Disclaimer: The following account is a heavily exaggerated one. It focuses on the trials and tribulations of mainly the Hostel Literary Affairs and Social Affairs Secretaries – it does not seek to undermine the work of other Hostel Secretaries, Events Cores, Cultural Secretaries and Cultural Club Convenors. This piece does not express the views of T5E, nor do we endorse the contents of this op-ed.
*In David Attenborough voice*
The hostel secretaries are a pained and sleep deprived species in existence. Fascinatingly, they are neither diurnal nor nocturnal but rather go on for extended periods of time with little to no sleep. During LitSoc events, they can be spotted frantically messaging or calling other hostel members, complaining about these events and questioning the competence of Events Cores and Club Convenors. They are also seen to be the sole representatives of their hostels in Obscure Litsoc Events, simultaneously whining about the endangered species ‘Hostelenthu peepica’. If ever you see a smiling secretary, cherish that moment for it is a rare sight indeed. If someone you know and love is a secretary, help them out this extended tenure! Do your part for their preservation by dropping a friendly word of encouragement or a few snacks. Unless you wish to be hissed at or scorned, never ask them the solicitous question: “How’s hostel night going?”
If reports of such endangerment is news to you, then welcome to Life of a Literary/Social Secretary 101. This module will educate the reader on the life and times of the Lit-Soc Secs, from birth (election) to death (next elections oh wait that didn’t happen yet)
Chapter 1: Genesis
In the beginning, Secretarius culturalis created Sangam and Saarang. He (often a ‘he’; the female variant of this species is yet to come into existence) then created the less-loved bastard child they today call ‘LitSoc’. The care of this child was then taken on as a challenge by two daring mortals from each hostel – Secretarius literarius and Secretarius socialis.
After a year of humble service as ‘volunteers’ and being persuaded by the previous secretaries to “put fight ra,” two individuals make the noble sacrifice of time, CG and sleep to take up the mantle of Lit and Soc secretaries (hence referred to as Lit-Soc secretaries). Thus follows a tale of desperation, anguish and frustration.
Following Hostel Council Elections in 2017 (complete with painful soapboxes and campaigning), the first task assigned to the newly-elected hostel council is The Dreaded Hostel Night. With over 100 – 200 RGs to compile and format into presentable souvenirs for outgoing batches, a sizeable portion of Hostel Night work falls upon the Lit-Soc Secretaries. The secretaries have to endure the process of sending reminders to dispatch RG forms, collect RG responses and compile them into one RG document. This process involves taking up the role of an ad-hoc translator, where the Secretary is made to parse lines in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi and convert them to sentences in English.
After sustaining mental trauma and insomnia from one week of the aforementioned process, The D-Day finally dawns. If the LitSoc secretaries thought that the worst was over, they could not be more wrong. This is only the beginning of a year-long series of mind-numbing, back-breaking, confidence-crippling, soul-sucking events that ultimately led to the writing of this article.
Chapter 2 : Fresh Blood
Once the summer break has ended and the scars from Hostel Night are near-fading, the process of scouting for enthusiastic sophomores (a.k.a vols to partake in the work of a secretary) begins. The sophomores are initiated to the LitSoc Basics – the different Sangam clubs and their events, the timeline, fundaes and formation of WhatsApp groups. Several LitSoc vols are recruited and are made to undertake a blood oath to participate in and gather friends and batchmates for the upcoming events.
Enter Queen of Sheba – the only point in the LitSoc year when the peak of Hostel Enthu manifests. A desperate and sincere attempt to rally the hostel forces is made. Winning this event is a great way to boost Hostel morale. Following this event, a steep decline in the Enthu levels within the hostel is observed. And so begins the fight to sustain the flickering flames of LitSoc spirit. The difficulty of this fight is only compounded by the lack of any incentives for participants – the only ‘benefits’ being LitSoc points. Faced with dying hostel morale, academic stress, work from other PORs and an endless barrage of LitSoc events, the secretaries try their best to survive.
Chapter 3 : Survival
After being allowed a brief celebration of fleeting QoS victories, Secretaries are presented the LitSoc Calendar. The LitSoc Calendar is the schedule according to which LitSoc events are held. Save for Quiz weeks, the LitSoc calendar features several events every week of the semester. Owing to the number of Cultural Clubs in the institute, there is a refreshing variety of events to participate in. The Cores and Convenors try their best to keep up with the Calendar, but there are times when it doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. Events would be rescheduled for various reasons – Error 404A: Judge Not Found, Error 404B: Venue Not Found or even Error 036: Judge Stuck In Rain. Occasionally, an event would be rescheduled to account for the lack of participants due to institute-wide events such as the Terry Fox run and so on.
However, the democratic inclinations of the Cores must be commended: each event’s rescheduling would be put to vote in a WhatsApp group featuring the Cultural Secretaries, Cores and LitSoc Secretaries. But this WhatsApp group is significant for other reasons – it would later become the site for protest and revolt when the busy Cores would not heed the secretaries’ requests to ‘kindly update the points table’. Having said this, the updating of the points table is not an easy task for different reasons. For instance, due to time constraints, the finals would not immediately follow the prelims of an event. This would delay the process of updating the table until the Finals is conducted. In some cases, the Prelims results would be taken as the final standings, as the Finals could not be conducted on an unscheduled date, without logistics.
Organising the participation from the Hostel is a major role of the Lit-Soc secretaries, and it is an extremely fun but tiring one. Secretaries have to inculcate ‘hostel feel’ in the participants, try and accommodate the events within the participants’ schedule and ensure that they do not overshoot the maximum participation cap of 3 per Hostel for several events. There is not much respite from this process owing to the jam-packed LitSoc schedule.
Things can take a turn for the worse, sometimes. In February 2018, as the Secretarius literarius and Secretarius socialis awaited the end of their tenure, marked by the insti-wide elections, they were informed that the hostel council elections would be held in the next semester. This featured as the final blow. The ultimate suckerpunch. The total knockout. There was not much that could be done about this – secretaries had no choice but to comply with the CCW orders and carry out duties during the extended tenure, which included having to organise another Hostel Night.
Honorary Chapter: And then there was ‘coolajiatus’
This tenure was made more…special by the presence (or absence) of ‘on-ground’ specialist, coolajiatus. The species coolajiatus is best known for notoriously making once-a-semester cameos on the LitSoc Council WhatsApp Group to remind the Council of its sacred existence. Apart from these rare appearances, the sightings of a coolajiatus remain strangely unknown.
One does not know what the coolajiatus does or where it dwells – it is only known that this species excels magnificently (legend has it) at ‘on-ground- work’ (whatever that means) However, one must be careful to not mistake him for a certain Saarang Events Core (who did so much work that one can only marvel at his speed and efficacy). Best events core 11/10.
Conclusion: Goodbye (or is it?)
What prompted the writing of the article was the feeling that the institute’s dying cultural and literary scene needs reviving. One of the ways to address this was to inform insti junta about the challenges and opportunities of LitSoc, a forum that is no longer considered as relevant as it was half a decade back. Although this article seems to take a very informal and casual attitude towards LitSoc, it intends no disrespect. It is merely an attempt to engage the institute in a debate on how literary and cultural activities can be saved from becoming just another ‘PoR’ in the institute.
All in all, our LitSoc journey was a fun and bumpy ride. There were the usual ups and downs – sometimes, more downs than ups. But the journey was made bearable by our fellow Lit-Soc secretaries and the occasional victories. LitSoc is a fun thingamajig. Pls to participate.