The Bengal Engineering and Science University (BESU), the erstwhile BE College, Shibpur, is a venerable institution of higher learning in the country. Unfortunately, of late, it has frequently been in the news, for reason that had little to do with its glorious past of academic excellence. So, when after a large-ish gap, the students there tried to organise their techfest - Instruo ‘09 on 11 - 12 April, efforts were made to support their effort at the climb-back.
Prof Suryasarathi Barat, Director of the BESU’s School of IT (PDSIT), had requested me if I could help them scout for “big speakers”. I did know of one “big speaker” and therefore got in touch with Atul Chitnis (Toolz). With everything in place, suddenly there was the sad news of Toolz’s dad passing away and he having to rush to his mom’s side in Germany. With like 4 days to the Techfest, things could have gone into a tailspin, except that Toolz asked me to talk to Kishore Bhargava (BigBeard).
Kishore was available to speak on the 12th. He was also a great sport, as Kabir (his son) was going to give a recital later that evening which BigBeard didn’t want to miss. He landed up on 11th evening from Delhi. The next day (12th) we landed up around 11:00 AM. Kishore was already there. He’s talk was just before the lunch. Even though the awareness about FOSS in the student community was really low (when asked about having heard of FOSS, only 4 hands had gone up in a room with over 70 students). This is a bit strange as the professors keep insisting that they “have linux in all our labs“. There is some serious disconnect here.
Kishore’s talk was as always - lively. He drew in both the students and teachers, and made the session highly interactive. I tried to record his talk on my E71. The video is here, split up into 5 parts since youtube no longer allows for videos longer than 10 mins to be normally uploaded.
Part 1 of 5
Part 2 of 5
Part 3 of 5
Part 4 of 5
Part 5 of 5
Kishore’s presentation is here. It is under Creative Commons. BY-NC attribution. And if you use it somewhere please send nice “Thank You” to BigBeard
Kishore finished up with inviting students and faculty members to attend this year’s FOSS.IN at NIMHANS. He then took in a series of questions from both students and the professors. The “Top Ramen” guy (Gaurav) seemed to have a lot of questions. One of the resonating queries was “On Windows we have .NET / VC++ to program with, what do we use to do GUI programming on Linux, there are so many choices PyGTK, Qt, Glade and many more?”. Apparently “C-H-O-I-C-E” is something neither the students nor the teachers here are very comfortable with. There is a deep sense of unwillingness to leave aside the cacoon of “imagined comfort of the known“.
We all walked down for lunch at the BESU guest house. There we met with the new Vice Chancellor - Prof Ajoy K Ray. He was very open and has invited us back at BESU for future programs and activities. With a pragmatic view about things, and a willingness to listen to others, it seems that Prof Ray is trying to bring in a new drive and energy about the place. BESU needs it badly.