We went for IIT-Kharagpur(KGP) spring fest in our second year of engineering. This decision was taken after no introspection. It was just one of those things for me, where I knew that spending five days in the campus of a college that I didn’t make through, would do me some good. Maybe breathing in the KGP air would endow me with some more IQ points using which I would be able to top my class in the college that was kind enough to give me admission. Fat dreams.
So a bunch of us(equivalent to the number of people you would fit into a mini bus), headed towards IIT. The train ride was pregnant with an air of excitement and anticipation. We would be in a free place for the next five days. Having stayed in a hostel with heavy rules, it felt pretty good. We reached the IIT campus late in the evening and headed to the dormitories, the place meant for us to shiver through the night, thanks to the KGP winters.
We slept pretty late at night owing to the noisy college girls from another city(not to be named), who found it imperatively crucial to discuss clothes and makeup at the top of their voices at 2 a.m. It felt as if they had a secret bet on who could shatter the glass windows first. Thankfully the glass windows had probably weathered such specimen in the past as well and were pretty robust. We woke up next morning with enthusiasm and sore throats.
But this was no time for us to sit and lament over our throats and talk about the burdens of life. We had to get ready. The college guys were waiting for us for breakfast. Now we are no queens and we didn’t have an elaborate makeup, hair and clothes train routine for us to cater to. Food motivated us to get ready in a few minutes . We headed out. The campus stood out in all its splendor and freshness. IIT has a pollution free campus and you can use your leg joints, bicycles and rickshaws to get to different places. We decided to lubricate our leg joints. We were informed by the guys that there were tiny breakfast joints right outside the campus. The cold wind hit against our faces and increased our anticipation of the hot coffee that we would find outside.
We had breakfast comprising of hot idlis, sambar and coffee at Rs 10(or a similar amount). We were thrilled at how inexpensive the place was, considering that we were students and we loved a cheap bargain. God knows what we would do with the saved up amount, but it came in handy if we had to fill in fines of some kind in our college, which we eventually ended up doing more frequently than you might imagine.
We stepped back into the college campus wondering where to head next. We decided to walk around to the area that we had alighted the previous night after we had been picked up from the train station. There was loud music playing. Curious we headed over to the area where the main fest celebrations would be. There was a huge open area, enclosed by tents(food, games, dating booths…etc). Few people were dancing in front of a stage. Dancing in broad daylight on a dance floor was a concept that I was not familiar with till then. After the IIT trip, all these tiny, irrelevant and useless inhibitions were shaken off. The gender ratio was extremely skewed in IIT, we realised. We were told that there were 600 guys and 6 girls. I don’t personally vouch for the numbers, but me and my friends did feel like queens given such sparse female population. Guess you don’t need a clothes train, a crown and an elaborate makeup routine after all, to feel like a queen.
There were chants of ‘KGP ka tempo high hai’ happening all over without any prior warnings. We also decided to create a ‘K…I…T…S….Dhishkiyon’ in order to keep pace. Just because we couldn’t make it through the IIT exam didn’t mean that we couldn’t create funky slogans. The ‘dhishkiyon(sound of a gun shot)’ had to be done with our fingers shaped like guns and pointed towards the sky. Pretty stylish, eh?
I will reiterate that one of the most liberating things was that we were on a different campus. The reason I am doing this is to justify in advance the series of incidents we found ourselves in next. The girls hostel entry time was 2 a.m, if my memory cells are on track. Boys were scot free as usual with no entry timings. Deep breaths. We decided to play rebels that day. Some of us wanted a bonfire and a night out. The chances of getting caught were slim, given that there was no one closely monitoring our entry into the hostel and we were not such VIPs that we would have wanted to imagine. Our only goof up was that given the IIT campus was quite large, we didn’t realise that we had set up camp right behind the girls hostel. Yep, the girls talking (screaming?)about hair and makeup were maybe around a hundred meters from us. Shudder. But, we didn’t know all these facts then. We laughed, admired the fire and felt free. There were rounds of Antaskshari that happened. But then…..he came.
He who was not to be named…since we didn’t know his name in the first place. This specimen, who you might have guessed was a man(and probably still is), came on a bicycle. At first we brushed aside his presence in the shadows as just another passerby, someone who would just stare at us, judge us and cycle away. But no. He came towards us. Do you realise how unnerving it is to have a stranger cycle towards you at midnight in an area where there are more trees than buildings and there is a foggy undertone to the environment? He reminds me of Boman Irani in 3 Idiots when I think about him now. Actually, I have forgotten his face and now I can only remember Boman Irani’s face. So I will name this character Boman.
Boman got down from his cycle and put on his cycle stand(irrelevant I know). He had worn gloves and had a gray sweater on, obviously with a shirt underneath. We all stood up and stared at him. He was unabashed by the presence of a bunch of overenthusiastic, hoarse voiced people who were creating a ruckus a few seconds back. He went around shaking hands with everyone, mumbling – ‘Shake hands with me. I am the President of India.’ We complied. So far we had considered only two options as to the issue with this gentleman – 1. He was loony OR 2. He was drunk. We figured he would leave us alone and scurry off after he introduced his Highness. One of the girls in our group was next in line to shake hands with Boman. She extended her hand and as she shook hands with him, she started screaming. Now, when someone starts screaming in a blood curdling fashion, you follow suit. You don’t draw up a Powerpoint presentation with a detailed analysis of why this person is screaming.
She shouted ‘He is a ghost.’ Our faces lost all colour. The man indeed scurried off, probably to get his head or eardrums examined. But she was hysterical by now.
We shouted ‘What?!?’
‘He has no fingers’ – she screamed.
At that moment, we could have realised that it is possible for a man who looks like Boman Irani and who walks around pretending to be President at 4 in the morning, to have lost his fingers in an accident or something. But being scared at that time was better than proving our valour(and foolishness) by sitting there lest he should come back. We got up and started walking towards the hostel. It was during this time we realised that we were almost sitting on the fence of the girls hostel. We decided we would say we had gone for an early morning walk. God knows who wears such clothes and earrings to an early morning walk. As we entered the hostel, we saw a lady whose face turned into the colour of a sleepy beetroot as soon as she saw us.
One thing I know is that if you say anything with confidence, the other person buys it. But this beetroot was no ordinary person. We tried our flimsy morning walk excuse. She screamed like a banshee on her period. After she cooled down, she said ‘You will have to attend a DISCO tomorrow.’
We were thrilled for a few innocuous moments where we actually mistook DISCO to be a place where people danced and wore sexy clothes. I imagined people in IITs didn’t like going to discos, maybe because they were intelligent and reasoned a disco to be a place where ordinary commoners with not as high IQs as them, wasted their precious time on frivolous things like dancing. We smiled a little.
‘Disco?’ one of us endowed with nerves of steel dared to ask.
‘DISCO. DISciplinary COmmittee meeting’ she said.
Why would they do this to us – raise our hopes and then prick them with an acronym which hurt the depths of our already harrowed souls?
We hardly slept that night. The makeup girls had already slept off or maybe passed out from sheer exhaustion from their previous night’s conversation. We looked at each other with hopelessness and fear. We were afraid that this incident might be reported to our own college and we would have to pay dearly for it. Although the 10 Rs breakfast had ensured that we had plenty of financial cushioning for fines, the sin committed by us was so huge that the paying dearly would be in the form of a non monetary punishment.
The DISCO started the next morning with authority figures staring at us with disdain. I figured they would have thoughts aplenty of what this generation had come to – enjoying their birthright of freedom and everything.
One of us narrated what happened the previous night with the glove man. Their expressions turned from disdain to one of defensiveness in a matter of seconds. They assured us of our safety and swore that IIT campuses were safe and we should not make a big deal out of this outside.
We nodded and left the room. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of relief exiting a DISCO. More on this trip to follow, once I am able to put together my incoherent thoughts into a readable format. 🙂