Spirits Under The Streetlamp: Myths and Legends

Edited by Jai Santhoshi S

Designed by Devika

“After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’, and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 

Bits of history that got lost in translation and were never entirely written down float about as rumours and myths. Insti is undoubtedly no stranger to those. Besides the monkey survival tactics and the PoR fundaes, the newly recruited insti junta also gets a detailed list of must-visit places handed down from our seniors. And of course, along with them come the related stories; some shared in between laughs while others, among hushed whispers.

Take the Aerowell, for example, the most famous spot on that list. Ask a group of students, and they will all claim to know what happened there. Yet, it’s very likely that you will learn about a different tale from each person you approach. Some say that a professor and a student jumped into the well. In contrast, some others would argue that the professor’s wife and a student or scholar ended their lives at the well. Another group just “take lite” about the details and said it was simply a suicide case that got the well covered. Regardless of what people claim to know, almost everyone seems to believe to a certain extent that the Aerowell is definitely haunted.

This well is usually just a place to tick off the bucket list for the freshers. That, too, from a list that one might even choose to ignore. But those who visit it are often spooked out by the eerie atmosphere of the area or, interestingly, get confused by the scribbling on the nearby walls, one of which says:  Kalyan Kumar <some roll no. showing he was from the Aero department>  was here” while the adjacent wall carries: “until he wasn’t”.

Most people who come across this particular set of words tend to return to their hostel rooms perplexed and unaware of what really led someone to write them there. Hell, for all that’s apparent, one might as well dismiss it as just a prank or an attempt to scare unsuspecting visitors. But only a select few are privy to the mysterious tale of Kalyan Kumar, the boy who existed… until he didn’t.

Perhaps the older batch of insti students can still remember that there was once a boy in the Aero department who was exactly like any other student. He attended classes, held PoRs, lived in an allotted hostel room, and made friends with the people around him. Just the way any other student does. Except one day, it turned out that the one batchmate everyone knew as Kalyan was not even Kalyan, to begin with. He was a completely different person but lived as a good law-abiding (in retrospect, maybe not so much) member of Insti, under the name of Kalyan Kumar. The most impressive part of it all was the fact that he somehow managed to even get all documents verified as Kalyan and was living fully as Kalyan Kumar. The only reason he got caught was that he went ahead and attended a class that the real Kalyan hadn’t even registered for, and the professor couldn’t find his name during the regular roll call. Now whether or not the real Kalyan Kumar ever stepped within Insti premises is yet another mystery that people could never dig too deeply into.

Rumor has it that the imposter then disappeared just as naturally as he had appeared among the students. No one seems to know where he went after that. Some will jokingly say that he probably went and lived somewhere near the Aerowell and hence the creepy evidence on the walls.

But then, if we are talking about mysterious things, we can’t really look over the baffling graffiti among all the others decorating the front of Godavari Hostel. As the evidence goes, there are spray-painted faces and caricatures on the walls, as seen in the photo. Most of them were apparently done by a certain senior from the ’15 batch. But the one in the middle remains unclaimed. No one knows who drew it over there or how anything can even be drawn on that spot. There’s no ledge or platform or anything at all where one could possibly stand and reach over to paint that. Yet, the graffiti remains unreachable and right in front of all those who wish to enter Godavari.

Another puzzling piece of insti trivia is probably the hidden existence of railway tracks within the bunch of trees in Insti. If you just look at it in passing, maybe nothing would seem too out of the ordinary. But if you just stop and look at it closely, you’ll find that the tracks don’t lead anywhere at all. Neither do they seem to come from somewhere. So what are these few random railway tracks doing in Insti? Why were they even brought here in the first place? Was it once surrounded by hustlers and bustlers who have now disintegrated into the earth? No one knows.

Of course, no one really knows the exact reasons or explanations for any of the rumours and superstitions. For example, as silly as it seems at first, once you spot a white blackbuck, you can’t help but wish you saw it on the morning of a quiz instead, simply because of the belief that it would fetch you a guaranteed S grade. Sometimes the reason is very well known but the legends make experiences memorably frightening – like the noises from the jet propulsion lab which make a point to randomly be heard in the dead of night. 

Even if it’s often without rhyme or reason, all these small tales and anecdotes get passed on from one person to the next and somewhere in between someone ends up believing that the cluster of trees near the Sangam ground is the safe place for all things unsafe. Although, just like J.R.R. Tolkien in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, we too are inclined to believe that the legends and myths we know are mainly based on some “truth.” The third elephant of Insti seems to exist solely to prove this point. Originally a treasure hunt question, freshies would be asked to locate the rumoured third elephant within IITM. Now, over the years, many people were in fact able to locate the third elephant, although why it exists to begin with and how it ended up there is unclear, if not unknown. But at some point, people were led to believe that this particular elephant was once a part of Gajendra Circle. Then again, the recorded history of the famous GC (as available here) doesn’t mention anything about it. 

And so the list of myths goes on. Now whether or not one chooses to believe in these accounts is completely up to an individual. But then again, it can’t hurt much to look out for a lucky blackbuck or avoid a few haunted places here and there.

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