“Hello from Ashish” — originally published for BitByte magazine

Hello there,

I’m Ashish — working at a startup called Varsito in Bangalore. We are a team of 8 people. My job includes taking care of everything tech such as server, browser, mobile, DevOps. Apart from that I also work on side projects on weekends. Currently I’m making IoT device to auto send SMS alert based on water level. I also write weekly on my personal blog at Medium dot com and alongside contribute to Kryptonian publication. I’m thankful to Atharva College for giving me an opportunity to share some parts of a story which lead me to where I’m.

Photo is taken before HackerSpace meetup neat Hajiali, Mumbai. Author on left and Parikshit Hegde on right. Photo Credit: Akshen Doke. Date: March, 2014.

In my school, there was a subject called “Computer”. I found it very difficult. I cheated in an exam to pass. Those were my initial days with coding and I was terrible at it. I joined Patkar college for 11th and 12th as a student of general science with biology. By that time, dad bought a computer, finally. So I started playing various games on it. All the time, day and night. After few months I got bored with that routine and decided to learn how to program this machine. I started with Microsoft Visual Studio and learned VBasic. After an introduction to the Linux world by one of the math professor in my IIT-JEE classes, I shifted to Fedora and then to Ubuntu. Things started moving fast and by the end of junior college, I created my own operating system “AAG”. It was based on Linux. I received “Achiever of The Year” award from Patkar college and AAG was featured in Maharashtra times on 5th Feb, 2011.

I joined the Atharva college of engineering in the second half of 2011. I tried my best to attend lectures and practicals, but I was already disappointed by the Mumbai University syllabus. Things were happening fast in my world and I wanted to continue with that pace. But syllabus had only C in first semester and C plus plus in second semester. That’s all! I thought It’s a waste of time to go with this slow syllabus. So I left college after the first year. I dropped out. I made sure that I have minimum 6 KT, so that even if my parents force me to go to college, I can’t. If a student has 6 KT in a year, MU won’t allow to advance to next year. Bingo!

I did many crazy things after dropping out. Right from programming to movie script writing. I attended various events. Roamed many places. Met different people from wide spectrum of industries. I was doing all these things on my wish, swinging directions wherever I felt going. There was one catch though. Like most of the middle class parents, my parents wanted to see graduation degree on the wall. So the deal was to do whatever I want for a year. And then after a year I have to get back into college and complete the graduation. More on it later…

By the end of this one year of freedom, I started working on my own startup. It was called leanstrike dot com — a social network for entrepreneurs, investors, mentors etc. By the time leanstrike dot com went live, I was back in Atharva College of Engineering. During the second year, as I passed one of those 6 KT in revaluation. It’s little different when you start after a year of the gap. You are with new classmates and old classmates continuing for one year higher than you.

Do you remember the main reason for leaving college was pace at which syllabus was going. Though when I joined back, syllabus itself changed. And on top of that, few amazing things happened which made my college life a daily adventure. Just the way I always wanted it to be. I met my friend from first year “Parikshit Hegde”. I asked him one problem on chemistry and solution was supposed to be an algorithm which can take input as per problem and give the desired output. This whole thing is called competitive programming. He was amazed by it. We both were so fascinated about this whole idea of competitive programming, we decided to do a coding competition in college. We went to the head of computer department “Mahendra Patil Sir” and asked for permission. That day changed many things. That moment onward we guys were working for this event. We called it “CodeStrike”. After many hurdles, as it was the first event of life for both Parikshit and me, we finally organized competitive programming competition. Special thanks to Patil sir, for being so supportive and believing in noobs like us. On 24th Sept 2013, CodeStrike happened. This event has become an important turning point in my life. I met incredible people during this entire process.

One of such personality is Gaurav Munjal. He is founder and CEO of Unacademy currently. Back in 2013, he was doing startup called Flat.to and previously he was in Directi. He wanted to sponsor our event. When I went to his office, he saw my work on leanstrike dot com and offered me an internship. I didn’t take the offer as I wanted to focus on leanstrike. “Opportunity strikes once in a lifetime” — I learned this important lesson. Eventually by the end of Feb 2014, I stopped working on leanstrike and the site went down after a few weeks.

For CodeStrike event, we guys tried to co-ordinate with codechef dot com so that this competition can be hosted online and anyone can participate internationally. It didn’t work out though and we ended up doing offline competition. After the event, Gaurav connected us to some fellows at Directi — parent company of codechef dot com. CodeChef suggested us to start a campus chapter in college. With the help of Patil sir, Parikshit Hegde and I founded “CodeStrike” — which later on become the prime hub for all geeks in Atharva. From just an event to a committee was a big leap forward. In 2014, we did host international competitive coding contest. CodeStrike did many events and I was involved in most of them directly or indirectly till I was in college (May 2016). In CodeStrike, I met many gems of Atharva. Akshen Doke, Pratik Deshpande, Romil Dodhiwala, Abhishek Jain, Vishmita Shetty are just few of them. CodeStrike played important role in bringing all brightest minds under one roof and giving them the opportunity and resources to make magic happen.

Atharva college invested in many helpful initiatives, including Atharva Robotics Lab, Mac Lab, 3D Printer. I was in the first batch of Mac lab. Thanks to both Neha ma’ams, Sinu ma’am and Ganesh sir for supporting. Mac lab become my second home. Another important project, 3D printer took one and half year to complete. One of the toughest project of my life till that point. We three guys were working on it — Tejas Oturkar (EXTC), Indresh Vishwakarma (INFT) and myself (CMPN). Principal sir, Rane sir and Mahalaxmi ma’am supported us in this journey of making 3D printer.

There are so many things just to list down including songkira dot com, internships, events, people, things happened in maker’s asylum, freelancing projects, trips etc. The point is I was always on to something. Doing something, making something. It doesn’t matter how many, the true value lies in how it was done and what I learned from it. After leaving college, in a few days I also left Mumbai. Here in Bangalore, that pace and addiction of learning still continues. Life is an interesting journey. I take it as a terrain of mountains. Every peak is success, joy, achievement, satisfaction of being alive and when you move from one peak to another, you encounter many valleys. They are like checkpoints, failures, dark days. The passion of reaching the next mountain top and discovering what’s there is my driving force.

I encourage you all fellow atharvaties to try out new things. No matter what is the outcome, the process of doing it will teach you many significant things about life. So don’t keep waiting on the coast, hoping that one day you will learn to swim, JUST JUMP INTO THE COLD WATER.

Originally published for BitByte (Jan-Jun 2017 Edition) magazine of Atharva College of Engineering, Mumbai. Content of this article are exact same as that of the original article.

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