A random collection of Reflections on my experience of life...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Quark - The untold Journey...

I just noticed this post among the heap of "drafts" on blogger, that I had meant to post long ago, but for want of the final touch ups, it was left unnoticed - till now.

This is an article that I wrote for Sizzling Sands, and is a part of the 2008 edition. In it, I recount a major chunk of my experiences at BITS - Quark, and its journey. Not only was Quark an excuse for me to involve myself in campus activities, but along with it, I got to interact with a whole lot of other people, make new friends, know different perspectives, try things out and discover much more.

In a nutshell, there were a lot of times I would truly cherish, some experiences that I would rather forget, some that have been my best teachers, and most of all, the experience of quark has left an unforgettable impression on me, and my life that I don't think I will be able to forget.

Here is the article:


I remember when I first walked into this campus around 3 years ago. Of all things, the most unique attraction to the campus was that it was new and fresh, sending a message out to the world that we were here to chart out our own new journey. Although I have been a part of many student organizations, I have had the most singularly unique experience as a part of the Organizing Committee QUARK – 2008 and 2007.

Whenever a new campus develops, organizations and student bodies take time to establish. I remember the very first QUARK (At the time, it stood for “Questioning the Understanding, Aptitude and Reasoning of the Kindred”) which was inter-assoc. That was the first time that unity among assoc members was sought and a competitive atmosphere established. Soonafter, I participated at various competitions at Techfest – IITB, and thanks to our team, we won a few prizes. Being a first glimpse of a mammoth technical festival, it instantly became what I describe as an inspiration for QUARK 2007.

Preparations for QUARK 2007-‘be fundamental’ started off around 2 months before the scheduled event. Although it was a pleasant surprise that I was made one of the Chief Organizers of the festival (the other one being our former President, Hari Sudan who was actually the man behind Quark 07), the task that lay ahead of us was humongous. QUARK 06 was merely a science exhibition compared to techfests and so Quark 07 going national was our first foray and experience both in sponsorship, publicity, marketing and event management; quite unlike Waves 07 which went up to the intra-Goa level, and had a fairly successful experience to back up.

The inexperience in sponsorship, marketing and too little time made the festival very challenging to organize. Apart from going prematurely national, one of the major problems was that the event was a week after Waves, leaving only 7 days for the majority of the active students to work for Quark. Considering these hurdles and that we received a very low sponsorship amount of around 4 Lacs, we managed to pull out a festival and organize all the planned events, with around 180 outstation students. However the financial mismanagement and lack of transparency by the then CSA will leave a distasteful memory of their contribution.

Quark 07 was a great teacher and a unique experience. Through such an event, you get to know a lot of people, learn about handling situations and make new friends. I got to know a lot of wonderful people and seniors, who are now alumni of the BITS family. And of course, some of my batchmates without whom the event would have been impossible.

Early next semester, I found myself discussing the issues of Quark 2008 with Chaitanya. We recognized that establishing a structure was essential and successful delegation along with financial transparency was required. I remember when we had jointly coined the terms “Information Management” along with “Special Nights” Committee – “Aurora!” recognizing the importance of information flow and the glamour aspect of Quark. We decided that delegation of responsibilities along the committees of information management, finance, specials, competitive events and marketing would be necessary within the next Organizing Committee, to ensure that rather than “everybody doing everything” there was “somebody doing something”. It also reduced the friction between subcommittees since horizontal and vertical cohesion was established.

Once the selections were done, we were faced with the prestigious task of planning, deciding and organizing Quark 2008. We started as underdogs, with an under estimated expectation. But with past experience pegging us on, we had a dream – to organize the best technical festival in the history of the campus and, possibly, the university.

The next few months saw through meetings, meetings and more meetings; decisions, selection and rejection of events, resolving conflicts ranging from technical infeasibility to pure ego problems. We came up with a mixture of events ranging from crowd pullers(like trasholic), innovative attractions(like M^+ka and Ignoble), unique ideas(like contrive) to glamorous(ATT) and even experimental(Reacto Drive) events.

I must confess that working for Quark 08 has been a pleasure as I am sure everyone who has been associated with it would also agree. All of us contributed to the best of our ability, and thanks to the elaborate delegation, each of us knew exactly what to do with minimal conflict or argument. It came as no surprise, then, that our model of delegation was applied to the newly formed Organizing committees of Waves, and later Spree! Planning for the events rules and schedule, financial management, arranging for special and professional shows/workshops, marketing, handling the website and sponsorship occurred smoothly (although not without their own share of issues). Initially, we ‘lost’ two of our OC members and that’s when we reorganized our responsibilities. Nimit ‘guys, listen!’ took care of our marketing and specials – ‘Aurora’, Amit ‘ppl, I have something to say!’ and Sreesan ‘What bullshit!!’ looked after paper presentation and guest lectures respectively, Ankit looked after the CC infrastructure and events, Angad was our ‘Infoman’, Onkar was responsible for the certificates and logistics (‘ho jayega’) while eeshan, with the rest of us looked after workshops. Santosh ‘wassup’ and Aniket ‘Ill get it done’ were our finance members ensuring accountability of expenditure, while Chaitanya was the man behind all the events, not to mention our ‘crisis manager’ (J). Of all planned activities, it is sometimes fun to contemplate ‘what if’ we would have had a little more to spend! An Egyptian based company with a Virtual reality 3-D exhibition, interactive setup from Playmotion and a robotics exhibition were few of the things almost confirmed until budget constraints dismissed them. And of course, while juggling with the uncertainties of sponsorship and expenditure, accommodating FTF was an adventure of its own accord (as the organizers would ‘fondly’ recall!).

At Quark, we learnt to have fun while at work. From Sreesan’s “elephant jokes”, Nimit’s “dumbasses” to Chaitanya’s “Papad rule” (People, all perspectives are dumb!!) our meetings always had something new to look forward to. And of course, from Angad’s “six thinking hats” to “Mutt and Jeff” we tried out a lot of managerial tricks believed to be confined to folklore, sometimes just for fun, while sometimes, to surprisingly successful effect!

After the Pre-Quark workshops and the untiring efforts of the OC members, departments, sub committees, event managers, and volunteers the stage was set. Three unforgettable days of exciting technical competitions, innovative workshops, breathtaking performances, valiant efforts by participants and exhilarating revelry sum up Quark’08. Described as the fastest growing national festival and the biggest technical festival of Goa, Quark’08 became an international festival with participation from institutes like BITS, Pilani – Dubai Campus and Rutgers University. With a budget of over 20 Lacs, over 4500 registrations, 30+ events, packed performances and colleges ranging from IITs to NITs, Quark 2008 was a major success.

Apart from competitions, Quark’08 presented “Aurora”, showing how technology can be an artist's canvas. There were great performances by Dramatics, Mime, Music and Rock Clubs; an air show on myriad aero-models, gliders and helicopters performing tricky manoeuvres; a magic show performed by Mr. Saras Chandra, a National award-winning magician. A touch of grandeur was added to the evening when the juggling troupe “Feeding the Fish” from London, performed “Flux”, where excellent precision, brilliant skills, radiant colours, cutting-edge technology and graceful choreography intertwined in perfect symphony to entrance the audience in a one of a kind, unforgettable performance that symbolized ‘Engineering Perfection’

Quark ’08 has been innovative and unique in many ways. The Corporate Exhibition and SchoolBag have been one of the first steps to connect the campus not only to the industry but also reach out to the School Children who will be the future citizens. The BITS Research & Development Exhibition showcased the exciting academic work done by the departmental assocs. The entire schedule of events and information coordination was done through an online software system ‘Natasha’ developed especially for this purpose. The Structure of a dynamic Organizing Committee coordinating with the various departments and clubs provided flexibility and impetus for the Quark’08 team to reach higher in ways that a traditional rigid system could never provide.

Quark’08 has become one of the biggest tech-fests in India thanks to the sponsors for their support, the Organizing Committee members for the organization and conduct of the festival, various departments and clubs for their dedicated hard work, the participants from outside, the support of the BITS faculty and the alumni, and the colossal efforts of every BITSian.

Most importantly, I felt we succeeded in sending a message to the world that our journey has begun; and announcing our presence for times to come. However, preserving this notion would be an arduous task; especially in the face of personal vendetta, corruption and power which inevitably always occur at an expense of goodwill and trust. The student body must realize that protests, questions and general body meetings are a healthy notion and the basis of a working democracy. Justifying financial opaqueness on the cover of “greater good” is always perceived as a tool of corruption. And if there is anything that we have learnt from the short history of our campus, it is that “power corrupts”. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It is my sincere hope that Quark will blossom into a grand festival attracting talent all across the nation, inspiring the students and instilling in them an aptitude for Science and Technology.

(Disclaimer: None of the Photos published here have been taken by me. Some have been taken off DC, while some are from the Dept of Photography, and some taken from personal collections. Apologies for the lack of credit.)


Now, that Quark 09 is around the corner, its time to experience the technical festival once again, albeit in a different flavour...