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Time: 2:37AM
*Alarm set for 3 hours and 23 minutes from now*
*Alarm set for 3 hours and 28 minutes from now*
*Alarm set for 3 hours and 33 minutes from now*
*Alarm set for 3 hours and 38 minutes from now*
*Alarm set for 3 hours and 43 minutes from now*

Also, to my roommate (already asleep and dreaming about his GS internship), “Bhai PT ke liye utha dena!” (Bro, wake me up for PT!)

PT; Physical Training, or rather Physical Torture as most of us call it, is the most discussed, debated and argued topic in IIIT since its inception. It has now become an integral part of every first year student’s life. Or often second year, sometimes even third year, and then there are those who just dodge it like Neo dodges the bullets in The Matrix.

PT, HV (Human Values) and HSS (Humanities and Social Skills; actually just Performance Arts) were introduced by Prof. Rajeev Sangal in his tenure as IIIT Hyderabad’s Director, with the purpose of physical and mental fitness for a first year student who joins the institute right after 2 (sometimes 3) years of rigorous JEE “Kota”/“ChaiNa” coaching or  “jails” as one of our esteemed professors likes to call it.

This article is not a rant on PT or any of the institute’s policy, nor is it about whether there should be PT or not. It is not even about how hard is to cope up with 85% rule of attendance for PT or in fact any academic course. This article is about how PT as a concept or an idea has failed.

PT was introduced keeping in mind that students will regularly wake up by 6:30AM, which implies sleeping by 10:30PM (assuming an average adult needs at least 8 full hours of sleep). But majority of students go to sleep by 1 or 2 in the morning which leaves them with not getting enough sleep. This in turn causes students to sleep during the lectures and often feeling tired, unfocused, sluggish and dying for a nap (or a cup of coffee) during the day. While some will argue the fact that students are supposed to sleep by 10:30, one should also understand that it’s a constant war choosing 2 out of the 3— good grades, social life and enough sleep. Most students tend to opt for good grades and sleep, for obvious reasons, but there are a good majority who try to get good grades and have a social life (by participating in extracurricular activities and events which are equally important for overall development), and in turn compromise with sleep.

One can argue about the benefits of waking up early and doing morning exercises but effects of sleep loss far outweigh the benefits of early rising. Sleeping for sufficient amount of time is as important as having a healthy meal. Studies have found that even 24 hours of sleep deprivation caused healthy people to have hallucinations and other psychosis-like symptoms. Sleep not only restores the brain and body energy but also enables the brain to clear out toxic products produced when we’re awake and sweeps itself clean. Sleep deprivation also increases risk of heart diseases, leads to obesity, causes memory problems and most importantly kills creative thinking. As students, our brains take in an incredible amount of information throughout the day; information that needs to be processed and stored, which happens only while we sleep.

PT is supposed to freshen up students and make them physically fit. But running 5–6 times around the football field and a couple of sprints are, to the contrary, making them lethargic. This is coupled with 8 hours of rigorous lectures, labs and what not. And if that’s not enough, these are followed by strenuous assignments, quizzes and exams, which leave the student drained of all energy by the end of the day.

One important purpose of the compulsory PT in first year is also that it seeks to inculcate sports as a regular habit for the students. But only a handful of students pursue sports and those who do prefer playing in the evening. I remember one of my batchmates who completed PT in their first year with flying colours saying —
…PT is something that I don’t want to do ever again in life. It was very difficult especially when you like to sleep till late. But I want to keep this experience with me. It was one hell of ride. Ride you won’t seat again. But you don’t want to forget it too…

Often similar issues have been raised by every other student and even by some faculty to which one get reply such as —
I am sure that there will be things that students will always dislike and shows up in such a performance; its PT today, tomorrow it could be Humanities/science electives, BTP or compulsory attendance or whatever.
Depending on which side one stands, one sees things accordingly. Some see only rules in this campus, some others see too much freedom given here, and probably majority see both freedoms and rules. So some keep complaining (good for other side as it keep them thinking), some others appreciate/enjoy the freedoms offered here and then there are some who keep working (gently and pragmatically) for optimising & maximising it.

This clearly shows how adamant faculty is in their decisions and not at all ready to consider or think upon a issue that is being raised by every undergraduate student who has undergone the pain of morning PT.

One can crib endlessly about an issue but enough has been said. It’s time that we come up with a solution on how it can be improved. Here are my two cents:

  1. First and foremost, PT should be shifted to the evening. It will not only help students get good sleep at night but will also make them go to bed early after the evening’s tiring activities. Moreover, physical exercise early in the morning does not have any extra benefit over doing the same in the evening. Also, many of the 3rd and 4th year students who have been given an option to complete their remaining PT credits in the evening, end up being more punctual to the regular gym workouts then they were ever before (this may also be happening because this being their last semester to complete it without any course drops). There have been issues stated with evening PT but I feel that if the faculty “wants”, the logistics can definitely be worked out.
  2. One should not be forced to running when we have so many other options such as Basketball, Badminton, Tennis, Volleyball, Gym, etc. in the campus, which can be a supplement to rigorous 5 football rounds. Also, playing a sport which one likes is far more productive than the monotonous routine of running.
    Quoting another student here — 
    ‘One size fits all’ is something that is clearly seen in the implementation… It’s almost as if you are asking a fish and a crocodile to climb a tree since majority animals which run are part of the students group, why not just let the fish and crocodile be part of their habitat and put a requirement there?

To conclude, I personally believe that if a certain issue is acknowledged by students every year irrespective of anything, then faculty needs to acknowledge it too and think constructively on it.

Image Credits: IIIT on Twitter.

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Arihant Jain

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Categories: Campus Affairs