliar optimistic enthusiasm to it. With all this newly inducted positivity, things may finally stop seeming gray for the team and the prospect of such major change (for the good?), scary as it seems, might just be what we need to keep the wheels of this cranky machine running. It is a wonderful time to be an IISTian. Of course, there have been more wonderful times and even more wonderful times are yet to come. But what started out as a pretty decent semester seems to show at least fifty percent of its initial promise and cheer. If things keep up, we might just have enough fuel to motor on to the next academic year—provided the heat does not melt our faces or burn the souls of those who still possess one and Calamine is enough to protect the fragile human life from at least fifty species of winged insects on the advent. This being the first issue of this semester, brings to you all the IIST-standard juicy tidbits and events you might have missed out on, even though they happened at your very doorstep as you rightly believed that ‘How I Met Your Mother’ is better drama anyway, in the form of echoes. Amidst these carefully typeset pages, you will stumble upon a surprisingly overwhelming farewell note from a final year undergraduate student that will leave the wise and withered nostalgic and remind the young and naive to cherish life, as it still is, to the fullest. These times might walk from you, like some passing afternoon. For those in quest of more from life than just Pokemon Go, we have an enlightening piece that discusses the validity of the gaming world on a general level, followed up with a personal

experience with a prospective world to dive into. In an attempt at redemption, we have an article that heroes the good people that make sure every soul, more often thankless than not, that saunters into the mess at the appointed time intervals is fed adequately for sustenance. We bring to you the stories served directly from beyond the curtains as our editors explore the dedication and commitment that is glazed into the working of the institute’s mess. We also present an intriguing interview with Dr. Tarun Souradeep and an article that revolves around a quiet contemplation of a worldwide celebration. Adding more feathers to this issue’s cap, assuming it has one, are stunning sketches by our young editors that are aimed to pay respects, act as reminders and portray honestly. Of course, we know that none of this stuff made the least difference to the workings of the Great Master for people rarely read the cover story. Even as this cover story was being woven together, we could feel the futility of all that toil under the metaphorical Sun that made us question the purposefulness of pointless existences in this universe. Nevertheless, we hope that you find this issue interesting and we hope that you will look forward to our(fingers crossed) future issues. We are open to constructive criticism that is based on sound logic, anti-social suggestions and any of your closeted masterpieces that might add a little joy to our issues. A final nugget of wisdom: lighting paper cups on fire as a show of anything is a waste of resources and flamethrowers are more effective tools of arson. Hope you have fun, sincerely. §

Cover photograph by Shreya Mishra


The Foodistry of IIST Food, the one in three highest priorities of all existing creatures (order subject to the human involved), has always been a fundamental ‘necessity’ for all other inventions that desired to come along our civilization. Habitations shaped up near river valleys, kingdoms flourished with great agricultural produce, festivals were celebrated in context to harvesting seasons, and even the hunting-gathering societies moved further constantly in search of food and shelter ultimately discovering newer continents, species and basically even shaping the Homo-sapiens out of the Neanderthals. Food has brought us far, and that is what keeps us moving. But how does an IIST student shape up their very own catalogue of movements? What are the ingredients and who are the caped heroes involved in this massive undertaking? Read on as Gayathri Girish and Shreya Mishra discuss the marvel that the institute mess manages to pull off each day and that we all, so easily, ease our senses too deeply in the absentia to notice.


You can reach Gayathri at gayathriever52@

ince the dawn of time, the importance of one question has outweighed all others, ‘What’s for dinner?’. As we all moved out of our homes this question brought back only answers with similar taste. The loss of mum’s food hit all of us real bad but while we were whining about our loss, there was a team of Auguste Gusteau’s who tried each day to keep our appetites high. There were days when the response didn’t compliment the intention but nonetheless, the team always held it together. The experiments carried on, though we never realized, menus were altered and fries were added somewhere (to taste). We all might have failed to notice but in our mess, the menu has never stayed the same for more than one semester. In fact, the Canteen Committee makes sure that all student requests are accepted with grace and the ridiculous ones discarded with poise. This year, the dal and rice containers were clubbed together to introduce the Indian delight, the Kitchadi, after submitting to heavy demands of rescuing Thursday dinners

Fun fact: We consume around 2025 Kg of Dal everyday!

Always ready for a free photoshoot, these chefs never fail to cook up smiles in the kitchen. THE SOUNDING ROCKET


from the hollow pits of the waste bin. Similarly, panipuris on Saturdays and cutlets with fries on Thursdays were some of the other Canteen Committee schemes to spice up our humdrum college lives or at least those parts of it that concern sustenance. In a world so obsessed with hierarchy, that it cannot rest until it’s had every atom observed, classified and then forgotten, our mess too follows its own hierarchy of positions, namelySupervisor, Cooks and the Attenders (those who wish to intern may also apply). All 113 of the staff employees took a four day training programme in hotel management and catering in the Institute of Hotel Management, Kovalam after which they received a certificate and a one way ticket to IIST. Despite the absence of an explicit “Head Chef ” designation, a modest 15-year employee is considered to be the Master Shifu who everybody looks up to. Apart from the mainstream chefs mastered in concocting south Indian caricatures of any north Indian dish, we also have


Fun Fact: The monthly business of procurement amounts up to 2022 lakhs.

four bakery specialized chefs for all the goodies we try nicking from our friends. The chefs do not hold any priorities for cooking and hence there is always a regular rotation for preparing the dishes. With their aprons glossed in curries and flour, our chefs often experiment around in the kitchen, snacks being the most commonly experimented meal. The one thing that has always impressed us procrastinators is how the mess follows a heavily synchronized system to ensure we get our meals with the utmost quality on and beyond the time prescribed. The canteens workers work around the clock in three different shifts where each worker, no matter how trivial or frivolous his work may appear, would have to endure a particular shift till the end of the month. The breakfast shift extends from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm where the workers prepare the meals for the afternoon as they simultaneously serve the students to prepare them for the day. The lunch shift stretches out from 2 pm to 10 pm and the night shift is from a solid 10 pm to 6:30 am. This implies that along with the gamut of gamers, caffeine lovers and the old fashioned exhausted college students rushing to meet last minute deadlines, the cooks too pull daily all-nighters. During the preparation of breakfast, extra quantities of the main ingredients are kept aside for the highly expected regular latecomers. But employees can only sigh in frustration while they abandon their current work and scramble to prepare the extra ones because the famed mess must always be in stock of food, no matter how unreasonably late you are. When it comes to grocery shopping, the list is pretty predefined. Trustworthy vendors have been constant over the years from whom a regular procurement is accomplished on a weekly basis. Keeping the easy perishability of milk products under consideration, around 160-170 liters of Milma milk is brought in every day along with its fellow companions, Kannan Devan and Bru. Vegetables are procured every three days and stored in walk in coolers until necessary. Something that interested us by heaps is how even with all the complaints they get (which are more regular than the students themselves), the mess workers choose to treat us like royalty. Every day after the meal is prepared, the manager sits down to taste each dish before it proceeds to

Have you ever sat quietly for a while, looking at the yellow Dal’s doppelganger and wondered how those floating pieces of green spinach landed in your plate? Tired of horsing around with the monotonous Environment Club meetings, our mess workers (especially the manager) started a beautiful roof garden right on top of the Athidhi mess. There, on the basis of the ongoing season, vegetation is grown accordingly.

The fully equipped Athidhi mess feat. chappathi rollers, steamers and dough makers.



You can reach Shreya at shreya.mishra867@

Fun Fact: Did you know that the menu is pretty much the same at all ISRO centres? This is because they are all run by the Dept of Space.

the students, just like in olden times where the head chef would have to make sure the food is impeccable before he sends it off to the king. But that’s not it, a small sample of each dish is also kept aside (from all the three meals) for a day so that in the case that a student falls sick, these samples can be sent to the laboratories for a thorough inspection. If that’s not the definition of cautious optimism,we don’t know what is. Here’s something else you have probably never heard about either ; even the chefs have their very own version of summer internships and mini-projects during vacations. Unlike our internships that are just desperate attempts to pull ourselves out of the 7.5 quicksand, these are initiated purely out of creative interest. With a lesser number of students around and fewer meals to cook, they experiment around with new dishes, which are then subjected to a lengthy trial before a panel of Highly Experienced Tasters, headed by the Manager. If it passes the trial, the item gets added to the revised menu for the new semester and chefs begin to scout around for something new again. And now, the spoons are held like swords, the plates ready to be loaded with and the food is ready to be served. Each space is filled with sambars, curries, curds, rasams and everything else. The seats have been chosen and soon after, the plates are emptied, some into tummies, others into the dustbins. But what after that? The entire waste is segregated into plastic, paper waste, leftovers, et cetera, and the biodegradable ones were sent to the Biogas plant, situated right behind the Akshaya mess, until quite recently. Now, the waste is dumped into large, black bags (the larger it gets, the heavier their hearts) and taken outside where they wait for it to be carried away to the local pig farm. As we all race through each day, complaining about just one appalam scheme and sundried-mouth poking-’Jaipuri bindi’, we often forget to realize the efforts behind the kolapuri paneer and butter chicken. The mess food

Acknowledgements: TSR would like to extend its gratitude to the entire IIST Mess team, for never failing to amuse us with their endless dedication and high spirits .It was only with their immense support and kindness, that we could embark on the journey beyond the curtains of the Mess and experience the action firsthand. We would like to thank everybody who gave us a part of their time to tell us their stories with the amount of excitement and enthusiasm that was quite admirable. We are grateful to Anand Narayanan Sir for being the mastermind behind this incredible idea which took us on this adventure in the first place. And last but not the least, a very big thank you to the mess chettans and chechis for letting us enter the ‘walk in cooler’, which was every bit as cool as it sounds!

Fun Fact: The chefs love experiments more than us, so drop in any (sensible) suggestions/ideas and it just might be the new special!

Photographs by Ashrit Ramadurgam and Gayathri Girish.


might not be able to tickle your tastebuds but they are definitely trying their best to keep the students going with the nutrients on your rightest side. At the end of our interview with the supervisor and his loyal staff, we asked them if they had any message to pass on to the student community. Without skipping a beat, the only thing they could request for was to minimize the wastage of food. The raw simplicity in their request made us feel a little ill at ease, to say the least. They pitifully told us how often they have to throw away heaps of untouched food because an entire batch of students may go out for a trip without informing the mess beforehand. Ever since the students stopped corresponding with the hostel wardens about their outings, the mess workers have gotten stood up an uncountable number of times. So we guess the one loud request we have to make to everybody who has reached so far in this article is, to inform the mess beforehand if you are planning on mass bunking it and save them the hassle of having to cook for an empty hall.



The Millenial Madness

A subculture as old as the Internet itself, Gaming has evolved beyond it’s humble, Bit Era beginnings to one of the most involved forms of Storytelling and graphic communication. Bharath Saiguhan takes a closer look at what makes games tick.


here is a certain allure to people who stay bent over their screens, typing away at keyboards which go clickety-clack and figure something out at an hour where crickets chirp merrily. It seems sinfully inviting to let oneself go, and delve deep into such a lifestyle, and there is no easier place to start than with the subculture called gaming. More productive (although my use of this word assumes that we count only actual material productivity) ways of becoming such a night owl exist. Off the top of my head, some are solving math problems with cups of coffee for company, or astrophotography. But these may not be the perfect fit for everyone who tries them, and this is where one of the chief advantages of choosing gaming comes in. Anyone can start to game, at any time. More accurately put, everyone has done it at some point in their lives already but didn’t realise it. Before we move on to the point of this article, I would like to distinguish between two types of gaming: • Casual: this includes the titles that you play when you want to kill a few minutes while waiting for the next bus, or when you just want to play something for the sake of de-stressing. The characteristic factor here is that these games usually involve a very simple point (“Fight these bad guys”, “Get to the Finish Line”,”Solve this Puzzle” etc.) and do not have an overarching storyline or character development. • Non-casual (a.k.a “Hardcore”): this includes titles which could easily be cinematic masterpieces, with wonderfully written stories, character development arcs and offer an unusual level of immersion. These are the ones which have put gaming out there as an unmatched medium of storytelling. Of late, another set of games with a different set of characteristics has also become common. These are called Battle Royale games, and pit a fixed number of players against each other in a virtual Colosseum only for one victor to emerge. Now, onto the point of this article. Doesn’t gaming seem like a huge waste of time and effort (not to mention sleep) to do something that doesn’t really seem to produce anything useful? The answer is “No, not really.” The short answer is that the way gaming is now (as opposed to what it was) doesn’t waste all of your time, and it leaves you a changed person, by way of acceptance, imagination and moral soundness. One must however, be wary of the games they play, for some masquerade as gold, only to be pyritic. The long

answer is best left to the experience of an interested reader, and the reader is urged to pick up a (good) game, and the answer will be apparent. However, the following example should serve as motivation enough. I picked up this one game in late 2018. A loosely story-driven, Role Playing Game where the player steps into the shoes of a character they create (and there is a ton of customisation to be done here!) and take on one of the various possible roles that the game offers. What exactly are the types of roles you ask? Well, you could role-play as a humble woodcutter who sells wood for gold, eventually collecting enough money to buy some weapons and supplies to start off on an adventure of their own, where dangers and wonderful scenic sights and caves full of gold await. Or you could join a guild of thieves, now decrepit, and start your quest to restore the brotherhood to its former glory by performing jobs of increasing scale and cleverness. This quest line is especially special due to underlying political and moral themes that the character explores. Or you could role-play as a Bounty Hunter, who keeps an eye out only for the bounties that pass through your local inn, and head out with spear and sword to slay the next unlucky beast on the list. Sometimes it is a bear. Other times, a witch. Sometimes even a dragon, even though they haven’t been seen for the past millennium. Or you could seek out the college where the Wizards convene and discuss magic, and join there as a student yourself, and uncover the secrets of sorcery with the help of tomes and buried, ancient sites of unimaginable magical importance. These are only some of the various roles that you could take on, and the actual ones are limited only by the player’s imagination and creativity! In a wonderfully fleshed out world such as in this game, the amount of immersion is unbelievable, especially due to the amazingly detailed character models, wondrous soundtrack and the absolutely gorgeous graphic design. I must give you a fair warning though, that once you start delving deep into this game, it is inevitable that several hours pass without your knowledge. Maybe even the entire night. But I guarantee you that after the experience, you would be left wanting to return to that world at every chance you get! §


You can reach Bharath at bharathsaiguhan@

“ leaves you a changed person, by way of acceptance, imagination and moral soundness.”


Echoes New year, New ground

After a pretty formal christening (complete with the only excuse it takes for an IISTian to actually leave the hostel; free snacks), IIST now has its own ground for sports day though it is a poor substitute to its world class predecessor. This year, sports day brought along a lot of changes and surprises. Devyani which usually finishes last in the pack found itself bagging a good chunk of medals. Kritika once again proved to be the Alpha and Saptarishi proved to be the excuse it is, which is to give some representation to the already isolated Mtech. The day saw some spectacular performances by existing veterans and some surprising performances by the freshers. Overall for the first sports day to be held on a ground we can call our own, it was indeed a resounding success.

Recent yellowing of water

Beware! IIST’s water tanker has recently been diagnosed with the yellow fever. Since the diagnostic was not a very strong one (except for the pale yellow appearance symptom) and none of the IISTians’ immune system has given up so far, hence no reaction is clearly implying no action here.

Because Tech Clubs are Mainstream

While some believed that our institute provided equal rights of education to all genders, others do not entirely concur. The ‘Girls Tech Club’ aims to share academic and personal development tips, including some hands-on mini project sessions planned over the further sessions. The club holds sessions every week in the TV room of Anuradha hostel, and has hosted talks on time management, CV making and professional email writing. Apart from giving the members a jump start in their career development, the club has fostered new inter-year friendships and is growing into a support system, but still bamboozling at heart for a majority population is the exact intention and need; maybe about how keeping the XY’s out by the name itself, the club aims to empower the XX’s of IIST; and probably how the other clubs were falling short of serving the target audience? While the topics are immensely THE SOUNDING ROCKET

helpful and largely general, the mystery is about the genetically-selective appropriate effects of the same within the institute.

Constructive Interference

With the construction work of the upcoming student activity center getting into full swing, some of us were very disappointed to find the crowd favorite shortcut being closed this semester. With another building up its arsenal soon, IIST is slowly turning into an all round premier institute with all sports facilities (except a tennis court, a swimming pool, a separate cricket pitch etc etc) up and running , extra curricular activities (not at all talking about inactive clubs and poor participation in the existing clubs) happening around. Leaving all sarcasm behind, the SAC is the right step ahead in increasing the buzz around campus. With assurances of a fully functional auditorium by next Dhanak, and the shaping up of a new cafeteria in front of D2, everybody longs for the construction work to end.

Giving Back to the Society

The social outreach club of IIST once again began their usual activities this semester. This time around the number of sessions dropped to four. The last session was on 24th of February, with the dean playing a surprise but well received cameo. Speaking of cameos, one of our alumni Ashwin Jacobs came back home to give a talk about life after IIST as a part of the “Meet the alumni” series. Dwani, an initiative to help the blind is being planned this time though. With a lot of new things happening (or not happening) around the institute, Nirmaan stands apart, doing what it has been doing for the past many years, bringing up the underprivileged section of the society one session a time.

Knights to D4!

A new sport is up and running in IIST- Chess! The brainchild of two FIDE rated players from 2nd year and 4th year who wanted to propagate their love for the game, the club is rollicking along every weekend in the Seminar Hall, with decent funding ensuring good boards and clocks, and enthusiastic participation from all years. A solid team had been put together but it has


become a so near yet so far case for them as they fell agonizingly short of second place in the recently concluded inter- collegiate chess tournament in Manipal University. Still, a commendable effort for a first time participation. Way to go guys!

Cranking it Up

It has been a real joy for the music enthusiasts as the Music club has raised the quality and consistency of their club sessions several notches this semester. With monthly karaoke sessions, weekly jamming sessions, recordings and online events(Dhun), the club is replete with activities. It has also found a new home in D1 and has been furnished with several new instruments.

Extended Movie Club

IIST witnessed the second edition of a novice tradition where the first years took matters into their own hands and organized an event for the student body - A Movie Club Screening in honour of Republic Day. Needless to say, they had to survive the heavy pressure and expectations from their seniors but still carried forth the event with proper planning and just the right amount of allowed interactions. The atmosphere was electrified enough to make everyone stand on their feet to live the night.

IIST Picnic Day

A new addition to the IIST calendar and that too by the first years of IIST, the event stood out, in all respects. A couple of ambitious first years started off with the idea to conduct a kite competition in the campus and ended up involving their batchmates in creating a cheesy routine for a typical IIST Sunday. The footfall was appreciable as people liked the idea of something different happening in the college for once. Be it the Kite Fest, or the Night Bonfire, January 13 was etched to IIST as the Picnic Day, where eatables and drinks were given for free, also a first! Everyone played their part in successfully pulling it off, although the profit was meagre. Though the whole affair put a single person in the spotlight for all the hardships and delays of the day, the event lived up to its promise- making IISTians chillax.


Deutsch nochmal!

German classes have begun yet again by Goethe-Institut in IIST after a year of lethargy. Sentences and conjugations of the present tense of ‘wohner’ and ‘kommen’ re-appear on the boards of C-106, inducing a sense of nostalgia among those who have endured long enough to write(and pass) the exam.

No Internet For You

The ambiguity surrounding the rules and regulations for WiFi usage of students has been on its peak recently and it seems to be aligned with the college fests. Internet access in academic buildings was removed for all undergraduates except the fourth and fifth years with no official notification, warning or reason right after Dhanak 2018. Given that only very few mobile networks work in most of these buildings, students are struggling with project presentations and assignments which almost always requires working simultaneously on a cloud. Surprisingly, ‘No Internet’ is the most commonly displayed message for the campus WiFi in hostels too! Conscientia 2019 also had its fair share of action, with a power failure on Day 3 causing the server room in Aerospace Block to switch off completely and made the IIST website, intranet, e-mail and Wi-Fi facility to crash entirely. It was fortunately restored in about a day.

Library (and a lot of )Stuff

The library committee meeting was once again conducted with only two of the student representatives representing their concerns. The meeting discussed almost every aspect of library issues, from purchase of online journals to whether to continue the subscription (hard copy) of ‘Scientific American’ and how not to minimize book theft (yes, that actually happens) in library. All student demands and requests were very patiently and considerably heard. For all those who love being around and discussing books, its a strong suggestion that they should definitely attend this meeting.

TSR Inductees

As is practice at the end of every even semester, the TSR Induction Program was held for the first years at the seminar hall. From a preliminary ice-breaking session to mild roasts (severe at moments) from our existing editors in command, we were sure that the freshmen were witnessing a rather unique facet of our college. A brief questionnaire was conducted for them, from which we later extracted the cream of the crop.

Massive dog hunt

Amidst the conscientia preparations, tragedy struck suddenly. One of our resident canines got its head stuck inside a plastic container and suffered in agony for almost a week not being able to drink water or eat food properly, until finally it was rescued on the sixth of March. All IISTians, ranging from the Mtechs to the Maintenance people, from PhD to painters, joined hands in trying to rescue the poor creature. Late night hunts and ventures into wild dark spaces were undertaken in the span of one week. After a lot of narrow misses, the dog was caught near the power station where it was tied up till the container was removed safely. One thing that this incident shows is that some boundaries never stand a chance when IISTians takes up a task in their mind.

A Series of Sadness

TSR pays its respect to this comrade who, in his/her brief lifetime has witnessed IIST grow until he/she was deemed unfit for the new development plans. On a serious note, while buildings and facilities are necessary, the falling tree cover in the campus is quite worrying. Not to mention that students have to walk the hilly roads back and forth under the scorching sun daily, the wildlife in campus has been badly affected too. Photograph by Neethu N.

SpaceUp Unconference

The third edition of SpaceUp Unconference was held on 2nd February 2019 as a pre-Conscientia event. Many dignitaries including Mr. Uday Chandra, Design Engineer, New Space Research and Technologies, Mr Gadadhar Reddy, CEO, Nopo Nanotechnologies participated in the event. A good number of students from inside and outside IIST, as well as faculty members attended the event. However, alumni participation was low. Several topics related to space science such as black holes, space entrepreneurship were actively discussed.


God forbid the Armageddon happens again. Photograph by Neethu N.

Projecting the pinnacle of architecture. Photograph by Karthick Ramanathan. THE SOUNDING ROCKET



Artwork by P Sai Krishna.




Waving at the Universe Very recently LIGO-India was given green light by the Indian government with allocation of approximately 12.6 billion INR. Jointly undertaken by the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Science and Technology, India, in a major collaboration with the American team of scientists and the National Science Foundation, the project is expected to be completed by the year 2024. Undoubtedly, it would not only be a humongous leap for the scientific community with the most advanced techniques and technologies that this detector system would help bring to existence, but would also make India’s strong hold on the global frontier of landmark experiments. Needless to say this has been a result of the persistent efforts by the Indian community of scientists in the collaboration of LIGO-India or Indigo since the start of this century. Dr. Tarun Souradeep is one of the core scientists who was involved with the same phenomenon from the beginning and has seen it grow from a mere fantasy-proposal to a prodigious reality. The Sounding Rocket’s Naman Jain, Jigyasa Nigam and Bharath Saiguhan got a chance to chat with him about the same on one of his visits to IIST. Read on as Naman Jain puts together the awe-inspiring ideas with the gained insights about growth and realisation of a scientific project of such stature in India and the way forth out of the excerpts from the conversation.

You can reach Naman at naman.infinite@

TSR: How did your journey start and what motivated you to pursue cosmology? TS: My undergraduate degree was in engineering. During that time at the university, I took the liberty of opting for a lot of other courses in core physics. After my college, I worked in the automobile industry for some time. Sure, while in university, I was a part of the Astronomy Club so-to-say but I was not really a stargazer from the beginning. But then, astronomy is not just about looking at stars, just as biology is not just about looking at plants—it is physics, and I like that part. Also, the fact that you need fundamental physics at every level made it extremely fascinating for me. If you look closely at any object beyond the solar system, you need to worry about various exotic objects like Neutron stars and delve into elaborate theories such as the general relativity or create some new ones. I was lucky that I could make a move—from engineering to natural sciences, and it was probably because I did a lot of physics courses during my curriculum. And I felt that I could personally contribute more in this field than I could have done in any other field. Of course, you feel attracted to science since there is this factor of novelty constantly. You are always looking at new things. That sure attracted me, but I do not think I changed because of that, maybe it was more because of nothing but the simple fact that I was deeply interested in the subject, although I did not know what it would entail.

and I was fortunate enough to get a chance to work with the best people in the field then. Over time and through my experiences I realised that one should have an experiment of their own. I am not a theorist so-to-say, and essentially, I realised that the way forward to make a strong Indian presence in a frontier scientific study would be to possibly have one of your own experiments. But to have that, the lessons I learnt were when I came in contact with the public here in 2000-- I was going around delivering talks and was in discussions with a lot of people and almost every institute talked about setting up a CMB experiment. But I realised that at that time it was too late. To get into any area of that depth, you need to plan at least about a decade or more in advance, to create that kind of presence and mark in the world with that. By that time, I was aware of the up and coming ideas of gravitational wave science, and given an experienced group of people, one could gauge what detectors were coming, what technological changes we were foreseeing and how we can undertake such a task. This seemed to me an exciting opportunity and the right time to step into the arena.

TSR: How did you associate with LIGO India, and could you give an insider’s perspective to the journey that the project has taken? TS: LIGO India started in 2007, and the thought followed the drive to do something in the frontiers of current scientific research. I had TSR: What drove you to the ideas and the field understood that collaborations are extremely of Gravitational Waves? important and indispensable in the current state of scientific culture. So, one of the things we TS: Well, I worked initially in the area of CMB, did was following on the same lessons—we set THE SOUNDING ROCKET



up a consortium in 2009, which was an informal gathering of sorts, no institutes were involved, but people connected over email lists or events or meetings which were hosted, and such is how it started growing. We knew that for setting up a gravitational waves experiment, we needed people with a thorough understanding of state-of-the-art technology to come on-board. There are undoubtedly fantastic sets of people in India who do amazing work in experimentation, people with expertise in control systems, vacuum systems, lasers, optical systems, and such. Slowly such people started joining in and by 2011 we had a good number to materialise this idea into reality. Of course, one of the major excitements about this project is that it will be an absolute technological marvel. Each involved field requires the most updated and highest level of expertise possible in that area at the time. This means that to achieve this, it would also take the pace and extent of the technological advancements in the country to grow further by leaps and bounds. Because otherwise, we would not do it until and if we unquestionably need to do it, you see? But in this scenario, for instantiation, we would need to create an 8km long vacuum tube, 1.2m in diameter, which would come around to about 2 million Litres of ultra-high vacuum—it is a mammoth task, and whichever industry takes it up would have to make it at the top of its field. Further, since it is such a technologically advanced project we would have a lot of interdisciplinary collaborations. It would obviously require researchers, experimental physicists, and engineers to join hands, but further there will be huge challenges to deal with, for instance, data analysis itself would be a major challenge. Also, we have people from varied backgrounds within sciences such as geophysicists involved because we must care about what the Earth is doing while we are working up on it. Therefore, we had to search and characterise our site very well, and I was personally responsible for that task. We started in September 2011, which is when we went and saw the first site, and it was only after five years of searching through more than 40 sites, doing various tests-planting seismometers for instance, taking few weeks of readings and such, that finally in 2016 we were able to settle on our final options. It took a lot of efforts, and to think I have never bought a piece of land as such, and here we were, looking for land and travelling throughout the country for that matter, meeting district officials, understanding the hierarchies and such. You know some of my colleagues used to ask me about why I chose to do that in the first place, but I enjoyed it. Maybe it is just a question of how you look at life. As a scientist I would not have gone to such remote places, caved inside corners of Rajasthan, or Chhattisgarh and what not otherwise! Beyond it all, it was also the faith in making things work. Of course, people usually would not invest

their time if they do not see anything concrete happening, and it is understandable, but here we were, believing that this would be a reality. There has been great support though at all levels, right from the scientific circles through to the government. Somehow there has been a huge appeal to the project. But there were a lot of meetings that happened at the state level and central government level, where I would receive calls each week saying that there would be a Cabinet meeting at the Centre and this topic might be taken up. If the topic is taken up, then someone must be there on stand-by in case there were any technical questions, so there was a lot of drama involved as well, but that was all good at the end.

TSR: How difficult was it to propose the idea of gravitational wave astronomy as a new direction for Indian sciences and think of it to materialise? TS: Well, it is a lot of work and a lot of people are participating into it which makes it doable. Also, the environment was very receptive—so, almost every expert in the field I talked to, right from the beginning, was very positive about it and they strongly believed that this is something that we really should do. So, essentially around April 2011, we had some informal communications with USA about LIGO-India, and they knew that we had this consortium and Indigo and such. Then we further discussed among us, and well, we were pretty young when we proposed it. I remember Dr. Kasturirangan being very happy about it, and he already had a long-term project being proposed by people who would be working in the field when the project would be online, which is typically not the case because due to all the procedural issues and such, these projects take a whole generation of scientists’ work to be materialised. For LIGO India certain things happened which were very new—like this collaboration which basically is now a community. Further, it would really be an important leap since we might not always be lucky to have a significant gravitational wave source at such opportune positions like the last merger that LIGO-US detected. The facility at India would expand our horizons to triangu-


A schematic of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory structure, as planned and adapted by one of the parent institutions IUCAA, Pune.

“ would also take the pace and extent of the technological advancements in the country to grow further by leaps and bounds. ”

Title sketch by Ashrit Ramadurgam adapted from the photograph tarun-sauradeep/ THE SOUNDING ROCKET


late the positions in significantly better ways and ranges.

“To understand that there are no heroes here, it is a whole community and I think that is the collective science that we are looking forward to.”

TSR: In this era of astronomy and science, could we make some fundamental changes in educational system from school or college so that we can have better innovators or scientists who can take up similar challenges? TS: Well, there are very different schools of thoughts on that matter. I believe, there is a risk at being too expository. A lot of times I find that in children’s education for example, I understand that they are introduced to terms like ‘Black Holes’ and ‘supernovae’ at an early age. But once I had a talk where a kid asked me about a Seyfert Galaxy. To think, I did not talk about any types of galaxies in my talk at all. It just indicates that sometimes extensive exposure leads to uninformed opinions, name-dropping and such, which is the bad part about it. But I think there must sure be an inclusion of scientifically significant things happening in India, for example something like the GMRT (Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope) should be textbook material, maybe a cover picture on CBSE books even. But I think it is mentioned of nowhere except in Maharashtra in some state board books. Maybe if we get into these frontiers where we can make a difference globally, in the long run I hope that people would get to know about it from an early age. Further, I think at a university level in India the relevant skills are not given enough importance. I think the disciplines are too stratified, like, ei-

ther you are a scientist, or an engineer, or a data scientist, or a biologist, whereas at the core it is about realising that it is essentially all the same. This is also the reason why students think that they are limited, that they are so-and-so engineers and thus they should not think of anything else, which is definitely not the right way to go. In my opinion, the whole thing should be purpose oriented, and there should be projects that drive it along. TSR: How do you see this whole project unfolding and the way further? TS: I think the way forward is to understand that scientific work, at its heart, is collaborative in nature. Also, it would also not be wrong to say that over these years, whatever could have been done in small laboratories has been tried, so essentially what has not been done is what people could not attempt individually. You can look at particle physics, astronomy or such, we are in a regime where we cannot function alone. In the last generation we used to address experiments as a part of a country—a European or an American detector, but now I believe, the next generation would be filled with more collaborative and international attempts. The scales have expanded such that one country cannot undertake it singularly. What we are trying by LIGO India is, in some small way, also to initialise a change in the scientific community in India, to figure a set of ethos from the scratch. To understand that there are no heroes here, it is a whole community and I think that is the collective science that we are looking forward to. §

TSR is in the ninth academic year of its publication. Originally started using funds collected from students in buckets that editors took from door to door in their hostels, the Institute generously agreed to take over the charge of printing after the reprographic facility had been set up from the fourth issue onwards. We thank the Library and Reprographic teams for their invaluable support and all our readers for their kind gesture. Feel free to contact us for obtaining digital copies of our archives.

Editorial Board The Sounding Rocket Arun S Ashrit Ramadurgam Bharath Sai Guhan Gayathri Girish Gayatri Vijayan Hari Krishnan Hari Kumar Karthick Ramanathan Naman Jain Neethu N Rishin Aggarwal Sai Krishna Prasad Shreya Mishra Swetha Krishnan




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Artwork by Ashrit Ramadurgam.




“Thanks for the Memories” Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end, not necessarily in that order. The IIST Batch of 2015, like the wise ones that came before them, might feel extraordinary but their tale lies within those unremarkable moments. Sanjutha Indrajit takes us back and forth in time as she treads through the memory lanes that wind through their story.

“We all learnt something valuable that day; that a bunch of highly inexperienced young people working together can produce something remarkable too.”


Page 1296- Chapter 8 All over the college there was a very conspicuous bustle of panic-stricken seniors, an atmosphere of anxiety fills labs where we were busy completing our projects. The preoccupation with work made us forget that these were the last few days that we will scuttle in the corridors of our department buildings. The last few nights we will stay up cussing each other while playing games or gossiping. The last time we can wear our favorite dress from our friend’s wardrobe. The last few days that our hostel room will be home. The last few times we’ll not watch the sun rise over the mountains from the hostel. The last time we will see someone or feel something. Page 1- Chapter 1 As freshers, we were reluctantly waving goodbye to our parents. We stepped into the college heavily laden with overstuffed bags all crammed up with hopes, dreams and expectations. Wanting to be something, someone. Some were shaking hands soon after and some were mere observers for quite some time. Each one at his own pace. Some struggled for months with people and books and what we had to leave behind to be here. Some fit right in and cruised right through. We were all trying to find where we fit, be it clubs or social circles. Through all the interactions, we found seniors to get tips of survival from. Places in the city were being explored and being compared to the 20+ cities or towns that we hailed form. Mom’s food was being missed along with her presence. Professors were trying to make it as clear as possible that college isn’t school which was then proved by the end semester examinations. As we left home that semester, we felt relief for having survived and the dreadfulness of having to return again to this academic hell. Page 799 - Chapter 5 This semester saw a lot of change. Now half way through the journey of college, all people were trying to do was make up for all we had lost and move ahead. The campus changed for the better too. What with the brilliant lights, the resuming construction of the forgotten department buildings and a new stage. But maybe the campus had


had a subtle beauty in its austerity that the lights flooded away forever. After over five months of toil, arguments and sacrifices, we all stood in front of a magnificent Dhanak stage studded with the most talented musicians, crooning to our favorite songs or making new favorite ones. In those few moments we felt something that transcended language, gender, hatred, opinions and capabilities. We all learnt something valuable that day; that a bunch of highly inexperienced young people working together can produce something remarkable too. In the process we made some new friends, learnt a few things about ourselves and felt pride together. But some lost friends along the way and never found a way back. Page 381 - Chapter 3 After a year in this place, we knew what we liked to do, at least for fun. Some found our solace in sport, some in writing, some in art and others in just exploring the city with friends. Beaches were frequented and every chance to get away from campus was thoroughly utilized. By now we knew which friend got yummy food and food packages never lasted longer than a day. We now learnt to celebrate Diwali on campus, with our own takes on sweets and crackers and with friends who now knew us better than our families. We learnt to feel at home, away from home. Things indeed got better as we tried to do what we loved rather than what was required of us. We laughed a little harder and smiled a little brighter. Page 892 - Chapter 6 Amidst the hectic academic schedule, we

GUE ST A RT I C LE geared up for Conscientia in a way that no batch had, ever before. The enthusiasm was overwhelming and that made the hard work seem less so. It also came as a welcome relief to some who were indeed fed up with academics and clubs which tried to objectively measure our skills and talent. Working to put up a show and succeeding gave us a confidence that no test or grade could. Maybe that semester some of us realized we weren’t really built for engineering but it is okay. At the end of this semester something hit us hard. The pain of losing someone who we may or may not have known. Each of us carried around a heavy heart and a guilty mind. Each of us felt responsible. We took more than a moment to reflect on what it meant for us and others. We vowed not to let something like this happen again here. For the first time in 3 years, we all felt something that we couldn’t help each other with. Page 170 - Chapter 2 We came back with the conviction that we will do better this time. All prepared to take on the new challenges. By this time, we had found our comfort zones- both places and people. Both “Dating” and “Bros” made it into our dictionary. Either way we found some “College gave us meaningful relationships. that- a ticket to As we tried to emulate be adults for the what our seniors did, first time with some of us were lucky enough to find friends in responsibilities us. Yet some still strugand everything, gled with college. Days including all the spent self-loathing and consequences.” crying sessions squeezed into busy academic schedules. Maybe because IIST did not suit us or accommodate our passion. We had some dark days. Some found friends to share it with, others suffered in silence. We did not have to, but chose to. But by the end of this semester we found our own way to cope. To wait, till something better came along. Page 1095 - Chapter 7

Page 518 - Chapter 4 We now had favorites. Favorite friends, favorite places to hang out, favorite subjects, favorite professors and favorite bad habits. We did things to forget and let go. Some became a part of us and some were just a phase. By this time, we had done enough to call it a phase. We were kids no more. We were getting serious about making ourselves work. Personally and academically. Searching for us along with internships that will look good on our résumés. Page 1387 - Chapter 9 We were done with packing all our stuff. Little did we know that there was no way to pack our memories. We were afraid that we would never meet this bunch of people again and worse, we worried we wouldn’t get to what we were in our presence. On the other hand, some were relieved for having survived in a place we could never call our own, a place where we couldn’t show our value. Among all these emotions. Hands were shook, a little harder. Long hugs demanded a few tears. Maybe this place is not what is going to be missed, maybe the feeling of belonging or the lack thereof would be. We have “one last” everything, trying to capture as much of this place, these people and this feeling as we can. We may be half decent engineers, but we have learnt so much about life in four years that we could become anything. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an We all came back from our internships with end. Not necessarily in that order. Here is our stoheads full of ideas and a heart full of delight. For ry. It had a beginning and an end but the middle, some of us it was not just the professional experiit stays with us, as the people we have become, as ence but the opportunity to travel, to explore and the people we will become. § meet new people. College gave us that- a ticket to be adults for the first time with responsibilities and everything, including all the consequences. We came back with stories and gifts. We were seniors now! A last lap before the end. We started spending more time with friends and the people we loved. There were more pictures. There were more weekend trips. Hands were held more often and hugs were liberal. Along the way we forgot the frustration of studies and started planning our careers and futures. Although the future scared us, the present was too enticing and we let it overwhelm us.


Outings together were never an easy deal, but maybe we learnt to like the hassle, together.

You can reach the writer at

Different states. Different backgrounds. One story. One moment captured in time.



Thoughts on a Quiet Women’s Day International Women’s Day 2019 was celebrated on March 8th, themed ‘Balance For Better’. Neethu N shares her thoughts about being a 20-something young woman doing an engineering major watching the world around her celebrating women on this day.

T You can reach Neethu at neethunazar111 @

“Tomorrow, it would go back to my male colleagues assuming that I cannot handle machinery as good as them, and me feeling safer in male presence.”


he clock struck midnight. It did not seem any different until my roommate turned to me and screamed “Happy Women’s Day!”. Distracted from my lengthy SMDO assignment, all I could say was “Oh!”. The day would go on to see my social media feed flooded with #BalanceForBetter posts celebrating achievements by women. Posters across the campus informed about lectures and competitions. Even the release of Captain Marvel, full of a fierce woman flying and beating up her enemies in the sky, was strategically placed on this day. Dragged by deadlines, I could not feel the excitement of the day much. The gender disparity has become so rooted in our society and minds that we all, even myself at times, tend to unconsciously accept it as normal. Feminists are branded as maleoppressors when the word itself means advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Having had countless pointless debates during #MeToo and the controversial Sabarimala war, I could not help think that these one-day activities will do anything to help break the glass ceilings of my life. Tomorrow, it would go back to my male colleagues assuming that I cannot handle machinery as good as them, and me feeling safer in male presence. My background thoughts were suddenly interrupted by my mother’s call. She was travelling a six-hour distance back home standing squeezed on a crowded public bus after a busy day at work. My heart clenched thinking about the troubles that she keeps taking. In spite of our constant motherdaughter fights, love and care is always there, as well as the regular guilt that I do not appreciate her enough. She cut the call unable to talk a lot and I made a mental note to tell her “I love you” the next time we talked. While narrating the story to my next-door friends while walking hungrily to the mess at teatime, I paused, thinking how I might not be able to shatter any glass ceiling on one day but I could take a moment to appreciate all those women who have helped me through two eventful decades of my life. Munching the not-so-tasty sandwich, I could not help missing my grandmothers’ snacks. My grandmothers, whom I called Ammachi and Umicha, were retired teachers whose memories always fill my heart with warm fuzzy happiness. I was almost single-handedly raised by Umicha and


spent most of my early childhood evenings licking my fingers after her amazing curd rice or getting my homework approved by her. My summers were spent with Ammachi running behind us cousins after our silly mischiefs to scold us, but with love. I have probably not met two sweeter women in my life and when I lost them, at 12 and 16, they both took a piece of my heart with them. On the way back to the hostel after snacks, convoys of faculty passed by us one-by-one. Seeing them travel back to their homes took me to fifth grade when I accidentally called my English-cumEVS teacher Meenakumari ma’am ‘mom’. Her eyes moistened that day, as mine do these days when I hear her voice whenever we call. I sat in her class for a year and have not met her for about ten years but is a very important and unforgettable part of my life. I cannot tell what I learned last semester, but I can, to this day, remember all she taught about hibernation, the Golconda Fort, Rip Van Winkle, Robinson Crusoe and what not. She had a unique talent in making her kids understand what she taught: you need to hear it from her once and then you’d never forget. I have a heartful of gratitude to her for touching the lives of so many children, like me. One among the first to identify my skills in speaking and writing, she encouraged me to read and write more. As a first year, I stood in front of a poster from The Sounding Rocket calling for new inductees wondering whether I should go, and I remembered her words, “Never stop writing wherever you go, Neethu.” Well, here I am, never going to give up, and always inspired by her. In my senior year in high school, my Computer Science and English teachers, Tanuja ma’am and Alice ma’am joined Meena ma’am in my list of teachers who became ‘moms’. They helped us homesick children feel better and spent hours helping us get through the endless chapters. In college, it was Lakshmi ma’am, Babitha ma’am and Gigi ma’am. Stuck in endless tests, projects and sleepless nights, their classes are my escape and their rooms places to let out my worries. I’m extremely grateful for their presence in campus, but I equally feel bad that there are no female faculty in the Aerospace Department, the only department to be so. Maybe, some more Women’s Days later, things would be different around here. And yes, there are, of course, many men who have inspired me too, but that’s for another day. §

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