InspirationLife at FLAME

Fascinated by simple mechanics of physics, Mr. Sonam Wangchuk wants to spread the love of learning, not for marks and definitely not for passing. He hence founded SECMOL- the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh to transform education into being practical and fun! This school is meant for the ‘labeled failures’ in our society, to provide them the platform to apply their knowledge of simple science and creativity in real world scenarios.

Mr. Wangchuk believes that memorizing kills learning and confidence of students and said, “If failures can achieve what toppers dream of, then there is something wrong in the system”. His school is run by students themselves; they have parliament type sessions for discussion of ideas, nurseries maintained by students, concept of germ theory where they learn the science behind and art of making jam and sell it. They even learn geography, innovation and apply concepts in science used on campus around earth, sun, ice and fire.

Now, he has hit upon another inspiring idea – to build artificial glaciers in the upper reaches of Ladakh. The idea behind artificial glaciers, or ice stupas as they are referred to, is to freeze and hold the water that flows away down the streams and into the rivers throughout the winter. Instead, this ice will melt during springtime, just when the fields need watering.

If only every individual had as simple, yet visionary ideas as those of Mr. Wangchuk’s, the world would be a better place to live in!

We were thrilled to have him interact with us at FLAME University.

Life at FLAME

Due to a professed belief in research driven undergraduate education, this first ever student conference at FLAME University explicitly invited students of colleges across India to submit abstracts toward selection and presentation in Pune. By so doing we constituted an undergraduate academic community to facilitate research and advocacy on cultural questions that frame our time.

At a time when undergraduate education in India is being reconstituted through the creation of new universities, traditional disciplines are yielding to new questions. Interdisciplinary conversations are throwing out new challenges, and necessitate the participation of all stake-holders in addressing the questions. To collaborate on these new interrogations, undergraduate students were invited to express, participate, and engage the cultural implications of our times. Informed by concepts, practices and methodologies that have emerged from cultural studies, younger voices challenged and engaged existing scholarship.

The colleges represented were: Sophia College, NALSAR University, NLSIU – Bangalore, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Shiv Nadar University, EFLU – Hyderabad, Nalanda University, Symbiosis Law School, ILS Law College and University of Kerala amongst others.

THE CONFERENCE THEMES INCLUDEd:

  • Power, culture and knowledge: Re-examining how mythology and society align across Indian history
  • The City: Community spaces and reconstitutions of urban forms and solidarities; Gendering discourses on bodies and public space
  • Regional writing and minor literatures: Translating bhasha literatures and comparative studies
  • Dramatic adaptations: Storytelling in narrative modes such as dastangoi, naqal, bideshi, nautanki, tamasha
  • Food Studies: Narrating identity through regions to de-emphasize geographic boundaries
  • Digital humanities: Recuperating collective memory through crowd-sourced archival collections in new media such as the Indian Memory Project, the traveling archive etc.
  • “Indian-ness” Reimagined: Mapping popular culture, film and commercial writing
  • Critical Theory in India: Re-visiting political philosophy and alternate epistemologies
  • Legal Studies: Querying colonial legacies, constitutionalism, minority rights, censorship and governance

The conference had three panels:

  • Panel 1 – Re-imagining ‘Indian-ness’ through Regional Writing & Minor Literatures
  • Panel 2 – Devouring and Gendering Discourses on the Body – Reconstituting Geographic Boundaries
  • Panel 3 – Recuperating Memories  Alternative Epistemologies

The moderators were Dr. Arshia Sattar and Dr. Prachi Deshpande.

Arshia Sattar teaches classical Indian literatures at various institutions all over India. She is the acclaimed translator of Valmiki’s Ramayana, and the Kathasaritsagara. She has a PhD from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, and her areas of interest are Indian epics, mythology and the story traditions of the subcontinent.

Prachi Deshpande is Associate Professor of History at University of California, Berkeley. Previously, she taught at Rutgers (Newark) and Colorado State and is now at the Centre for the Study of Social Sciences in Kolkata. She has a keen interest in history, and is acclaimed for her work on Maratha history and literature. Columbia University Press published her work titled “Historical Memory and Identity in Western India, 1700-1960” in 2007.

Life at FLAME

Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry is hailed as the doyenne of Punjabi theatre. However, that often seems rather reductive. Undoubtedly, one of the most significant voices in the modern Indian theatre trajectory, Neelam’s work is an ongoing interaction between the ideas of tradition and modernity. Felicitated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2003 and Padmashri in 2011, some of her most noted productions include Kitchen Katha, Nagamandala, Yerma amongst many others. Her decision to perform in Punjabi was connected to her journey in language. Neelam has endeavoured and quite rightly so to free Punjabi language from gross distortions often encountered in Hindi films. For her, language directly connects to cultural memory, imagery, history and sound.  She also credits Abraham Elkazi and B.V.Karanth as major influences in shaping her creative aesthetics. During a recent interaction at FLAME University organised by the Centre for South Asia, Neelam held forth on the process of adaptation from text to stage. She has worked with a wide array of texts ranging from Tagore to Lorca and opined that improvisation is key in the process of adaptation. Neelam also mentioned that despite of pre-existing texts, the real author of a play is the actor.

InspirationLife at FLAME

Guest lectures at a university are a pretty common occurrence all around the globe. They are very popular and effective. I recently discovered the reason behind this when, the very famous ‘Metro Man’, Dr. Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, who is a retired IES officer visited FLAME University as a guest lecturer. He is known as the ‘Metro Man’ because he is credited for changing the face of public transport in India during his tenure. His passion, his honesty, his penchant for doing work for the larger good of people and for India clearly reflected in his talks. The positive influence of such interactions, and how it bridges the theories we learn at the university with the real world, makes these lectures priceless.

Dr. Sreedharan is known for building the Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro when he served as the managing director of Delhi Metro. Mr. Sreedharan was awarded with the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2001 and the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 2005. He was named one of Asia’s Heroes by TIME magazine in 2003. He also received the Padma Vibhushan in 2008. Recently he has been appointed to serve in the United Nations’ High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport (HLAG-ST). He was invited by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to serve on his HLAG-ST for a period of three years.

During his talk at FLAME University, he emphasized on the importance of four things in life – integrity, punctuality, competence and social responsibility. He elaborated on these four basic principles, and how they have always helped him complete his work within a stipulated time frame. Now we all know such huge infrastructure projects are extremely complicated, with different stakeholders interfering with several aspects, leading to project delays. Therefore, his completing such public transport projects, with minimum delays and within a particular timeframe is definitely commendable. We realized while listening to him, that he firmly believed in those four principles, and actually applied them in his life. He stressed upon how as young leaders today one must imbibe these qualities, and indeed if the youth did so, it will change the face of India completely. He spoke in detail about how he managed to take up and complete the Delhi Metro Project within the stipulated time of 10 years. The Delhi Metro is world class, and obviously contributed to the city’s growth significantly. It is also one of the most successful ventures of public transport in India.

Additionally, Dr. Sreedharan highlighted the strategic and functional aspects which led him to succeed in other projects as well, like using reverse day countdowns for achieving targets. He also detailed how he set targets for his Kerala Railways project, which actually was not a norm then.

He is an exceptionally inspiring figure who is unbelievably humble and it was a privilege to interact with him. He believed in himself and his principles so much that it was easy to see how his sincerity trickled down to this team and made them achieve the impossible.

Life at FLAMEStudent Activities

In the last decade India has changed. It has evolved not just in terms of infrastructure development but taste as well. Indians are now open to trying new international cuisines to enhance their taste levels. MasterChef is the new KBC. People are glued to the show. They are keenly interested in cooking differently, and keeping it healthy. FLAME University did just that – an open cooking challenge was organized on FLAME University’s campus. The competition was spearheaded and judged by India’s renowned ‘Master Chef’ and Head Chef of Westin Hotel, Ajay Chopra. Sodexo that officially caters to FLAME University made all the arrangements for the same.

The idea was to showcase chopping skills of individuals, time management, team work and creativity in cooking. It was a ‘cold cooking’ challenge which was exceptionally intriguing as to everyone’s surprise many tasty and healthy dishes were prepared without using heat. All raw materials, such as vegetables, fruits, cream, butter, bread, salt etc. were provided to the participants by Sodexo.

Initially there were supposed to be 7 teams of 5 each, but looking at the number of participants it was increased to 9 teams of 5 each, including 1 team of faculty/staff members. Large number of students gathered on the sprawling campus to watch the competition. The neatly set benches, out in the open, piled with ingredients looked straight out of the MasterChef TV show. Chef Ajay Chopra dressed in an impeccably white apron and a chef’s hat radiated professionalism.

Each member initially was given 2 or 3 independent ingredients that they were expected to clean, dice and mix in a limited amount of time. They then had to pass it on to the team’s captain. The captain assembled and came up with a dish using all or most of the ingredients. The team that made the most creative and tastiest dish won.

Chef Ajay Chopra was extremely clear on the rules, and went around methodically explaining them to all participants. He shared some lovely anecdotes and fun facts about cooking before beginning the competition. His profound knowledge on the subject was evident. The teams began chopping as the chef instructed. As the competition progressed the dishes began to take shapes. The air was filled with lovely aroma of fresh ingredients. Many were awestruck at the sheer creativity displayed by the students, in combining the unusual components and marrying them into a perfect dish. The team work and understanding among the participants resulted in a beautiful dish. A good variety of cold salads, sandwiches, burgers, and croissants were stylishly presented to the chef at the end of the competition, leaving him pleasantly surprised. It was apparent that chef Chopra and his co-judges from Sodexo, struggled to choose a winner from the range of delectable dishes.

All the participants had a great time and the winning team received their own personal chef coats, signed by Chef Chopra himself.

Life at FLAMEStudent Activities

FLAME University’s programs are fully residential, and hence the volume of activities that are conducted on campus post the academic hours is unbelievable. Set between lush green hills, the sprawling campus provides a perfect set up for sports and many other student activities. Recently the office of student activities organized a quiz contest at the university’s massive amphitheatre. An outdoor quiz contest on a pleasant winter evening attracted a lot of students. The competition was to be held between all four houses of FLAME University. Hundreds of students turned up at the appointed hour. The quiz was organized and anchored by Mr. Vimesh Shah. Mr. Shah arrested everyone’s attention right from the start, and held the audience captivated throughout. The quiz went on for 3 hours as everyone acquired general knowledge in abundance. Mr. Vimesh Shah, was quick and witty and drew a lot of laughs and appreciation from the audience. He was also extremely knowledgeable.

Right from round one, Mr. Shah set the ball rolling, by conducting an ‘open question’ quiz round, where the entire house could participate. The open air amphitheatre had suddenly become alive. Students had to think on their feet. The round challenged the potential of the student body, as the questions were not run of the mill. However, the students surprised the quiz master pleasantly, by responding quickly and correctly.

For the second round the quiz master used audio-visuals as a way of asking questions. Then there was a round where answers were provided by the quiz master, and the teams were required to find the right question. This was exceptional, and played a major role in balancing the scores amongst the four teams.

Almost every topic was covered during the different rounds. There were questions on current affairs, business, arts, advertising, media, politics, etc. The quiz was very well articulated and the students learnt immensely in a stimulating way. Originally the quiz was scheduled to last for two hours. However, it stretched beyond the timeslot. No one complained as the competitiveness between the houses was immense.

While all the student houses competed extremely well, Aryabhatta House won the FLAME Quiz 2015 Rotating Trophy. The quiz ended with a promise of hosting another quiz soon.

– Param Vyas, FLAME

FeaturedLife at FLAME

Narayana Murthy, sirf naam hi kaafi hai, a gentleman who needs no introduction, the iconic founder of Infosys graced FLAME’s campus with his presence and formally inaugurated FLAME’s Vivekananda Library, (one of the most modern libraries in India today). Not only this, he addressed as well as interacted with the student community at FLAME.

Like everyone, even I knew who Narayana Murthy was. However, I thought I must read up on him before he visited us. So I hit the net, and there was a tsunami of information online about him. This man is obviously an institution. I found myself mesmerized by his story, such a humble beginning and the amount of success achieved with it was absolutely inspiring. 

Narayana Murthy was born on 20 August 1946 in Sidlaghatta, Karnataka. After completing his school education, he appeared for the Indian Institute of Technology entrance test but could not attend. Instead he went to the National Institute of Engineering and graduated in 1967 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. In 1969 he received his master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. 

Mr. Murthy started his career at IIM Ahmedabad as chief systems programmer. There he worked on India’s first time-sharing computer system and designed and implemented a BASIC interpreter for Electronics Corporation of India Limited. He started a company named Softronics. When that company failed after about a year and a half, he joined Patni Computer Systems in Pune. It was during his stint at IIM Ahmedabad, that he met our Founder President, Dr. Indira Parikh, who was also beginning her career in academia at the revered institution.  

Mr. Murthy and six software professionals founded Infosys in 1981 with an initial capital injection of Rs.10,000, which was provided by his wife Sudha Murthy. Mr. Murthy served as the CEO of Infosys for 21 years, turning it into a phenomenal success. I am awestruck, Rs. 10,000 as a seed capital? really!..and now his net worth is over $ 1.55 billion! There has got to be a strong vision and a focused mind behind this, not to mention lot of hard work and dedication. This was not a co-incidence, as the initial success repeated itself over the years consistently.

Now, I looked forward to his visit to our campus even more eagerly then before. And then, on 10 November 2014 promptly Mr. Murthy arrived well on time at the appointed hour. The entire lot of students, all faculty members, our President, board members, staff, guests everyone had gathered and those big sprawling rooms of campus suddenly seemed smaller. All benches were occupied, people were clamoring for space to sit, students were sitting on the floor right up to the platform, and some stood outside the room (as there was no space left inside) so they could at least listen to him. 

Mr. Murthy inaugurated FLAME’s Vivekananda Library, and took to the dais. Although his presence was compelling, there was a certain humbleness about him, which filled the room with good vibes. In fact, he insisted on interacting with students first and then chose to give his speech. He made it clear, that he is all for women empowerment and will take the first question from a lady. He alternated the questions/interaction between men and women present. He took the most unlikely questions sportingly and responded with genuine warmth, humor and precision, without missing the plot. 

Mr. Murthy then spoke how he knew FLAME’s President, Dr. Indira Parikh and talked about her fondly. He told us how he always believed in creating a civilized society – a society where everyone has equal opportunity to better his/her life, where every child has food, shelter, health care and education. He spoke about India’s future and how technology is here to stay. India’s bright future in the world of information technology was always his vision and related to an incident, as to how he was offered a substantial amount of money to sell the company during early 1990’s, but his belief in the future growth had him in two minds, hence he consulted his partners and was relieved to find that they too share his vision and were not willing to sell the company, irrespective of the amount of money. They then made a pact not to be swayed by such offers in the future. The gamble paid off handsomely and they continued to grow many folds. 

He continued to address us, holding the interest of the crowd with anecdotes punctuated with humor, yet with a strong message. The underlying theme of his talk highlighted his struggle and hard work, presence of mind, and futuristic vision. Tough decisions, cash crunches, losses, challenges and hardships, he faced it all. He stressed upon the fact how he continued to read, learn and educate himself and others around him to the ever evolving scenario of technology. Change was the only constant in his chosen stream, and he adapted well to it.

At the end of the morning, all students were filled with positivity, hope and renewed faith in hard work. I could see everyone was as awe struck and positively inspired as much as me, if not more. Best learning I got was with success one should stay grounded and never forget one’s roots.

His inspiring interaction with the students and community gave everyone a keen insight on entrepreneurship, life, respect and everything in between. We hope to have him back with us soon!

Author – Parth Joshi -FSB-2