Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ten Years I am Living Next Door - Part 1

The First

While my dear friend Diptakirti takes almost a weekly dip into nostalgia, I try my best to avoid it by entirely denying that the past was any better. Thus, the request of a friend from Texas - who, after a couple of beers that he shared with seven others, once stripped in the middle of a certain road named after one Raja S C Mullick -to write about ten years of our passing out from Jadavpur University keeps getting postponed. It keeps getting postponed because I am either at phone with my car insurance agent to try to lower the next six-month premium, or I lobby my boss for getting that E-award that no one else deserves more, or I still hold my smile - and my anger - at the usual Saturday evening discussions comparing India and US, or, may be, like I was doing a while back around 3AM this Saturday, wander through the Orkut profiles of people I never saw after school and just feel a tad hungry, not depressed. Not yet! As I just said, living in denial is a wonderful thing for your heart, for the micro arteries in your brain and the moody gland that secretes insulin.

Dipta apparently saw "almost a hundred of us" as he walked into the Mechanical Engineering building, the first time. Well, I doubt it. Some folks, especially who would belong to "A" section, had already started studying and so, were absent. Some others were so eager to get ragged, especially about the bits where the seniors would ask them to propose to a random girl sometimes a senior herself, they kept prancing within 12 ft radius of the dreariest looking folks whose only privilege in life was they passed the Joint Entrance Exam a year ahead of us. Some others, like Dipta himself, would either run to Nandan or Elite, somewhat randomly, at the first hint of a loose day at college. So, there could not be hundreds walking into that building. But I don't blame Dipta. For us who came to JU after 12 years of "boys only" schools, counting - or other related number crunching - would only involve girls. At least on that very first day, we had only one dream. As soon as we enter through the "Arts gate", we would be mobbed so badly by the girls - especially those from English - that Beatles and Rajesh Khanna in early 70s would get into depression. Some, I heard, also carried an extra shirt and a couple of something else in their pockets the first day. Just in case.

Graduating in Mechanical Engineering was like being perpetually in a place that's a homogeneous mix of a crowded men's locker room and a sports bar that does not allow females. Hell, we did not even have a "Ladies" toilet in the 5 buildings that our department spanned. But we had a windmill next to our dept. According to Anindito, that windmill ran on electricity. I believed it.

The curriculum in the first semester in any Engineering course, at its best, has the same level of complexity as the mandatory seat-belt instruction 'training' prior to takeoff. Or, at least that's what we heard! So, rather than reading magazines in our seats, as the instructor - all Mechanical Engineers themselves, no long-legged commercial airline lasses there - kept whining, we got out. Every day we fled the department faster than a fire-alarm would evacuate Pentagon. We went to many more places than the first generation Aryans went to find newer pastures. However, the clear winner was an ambiguously named place called "AC Canteen". It was neither air-conditioned, nor really a canteen. I never saw anyone buying any food there. People used it for 3 purposes -
  • Generally measure the arts' chicks.
  • Chitchat in REAL large groups (more than 12). Smaller groups, or people above first two years, had other places to go.
  • Throwing up after an unusually long round of drinking, followed by smoking special things, on unusually warm days in August.
Thus the first semester seemed shorter than a lopsided Antakshari round between two mute groups. Diptakirti was our new star, as was Vinod Kambli in Indian Cricket team that time, who smashed all previous records in the 'optional' English paper and - thanks to his deep knowledge of angular inertia of motion - scored highest in a Physics exam too! Our "B Section" had 50 students. As the semester results started pouring in, more seating legislators lost than it happened after "India Shining". 37 of the 50 failed "Engineering Mechanics I" - the only real Engineering paper in that semester that covers the basic fundamentals which the next seven semesters would be built upon. It was a swift and it was a bloodbath. Out of the 13 or so who passed each subject would be one Manas Kr Das, possibly the handsomest operator who - according to Anindito again - could have 18 disheveled girls from English hons dancing around him if he just adjusts his glasses like he does anywhere near the Arts section. Folks formed a "study group" to pass the second attempt the University allows for a failed paper. I was very politely, but unequivocally, asked not to come anywhere near when the study groups convene. Manas advised us "to formulate a plan and just attack it". We nodded. On the other hand, Vinod Kambli gave an interview on how Sachin took an elevator to the top and he is taking stairs. He would reach there, just a bit late. "Baazigar" was a top hit. "Superhit Muqabla" - hosted by Baba Sehgal, and "MTV Grind" - often hosted by Cindy Crawford, lost a lot of viewer ship for next month and half. We still were not getting mobbed by anyone, but possibility of a serious thrashing down at home - if they had known about the going ons - showed up instead.