Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ragam 09 and Convocation

I was back in NITC last weekend, for Ragam 09 and my convocation.

Last thursday's night, I met Fazil outside Gee Pee Travels's office. We got our tickets signed at the office and got on to a bus, with "GEE PEE TRAVELS" written on its front. We were glad that we got sleepers in an A/C Volvo bus, although the cost of the ticket was Rs. 700. About an hour later, the bus stops at Kalasipalayam and the conductor asks everyone to get down to get our boarding passes from the office. "What boarding pass? What office?", was our initial reaction, but since everyone else got down, we followed suit, only to find a rush at the table inside the office. A board outside the office read "SMPK travels". We saw people giving "GEE PEE Travels" ticket, "Ramya Travels" tickets, "Red-Bus" tickets etc. [all these travels have issued tickets, on behalf of and with the consent of "GEE PEE travels", which is a sister concern of "SMPK travels"] and the guy was issuing boarding passes to these people. When we got our tickets to this guy, he told us that all seats were filled and that we could take a seat in their "special bus", which is not A/C, not volvo and not even semi-sleeper. All this when we had booked the tickets 2 weeks in advance. How more unscrupulous can this get? We were uncontrollably angry. This fate was shared by 7 or 8 others around us. Fazil and I, not knowing if there really was any special bus, got into the volvo and sat on an unoccupied berth. We refused to get down, when the boarding pass issuer asked us to get down. He asked us to show our tickets. We showed him the tickets. He snatched it from my hand and got out of the bus. There were 2 other guys in this bus, just like us; the rest went off to take the special bus. Everyone inside the Volvo was completely pissed off at SMPK travels for their ruthless tactics. The bus started. We sat in the berth with the confidence that, if the bus operators tried to force us out of the bus, the angry crowd inside the bus would definitely support us. We somehow managed to put our backs on the berth and our tiredness put us to sleep. We reached Calicut, at 6 AM the next morning. Fazil invited me to his home for breakfast. At his house (or might I say 'bungalow'), after freshening up, I had a lovely breakfast, that his mom prepared. I thanked them and left for college.

Palayam bus stand, "REC, Mukkam" shouts, the bus ride to NITC, Medical College, Kunnamangalam, Co-ops, canteen, Ragam decorations, Rajpath, Basketball court, NLC, MB, A-Hostel (and other hostels), mini-canteen ... brought back many vivid memories and kept me smiling widely. Outisde the F' hostel, I met Arjun, at whose room (F-120) I was going to stay. F mess is now run by Lovely Foods people. We ate at F mess, where I started meeting juniors and friends. We then caught up with some events like Eastern Orchestra, Solo dance, Duplicate. The pro-show for the night starred Shankar Mahadevan. His voice was worth the 300 bucks for the ticket and much more. As his second song that night, Shankar started singing "Thaniye Thannanthaniye" from the Tamil movie "Rhythm". But since the crowd, that was swarming around the stage and that was desperate for Hindi songs after the previous night's pro-show, featuring Benny Dayal, who had sung Tamil songs predominantly, gave a very sombre response. Shankar sensed this, ended the song with just the first stanza and did not sing any Tamil song after that. Nevertheless, the show was outstanding. I had a great time that night, dancing with Machchans. Outside the OAT, I met Nikhil John Kurian, who was in the "Special Bus" from Bangalore to Calicut. He told me that the bus was blocked at the state border, for 3 hours, due to lack of valid permits. He also told me that when they got out of the bus at Calicut, all of them threw stones at the bus, broke the steering wheel and every windowpane of the "Special Bus". Guess they made the bus really "Special" then. I congratulated Nikhil for this achievement. After having the legendary double-attached at the mini-canteen [MC], all of us were dead tired. Since Arjun's bed was small for both of us, I took refuge at [Raj Thilak, Sanjay and Hemu]'s room (C-245), where we could join beds.

Saturday, the last day of Ragam 09, began late for me. It was past 12 noon, when I finished my morning duties. I had lunch at Lovely Foods, with juniors. Juice/Milk-shake at the co-ops was next in line. During B.Tech., at several points in time, I used to come to co-ops everyday. I have come to the co-ops too many times, but that day, it was at co-ops did I feel like a complete outsider. For 30 seconds, I was in a black-N-white spiral tube and I was going backwards, facing the centre. When I came out of it, the harsh reality, that I can't come to the co-ops daily, struck me. I always knew it but it did not hit me like this before. After about a minute through this complicated feeling, it dawned on me that it wasn't the co-ops that I was going to miss, but everything at NITC. I then realised that I have already been missing my college for a long time. I never fully understood when my friends told me that they were feeling nostalgic about college. All those feelings came rushing to me. I wonder if this was how my friends felt at the end of 4th year. I'm guessing that all of these emotions have been accumulating for a while and they just surfaced at the co-ops. Was I too robotic to ignore these emotions till then? Or was I sub-consciously suppressing them? Just then, the 'cheta' at the co-ops recognised me and came to speak with me. With the conversation, I was diverted and put at ease relatively. The mango shake was brilliant as ever. Back at Ragam, JAM was about the only interesting event that day but that too got boring very soon. The pro-show for that night featured "Breathe the delicate sound of Floyd". I enjoyed their music. Fashion Show followed the Rock show. NITC's team put an extraordinary show and everyone loved it. Later I heard that our college won the event. Soon after our college's turn, we got bored and called it a day.

On Sunday, Nithin (he arrived that morning) and I, with juniors, went to Kappad beach. It was already 2 PM, when we landed at Kappad. All of us were hungry by then. We had food at the Kappad resort, on the beach. Although initially I was hesitant to get wet, within minutes, I was completely drenched in water. After about an hour in the water, we left for college. Exhausted, I slept early that night.

Monday was the much awaited Convocation day. We had some formalities (paying caution deposit for the robes, collecting the robes, ...) to do. In NITC, any official work implies standing in queues. Starting from withdrawal of money from the ATM to collecting the robes, there was a line for every step. I wouldn't dare compare this queue to registration day queues, but it still did give us a taste of those days, especially since it was very hot, just like registration days. The programme was at the auditorium, scheduled to begin at 4 PM. At around 4 PM, dressed up in the black robes, we were taking a few snaps in groups, near the Production department. Most of us looked funny, especially when the hat kept falling down. Nithin got just one day's leave (monday) at office, so he had to leave to catch the 5:30 PM train. He knew he would not be able to attend the convocation and still came to Calicut for a visit. I felt very sorry for him not able to attend the Convocation. The staff ushered us to get in as it was time for the Academic procession to arrive. My parents arrived just when I was about to enter the hall. After a few quick pictures with my parents, I went in to sit with my classmates and they went to sit in the guests area. Soon, the Academic Procession, which is a march of the Director, Chief Guest Dr. K. Kasturirangan [MP (Rajyasabha), Former Chairman of ISRO], Heads of Departments and the other members of the Senate, from outisde the auditorium to the stage, in a formation, arrived with music in the background. The music sounded like some circus music. Their robes were different from ours and the Director and the Chief Guest had special robes, in which they looked like the Pope. Together with the music, this was very funny. The long boring speeches were strenuous to sit through, especially since the over-crowded auditorium was suffocating us. Then, as the Head of the respective department, read our names, each of us went on stage to collect our degree. We were required, on the stage, to bow thrice - once to the HOD, once to the Chief Guest and once to the Director before receiving the Degree from him. When my turn came, my only thought was to save my hat from falling down while bowing. After the Degree distribution, the Awards (Medal) distribution took its turn. I was the Gold-Medalist in my branch. As far as I can remember, this was the first time I have topped in Academics. I was happy and excited to receive the prize. The Chief Guest awarded the medals. After awarding the medal, he has a brief chat with the medalist, on stage. Mine went like this ...

Kasturirangan : My hearty Congratulations !!
Me : Thank you.
Kasturirangan : Where are you now?
Me : I'm with Goldman Sachs, Investment Bank.
Kasturirangan (immediately, with concern) : Oh are they O.K.?
Me (with a slight hesitation) : Yeah, we are fine now.
Kasturirangan : You are happy there ... ?
Me (being in a good mood) : Yes

We all took an oath that I don't remember very well, but basically said we must be good people. The music started again, when the Academic Procession was leaving the auditorium. Even when the procession only half exited the hall, all of us threw our hats in the air and roared with joy.

It was 7:45 PM, when we got out of the auditorium. Another long line, to return the robes and collect our caution deposit back, was in place. Standing in that line, it was depressing to think about leaving. After getting the deposit back, I collected my bag from Arjun's room, said "Bye" to everyone I met on the way and went to the bus stand. As I walked, the hostels, MB, MB circle, NLC, Basketball court, ... were all dragging me back, as if asking me to take one more look at them. When I reached the Rajpath main gate, I turned back to look at the well-lit Rajpath, adorned with Ragam decorations, still intact. I remembered leaving college, on the last day of 4th year - we were going in a jeep; as we reached the main gate, I looked at the Rajpath and gave a smirk. In contrast, on monday, I couldn't feel anything but plain, raw sadness to leave.

At Calicut, my parents came to the bus stop to send me off. They had tickets for the 2 AM train to Chennai. I at least wanted to go to Chennai with them. I did not want to get back to Bangalore. But the next morning, when Fazil and I got out of the bus, outside Forum, both of us were dejected that we had to leave college, again.

Going back to my college was more heartening than I had ever imagined. I took 2 days to stabilise myself, but I think I will feel nostalgic about college for a long time.


arjun said...

Machi... thanks for making me famous da. There's a technical glitch but.. Itz F-120.

vatsil said...

@arjun famous? getting a mention on my blog? nakkal ah? anyways i take it as a compliment; and F-120, yes, F-118 was Naren's room; was thinking abt that when I wrote it :)

Balajee.R.C said...

Strange! I never felt miserable for having missed the convocation, until now.

nautillus said...

Just read this now..Thinking back, I suppose I could have stayed for one more day.

Arun Vatsil said...

Nithin & Balajee, yeah machan... was really great !!