`I am a mathematician'. I told my mother when I chose mathematics as the major in 2013. She - with her characteristic calmness - replied; What does that entail?
Frankly, that was the first moment I seriously started what does mathematics meant to me. It took four long years, till the time I joined IIT Bombay, to finally articulate an answer.
I believe that a successful and satisfying career in mathematics is the right blend of two complementary activities.
I love both these aspects. Teaching and research form an endless loop, where each simultaneously acts as the source and the sink of the other. The classroom is always a rich and spectacular source of right questions, from the student community and one's inner self. Some of them are elementary. However, a select group of questions demands deeper thinking, and are linked to the fundamental occurrences in the natural world that remains unexplained scientifically. The birth of research happens when an attempt to solve such questions occurs. In this process, we devise and learn new techniques, tools and methods, and need to transfer them to the next generation. This conscious and deliberate transfer is the only way to preserve knowledge. Moreover, knowledge is not the monopoly of a single individual, community or institution - it belongs to the entire humanity and any act in the reverse direction results in the eventual fading of it. This philosophy is the driving force to teach maths.
To be part of this continuous process of creating and transferring knowledge is by no means easy. It requires dedication, hard work and a considerable investment of time. However, knowledge and human resources are bound to follow an avalanche, and ultimately shape as a technological innovation that makes human lives better than before. The realisation of this fact (or way of thinking), makes teaching and research dear to me amidst the challenges they offer.