The year 2013 was a very important year for me personally; it represented the 25th graduation from IIT Madras – having joined insti at the age of 17 in 1984, as an eager, happy youngster and having been told “we are the cream of the crop”, it did not take too long to disabuse me of the creamy notions, and to realize who I really was, in the company of some amazing people who joined around the same time as I did. All of this was most aptly summarized on the logo of the T-Shirt made by my class mates, “Designed at IIT Madras, Assembled at Ganga Hostel – Gungho 2013”
Let me recap the couple of days I spent at Ganga Hostel just after Christmas 2013; the occasion was the 25th anniversary reunion of our batch, which saw over a hundred alumni members from different places around the world, with widely different career and personal paths, coming together for a magical few days to relive the days from a hoary past.
Endless cups of chai at some of the new canteens that dot the campus now, debates ranging from laws of Physics, Philosophy and career choices, long nights spent in solving the world’s problems all in a matter of a few heated conversations, making a queue to the bogs in the morning and 4-a-side hockey, basketball and volleyball games – all were designed by the more energetic members of our batch from Ganga (think Sundar Raman, a.k.a Poruks) to create the nostalgia we were all seeking.
Conversations eventually veered towards various people we lived together with at Ganga between 1984 and 1988. The amazingly talented raconteurs (Harish Doraiswamy, Gay) who could recreate the scene from a cricket match or a football game, holding forth to a raptured audience in the middle of the night; the anything-but-studious but assiduous readers of everything from pulp fiction to philosophy, contrarians who can convince God he is Devil incarnate (Saravanan, Frog); the non- conformists who scarcely knew where HSB or MSB was located, but went on to be recognized as the Distinguished Alumni recently (Kannan, Pila); the self-proclaimed budding musicians who insisted on playing a flute, and in its absence, shrilly whistle into the ears of an unsuspecting pillion rider on their bicycles (Ramesh, Bhu); the (scarcely suspected) would-be entrepreneurs from Chem Engg who took courses in Computer Science (at a time when most of us barely knew what a computer looked like or did) and went on a spree of serial start-ups in Silicon Valley (Bala, PBals and Shripati, Shripats); the mess-bill busting blokes who believed in a Sea Food Diet (“when I see food, I eat it”), and would warm up for an evening game of footer or hockey for an hour, while the rest of the guys would have been so tired playing by then and were ready to call it a day (John the Thorn) – and any number of other interesting people I could write a tome about.
As we were reminiscing on these, conversation shifted to the current crop of youngsters who are passing through the same hallowed portals of the Institution and Hostels. We had fleeting moments of interaction with a number of students. Talented, gifted and hard-working, we did wonder if they encounter the same diversity that we were greeted with when we entered IIT Madras. The diversity that helped us realize who we were in the grander scheme of the community we encountered at the Institute, the diversity that helped us look at the world with the eyes of wonderment that come to a newbie in a world we did not realize existed until then, the diversity that helped us open up to a variety of activities that we had never participated in until then.
I do hope, for the sake of all of my young colleagues at IIT, that they will spend as much time exploring and pursuing their interests and talents while at the Campus, as they will in pursing their eventual career dreams. There is no place like IITM that helps one broaden the outlook to the world at that age; go on, make your day, make your life!