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2020 has been a bad year for everyone. As of this writing, more than 1.6 million people have died of COVID-19, including more than 146,000 Indians. That’s about 1 in 10,000 Indians. We saw millions of workers lose their jobs, migrant workers died on trains while returning home, and a bloody riot early on in the year.

On a personal note, 2020 has been the darkest year of my life so far. I have seen people around me starving, had a terrible breakup early during the year, been away from IIT Kanpur for about a year, and stood on the verge of losing the most important person in the entire world.

I have stayed up countless nights, cried helplessly for hours, hoping that things would get better. No, I did not ask a greater power to make everything alright. I just hoped as a hopeful human being. And things did get better. Everything seems more or less stable now. Everyone I care about is still with me, alive and healthy. I generally believe that things do get better over time. It is just frustrating at times to see the slow rate of progress.

I am optimistic that 2021 will be better. By the end of next year, I am hopeful that we’ll have somewhat of normalcy. I am excited to meet the people that I promised to meet. Do all the things that I told myself I’ll do and get on with life.

Academics

The online semester was mostly a bad experience for me. Still, I am grateful to everyone who made sure that my education did not stop. I understand that this whole online teaching thing might be new to many professors, and that they did their best. However, I have a few suggestions on how things can be improved.

The first and somewhat obvious approach is to not try to emulate on-campus experience online. Instead of following the usual in-person evaluation criteria, be creative and adopt something that might be more suited to online learning. For example, you can do away with timed quizzes.

It would also greatly help the students (at least in elective courses) if they knew the course structure and grading policy clearly beforehand. Of course, if it is a compulsory course, you have no other choice than to do it. Knowing the policy would help people make informed decisions. I had a viva during endsems, and it was terrible. If I knew there would be viva in the course, I’d not have taken the course at all!

The last but somewhat hard for many would be to show some empathy to other people. This applies to both the instructors and students. I think if we understand each other better, it will do everyone good. Is this required? Not at all, but then screw you. You might as well be a feeling-less robot.

The best thing would be to pass everyone and not have letter grades, at least for the pandemic duration. The whole world knows that there is a deadly pandemic going on. This, however, is open to discussion. I swear if I was a professor, I’d pass everyone. Let’s face it, many of us got worse things to deal with than carry on with our stupid degrees.

Family and human relations

The pandemic also helped me spend more time with my sister. It is amazing how fast humans grow. A year ago, she was this little kid who had no sense of how the world worked; now, she’s grown up to be this intelligent young teenager. Tutoring her in math, computers, and science has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve done so far.

I care deeply about quality education and universal access to education. I’ve been tutoring my sister using Khan Academy and Byju’s. Both are great platforms. The difference is that Khan Academy is free and is subjectively better for math than Byju’s. If you are able, you should consider donating to Khan Academy. Honestly, Khan Academy and Wikipedia are arguably two of the best free resources ever created by humankind.

You should check out these tutorials. It is mostly dormant, but I plan to upload more tutorials to it once I get rich. :v:

I almost lost someone who means the world to me. That incident made me realize the values of human connection and overall made me more optimistic. No matter how bad things might be going, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I also realized that no matter how much anybody tells you they care about you, only a few honestly care. Most are pretentious bitch-asses. But, you learn to live with it and accept that you’re a part of human society.

I thought of dropping the semester and probably the year if things got worse. Thankfully, things only got better ever since, and I only have 4 courses to do to finally close the IITK chapter. Frankly, I am excited to be leaving IIT Kanpur.

You should read 6th Semester Review.

Music, Movies, and Travel

I am deeply grateful to Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift for releasing new albums. I could not have asked for anything more than two Taylor Swift albums months apart. If you are a friend, then you probably already knew this. I’m also profoundly grateful to Lorde for her supporting role. “What the fuck are Perfect Places, even?”

I got Spotify Premium this year, on a student discount. That has been life-changing. You should check out tools / gear. For ₹59, it is one of the best purchases I make each month. I especially love Spotify’s playlists. The way Spotify curates playlists is amazing. Are you feeling low at 2 in the morning? Sure, there is a playlist called “Alone Again.” Oh, you think your life sucks? Here is another playlist called “Life Sucks.”

I have also been listening to a lot of Bollywood songs. I love the soulful ones, but sometimes these piss me off. I think it is uniquely Indian for hearts and eyes to stop working whenever something romantic happens. I guess there are more songs about eyes and how people connect using eye-language than any other organ. I wish someone’s kidneys fail once they fall in love. It’ll also be amazing to have a case of kidney failure on couple’s breakup.

To see a list of current fav songs, books, movies, and whatnot, you should head to circle.

I had plans for traveling to Moscow and St Petersburg. The pandemic made it impossible, or at least I avoided unnecessary travels. You can expect more travel articles next year or whenever things return to normal.

Notice that I intentionally left out book reviews. I’ll write a separate article all about books sometime soon. So, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter, follow me on Instagram and Twitter if you’re into that sort of thing.

Love, B.Tech., and the year ahead

I knew right after my sophomore year that Electrical Engineering is not something that I enjoyed studying. I’m glad to report that it hasn’t changed since. I still hate Electrical Engineering. If there is something that I learned from my time at IIT Kanpur, it is this – I won’t pursue EE as a field of study or a career option. So, what’s next? I don’t really know. You should read “What are you doing after graduation?”

A wise friend recently told me that I have more crushes than there are stars in the sky. That is probably true. Another friend calls me a hopeless romantic. This is also probably true. No matter how anyone puts it, rejections hurt a lot. That is something I learned during 17-21. “Life is not fair; deal with it.” One of my biggest fear is being all alone with none to share that slice of pizza after a hard day at work. That is a real possibility. Anyway, I don’t know.

I don’t know where I am headed, but I’m excited to be headed somewhere. I think 2021 will be a better year. I’m excited to read more books, drink more cups of coffee, and be more sophisticated nerd. Happy new year to you and your family. May you and your family be in good health and be always happy.

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