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87 reunion report

Silver Jubilee Reunion 28th Dec 2012 to 30th Dec 2012

A report by Madhur Kotharay
 

 

The D-Day, the Day of Dhamal, was finally upon us.

After a long 25-year wait, we were the cynosures of IIT Bombay, the blue-eyed boys and girls who were sent out in this big, broad world to conquer new lands and protect old turfs. And today was our homecoming.

 
The program said "Breakfast from 9am to 1030 am." So I diligently stopped everyone from going to the breakfast room before 9am, which was in the building different from the guest house - Gulmohar 2nd floor. As hungry, and occasionally ravenous, batchmates reached the breakfast hall at 9am, they were duly informed by the staff that the breakfast time was from 8am to 9am. Of course, they could help themselves with a few remaining broken cookies and odd bananas. :-( Luckily, I was nowhere near the disaster site and was saved a handful, or buttful, of bumps.

 


A few days earlier, M Nut had called me and said that the Director had invited a few alumni for breakfast on 29th Dec - as per the tradition of the Silver Jubilee day . M Nut wondered whom we could include. On deeper thinking, we decided to include all the 'intellectuals' amongst us: guys (and gals, Sarita) who could hold erudite conservations involving phrases such as 'positive contributions to the society' and 'economic enablers for appropriate technology'. We zeroed upon Dushyant Pandya, Raminder Bajwa, and Ambarish Malpani. The Adves were included to add academic flavour. Deepak Amin was added less for the intellectual reasons and more out of political manoeuvring (however the hell that word is spelt). So for once, I deeply regretted opting out as I missed theaam admi breakfast due to the 9am deadline.



By 10 am, we were in SOM Foyer getting registered. The whole place was full of comments from "boss, is it you?" "My God, I could have never guessed it was you", "where the hell were you all those years?" to "&*(*^$, !@\*384". 

We should have instituted a prize for the most changed alumnus (and of course, alumna, Sarita). While opinions differed, RD or Rakesh Desai would take the cake. You will find that out from the photos (to be uploaded in this week).  

 

 If there were a prize for most un-changed alumnus (and of course, alumna, Sarita), my vote would go for Samir Mishra. He actually looked a couple of years younger than in our IIT days (well, that does not mean he looked that old in IIT. But with Kamath, KCM, Khaparde, KVVM, and more importantly, Amit Singhi and M Nut to rag him, he could be forgiven to have looked haggard in those days). We almost asked Samir if he was son of Samir Mishra, sent as a representative of 'Le Miserables' family.

There were stories galore of radical changes. Diwakar Sawant is marketing Casino Slot machines, along with peddling other vices. SV was into transformational 'something'. And who could have guessed it: Dilip Gersappe is actually a prof in the USA, continuing the glorious tradition of making lives miserable for students.

Besides these 'meta'-morphoses, there is a case of Abhay Watwe who has become a lawyer, suing anyone who has ever infringed upon any copyright. Only exception allowed is a xerox of G B Thomas, our Maths textbook of the first year (Watwe owned a xerox copy). After all, you can't copyright the first fundamental theorem of integral calculus and its proof.

Samir Shah has been a real eye opener. He owns a chain of eye surgery clinics that help you get rid of your spectacles. As per M Nut, Alkesh Wadhwani has spent years distributing condoms. Alkesh clarified that he has been associated with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for many years, with an express mandate to stop the spread of HIV. Giri Kasmalkar made his moolah with a teenage fantasy: testing video games.

Bhartrihari Bhatnagar has been a Republican strongman in the state of California. And if you go by his biceps size, he has a good chance of becoming Governor of California, just as Arnold Schwarzenegger did. Manoj Karmarkar has been successfully running classes for IIT entrance. In fact, he takes entrance exam to admit students to train for IIT entrance exam!!! I am sure most of us would have flunked that exam. I suggested to Manoj that he should also open coaching classes to teach how to pass 'out of' IIT. After all, Manoj has a significant personal experience about the obstacles in that path.



A quick count suggested that we had 135 alumni (of both genders combined, Sarita) and 12 of them (both genders combined, again) had gone bald. The highest prevalence of baldness was in Computer Science. Out of 13 attendees, 9 were 'normal': Anirudh Sahani, Ambarish Malpani, Sanjay Jain, Deepak Deshpande, Ashok Srinivas, Harishankar, Venkat AJ, Harish Patil and Katakwar, 3 were bald: Deepak Amin, Harish Bhat, Harrick Vin and one indeterminate: Ketan Doshi. Blame it on Nagabhushan Rao and his RG!

In other depts, the story was similar: Gaurav Shah, Mayur Sirdesai, ... Some luckier ones had greyed - Alkesh, Raminder, ... Some even luckier ones has achieved 'grey baldness' (grey on the sides, shiny in the middle): Ashutosh Gupta, Rakesh Desai, ... 


Some could not make it on Saturday in spite of their best intentions. Panchali Das, who works for a telecom company in New Jersey, could not come from Kolkata (she would turn up the next day). Amit Merchant had read only the lower half of the programme and so he did not know there was anything before 3 pm. He reached campus at 3 pm, asking everyone where the function was supposed to begin. Chandru Chawla thought he was invited after lunch and so reached the venue for post-lunch sessions only. Shrikant Sawant was stuck in Pune, as his mother was serious and in ICU. He decided to skip our Sat function (he dropped in on Sunday night for a couple of hours). He certainly had his priorities right. We can have many reunions, but just one mom.

We also remembered some who would never make it. Vasu Kamat (passed away to an unknown condition), K Srikanth (lost to cancer), Tushar Kande (died after an illness) and Lohia (assassinated by ULFA while working as an IPS officer in Assam - our batch's grandest sacrifice for the nation).

Comments were being passed about people's ample girth. Mirth prevailed. We had foot massage, originally reserved for spice, I mean, spouses. Some colleagues were seen ghissing, as the masseur (a gorgeous beauty of a massage chair) couldn't distinguish an alumnus (/alumna) from 'spice'.

All registrants were getting nice denim bags (wonderful choice, M Nut - the masterstroke was that the IIT logo was on the inside flap of the bag, visible only to the user when he / she would open the bag. Who wants to show off, after all?) Everyone got a souvenir golf shirt too, which compensated for this lack of show-off on the bag. The prominent IITB87 logo on it could be read even from Google Maps sky images.



Vibhoo Mittal (batch of 1986), Sujata Banerjee's husband, promptly managed to ghiss a t-shirt, too. We decided to make him an honorary member of our batch to avoid complications. The alumni office had clearly underestimated our individual belly cross-sectional areas. Soon, all the L-size t-shirts got over. Then, people took away M-shirt t-shirts after pledging that they would reduce their sizes to fit the t-shirt. Eventually, we were left with only one t-shirt of XXS size. Even the kids would not have fitted in that napkin size t-shirt. Before the tongues got wagging, I decided to clarify that it was meant for Ashanka Sen, aka 'doggie'.

Soon, it was time to take photographs, dept groups, hostel groups, etc. It was the most complex operation ever undertaken since the UID project of Indian govt. Some folks had forgotten the dept they belonged to. Then, there was an annoucement that everyone should be wearing the IIT batch souvenir t-shirt (white) for the photos. Since many of us were 'differently' dressed, M Nut made every 'differently dressed' person wear another IIT logo t-shirt, except that it was completely black and had no IIT logo on it. As a result, the black sheep of the dept, hostel and batch stood out.

 

Then, it was time to go to the Lecture Theatre, the auditorium adjoining this venue. But many had forgotten where LT stood. It is the same hall where we used to sleep during Prof Arun Kumar's punch-card special, CS4101.

Amin, Gersappe, Ketan Doshi played a skit called '3 idiots'. It was extempore but they were obviously natural at it. Aniruddha Sahani showed '3 flutes' and played 2 of them. Panja conducted a quiz with difficult IIT questions such as "who was the first girl to enter IIT campus?" (Ok, ok, I was not present during the quiz. So I don't know the actual questions. After all, embedded reporters are not always embedded. Incidentally, the answer to the previous question is Tejaswini Saraf, Batch of 1966. Hmmm, I wasn't even born then).

Then, it was time for 'intellectuals'. Dushyant Pandya and Raminder Bajwa gave a flowing explanation of how our legacy projects would change the world. Soon, it was time for lunch.

We had lovely arrangements on Gulmohar Lawns (the small garden in front of H10 is now conveniently flattened and used as a venue for such events). No credits to any of us iitb87 organisers - it was wonderfully arranged by IIT Bombay Alumni Association Office, under the able leadership of Damayanti Bhattacharya. Everyone was ga-ga about the arrangements and the food.

Post-lunch, it was time for dept lab visits. I went to our EE labs. They showed us Micro-2 lab. Then, it was turn of Micro-1 lab. We identified the fancy looking room as our run-down classroom of yesteryears. We asked very intelligent questions to the student volunteers, "why should a bald guy wear hair-net in a clean room?" Prof Sarita Adve was made to wear foot covers in the clean room since she had stinking socks. Jitu Khare commented that in our years, Kapshikar used to work in EE's clean room. Of course, Jitu is prone to lapses of memory. How could a room be 'clean' when Kapshi was working in it?

Amit Singhi works as the CFO, Ford Motors for South America. His corporate background had taught him to nod politely and smile at every comment (the least he could do when they speak Portuguese with him in Sao Paolo, and he couldn't tell Portuguese from Malayalam). As the student volunteers kept talking about "Boron Epitaxial Layer Contact Deposition Characterization" and other similar obscene things, we noticed that they had stopped looking at our faces and were concentrating on Singhi to tender the information. After all, our faces looked inscrutable, as if we were hearing Esperanto. Soon, Singhi had to clarify that he had not understood a word either (which made me heave a sigh of relief. RG tendencies linger on!). Apparently, at Ford, things work on kilometer-scale, not nanometer-scale

I was appalled to see an exotic, gigantic, complex, expensive-looking reactor sporting a sign "No heartbreak" (a cartoon of a broken heart with a cross across it). When I asked whom it was for, the volunteer sheepishly said it actually stood for "No Pacemaker". I should have guessed that, knowing the heartless world of nanoelectronics.

Wisened properly, our wizened souls trudged back to the guest house. Soon, it was time for a High Tea Reception on Gulmohar Lawns. At 430 pm, the IIT Director, 20-odd specially invited faculty members and us batchmates were to meet for chat (sound bites) and chat (food bites, as in Pani Puri). We started on the dot at 430pm Indian Standard Time (approx 5 pm). Everyone was happy to meet our old favourites: AN Chandorkar, Tarun Kant, Sukhatme, SL Narayan Murthy, J Vasi, and a whole bunch of professors from non-EE depts that I don't recollect the names currently. 

The Director decided to accord a traditional welcome to all of us by draping us with IIT souvenir shawls (actually called 'Uttariya', half folded shawl). Since there were 135 of us, we decided that we would invite one person from each dept to represent that dept. We also decided that the person would be the one with the largest family representation. After all, nothing like your children seeing you honoured in front of your own teachers and peers (for a change, they would wonder if their dad / mom is not 'uncool' after all).

Anupa represented Aero (with Raminder, daughter Ayesha, son Ishan and Raminder's parents' watching). We also invited Pankaj Bhargava for Chem, Kapil Sabharwal for Civil, Sandeep Phadke for EE, Rakesh Desai for Mech, Murli Kottayil for Meta, Deepak Deshpande for CS, Dr Palsule for E.Physics and Anu Moulee on behalf of the Post-grads (if you missed it, you can collect your shawl or 'Uttariya', that beautiful piece of art as a souvenir from IITB AA office in future or from me).

After that, it was time to give gifts to faculty, as a token of our appreciation. As it often happens, the gifts were in transit as the programme was coming to a close. So we shuffled the order and invited a few faculty members to speak a few words. Following that, we asked Sarita and Sanjay Jain to say a few words of thanks to the faculty members. Luckily, the gifts arrived by then.

To hand over the gifts, we asked our next generation to do the honours. So we had these small 4 to 8 year old little ones, Sanjay's twin girls, Dushyant's daughter and a few other little things coming forward boldly and handing over a memento to IIT's director and other faculty members. Everyone thought that was a cool ending to the function. Just then, we realised that we had one more IIT Bombay prof present at the meeting: Prof Raja Mohanty. So we invited Raja Mohanty, our batchmate, to hand over a gift to a respectable faculty member of IIT Bombay, the same Prof Raja Mohanty. :-)

Everyone dispersed to one's room to change clothes, put on the makeup, wear finery, and get back to the Gulmohar lawns for the Gala dinner. The dinner, unlike all other formal functions, started at the right time. We IITians are always punctual when it comes to food. 

It was a delectable spread with Gala dishes: Chicken Hari Bhari (nothing to do with 'Bhartri Hari' Bhatnagar), Chicken Lajawab, Mutton Rogan Josh and some ghas foos (that I didn't have the heart, and stomach, to explore).

They had planned a karaoke team, and a stand-up comedian, Rivaldo (an IIT Delhi-ite, who is a famous stand up comedian). Junta was keen on no stand up comedian. Everyone wanted to sit down and chat with their gang, reviving old memories. You could hear loud guffaws emanating from various coteries: the H2 gang, the Chemi junta, the H4 gang, the EE crowds, etc. Deepak Amin had let his hair down, uttering unparliamentary language at times, in the midst of loud 'ha ha's. He knew none of us was cheap enough to indulge in any sting operation.

Junta was hogging to glory. Soon they started the comedy show. The guy, to his credit, tried hard: how does a tiger woo a tigress on Discovery Channel?, etc etc. Bhadresh Padia has been chasing a lot of tigresses in Ranthambhore. Of course, Bhadresh is no tiger but we know approximately how that is done. Some from our gang were sitting with their respective kids to watch the show. At some risque jokes, they were smiling gingerly ensuring that their kids did not notice that their dads and moms were laughing at the PJs. 

Soon, it was time for desserts - Kulfi with Rabdi accompanied by Jalebi bai. People were still very dignified as we had kept the liquor away from the scene, keeping in mind the presence of kids. 

Everyone was feeling as if he / she was transported back by 25-29 years. We were those young teenagers with stars in our eyes, again. After a long time, we didn't need to be someone else: investment bankers, chief technology officers, hedge fund managers, CEOs, consultant gurus, vice presidents, professors. We just could be 'us': a cribbu, a lukkha, a tapori, a buddy, a maggu, a wingmate, a topper, a dhakkan, a dedhia, a ghissu, an arbit punter.

It was 10 pm. The air was brisk; you could feel the chill. Someone came to me and asked, "so what is the agenda now?" There was a lot of agenda still remaining: a bonfire at H-4, with whiskey served unofficially officially (you know what I mean). Everyone went to H-4 and sat in the moonlight chatting into the late hours of night. I did not go.

I went back to my guest house room. Last 25 years of my life was an agenda. Today, for a day, I could live without an agenda. Today, for a day, I could be 'me'.

As I went to sleep, I remembered the movie "Citizen Kane". In the movie, the millionaire tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, is the newspaper baron who is one of the richest and most powerful men in the world when he died. A journalist digs into his past to seek the meaning of his enigmatic last word: "Rosebud." He finds evidence of a child torn away from his family. Grown into manhood, Charles Foster Kane becomes a newspaper king to indulge his idealism. He earns more money, more power while losing more and more of his soul. Charles Kane, even on his dying bed, craved for that little piece of his youth, his idealism. That was his 'Rosebud', symbolised by his childhood sled of the same name.



As a young 16-year old, I was torn away from my family to go to IIT. Grown into adulthood, I went to indulge in my idealism. I earned more money, more power, more respect but at times, I lost more and more of my soul, my 'self'. Today, I had come for my Silver Jubilee Reunion not just to meet my long lost friends, but also to meet my 'Rosebud', my idealism, my teenage, my youth, that little piece of myself that I had left behind on campus 25 years ago.



It is said that "Separation does to memories what wind does to fire. It extinguishes the weak and rekindles the great." And what a bonfire it was. Who would need one more in H-4?

  

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