2002 reunion report
A report by Prateek Sharma
The reunion had been a long time in the making. The first stirrings happened in May with some informal chats, Facebook polls and yahoogroup emails. It was an idea which almost everyone seemed to like immediately. Parul kicked it off but very soon Shro (Vishal Shrotriya), Kalpesh Balar, Kamal Yadav and Taxi (Kiran Patil) joined in to get the ball rolling. Later on Anu (Anamika Agarwal) and Vivek Khanna pitched in as well. And I am sure there were a bunch of other junta as well who did something or the other to make this happen. It was amazing to see the small idea become this awesome day in Dec for the Class of '02. Parul is with IBM Research, Shro is in LA with Solarmer building business for their solar tech. Kalpesh handles technology for Inkfruit, more on them later. Kamal is doing some high-tech nanotech work at De Core. Anu is all set to rock the Indian biz scene after rocking MIT, Goldman Sachs & London Business School.
The day was supposed to begin in the SOM foyer, where the registration desk was setup. But the feeling really started as soon we entered main gate. It was amazing to walk down the tree lined avenue, reminiscent of those 4 years spent here.
We got to the foyer, and it was already teeming with the earlybirds! Lots of smiling, and hugging and shouting was already happening. I could see that the average circumference of the class had gone up significantly, me included.
Met Sidey aka Siddharth Srivastava and Naga aka Manish Jalan right there. Both of them are beating their own path with really interesting companies. While Sidey tackling the energy problem in India by building a renewable energy company, VisViva , Naga is teaching the NSE , BSE and the rest of India algorithmic trading via his company Samssara Trading.
Unkil Anuj Krishan was able to make a last minute trip from London, accompanied with his beautiful wife Neha. Even though Unkil said otherwise, I think the reason that Neha was in India already helped make the decision a little easier ;) Unkil is pound-ing (see what I did there) it out at UBS in London.
Anu (Anamika Agarwal) was there too, helping out at the registration desk. And basically ensuring that none of the geezus take more than 1 tshirt. The allure of the free tshirt is oh-so-hard to resist still!
Ajay Kumar TM was there as well. Ajay is roaming all over India, and in this case it's the real India of small towns and villages, working for a micro-finance research group in Chennai. I can safely say that he has seen more of UP than I ever did in all my years of growing up there.
Yamini and Choudhary made it on their way to Singapore from the US. Yamini is joining INSEAD Singapore this year. Bam came in all the way from London, and Shankar from Singapore. Shankar has been in Singapore with P & G ever since we passed out and it was a super pleasant surprise to see him after such a long time!
So we all chitted and chatted all over the foyer, hardly noticing the poor student volunteers who were trying to steer us towards the stairs to take the group photos. After several nudges, subtle and then some not so much, we all did manage to get on the giant stairs. The ladies got the chairs up front, the rowdies had to stand. And well we played our roles pretty well. As soon as the first click happened, shouts and whistles emerged. Like India had won some down-to-the-last-ball match or something. And then the photographer asked us to click once more, and the performance was repeated. The final one with the spouses was no different either. Good to see that we retained our chillar selves even after being corporate slaves for long years. And the chillar strain echoed through the day. I'll come back to it.
After the registration, and grabbing the goodies including some cool tshirts from Inkfruit, we moved into the IRCC audi. Inkfruit was founded by Kashyap Dalal and Navneet Rai and they are pretty much redefining the casual dressing scene in India. Anyone who wants to inject a little cool in our, well, not so cool lives, get an Inkfruit tshirt right now! And no, I don't mean the free one. Go buy one you, cheapos!
Anyways, we landed up in the IRCC audi and a familiar scene played out. The first 3 rows were completely empty, as usual! Seems like old habits do die really hard. Prof Ravi Sinha, Dean-Alumni & Corporate Relations, gave a small talk about connecting back with the Insti, which hit a chord. It was followed by a talk by Damayanti Bhattacharya, the CEO of IITB Alumni Association(IITB-AA). She quickly introduced the various programs that IITB-AA was running, and it was a pretty impressive lineup. From incentive programs for new profs to easy loans for needy students, they are doing some really good work.
And that's where the insti part of the day ended. The class was taking over the day! Debo (Deboleena Minz), who flew in from a cold Delhi, set up a very cool quiz where there were no teams, no points, just pure fun. Debo has been the pillar of strength in the semiconductor industry for all of her 10 years after insti, most recently with Freescale. The most fun part of her quiz were some really old, campus pictures with one of the many faces blanked out. It was quite surprising to see that every single one of the people in the pictures was identified! Chichi (Sameer Saxena) followed up with his ultra famous cricket mime piece. If you remember it, you would know when I say that the Azhar part is amazing! Chichi has ditched corporate life for good and joined the glamorous world of Bollywood. He runs Gravity Motion Pictures and was most recently seen as directing the latest season of the hit reality series, Bigg Boss. Sumit Moondra joined Debo and Chichi during the program too. But he kept us guessing till the end what he is going to do. We are all still guessing. Sumit is now bringing Solar and other renewable energy products to India, through his company Mundra Energy. RG (Rahul Gupta) & Bunnu (Abhilash Singh) got a warm welcome from the rest of the class when they entered the audi, while the program was almost done. What was I saying about old habits earlier? RG has just returned to India after an MBA at Oxford Said School of Business, and he is helping Lexity with product. Bunnu is doing infrastructure consulting at Auctus Partners. He has pretty much built all the new airports that you see in India, and in some cases, outside India as well. So now you know who to crib to, in case you don't like one.
After the IRCC audi sessions, we all went to the Gulmohar dining hall for lunch. The food, to our utter surprise, was nothing like hostel food at all. While some of us felt a twinge of nostalgia for hostel grub, most of us were just happy to have escaped that stuff for good! Lots more chatter happened over lunch. Ravi Kishore figured out a way to instantaneously get friendly with my 2 year old son Abir. That way is called ice-cream. Ravi has just started an education tech company, LearnWise, after spending several years in the sector.
After lunch, we all jumped aboard a bus to take a tour of all that is new and shiny on the campus. First stop, the Victor Menezes Convention Center. And how shiny it was! Vast lobby, great views from the top floors and of course, amazing architecture. This was even more noticeable because the entry was from the Infinite Corridor, which remains still the same. The next stop was SAC, which was pretty much the same. Except from some artwork which was a hangover from the Mood Indigo, which had just gotten over. THey have built an amazing indoor stadium right next to the SAC. Sadly, right on top of where the old Chinko's used to be. We also made a quick tour to the new hostels, 12 & 13. Hafeez Contractor design, replete with aerobridges and underground mess halls.
After the official visits, it was time to go say hi to the individual hostels. A few of us walked together to H4, my hostel. Rahul Jain joined the group as well. Rahul Jain is teaching some new tricks to Oracle in Bangalore. We walked up to my old room on the second floor of the first wing. I've said this before, but I will say this again- It must be really hard to maintain that same level of decay that we saw in our times. Not more, not less but pretty much the same. Well there were a few scaffolding rods, seemingly holding up the roof but you know, nothing important.
Most of the rooms were locked but luckily, my room wasn't. I peeked in through the window, and saw the current resident watching something on his laptop. Nothing objectionable here, all very cool. On a whim, we decided to knock. So knock knock, poor guy steps out, a little worried at all the oldies staring at him. I put him at ease by telling that I lived here many many years back. That brought a smile of relief to his face. We even clicked a picture together! The sad part was that even though he was in the 3rd year, he was sharing rooms. Yup, there were bunk beds in the tiny H4 rooms. There is severe infrastructure crunch in the campus but new hostels are being built. Hopefully soon enough.
After the hostel visit we all broke up in small groups to handle kids, or drink or well just chill out by the lake side. The party was supposed to start in the evening at Gulmohar terrace. On our way to the party, we stopped at the IITB Souvenir Shop in Gulmohar. Topi aka Sorabh Sodhani, runs the shop now and boy does he have some cool gear! While we were at the shop, several people dropped by. Interestingly, everyone was talking about guest house room number 208. Everyone was reaching the rooftop party via a detour to Room 208. I wonder what was high-er, Room 208 or the rooftop ;)
Anyways, all of us did make it to the rooftop, eventually. Some bachha DJ was belting out up-tempoed versions of the latest item numbers. We posed for more pictures and the chatter did not stop. Seemed liked we could not have our fill of conversations! But then again, 10 years is a long time. We have all spent 2.5 times our IIT stays outside it and there was plenty to talk about. Biyani (Pravesh) has now become a prof at IIIT-Delhi and is now all set to pay forward all the misery that he accumulated in his IIT days. Kanvinde (Gaurang) is doing an award winning mobile app startup in Bombay. Anish Lohokare is in the big bad world of banking in New York. Chhotu (Anant Gupta) is in Bombay with Kedaara Capital doing private equity. Kislay Thakur also made it to the reunion all the way from Amsterdam! He is doing some funky trading at Optiver.
The dinner was a tepid affair till Tina (Vivek Mohan's better half) took matter in her own hands. Vivek, Tina and their son Vivaan had come in from Bangalore for the reunion. Vivek is doing product with Microsoft these days. So Tina, along with some enthu sophies who were volunteering for alum activity took to the dance floor and then pretty much everyone followed. It's hard to describe what transpired there. I would like you to recall the chillar mood that we felt early in the day. Well, it hit back. All the moves from back in the day were witnessed on the dance floor! And we continued at it till the DJ finally backed his bags and it was time to say goodbye. It was a long, fun day but it still didn't feel enough when it came to an end. In fact, it was so good that there was some talk of doing this every 5 years and I completely agree. So here is to wishing that we will meet again in 5 years!