1. This is a written piece which expresses the opinions of the author, and is not to be considered an endorsement by T5E.
2. T5E is a student-run publication, editorially independent from the IIT Madras administration.
I have always liked thinking of Insti life as a collection of several stories and characters. I have also learned that putting these stories together in the form of a book isn’t always a good idea. For a compiled collection of some of my bad ideas please click on the link below:
Therefore, the lens through which I look back at insti, immediately shows me 6 kinds of stories or phases which I’m sure that most of us as graduates have gone through a few times.
The Starry Eyed Freshie
Insti is built around freshies. Saarang, Shaastra etc are trying to reel them in to fill their events and to power the fests. Admin is constantly experimenting with their curriculum, accommodation, rules and so on. The new freshie batch ends up doing quite a lot to set the mood and tempo for the academic year. And that’s where our story begins.
I joined college as a stuck-up, snobby smart-ass from Bangalore. And all of that extra attention, obviously helped tame my cockiness. I carried with me 2 huge pieces of baggage; a belief that the world is a magical place where only amazing things can happen and a 5x2x1 feet cupboard. Only one of these pieces of baggage would stay with me by the end of college. Soon enough, I found my first group and primary family on campus. We got ragged (barely) together, met seniors together, discovered clubs together, explored campus and Chennai together.
My days were a mix of classes (on paper), football, cultural events and whatever adventure the day held. There was so much to be done and so many people to meet. It was tempting to believe that all of insti was ours for the taking. So we made grand plans to branch change with minimum effort. With the rest of our time we planned to get into NSO football, Saarang, go to other colleges, find the chillest places in Chennai and anything else that we labelled as cool.
The most magical of my college days were in first year. Simply because we did give it the old college try. Suhas would teach me a semester’s worth of coursework during his revision hour. Shenoi would keep possession so that few people knew how bad my ball control was. Paul would line up a night in the city, bound to disappoint, but with alcohol to make it okay. And so everyone’s ship had set sail with a course in mind, and I had a foot in each boat. First year was so magical because I got a slice of each cake. From a DisCo within our third month to being half naked on stage during Classical Night, all of our dreams seemed easily within reach.
Unfortunately this meant that I went into second year with an unrealistic belief that the world is a magical place where only amazing things can happen. I also had 4 friends lug my cupboard between no less than 5 rooms between Pampa, Godav and Ganga, until I got my final room.
Most people are fortunate enough to have their dreams crushed fairly early on in college. I on the other hand had gone wild with imagination, and it was more than a year into college before the system began to firmly ground me again. The things which seemed exciting and easy suddenly became overwhelming and impossible.
I finally met my CS batch-mates, that I had only heard of till now, and they were brilliant. I found myself struggling to close deals for my PoR. I didn’t qualify for LitSoc events that I thought I was good at. I wasn’t a part of so many activities and I didn’t understand why or how.
For me the big turning point was the day that I slept through a midsem. I was up till 8am studying, but somehow found myself in bed between 9am and 11am (the midsem). I wasted no time in having diarrhea, and within a couple of weeks managed to get a retest. Long story short, the shock of suddenly losing 50% of my grade got me to sit back with some friends, light up some “agarbathis”, listen to music and stare at my hideously blue walls for a couple of hours. And suddenly, even without trying to win insti, the world was this magical place where only amazing things can happen.
Later that year, 4 of my friends helped carry my cupboard up one floor in Ganga.
You never know when you’re going to have to make decisions which will carry undue weight for the rest of your insti life. I found myself in such positions throughout third year. I had to pick between CS and Saarang, CS and a non-core job, CS and friends, changing my decision on the previous 3 decisions and happiness.
But these really are tough decisions to make. Looking back I’ve always seemed to have made my final call in the last minute, without enough information, and kind of lucked out. Which went on to reinforce my belief that the world is this magical place where only amazing things can happen.
I wanted to place a second mattress on my floor and have a bean bag as well, because in my mind that’s what a party room looked like. But with the cupboard and what not, space was a huge constraint. The cupboard’s lock was also broken at this point of time, and I was considering getting rid of it. But after a night of heavy “group studying”, a few people puked all over the mattress. The mattress was out and the cupboard stayed.
But we all make terrible decisions at some point or the other. There are certain things that some of us just aren’t meant to do. And I decided to contest elections.
Overcoming the Monster
As you might have guessed, the snobby Bangalore kid with friends in CS wasn’t the ideal candidate for an election. But sometimes you find something that you’re truly passionate about, and turning back isn’t an option anymore.
So I decided to consult the experts. I didn’t know any experts. So I spoke to the seniors that I did know. I spent the first few days trying to get Raju to stop laughing, and before I knew it, this was actually happening. Somewhere down the line, between lighting agarbathis, nights at Ramu, group study sessions and actual study sessions, I must have met the right people. Because I simply can’t imagine why or how I got so lucky as to have such a dedicated, smart, fun and caring campaign team.
But elections do get ugly. From throwing a stranger’s slippers out through a bathroom window to removing someone from a team that they worked to be a part of, things don’t always go as planned. You don’t always get to be the person that you want to, especially in other people’s eyes. Difficult as this phase was, it too passed.
And the world being this magical place where only amazing things can happen, the election team pulled off the impossible. A single email from the dean was now enough for the hostel staff to help carry my cupboard to the new wing.
Living the Dream
Sometimes everything just falls perfectly in place. That’s not how Saarang works though. And what a sh*t fest it would have been had it been smooth and professional. Starting with a small team of 7 to my own team of 450, every coord, every team brings this personality and story that is impossible to find outside of insti’s fests. My most ridiculous, most memorable stories come from Saarang.
From your Polish footballer assaulting the dean, to your band catching fire anything can happen at Saarang. While racing Vishal Dadlani to Saravana Bhavan and zooming into high resolution pictures of Sunidhi Chauhan, you really do meet the stars at Saarang. Dealing with demonetisation, cyclones and political turmoil is just a regular month in Saarang.
Each of us having fallen in love with Saarang in our own way, it’s hardly a surprise that our core team picked as the theme the enchanted forest (a magical place where only amazing things can happen). And for a short period of time, some of these props were stored in my cupboard.
Choosing a Path
And then it all comes far too quickly to an end. Once again you have to decide on who you are and what you want to do, but maybe you’re a little better prepared this time. What my time in insti really didn’t prepare me for is letting go of things. No matter how I tried to pack my future, I couldn’t carry everything with me. There would be wingmates that I won’t live with anymore, friends who would become strangers and memories that would be reduced to stories.
After 5 long years, I had to empty my cupboard, and leave it in a corner, with the hope that the outside world too would be a magical place where only amazing things can happen.