If Kids' Carnival in front of CLT was a huge hit with the little tykes, the rest of the campus was like Pleasure Island for the alumni and spouses. The day dawned at SAC to the auspicious music of nadhaswaram, and the night would end to the funky beat of Sirikkki Sirikki Vandhal from Bharadwaj; but the time in between, oh my!

Industry and The Government. Dr. Manmohan Singh at the Inaugral Session - over the video link
The Inaugural Session with the PM's video address went off like a dream, with no glitches, thanks to Ananth Krishnan and his stalwart Infrastructure team. The PM's message was a shot in the arm for all PanIIT alumni, as he sounded all the right notes about IITians' impact on India. Dr. Anil Kakodkar opined that "IIT" should henceforth stand for "Impacting India with Technology", and much of the morning session dispelled the myths that linked IITs with "brain drain", and IITians with wealth creation only in far climes. The "IIT Impact Study", as Prof. Ananth mentioned, has finally provided some hard data; people do not have to take IIT's contribution to nation-building on faith anymore!

M S Ananth - Director IIT Madras Addressing the Gathering
Ashank Desai enumerated PanIIT's past, present and future initiatives as only he can, again providing the concrete answer to "What has PanIIT done, actually?" As in all great and continuing endeavors, a glorious beginning is just a hint of greatness yet to come. The Directors' panel, moderated by Dr. Kakodkar and with a keynote presentation by Prof. Ananth, struck the right chord with all alumni present by highlighting the need for IITs to internationalize, and for directed alumni-contributions to supplement government funding which, by its nature, must be equitably distributed. B Muthuraman (TCS & IITM) added his thoughts at the end. The morning plenary session came to a "literary" conclusion with the release of two books by IITians (a modern PanIIT Meet record!") one detailing alumni recollections, the other tracing the history of IITK. Nary a dry eye was left in the house by noon, nor an empty stomach soon after. GET Grand outdid their previous night's dinner quality with a sumptuous, yet simple lunch that got the delegates in the right frame of mind for the intellectual feast awaiting them.

Nandan Nilekani with IIT Students, at the Book Signing Session of his book 'Imagining India'
And, oh by the way, the Exhibit Hall opened at noon to great acclaim and Nandan Nilekani's book-signing; the Family Program took off like a rocket with "The Five Elements" and the Hema Malini love-fest. IC & SR Auditorium was overflowing; heck, Hema could have filled SAC, perhaps even OAT.... The Family Program continued with an afternoon panel at SAC moderated by Vijay Amritraj, whose verbal volleys at the panellists (including Anil Kumble) were as sharp as his legendary Wimbledon strokes. The Mehendi that adorned the girls' and ladies' hands was a colourful counter-point to the boys hounding Kumble for autographs.

Hema Malini in the Family Track
At 2 pm, the Program got down to brass tacks. PanIIT 2008 planners had promised to deliver a content-rich Event, and based on the first day's evidence, it's a fair bet that they will deliver. There were six parallel two-hour track sessions on the themes, respectively, of: Education, Research, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Infrastructure and Rural Transformation. To the immense satisfaction of the organizers, every venue was packed solid. Many made the adventurous trek to Research Park, feeling like Lewis & Clark on an expedition. The voyage was worth it, as the all-seats-taken session stewarded by Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala delivered on its mission of identifying opportunities to leverage technology in rural development. Central Lecture Theater was filled to capacity with a boisterous crowd as Prof. LS Ganesh and Gunjan Bagla masterminded an enthralling session on "Innovation & Entrepreneurship". Murugavel Janakiram was the clear crowd-favorite, with his hilarious and engaging take on what makes a non-IITian entrepreneur tick. IC & SR Auditorium was the venue for a session on "Improving Quality of Education", and 11 panelists (count 'em, 11!) presented hugely diverse views on how to educate the netizens of tomorrow. The Kendriya Vidyalaya Grounds were a beehive of activity, with 3 tents hosting track sessions. The "Rural Transformation" session extended well into the evening, with the passion of the participants burning brightly as ever. "Entrepreneurship" and "Infrastructure" delivered high-power panels that drew crowds like, well, like Hema Malini dancing with Kumble. As the sessions drew to a close, there was a palpable sense of energy filling the ambience. Alumni moved with a sense of purpose, their spirits moved, their thoughts galvanized.

 They want to make a difference
Session Chairs moved quickly to crystallize the session outcomes, classified into three categories: What can PanIIT do? How must PanIIT execute? How can required collaboration be achieved? These "actionables" from each session would be "captured" in a working-session scheduled for Dec 20th, and summarized in a plenary session on the 21st. The summary would serve then as the blueprint for PanIIT initiatives for the next year and beyond. This is indeed a journey, not a stand-alone Event....

The Menu. Program for the 3 day PANIIT Conference
Day 1 of PanIIT 2008 was unique and inspirational, the IITM campus setting providing an apt backdrop to the earnest endeavours, as well as the frivolous fun so reminiscent of bygone days of carefree, yet conscientious youth. The IIT-wide break-out sessions contributed to the prevailing mood of nostalgia, tinged with nobleness of purpose. The spaced-out venues were a great incentive for many to exercise their lower limbs in a healthy, smoke-free environment. Portly alumni could be seen scurrying between venues; sprightly spouses could be observed chasing after children. The family atmosphere was fantastic, as future generations of IITians cavorted among the deer and monkeys. All were in a mood of great bonhomie, slapping each other like the long-last hostel-mates they once were. The day wound to a close with promise of more and better things to come. Can Day 2 keep up the good work? You bet..... Check in with us tomorrow, same time, same place.
© 2008, Pan IIT 2008 Action Group   
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