Fifty-seven years ago in the month of August, on this very campus, a student was writing an article, thinking up of an introduction, exactly as I am today. Insti was abuzz with a new cultural phenomenon. A group of young writers were going about the campus reporting all the happenings in words chock-full of whimsy. This, was Campastimes – a monthly magazine written by and for insti students. A portmanteau of the words campus and pastime, Campastimes published its first issue on the 15th of August, 1962. Every month since, for a price of ten naya paisa (which steadily inflated over the years to 30 naya paisa – not without causing an uproar), students could read a brand new edition of Campastimes. The first Campastimes team was led by Anand Singh Bawa, a student from the second batch. This team of around 15 students wrote, edited, illustrated, and typeset this much-loved magazine all on their own.
Fully aware of the fact that their readers were young, bored, brazen college students and that their articles were reports of happenings from a very tiny bubble in a forest (albeit an important tiny bubble), the Campastimes team knew better than to take itself too seriously.
Each edition had all the essential components of a magazine – news reports, editorials, letters to the editor, even crosswords! But they didn’t shy away from getting controversial (or wacky) with it. One of the recurring segments, called “Over a (cup) of Aye Aye Tea”, discussed ongoing issues on campus It talked about everything – from the lifting of bans fifty years ago to placement season and job applications.
Another interesting segment was “Personalities and Caricatures” where they would interview two people every month, one for each. The ‘Personalities’ were praised and the ‘Caricatures’ were, well, caricatured. The interviewed would find out which category they fell into only after the edition was published. Each segment was prefaced with an illustration, and bore an uncanny resemblance to the immensely popular “Humans of …” series, as it dove deep into the idiosyncrasies of each character, complete with anecdotes. One of my favourite pieces was on Prof. R. K. Gupta which appeared in the April edition of 1966 under the ‘Personalities’ column. Aptly illustrated as the God Shiva, Prof Gupta was the much-admired warden of Ganga hostel and an equally well-liked professor at the Humanities Department. One anecdote describes the time he joined a couple of students for a drink at night, becoming best buddies with them. The next day, however, the students discover they’ve been written up for staying out of the hostel late. But this did not affect Prof Gupta’s friendship with the students and they had a laugh about it. The bar (pun intended) for cool profs was set very high that day.
A common sight in the magazine was “Classified Divertisements”. A class of literature in its own right, advertisements from broke college students find their place amongst surrealist artists. Where else would the proclamation I use Ponds cauliflower follow Help combat milk shortage, turn ropes into buffaloes in five easy lessons.
Humourous ready made speeches for all occasions. You merely have to invite me, Kaveri hostel’s Social Secretary humbly advertises at one place.
Another advert titled ‘For Restricted Sale Only’, goes Books! Instrument boxes! And what not!…(Sorry, not for you fellas). First year girls apply quote personally unquote to Mandeep Singh, Godavari Hostel. P.S. Door to door delivery undertaken.
This was also where the best advice was found: Parting advice to Engineers – The best way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your wallet.
Then there were also full-blown advertisements asking the reader in bold: Who cares about your travel? Of course you do. But so does British Overseas Airways Corporation.
However, my personal favourite remains For Sale: Unused chapattis from Kaveri, Krishna and Narmada hostels. Leather dealers please note.
The magazine also featured several fiction pieces – from poems to short stories, to brilliant tongue-in-cheek satire. A Thesis on Indian Movies discussed the cliched boy-meets-girl sequence, the meeting-at-the-park sequence and the resolution sequence. The February 1969 edition had an entire script for one such story – with twelve scenes and four acts in total! “On Happiness” by acclaimed writer Moronowski (allegedly written at 4:20) gives advice on how to be happy: If you wear a shirt. And it has a pocket. And if you go to class. And if you find a cockroach. Remember to put it in your pocket. Apparently, this experience will make the cockroach jump up and down, which is exactly the way your heart feels when you’re happy. Another article gives instructions about mess food preparation: Chappatis should be heat treated such that their yield point does not exceed that of untanned P-64 leather. Sambar should have a viscosity not greater than 50 stokes. Ghee should have a high cloud point, the volume of curd shouldn’t be less than 85% of the katori and buttermilk should not contain any suspended impurities.
Ask any alumnus, and they will tell you that Campastimes and its legacy is heavily steeped in insti culture and nostalgia. The editors, correspondents, and even the format changed over the years, but the Campastimes tradition was carried forward over the decades. In the 1970s, Campastimes experimented with new formats, and by then, it was being distributed free of cost. In the 1980s, the magazine moved into A4 and smaller-sized formats and the much-loved columns of the early years had disappeared. By the 1990s, Camapastimes gradually faded out, and eventually stopped publication. Today, Campastimes leaves behind a rich heritage and very tough shoes to fill for any insti publication. In fact, the first coffee table book on IIT Madras was named ‘Campaschimes’ – a salute to the great Campastimes. Though written more than 50 years ago, Campastimes is anything but dated. One could get lost in this cheeky, weird, amazing world created by students who were once just like us – a world of caricatures and commemorative postage stamps, campus-themed snake-and-ladder games and limerick competitions. These talented weirdos cracked the code to writing the student magazine. I just hope to be able to continue their legacy.
If you ever wish to read a copy, the staff at the Heritage Centre located beside the Administrative block is ever-ready to show you around. And if the walk is too cumbersome, all editions of Campastimes are digitised and are always available online at the Heritage Centre’s website.
Image and archival credits: IIT Madras Heritage Centre
(G)olden Tickets is a heritage series in celebration of 60 years of IIT Madras and coincidentally, 10 years of The Fifth Estate. We comb through archives in the Heritage Centre, interview alumni, and dig up little known insti trivia to travel back in time. Join us on this journey with (G)olden Tickets. Comments and suggestions are always welcome, you can send them to us at [email protected]
Series by Sharayu Shejale