Saturday, July 26, 2008

noname.cpp - part 2 of 2: To C it from a diffrent view

6 years have passed since the happiness lasted, sans the C language. I don't miss C at all, to think of it, C is not needed in what I do- the language is excruciating, I believe.

After 6 years, i was supposed to be in MS, but due to some funny reason, i was not, in fact, i was neither in MS, nor out of it, so I was made the TA in Programming and Data Structure (PDS) course. I had a small group of students to deal with, their lab tests, answer scripts and all the routine things.

She was a silent girl in the class, so i did not pay much attention to what she had to say about C. The girl never complained anything about the marks, nor about the assignment, as I used to be in my first year- aloof.

Time: 1500 Hrs

The end sems were nearing and in the regular lab, i was resolving someone's doubt, when i saw she raised her hand to ask some question. I saw the professor go to her..... The professor should know about how his subjects are doing.

Time: 1530 Hrs

The prof is still explaining things to her, and she is nodding her head, as if it were connected to her body by spring. I am attending this guy who is having trouble understanding the question

Time: 1600 Hrs:

I'm solving this girl's problem who is debating with me about something which she felt was correct. The professor is now himself coding, and the girl seems to be taking an active interest (the way she was looking at the monitor, trying to read the broken english of C, with all the unexpected brackets and semi- colon, which make it a bestial language, was too good).

Time: 1630 Hrs:

I was done solving the doubts, and was hearing to stories of a TA, when this prof came from behind the pillar. "Nimesh!", he called me. "She doesn't know anything about C!", said the prof in a very worried tone, as if it was he who had to give the exam! The prof was a very good man, worried about the well being of this soul... I replied "Yes Sir! why, i'd talk to her right now." I went to her. "You!" I pointed my finger to her, standing in front of her desk, looking sharply into her eyes, "You will meet me after class." She looked at me, with a fright -mixed-with-laid back- look, said "Yes sir!". After the class,i said to her "I'm noticing that your performance is consistently poor, and unless you put in some hard labor, you'd be in a soup. What do you have to say about it? Koi load to nahin hai? (translates to: any problems with this subject?)" She said in the same tone "No Sir!". "So you'd be coming to my lab to study till your end sems, is it all right?" I asked in an authoritative tone, and she could not refuse.

The week coming was going to be nothing short of a challenge to me, confronting C, the hidden fear. This girl turned up the next day, with one of her classmates, as she too was having a lot of problems in the same. So i started with them, a baby step at a time- C made easy by a dummy.

The week was nothing short of a test for me- a lots of stories about C, a solid punch for making silly errors, rewarding for a good thinking and finally, understanding the mind of a student, which i were a few months back. I realised teaching was not just about delivering the knowledge, it was also about making the whole subject interesting and leaving good impression on young minds, so rather than developing an aversion to the subject for the rest of their lives, they enjoy the experience. I was trying my level best to cock up new stories about C to explain the fundamentals in a simple, friendly and a dignified way. Time passed, and with the end of a week, both of them caught up to the essence of C. By the end of second week, i could teach them advanced topics in data structures.

Shilpa, though could not turn up for the last 2 days, which i learnt was because she had to mug up mechanics the last night before the Mech end sem! However, since the basic of C was already covered, and advanced topics could be derived from there, so i didn't have to worry about her. The other girl Shalu continued till the end sems.

In the end sems, i saw the grade sheets, Shalu had secured an A while Shilpa had secured a D, still better than me, who secured a mere P (a just passed grade), saving my tail with it.

It is how i encountered my fear for C, and returned the gift Raka once gave me, and my prof PK enriched with his inputs. I believe, we must return twice of whatever good we got to the needy, this is the best way to repay it, and i guess i did it.

noname.cpp - part 1 of 2

Feels like an era has passed, and it has, when i have sesqui-tupled in age. It's a story when i was a lot younger, dumber, naive and a fresher. I was in first year, enrolled after a grueling session of studies and was in no mood to study any further. Just that I didn't get the branch and insti of my choice was enough an alibi to forgo classes... And a few words like "The subject is too boring to follow" were put in my mouth (yes, i still blame my friends for that, because i don't want to take the full load of charges...).

The subject was Introduction to Programming and Data Structures, and i was highly uninterested with the course the course was taking.
After missing a lot of classes this way, and getting some greater-than-zero single digit number (i guess it was the One, what else could i achieve with that infinitesimal knowledge about C, the computer language), i realised that a proxy attendance could be put so that i did not have to disturb my royal sleep to attend the classes. For this noble purpose, i asked Aman, the chinki, to sign the attendance sheet ma'm passed in class. He was a simple guy and it wasn't difficult for me to convince him for this.

One golden afternoon, when i was brushing my teeth and strolling in my wing, E- top, Aman came, and he looked flustered. I bid a "allo" to him, with the brush and froth filled in my mouth, and a dab overflowing from the side. I sucked it back inside with the help of tooth brush and asked him "How was the class?". "Ma'm took the attendance today!" he said, wiping sweat from his forehead, his face, red- "and i put up a sign on your behalf."
"Good boy!"
"... And then ma'm announced- There are some boys who are not regular in the classes, take for example , this guy Nimesh Priyodit, where is he- is he present today??". I was shocked with the sudden celebrity status i had recieved in the class, "Then?"

"To hell with your attendance, I had to stand up to cover you!" He said, " and the whole of the class was laughing their heads off that chinki is being thrashed by ma'm, and she was thinking she was shouting at Nimesh Priyodit all this while!!"
"What would have i done if she ever asked me for my ID?"
"You'd have simply told her that you didn't have it with you, what else!" I replied.

With the days passing in such mundane manner, came the night before end- sem. The night of survival, and the night of ultimate realisation that i should have studied for the semester than playing age of empires all day (such realisations then kept on coming twice a semester, one before mid- sems and another before end- sems). The survival instinct was down and i was lazing off in the bed, and told my best friend Raka- man "I'm thinking about the summer quarter in C". The summer quarter is sort of atonement and purification to the cursed souls who failed to perform in their subjects in the Institute of Indian Technology and had to spend their valuable summer in the nearby Hijli jail facing the torture of coal tar melting heat, and boring lectures of the wise ones.
"I dunno anything about C, just the declarations of the variables and the for loop. How would i ever pass this exam with this much knowledge!".
I was thinking of Swapnil, who had the habit of romanticising anything, and i never held him in high regards, and who had come to me earlier that day to offer me combined studies. Had i studied with him, i would have gained at least a small part of wisdom, but it was too late now.

Raka- man said, intervening my repenting train of thought- "Why would you ever fail! Let me teach you a few basics." And that night, starting from 2 O' clock, he kept on reciting C like Sunder Kand (from Ramayana) encompassing all the trees, forests, lists, linked lists, and whatever enigmas i felt about computer science. I kept on asking him about some terms i had gathered from the discussions from my wise neighbour Vamsi, who had me confused till now, and tonight i was being enlightened about the hidden meanings of those words. Prophecies like how a program would not give the desired result started dawning upon me, and by 4 O' clock, the whole show was over.

The exam started at 9 that day, i was not humming a song, for a change, and was attempting some question which i felt was at my level. It was a 5 mark question and i was excitedly solving it. I kept on encountering questions, in a random manner, and the three hours passed by. The only question i could not do was tree traversal, which Raka- man did not teach me,but i had no grudges with him.
I returned to my wing, and found people discussing the paper. When they saw me, they asked how much did i do, i sat there calculating, and i found I did 48 marks out of 50, which was the highest in the wing! They gasped when they heard. That afternoon was spent in critically checking my solutions and certifying them to be all correct.

Bottomline: I got a just pass grade- P in the course of Programming and Data Structures. I thanked Raka- man for his extensive help and asked God never to encounter this language C in my whole life.
And God gave me a lease of life, and I lived happily ever after...
... for a period of 6 years.

(To be continued)