Sunday, July 06, 2008

College Chronicles : Something Wrong

Time 8:20
We are stuck in traffic, AGAIN! But to be honest we started out at 8:15, for our class at 8:30, so we were partially to blame, the rest of the blame is to be evenly shared by the roads, the corrupt government, the people of Chennai ,society on the whole and the Indo-US Nuclear deal. We are at the Kathipara junction, for those unaccustomed to Chennai traffic, Let's just say the top speed in a 1Km radius of the junction is 1Km(s) per hour.
My classmate/good friend/chauffeur Arjun, turns on the AC in his car, as I located the only music CD that I had compiled at the start of the 2nd year, we were in year 3 now. The mesmerizing tune of "Voodoo" by Godsmack takes over for probably the 200th time in that car.
Arjun then begins his daily routine of trying to weave in and out of traffic, in his yellow Wagon-R. I would like to take a moment here and thank Arjun for choosing this colour as it united all our friends in the constant pursuit of making fun of him for 3 years and hopefully for many more years to come. The only other topic that enjoys such a unanimous backing is "making fun" of yours truly. Sigh!

Time 8:25
We are about 1 meter ahead of the position, we were at 8:20.It was time for contingency plans to be put into action.We begin the reconnaissance mission by sending out the customary SMSs to the usual culprits of our class.Usual culprits refers to enthusiastic hostellers who turn up 15mins early to class.
No response to our SMSes.Something was wrong!These guys are usually quite quick to respond to messages as it serves them the dual purpose of whiling away their boredom and making life a little more troublesome for us.But even we have gotten pretty good at reading the "Fake Reports". For example.
Class nt strtd,cm even if l8 translates to Class is cancelled ,How, you ask? It has been proved scientifically that when one comes to class when there is no class, it gives sadistic pleasure to those already present in the class.
Cm fast,attndnce goin to strt translates to Your attendance has passed and no one has given you proxy but come all the same coz we would like to see your face when you find it out for yourself.
There are many such subtle nuances and variations in messages that you can only appreciate after years of back stabbing by your loyal classmates.

Time 8:28
I put forth my one-stop-solution for all college related problems, "Lets just cut class da". Unfortunately,My friend remains persistent. He wasnt going to let precious petrol go to waste. If not for the money being spent on his education, atleast the personal money spent on petrol MUST NOT be wasted. We trudge forward.
Another 2-3 messages pass by, no response.

Time 8:31
My friend turns to me and dramatically says "Make the call". I flip open my flippable mobile phone.Trust me, flipping open your mobile phone to make a call is totally cool, ever since I saw Neo flip open his mobile in Matrix,I have wanted to do that.I have just realized that "flipping open your flappable mobile phone" doesn't sound all that cool when put down in words. I open the address book and begin the process of narrowing down to the ideal candidates. The kind of people who
- will be present in class
- will be seated at a safe distance from the proffesor
- most importantly are gutsy enough (some say foolish..I say GUTSY) to answer the call in our class.
Answer the call in a class which is part of the main campus of a university which pioneered in banning cell phones in 232 constituent colleges and its own HOSTEL.
Answer the call in a class ,which belongs to the mechanical department which in turn is the home department of the current VC.(The cell phone ban thing was his brainchild)
See!! GUTSY guys. Now, CLAP FOR THEM!

Time 8:34
I narrow down prospects to 3 final candidates and start the calls.

Call No. 1 >The phone is switched off.
Call no. 2 >The guy is out of town, but doesnt let me cut the call until I promise to put proxy for him but with the stipulated clause of being extra careful so that HE is not caught. I didn't have time for this, I say "Yes! I am in class and putting proxy very carefully right now,as we speak" and I cut the call.
Note:For the uninitiated,"putting proxy" refers to a person voicing out the phrase "Present" or "Yes" or "Yes Sir" when the attendance is being marked for the class.
It leads to loads of entertainment when things go wrong and it also warms the heart to know that a fellow soul is still slumbering peacefully somewhere in Chennai.Of course, 2-3 continuous proxies and this warm feeling is replaced by some good old fashioned therapeutic anger.
Call no. 3 >The phone rings, and he cuts the call.Why would he cut the call when he could have answered it and not spoken.Something was wrong!!

Time 8:34
We park at parking lot 1, the furthest parking lot from our department.The "No Driving in Campus" rule was put in place in our 2nd year,to ensure a greener campus.It must be noted that the professors were still allowed to park right next to the department.I can only assume my university has found some new green fuel that does not pollute and the university is sharing this only with its staff, cause when I last checked, petrol pollutes whether it is my car or my profs.Cursing the fact that my dad wasn't a prof,we begin the rush to class at a brisk pace.Yup! Brisk pace, not a mad rush.No running allowed, the reason being ..
1)I don't run, it might accidentally do some good to my health
2)I sweat like a pig, and considering that we are late for class, we will have the most lucrative hot spots in class and I do mean HOT spots which are situated in the corner of the class, away from the window under the non-working fan and home to a dusty bench thrown in for Vaasthu compliance.
So, we walk at a brisk pace taking the shortest path to our department, cutting in and out of hedges.In the midst of our mini jungle safari,It struck the both of us, we didn't know who the enemy was? What subject was the first hour?. We quickly browse through the 3 notebooks that we had between us and luckily one of them actually had part of the timetable.(The book didn't belong to either of us ,I just brought it from the car so that I have an extra book to wave myself when I am seated in on of the Hot-spots.Talk about lucky!).Turns out it was Mr. Bensely's class, don't ask me what the subject was. I'm not that good with subjects. Bensely is a nice guy, young, short, kind of strict. We were measuring up the consequences of us turning up late for the class based on the various modes of entry into the class.
There's the stealth mode, where we try to stealthily(DO NOT LAUGH) try to get into the class and just sit down at one of the benches but this wasn't a good method as we were already late and it was going to be tough to get a seat even if we manage to get behind enemy lines.
Then there is the head-on-approach – Where we stand at the door and look like we have just committed murder and are feeling really guilty about it. This is coupled with the ever green excuse of Chennai traffic and the rest is left in the hands of the almighty. This however can backfire if you don't do your homework properly, it hadn't failed me yet though. There are some professors who just want to be disturbed cause it gives them an opportunity to do the ONLY thing that they can do that can justify their presence as a professor in our college. One such professor was Muthu. Code name: Muthu[UNDERSCORE]Kuthu. He will first stare you down while you look as sorry as possible. His next words will be "Day scholar or Hosteler?" There is no right answer to this question cause either way the outcome is the same.
"Day Scholar sir".
"Still you are coming this much late?"
" Sir..There was an accident on the…"
"What is time?"

"8:32 sir"
"Not your time man! Department time.GO SEE DEPARTMENT CLOCK"
(As if the Department is on some other time zone!).From hereon, It would be tough to predict if you will get into the class or not, but your attendance is already lost ,so you would be daft to want to enter class in the first place.Unless of course you are there for the entertainment. You may need subtitles to his performance but it is worth it. Some of his classic performances are the Superhit blockbuster "When you are finish, empty the department". That one ran for 100days+,(The entire semester!!)
Another one time hit, which gained cult status was the "It is a hot engine is there" (It was neither hot, nor an engine, it was just the apparatus for flash point testing).I would need to write another article just to praise our very own muthu_kuthu.
Back to Class Entry Modes 101 .There is also the "Better late than never" approach where the guy just walks in and sits down at a bench whether or not the guy is watching, as if it is his birth right to be able to come to class 20 minutes late. You would be surprised to know that this actually works on certain professors and has hilarious results on others.
Then comes the "Shock and Awe" method.The guy turns up 5minutes before end of class, Gets into class by hook or crook ,gives attendance and leaves. The reason why It is named "Shock and Awe" is because of the look on our faces. And finally comes the "Don't enter class but get someone to give you proxy" approach, which wouldn't have worked anyway as the proxy-givers were incommunicado.
Anyways, we chose the head on approach for Bensely and "Traffic at kathipara" was the weapon of choice.
Do not think that this decision was made lightly.Such choices are based on numerous "performance parameters" pertaining to the prof and other prevailing conditions such as niceness quotient, moodiness quotient,attendance policy,Timing of attendance marking(Post session or pre-session?), butter-ability, possible domination at home by the wife? It wouldn't be too prudent to say it is a science unto itself.

Time 8:45
15 minutes late and we were charging ahead,I could hear the "Mission Impossible" tune start playing in my head. We make it to the department at 8:50. Our class is on the first floor. Before me make the trip upwards ,we scout the banyan tree next to our department to see any enlightened souls from our class to give us some pearls of wisdom.No one! Not a soul, there is usually at least 1 guy sitting there not having the courage to move in alone, waiting for someone else to turn up to hide behind.Today, it was Zilch. Something was wrong.
We move on ahead, up the steps.Slowly and carefully.Trying to egg the other guy on, to be BRAVE, to be a LEADER, to be THE CHOSEN ONE.
We climb back up to the class and we try to peer into the class through the back window. No good. We would have to take a peek through the main door if we were to get any idea of what was going on in the front. So we move to the door, and VOILA! Who do we see standing there? None other than our beloved Vice Chancellor, decked in his full sleeve safari suit, the the kind of suit that makes you sweat by just the sight of some other guy wrapped up in it.
Before we move any further, I find it necessary to point out our college's wonderful dress code.
Gentlemen were to wear formal shirts, no t-shirts(NOT EVEN ON FRIDAY), no jeans.And I am not even going to get started on the Ladies dress code.Our VC drew a lot of flak for this rule, but he wouldn't budge.Not even being publicly ridiculed on national TV could make a dent in this decision.
And there I was dressed in a "formal shirt" that screamed "Welcome to HAWAII" and a pair of jeans,which looked like it was handed to me as a family heirloom.I don't remember what my friend was wearing but I remember the shoes, they were RED. Red NIKE Shoes that looked good when Michael Jordan wore them, but doesn't seem that much of a good idea, now that you are wearing it to college.
And there he was speaking in front of our class and us standing like fools,staring at the man whom we had come to love to hate.We were staring at all the "something wrongs" that we didn't heed to.
It was as if my mind went into overdrive…Strategy needed to be changed, Head-on approach wont work....this wasn't the way it was meant to be....2 years of college training and we were not prepared for this situation...Part of my brain was racing ahead trying to figure out the best course of action for being late by filling in various "performance parameters" based on inputs received from various totally unreliable sources...another part of my brain was trying to figure out how do to minimise the bright effects of my cool and calm attire....Then there was this voice in my head asking me if my mobile was on silent...I want to switch my mobile mode to silent before Murphy's law takes over and I get a call from some long lost friend who I don't really care about.But I couldn't move my hand...I couldn't move my legs....there was too much information....multi-tasking wasn't my forte….WHY WAS I EVEN BORN?!??.

I don't know if it was the noise from the whirring of the gears in my brain, but our VC's P.A caught sight of us,and we could see the smile on his face as he asked us to come forward and wait at the side of the class.We enter and move to the side of the .We then use the defense mechanism adopted by Ostriches(which I learnt from National Geographic).The Ostrich hides it's head in the sand at the first sign of danger, the logic behind this is that when there is no danger to be seen, what is the worry?(The logic is infallible),And that was precisely what we were doing, I mean..we didn't hide our head in the sand...but we were pointedly looking at the ground and not making any eye contact.Our VC takes a look at us, My mind is still screaming "IS THE MOBILE ON SILENT??" and he asks us to take a seat. Whoa! It was our lucky day. The guy is clearly on some PR building exercise. Maybe he didn't take his meds for the day.Maybe he wanted to change the image that the media had built of him. Maybe the Ostrich defense mechanism actually works....Whatever be the reason...we didn't care. We were safe. We were happy, we were lucky. And then to add to our luck,Mr. Bensely was late for class! He got a sermon for being late to class, we sat down and enjoyed the rest of the speech given by our VC where he told us that he had a special place in his heart for the Mechanical department, which we will believed meant a lot more rules being imposed on the Mechanical Department. He also spoke about allocating a massive amount just for our department. I think most of it was spent on the new water cooler that was provided towards the end of my 4 years in college.And the rest of it was spent on the department restrooms.I can safely vouch that the newly renovated mechanical engineering restrooms are definitely far better than all other departments in our campus,that is not much to say but I needed something to vouch for, for my college, for my VC.By the way, I think I should let you guys know that Mr. Bensely turned up 15 minutes early for his next class, and didn't allow anyone even a second after 8:30! The "head-on-approach" had failed me!

Fast Forward 3 Years
I wake up by 6:30 and catch the bus by 7:10 and am in office at 8 itself and leave at the earliest by 5:20.A duration that I have never ever spent college on a single day,except of course when I had attended the Infosys Interview. Oh the IRONY of it all.
I am currently sitting in a plush Air conditioned office, reminiscing about an incident that happened barely 3 years back..... currently thinking about how to end this article as it was a pretty subdued ending to all the hype. And then I had an epiphany, It isn't always about the ending, sometimes it about the journey as well, as long as the journey was enjoyable, the ending can be corny, just like this article. I am truly thankful for all the "Something wrongs", both on that day and throughout my life,they make life worth living and more importantly re-living.A wise man once said "most pleasant memories in life come from times when things went wrong".


Anonymous said...

Great post .. Had loads of fun reading it.. Finally Gowri's back to his best!!


Harish said...

Ha ha ha ha!!!! damn... How i miss making fun of Arjun and YOU!!!! lol..


T said...

Great post!
Excellent writing, with just the right mix of specifics and generalities.. Having spent 4 years in an engineering college in TN, I could picture exactly what you meant.. Viva le VC!