Thursday, October 20, 2005


night-out. n : keeping awake the whole night. In the context of this blog, I use night-out as a term to denote staying awake the whole night for a non-fun purpose like studying or working. To ppl out there who might argue that work or studying is fun, I am too stunned to react ;-)!

My very first night-out happened when I was in my second year of engineering. We had to do a project in digital design where we had to design and implement our own hardware with PCBs and IC chips. This was the first time that most of my class had the opportunity to do a hands-on engineering project and there was excitement all around. But it did not last long. Each professor in our department seemed to think that his or her own subject merited the most attention and we were all so busy putting out day-to-day fires that inspite of being given a 3 month head-start, 3 days before the deadline for our hardware project, most of us found out that we were nowhere near the start line, let alone the finish line. So, there was a mad scramble for components. Those few days, the best place to meet members of my class was to get to Ritchi street - hordes of my classmates could be seen buzzing around the famed electronic-goods stores in that area, frantically hunting for components.

After getting the components, the actual assembly had to be done. Me, of the "are you trying to drawing rangolis with the welder" fame (in my workshop classes), had much difficulty with the soldering iron too. Short circuits were common and I spent more time removing accidental connections than soldering new ones. My project mate fared no better. But we had to push ourselves - the project was due in three days and we had no choice! My uncle, who has a masters degree in electrical engineering and who had performed feats like heating water with the help of a blade and two copper wires during his engineering days had helped us a lot with the design. But we still had to do the assembly ourselves. The first night (I briefly shifted to the hostel - my parents saw me back home only 3 days later), saw all my batch mates very relaxed. People listened to music, worked and cracked jokes. After that, I did not see any of my classmates smile again till D-day was over.

As the hours ticked by, we became more and more bleary-eyed, snappish, stressed out and irritable. My nerves gave way the second night when we figured that only half the components were soldered onto the PCB and we still had to finish assembly and then do the testing. It did not help that it was more than 36 hours since we had last slept. So while I threw a temper tantrum, my project-mate ignored me and decided to sleep. That infuriated me further and both of us got into a riproaring fight which was finally settled by the decision that we should both sleep for a couple of hours. Three hours later, it was back to work. The never-ending hours continued to crawl by. After the brief three hours, we could not afford any to spend any more time in slumber. By the evening of the third day, zombies would have been more active than either of us. But our higgedly-piggedly assembly of components was finally done. As expected, when we plugged it in, nothing happened. We valiantly tried removing the more obvious short circuits. Though, with only half our eyes open it was difficult to see anything much.

Finally, we shifted base to my uncle's house for the last stretch. That was when my mind finally gave up. As I sat with my head against the wall, my eyes closed automatically. All questions from my uncle sounded as if they came from deep inside a well. Whats more, I found myself getting angry with him for shaking me from sleep. My project mate looked terrible too. She seemed to have been struck dumb by lack of sleep. My mind firmly told me to take the project to hell. And if we got a failing grade for it, that was too bad, but please dont expect me to work further. After several attempts at questioning us, all of which elicited little or no response, my uncle asked us to just go home and sleep. Me and my project mate couldn't have been happier if we had been saved from the death sentence!

We went to my house and brushing aside dinner, fell into bed. After 72 gut-wrenching hours, it was moksha for a few hours! The next day, refreshed after our naps, we went back to my uncle's house and he informed us that after he removed all the short circuits the speed indicator had begun to work!! That piece of good news urged us back to action and we managed to successfully write up our documentation and carry our project back to the university. Outside the department, my other classmates were milling around. All of them looked like they hadn't slept in ages or for that matter had baths in ages. The guys all had 3 days plus worth of stubble on their faces and some of my more well-rounded classmates had gotten a much leaner aspect to themselves. All of us looked like something the cat had dragged in. But for most of us, our nights of the living dead for the project were finally over!

After this experience, there were many more occassions when I had to forgo sleep (and sometimes food) to meet various deadlines. But I can still remember this first night-out experience as if it happened just yesterday!

p.s. in case you are curious, we managed to get a decent grade for our project :-)!

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