If any of you readers lost a decent amount of money because I managed to graduate in four years, I hope you find some comfort in the fact that I had bet against it too. But, now that they’ve decided to punch two of the most painful holes into my faded Insti ID, it’s time to look back, google how to spell reminisce, check if that’s the word I’m looking for, and reminisce. Insti life tends to be, as a wise man once said, a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs and will leave you shaken, but it is amazing fun and you get some really good selfies out of it.
The thing that first comes to mind when the word “Insti” pops up is a certain kind of people. Yes, the campus is beautiful, but what makes this place insti is the community that thrives inside. I do not know how to describe that common thread that holds all of us together, maybe it’s the fact that we learn to adjust to any scenario, that we learn to see the humorous side of anything, that we always find the easiest way of getting something done, or that we somehow survive and get by while doing the bare minimum. Think of the generic “Insti” person, and you have an image of someone who is extremely intelligent, talented at something or the other, and isn’t too judgemental. I believe that the four years (five if you’re getting another degree, or more if you’ve spent too much time on the Saras terrace) of living here exposes you to so much randomness that you just take everything as it comes and don’t get thrown off. It is hard not to see the time spent here as a long drawn exercise on improvisational comedy and jugaad.
The people here are the reason Insti mass produces unforgettable memories as it does engineers who will never do engineering in their lives. Wolf games that started at midnight and ended at breakfast, the night-outs spent trying to write pieces for LitSoc Creative Writing, the countless hours spent making nonsensical sounds outside SAC and hoping it would all somehow teach us to act, playing music till our fingers bled, pooling together all the coins we had for some Cavins milkshake, the special trips to Pondy, the all-too-frequent trips to Paddy, the quite-frequent trips to Bessie, the not-so-frequent trips to classes, the 2-minute lab sessions (#MetaFTW), the welding workshop, the tears when Saarang sponsors backed out, the laughs when Saarang somehow seemed to run itself, the long walks in the night where conversations flowed without a topic, the last-minute knowledge transfer while brushing teeth before an exam with your wingmates, the internship interviews, the ‘personality development programmes’ with seniors during the initial weeks, the disaster of a performance at Freshie Night, the care-free evenings spent on FIFA, all these are memories that I can never erase and each one brings a tidal wave of emotions and often tears. There is no way I can pen down every memory that I hold dear, not only because most are too scandalous to print (I did live in Saras after all), but because I’d need a whole book to do it. A simple article would never suffice. I will hence try to pick a few things I was fortunate enough to do here on campus, and stick to them. (If you wish to know the scandals and stupid moments, feel free to approach Krupa Maria Varghese. If you wish to create scandals and stupid moments, feel free to approach Shainam Kharumnuid. Both of them are still on campus and are highly entertaining).
You know the drams people, they’re the weird bunch who stand in a circle outside SAC and keep trying to count to 10, or make those awful mating calls, and are always judging the choreo peeps. Drams always had the limelight, and had taken centre-stage, in my insti life for the simple reason that it is so much fun. The best memories I have with drams are quite naturally from those obscenely long practice sessions that relied heavily on arbitrariness. The spontaneous improv exercises to better understand the characters which would invariably end up in veiled innuendos and bouts of laughter, character sketches that would put a psychologist to shame, physical exercises to ‘lose inhibitions’ that still make no sense to me, and the singing to calm the nerves, all give me goosebumps now when I think of them. The thrill of going on stage in front of 400 people (25 people if you got the morning slot at LitSoc drams, but you get the point), with a cast that you’ve grown to love almost unconditionally is the best feeling on earth.
Dramatics is a great way to meet like-minded people who have their own stories to tell. Across the years, I have had the immense privilege of working with people across seven batches, and each and every person is an absolute gem. There is much to learn from every one of these people, and being the self-obsessed storytellers they all are, they’d be glad to put fundaes on life.
Of course, apart from all the fun and emotions, dramatics is also a great teacher. You build a set of skills that is hard to develop elsewhere. You will find yourself speaking loud and clear (this is an issue if you’re the talkative kind, and your classrooms are small, like in the Metallurgy department), able to interact better with people, and lie through your teeth convincingly. All these skills, especially the last one, might just get you a job.
My tryst with music is a good example of how one can still be involved in the cultural scene even if you are terrible at what you do. In my first year, I had just picked up the bass and knew nothing about it, except that it was a longer guitar with fewer strings. It seemed like an easy instrument to pick up, you don’t play chords at all, just one note at a time. How hard could it be? I assumed that nobody would know music, what with the JEE grind and all that. Of course, I have never been so wrong. Some of the musicians here are absolutely mind-blowing. Grade 8 pianists, guitarists who’ve shared stage with the biggest names in the business, classical musicians who’ve performed paid concerts, singers who have 920,341 views on their youtube videos (Hello, Asmita!) have all graced the Music Club, and yet I was allowed to be a part of it!
Music in insti is an amazing teacher of the concept of jugaad. Turning off the bass when you do not know which part of the song you’re on, having a senior sit behind an amp and clap to help you keep in time, and sticking post-its with the chord progressions on to your instrument in case you forget on stage, are all important life lessons in addition to being great stories to tell freshies when they seem clueless for their Freshie Night.
Working as a coordinator for Saarang is an absolutely enthralling experience. However, one must exercise caution, as the coordship will give back only as much as you give in to it. Saarang Coordships are exciting and fast-paced, and lend our mundane slow lives a sense of importance. The responsibility you bear, and the power of ownership you wield are immensely satisfying. Quite a few important lessons in management are learnt here, as is expected by working in such a large team, with such a huge budget, and every decision you make has an indelible impact. Here, you slowly learn to manage people and interpersonal relations. You develop a sense of professionalism (my Shaastra counterparts will tell you that Saarang has no semblance of professionalism at all, but I disagree) and of course, get a nice point for your all important resume.
The thing about insti and all that it offers is that you can sculpt yourself into a unique product. You can find yourself and define yourself as you want. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that there exists a standard template for an “Insti Stud”, and then strive to do the things expected to attain the so-called stud status. But I quite frankly think that’s a stupid thing to do. Insti offers you such a wide set of things to pick up, it is almost your responsibility to go out, have fun and find your passions. Yes, your passions, and not someone else’s. With such fantastic people around, it is a crime to not spend all the time you have meeting and interacting with random members of the community. Nowhere else will you find that every single person is as impressive as can be, and is interesting beyond measure once you dig a bit.
As parting words, I’d like to say that Insti was the single greatest experience of all, and hope that all the students still stuck in that hallowed forest have as much fun as is humanly possible during their time there. Yes, academics are important, and yes, you do need to get a job or an admit at the end of your tenure, but it is so much more important to get an idea of who you are, and build memories to last a lifetime. My profile is by no means the best. My academics are well below average, my PoRs stop at coordships and I was never a Core, there are many with much better extra-currics than me. In hindsight, there are many things I could have done differently if I wanted to build a better profile. But if I was given a chance to relive my insti life, I would do the exact same things again, because I learnt so much along the way, met the best of people and created the most amazing memories.