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Article by C. Gayathri
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I have an outrageous confession. Starting out a year ago, I had zero hostel feels. Zilch. But what I did have was a ludicrously naive love for culturals. And my tenure as Literary Secretary of Sharav was going to be about me attempting to help others fall in love with the same. But who knew that in this process I’d end up falling in love all over again, except this time, I’d be falling for the hostel and its people.
How it Began
No discussion about LitSoc is complete without talking about Queen of Sheeba. Standing amid a near barbaric mob of impassioned students chanting, nay, screaming their hostels’ names, one cannot help being swept away in the larger-than-life madness of the crowd. Morphing into a sea of countless indistinguishable heads without bodies, you forget ‘me’, ‘you’ and other such singularities. you forget that you haven’t had dinner, or that somebody may be standing on your foot – because the only thing that seems to matter now is your hostel (and your decibel capacity, of course.)
Everyone’s rooting for their hostel and you yourself have been screaming your throat sore, daring anyone to raise as much as a finger against your hostel – and in that moment you know, more than ever before, that you love your hostel.
QoS was a costly affair. Several eggs were broken before one could be caught on camera, landing safely after being dropped from the 3rd floor. Several heads were scratched in trying to obtain a coin with two heads. Several people lost their hitherto well-preserved dignity, dancing shamelessly to objectionable songs in malls and reciting objectionable poems. Several shady deals were struck and several more such contracts were breached. Valuable intel was leaked across hostels and certain hostel members reportedly made spectral appearances from far-off lands such as Dubai in a bid to contribute to the hostel headcount. (the enthusiasm was much appreciated) The counting of items was dealt with, with much finger-pointing and whataboutery. Several questionable objects were allowed while several more objects were questionably rejected. All in all, it was established that it was not possible to win QoS with one’s dignity and sense of righteousness preserved (in case you were wondering why Sharav didn’t win *wink wink*)
I, for one, lost sleep, grades and my voice to QoS (I couldn’t speak higher than 30 decibels for a week after.) The virtual war that followed, in the form of memes and several more shady accusations and fevered discussions, meant that on more than one occasion, I found myself shamelessly coiled up in Ranjani’s and Naomi’s (the ex-LitSec and SocSec) rooms at ungodly hours, seeking counsel. And being the kind souls that they are, they indulged me (like they would on several future occasions.) Needless to say, to them, I owe my sanity (or whatever little is left.)
Being one of the first events, Queen of Sheeba set the tone for LitSoc – in spirit, and in the number of sleepless nights that were expected. The staggering participation of the hostel in QoS had the effect of propping me up on my feet and awakening me to the magnitude and largesse of LitSoc.
The rest of the semester slipped away in a flurry of LitSoc dates and me playing catch up. Like any other secretary, I was caught ill-prepared – both, for the trials and the joys that LitSoc would bring (an empty SocSec position didn’t help.)
More Events, More Sleepless Nights
The next big team event came around Diwali. Creative writing, hailed as one of Sharav’s stronger suits, saw a team of over a dozen girls who didn’t quite know each other put their heads together to create a heartwarming magazine. Prizes aside, I think what we all cherished more was the bonhomie with which we were cheering each other on by the end of the week.
Karaoke night would see an otherwise sleepy hostel let its hair down and groove away to snazzy tunes. By this time, Aditi Khandare had joined me as the Social Secretary and her bubbling energy propelled the entire hostel council to fix karaoke and barbecue for 600 in a dizzy swirl of two days. Starting with a near-empty stage, the evening transformed into something truly magical. By curfew time, bitter wars had been fought over which song was to be sung and several girls were dancing their hearts out to Bollywood songs of questionable taste.
The semester sped away in an endless cycle of ‘Ping me if you’re interested in this LitSoc Event!’, ‘A gentle reminder for the event today!’, ‘Congrats to XYZ on placing in ABC!’ (the annoying exaggerated excitement fully intended) and back to ‘Ping me if you’re interested…’
But every other week, I’d forget a date, or an event would get shifted, or nobody would turn up, and I’d find myself texting my way through classes, day in and day out, spamming hostel groups and personal inboxes with enthused calls for participation. I’ve accosted many hostel inmates on hostel stairways, shamelessly peddling hostel feels in a bid to win over participation.
Personally, my secretaryship became more than just a PoR – it became a way of life. It seeped into my WhatsApp chats, my class hours, my everyday conversations and thoughts and occupied prime real estate there. It pushed me to work harder and take on tasks I didn’t know I was capable of. For someone whose reputation of being disorganised and forgetful precedes her, the idea of sticking to a year-round LitSoc calendar and more than that, to get an entire hostel to follow foot was a high ask. But I survived (or so I think.) I thought I had it hammered down to a single formulaic thought that would sustain me: ‘Like secy, like hostel – if the hostel secy doesn’t show enthu, why would anyone else?’. So I slammed the exclamatory marks on my keyboard and plastered a wide smile on my face. I don’t know if the exclamatory marks derived their enthusiasm from me or if I inherited theirs, but it seemed to work.
By the end of the odd semester I was beginning to think that I just might have mastered the seemingly elusive art of managing LitSoc while keeping one’s sanity intact. But boy, was I so wrong. While I thought I’d just made it through 2012 level threats unscathed (nearly), what followed was a 2020, quite literally. For what the even semester really does, is take all your LitSoc excitement and ordeals, and scale it up several notches in what they call ‘group events’.
By this time, Sarvani had joined me as the SocSec owing to Aditi’s much-mourned departure on a SemEx. Sarvani, henceforth, became the calm to my crazy. And together, we manoeuvred the treacherous territories of treasure hunt and other LitSoc heartbreaks.
If QoS was JEE Mains chemistry, Treasure Hunt was JEE Advanced physics. The Informals Club seemed hell-bent on testing our capacity as IITians, what with one too many intellectual puzzles, which no hostel could come close to solving. Wall painting was the culmination of multiple nights spent poring over umpteen vintage paintings (and vintage memes) for inspiration. Dramatics would cost us several more sleepless nights.
Choreo night saw dozens of girls pour in their time and sweat in pursuit of the coveted title. The choreo girls put in night outs after night outs, planning out the sequence, props and costumes to excruciating detail. I remember standing in an empty SAC (the institute had just issued a COVID warning and an audience wasn’t allowed), amidst a flood of snazzy lights, music blaring from the speakers, welling up and undulating inside the empty echoes of SAC’s dome. Watching the orchestration of practised limbs sway impeccably to the rhythm, pearls of sweat glistening on their faces in a sweet culmination of their shared love for dance, I couldn’t help but tear up. When the results were announced, and Sharav placed first – a shared first, it was a moment of sweet vindication – vindication for tireless hours, for twisted ankles and the nights starved of sleep.
This ordeal of shared pain and the final, sweet fulfilment, brought the girls together in a teary mush, tumbling on top of each other, mile-long smiles plastered on their faces. And this is the last sweet memory that I have of insti.
Though every event has been an endearing experience, Short Film Making (SFM) will always have a special place in my heart. What started out as a bunch of girls volunteering their time to write a script, with little experience in script-writing whatsoever, we found our own cozy little private bunker in the hostel library where, over the course of the next few weeks, we’d find ourselves huddled up at odd hours. We’d shoot off into impassioned conversations, discussing the nuances in the film to excruciating detail. Devoured in a shared vision and a fond love for what we were creating, the camaraderie was unmistakable.
It was here, huddled up on one such evening, that we were rudely awakened by the news of insti’s closure in the wake of the pandemic. The reality of the impending gloom dawned on us and we grappled with the possibility of not being able to see insti again for several months. We were going to start filming the very next day and we were ill-prepared for the unceremonious way in which this experience would be snatched from us. To this date, the unfulfilled short film and an incomplete LitSoc remain my dearest losses due to the lockdown.
Given the uncertainty, the remaining LitSoc events were suspended and the fate of LitSoc was left in a state of limbo for several weeks after. Then one day, with no warning whatsoever, the results were declared in a single WhatsApp text: the remaining LitSoc events for the year were to be annulled and Sharav was declared second, trailing a meagre 8 points behind Ganga. The incongruence of the text in the middle of a workday and the seeming injustice in declaring winners on the basis of an incomplete LitSoc, given that more than 150 points worth of LitSoc events were left unclaimed and the second hostel was a mere hair’s breadth away from the winners was difficult to digest.
The pandemic didn’t allow Sharav, and all the other hotels, the closure that they deserved. But we steeled ourselves to accept what was beyond our control.
From my predecessors, I had heard stories of being soaked in tears, arm in arm with their co-secretaries and other hostel inmates, when the LitSoc results came out. This was the closing I had imagined for LitSoc all year. But the lockdown didn’t afford us this luxury. So, instead, I spent the rest of the day sending long thank you messages to all the people who had made my LitSoc experience memorable. And trust me, this meant a lot of thank you messages. My fingers were sore by EoD.
On the days that I slacked, the enthusiasm of other hostel inmates would nudge me to keep working. I remember how, on the day of the deadline, I had given up on Sharav’s participation in the photography event for a lack of entries but a chance conversation with a friend while brushing turned into a day-long photoshoot. And how can I not mention Abhirami? She voluntarily took on the task of mobilising participation for some of the events, filled in the gaps where enthusiasm was lacking and left us in awe, effortlessly pocketing prizes in all the events that she turned up for. And I couldn’t be more thankful to the girls who stayed up on nights and helped manoeuvre the tricky grounds of post QoS turf wars. There were several others who pledged way more time than was their due. And I realise how it is these stories that make a successful LitSoc, not a number, or a trophy.
LitSoc has personally been a transformative and a deeply gratifying experience for me. It gave me the opportunity to meet crazies like myself, and in them, I found my kith and kin. I met amazing seniors who lent me support and advice that would sustain me through the trials. It taught me the pleasures of working with people who share the same love and energy as oneself. It taught me to put the hostel before myself and I was amply rewarded in the enthusiasm that the hostel bounced back.
Needless to say, LitSoc will remain an unmistakable highlight of my insti life.
To those who’ve experienced it, LitSoc has the magical effect of bringing together the wildest kinds of people to make some of the best memories on campus. The pandemic threatens to snatch away these experiences in the upcoming year. Here’s to hoping we can keep the spirit of LitSoc alive through these harsh times and that LitSoc continues to deliver the magic so many of us have come to marvel in.
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