Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Au Revoir

This was one examination that shouldn't have ended. The final presentation brought down the curtains on the 5 most fruitful years of my life that i have spent at IIT. In a few days from now, i would be in some other part of the country putting up with the professional grind. And only i know how badly i will miss these days. 5 years of living in the same place, moving around with people whose company i have always craved for and attending lectures in the same building are memories that are now permanently etched somewhere.
Life at IIT may not really be what Chetan Bhagat has made it out to be. But it definitely is different. Inside the campus, there is a whole new world which is very different from the normal Bombay life. Any casual observer might be amazed at the difference in lifestyles. I am not getting into the merits and demerits of leading a different life. But living in IIT has taught me a few things which i fear i might have not learned outside.
I didn't clear the JEE in my first attempt and ended up joining a regional engineering college. But the very first day, i realised that my calling lies elsewhere. Straight out of school where i had a been the quintessential teacher's pet; i was thrown headlong into a world where things were very different. For someone who had grown up on gory tales about college ragging, the first day in the college couldn't have been worse. Some 'dirty' ragging combined with my heightened sense of insecurity meant that i fled from the college at the end of the first day itself. Never to look back. Got through JEE the next year and landed up at IIT Bombay. And life couldn't have been better. No ragging (call me what you may), no unique ways of greeting the seniors, a very healthy student-faculty interaction - i couldn't have possibly asked for more. The highly skewed sex ratio might have been the only minus.
The first two years were spent getting a firm foothold. Befriended plenty of people but had no strong peer group as such. Blame it on the fact that i have lived in so many places,the fact was that i never had a very strong friends circle; the kind you can feel you belong to.
Things started to look better from third year onwards. I developed a strong bonding with a few like minded guys in the department. And the ever elusive friends circle came into existence. I can't believe how much i have learned from them over a very short span of time. They taught me how to enjoy while still being at IIT- going out on treks and similar outings, or just a walk along marine drive when it poured or the advantages of putting up night outs or whiling away time at coffee shack a day before exams. These are pretty simple things which i started enjoying only in their company. Importantly, they regularly put up with my erratic behaviour or totally unnecessary sarcastic jibes either with a hearty laugh or giving it back in equal measure. Fact remains that i enjoyed and learnt so much from each one of them. The best part was having a group of individuals willing to lend an ear to each and every problem i faced. People i could always look upto. And i have never ever craved for a company more than i do now.
Then there were people in the hostel and wing who made life at IIT rather simple, specially by helping me out with acads. These were the people who ensured that i don't end up with backlogs at the end of the day. Frankly speaking, i owe my placement to them.
Not to forget, people from Bombay but not from within IIT. I simply don't have words to thank you people. Some who have been here in Bombay and have helped me with almost everything. Then there are people who have been living in places like Delhi , who made it a point to meet up whenever they landed in Bombay. Despite the fact that i was sometimes guilty of showing a lack of enthusiasm, they insisted on meeting up. And i am so glad they did.From helping me in figuring out the shortest route to Kala Ghoda from Powai to getting me medicines from places as far as Thane, these people have neved backed off from helping me. We have whiled away so many evenings discussing Kafka and Marquez and the sci-fis, debating if Nicholson is God and why and how life at IIT is different. It was an amazing experience interacting with people who showed me that life outside of IIT is equally beautiful and varied.
In a nutshell, IIT life might not be 'cool'. But then it was not for the coolness quotient that we slogged off our asses and burnt the midnight oil. It was the charm and aura of getting branded that made us go through all that rigour. IIT is the most amazing place to be. It deserves every bit of the respect and aura it commands. I am so proud to be associated with the institute and more importantly, with the people. Given a chance, i wouldn't want it any other way.

PS: I am right now going through a whole gamut of emotions. I would have wanted to present this in a much better way. But, even that would have not justified what i felt. I just want to dedicate this to all you guys who actually have ended up shaping my life in IIT. Goodbye, dear friends, you will be sorely missed. Reusing the oft used phrase, You can take me out of IIT but you cannot take the IIT out of me :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bad Hair Day

I like to believe that i have an eye and an ear for the mundane. Before you start making snooty assumptions, this in no way is a virtue. It just helps you to while away your boredom at places where time passes very slowly, minute after slow minute . I have this habit many of you might also have. Getting a hair cut almost every fortnight, almost that is. For people who are perennially cash starved, a barber's shop is the equivalent of a spa salon or sauna bath. This explains my fetish for this fortnightly ritual.
A visit to a barber's shop can turn out to be a pretty boring ritual if you have to contend with a queue of people waiting for their turn. And this is what happened yesterday. A lesser mortal might have given up to return some other day. I decided to persist.
Before i describe what happened hence, i would like to paint a mental picture of the barber shop for your convenience. This shop happens to be the one of the very few in the vicinity of my college campus. Needless to say, poverty stricken students who cannot even afford a peep inside Jawed Habib's gay-but-plush salons, throng this shop in large numbers. The shop has three "rotating chairs" opposite a large mirror. For those who have to wait, there is a large table behind the chairs where five people can sit comfortably and eight people can just fit in when the queue is really large. There are three ceiling fans. Out of these three ceiling fans, one runs at full throttle while the other two groan atleast four times while completing even one rotation. There is a brown colored cupboard in one corner of the room which i presumed was used to store clothes. It was only yesterday that i discovered that it actually is a "television with sliding doors" straight from the 80s when Weston had a monopoly in India. I won't blame you if you haven't heard of Weston. When that television is switched on, you won't get a picture but the raster scan patterns are clearly discernible along with the kind of shrieking sounds that are so common to black and white war movies. Thankfully, there is a radio with a better audio quality. By the time you have successfully managed to figure out which song is being played, the song is already over and you move onto the challenge of cracking the next song. There is a whole assortment of magazines which can fit in the archives of any national museum. There is an issue of sportstar where Deep Dasgupta is rated as the best wicket keeper India has ever produced. Just for your information, he doesn't even figure in the Ranji Trophy squad of Bengal cricket team now. Then, there is this issue of Outlook where the writer goes gaga over Mamta Bannerjee. Mamta Bannerjee, who? Of course, there is an issue of filmstar from yesteryears featuring Mamta Kulkarni on the coverpage in some itsy bitsy costume. I did tell you i have an eye for the mundane.
My attention is distracted from the magazines to the cries of a little girl whose turn has come and who apparently doesn't want to get a hair cut. In an attempt to jump the queue, i volunteer to go ahead and take the girl's place and give the girl an apparently gratifying smile. Only to be silenced by her mother's mind-your-own-business-you-pervert look. Meanwhile, one of the barber is busy attending a call for the last 1o minutes leaving behind a host of harried customers who have already gotten down to the mother-sister level of abuse. Reluctantly, i also join in. The person next to me decides to read the same issue of sportstar that i am reading. So he almost climbs on me in an attempt to keep pace with me. Turning the issue upside down also doesn't help as he adjusts his head accordingly. Defeated, i offer him the issue. He very cordially turns down the offer only to resume reading it again the moment i get back to it. Frustrated, i put that vintage issue of sportstar back in the basket. I look up only to realise that another barber has also left the shop to attend an emergency phone call. This leaves us with only 1 barber and a queue of 7 people. The league of mother-sister gentlemen has already left the shop by now. Left behind are peaceful denizens like me who have enough time to spare. To add further twist to the tale, the only barber left behind seems to be a novice. He keeps fumbling with his instruments and each time he does that, the girl resumes her crying. Realising that i am the last person in the queue, my patience starts to wear thin. I politely ask the barber about the prospect of the return of his colleagues. The barber mumbles back something in Marathi and there is a huge chorus of laughter from everyone inside the shop. Laughter is cathartic. Even the girl stops crying and bursts into peals of laughter. My plea to translate it into Hindi draws another uproar of laughter followed by applauses from the more excited ones. Ego bruised, i get up and leave the shop. Having walked a few steps, i look back. There is even more laughter. And the two barbers are still busy on their phones.
Now, i know how the disgusting habib became The Jawed Habib. He values customer loyalty. The other barbers don't.