Friday, August 24, 2012

The End of my Journey to Ithaca

My B.Tech has ended, but I still haven't joined my job. This puts me in a unique position. On one side, I no longer have to worry about the next quiz or exam. On the other side, I also don't have to worry about job assignments. This leaves me lots of time to think, which I love to do. I believe that one of the greatest pleasures a man can enjoy is the time to sit back and think. Since the 4 years of IIIT-Delhi life are still fresh in my memory, I have been thinking about it a lot. There were many ups and downs during my B.Tech life and each of them had some effect on my thoughts. Maybe, at some sub-conscious level, they are a part of me now. They influence my way of thinking.

4 years ago, when I set out on my journey to Ithaca, I imagined a smooth voyage. I thought of a journey with as less distractions as possible. My goal was to become a great Computer Scientist, do cutting edge research and development and be one of the best in the field. I wanted to attain my goal and that was it. Of course, considering my nature, it was never to be like that.

During my journey to Ithaca I made many port calls. The allure of Phoenician merchandise and the wisdom of Egyptian scholars were just two of many experiences. Retrospecting, I find one particular characteristic which remains unchanged till now. I never focused, and still can't do now. Even if I was forced to focus on one particular thing (due to academic rules), I would still try to dip my hand in others. Along with Computer Science, I made sure to acquire varied knowledge. The journey was long but I did not want to hurry. I spent most of my time in activities which would never directly increase my CGPA or would even contribute to the next assignment I had. Yet, they made the journey lively. I met lots of different people, with different cultures. When I parted I had nothing to give them, except my time.

I have now reached Ithaca. I have finished my B.Tech with somewhat decent grades. Yet, I find Ithaca empty and poor. Clearly, this is not the land of paradise which I had set out for. A B.Tech in Computer Science guarantees me nothing. More than that, I'm not even sure if I like it. But Ithaca has nothing more to give me.

Have I been deceived? I invested 4 years in this journey and I did not get what I had initially imagined. Was the voyage all for nothing?

I don't think so. When I look at myself, I'm not poor at all. I'm rich with all the experiences of 4 years, with all the knowledge I collected during my wanderings. I have met many different kinds of people and enjoyed spending time with them. Had I not aimed for a B.Tech at IIIT-Delhi, I wouldn't have been able to realize this journey. This beautiful journey is more than what I can ask for. Wise with all the experiences of 4 years, I can say that I have not been deceived. I understand the importance of Ithaca.

What will happen in the future? I don't know. All I want to do is to go on another voyage.

I leave you to read and enjoy the English translation of the Greek poem "Ithaca" by Constantine P. Cavafy. When I first read this poem during this summer, I was amazed at how well it described my personal journey. I wish I had discovered it earlier. I'm copying the translation here (source: I guess you'll fully understand what I wrote above once you read it.

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.


  1. I remember us having a little chat about this on G+ in summer. And now I remember a line from a travalogue I read in Hindi at school. The name of the chapter was "Lhasa ki oor" (Towards Lhasa) and the line reads——"Manzil se zada romanchak hota hai manzil tak ka safar" (The journey is more adventurous than the destination) and that is what the poem says. :) Goodluck :)

  2. Ah yes, I remember that. The journey is indeed more adventurous than the destination. :)
    By the way, I want to visit Lhasa too one day. :D