Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hoping “bye”s don’t become “goodbye”s

July the 19th, 2013
50th Convocation, IIT Madras.
Dear Insti,

So this is it, isn’t it? Why does saying bye have to be this difficult? This heavy? Well, nonetheless, this is the time I said bye. This is the time I told you how much you mean to me, how I have come to be the way I am because of you and why I call the four years spent with you the best four years of my life so far. I still remember the day I got the admit letter saying that I am enrolled into the CSE department…

But before that, I must thank you for two very important lessons you taught me. One, the harsher one, even before I got the admit letter, and the other, a reassuring one, more of a gradual realization as I got to know you more and better.

It is hardly the case that you will get what you want. The sooner you accept it the better. Well, I was way more infatuated by your sister in Mumbai! I wanted to get into IITB (CSE, obviously) so desperately that it was very hard for me to come to terms with my limits. Should I write JEE again? There was no way I was going to do any better in JEE than what I had already done. Hence, since the day of JEE results, I kept convincing myself that other IITs are also going to be as great.

Just because you wanted something, doesn’t imply that what you got instead will be any inferior. By the time three months had passed, the IITB dream had blurred into a distant haze — glowing but unreachable. Attractive; but in the attraction lay the acceptance of separation. Still triggering the pangs of pain of something I could not achieve, but numbed down and ameliorated by your soothing presence! After all, you would give me everything I wanted… and much more.

So, I had convinced myself that all IITs are equal and I was waiting for my admission letter. I still remember the day I got the admit letter saying that I am enrolled into the CSE department of IIT Madras… “Wow! Dosas and Vadas!” was the first thought that had come to my mind. I had heard and read a lot about you and the 650 acres of lush green campus you boast of. Little did I know that this is the thing which is going to make me fall in love with you. I had hoped of manicured lawns, well-trimmed hedges, loads of flower plants and rows of coconut trees. Well, that was my idea of natural beauty! I must confess of the disappointment I felt when I first stepped my foot onto the campus. How the past four years have changed me, my notions and my conceptions — sometimes it is beyond my own comprehension. The raw, radiant flora and the vibrant fauna, God! I couldn’t have wished to be in a place more beautiful than this! Now, while heading to Stanford, a place where I would see manicured lawns, well-trimmed hedges and the other things I once looked forward to, I feel a weight on my heart — to leave you behind, to part with the blessing that you are and to say a final bye. Alas, having stayed with you, I can’t even say “moving onto greener pastures…” ’cause there won’t be any!

You know how I felt on the very first day? I was intimidated, I was afraid and I felt as if I was under a huge burden. After all, that’s how I was flung into the world of CS. On our day of orientation, I heard two of my classmates talking about how they have used Linux — one was telling another “…oh, that’s easy! In the command line, just type ‘sudo apt-get …’” My buffer had already overflowed! Command line? Sudo? Apt-get? I moved aside only to overhear another scary piece “… algorithms… complex problems… programs…” My mind was caught into infinite loop of worry! Was I somehow supposed to match up to these people?

Workshops were fun and so were random, useless classes on Physics, Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering. More fun were the variety of activities that kept happening on campus. That proud moment when my team won “intra-hostel freshie Project X”… that embarrassing moment when I realized that I had taken back with me all the clothes of a hostel senior from the swimming pool, making him walk back to the hostel just in a towel… that sense of achievement when I returned from Iran winning India a silver medal in International Olympiad for Astronomy and Astrophysics… that pure sense of confusion when, writing an exam I realized that I don’t even know the difference between a function definition and a function call — all these small small things, you have made them memorable.

Oh boy! You and your naming system… wasn’t it just fascinating! It was exciting to know that in insti, you would be known by your insti name. And what names they were! Pojo! Mojo-jojo! Robot! I would wonder what mine would be. It didn’t take long — there was a bunch of Telugu seniors who called me for ‘interaction’. Seeing that I was in Hyderabad for the past two years, they switched to Telugu and then seeing that I could hardly get what exactly they were saying, they started making fun of me. One of them called me “chubby”. Catching that thread, someone suggested that I, kinda, look like a monkey. Another came up with the name “pandukoti” (पंडूकोति), which means “a red faced monkey” in Telugu. The individual words ‘pandu’ and ‘koti’ mean ‘fruit’ and ‘monkey’ respectively. I liked the name. Not pandukoti, but FruitMonkey — like FireFox, IceWeasel and SpiderMonkey! I even started thinking of making a logo for FruitMonkey! And then came the swimming pool mishap…

While returning from swimming pool, I picked up my red-colored Bata plastic bag containing my cloths. Only when I came to hostel did I realize that I had swapped bags! They weren’t my clothes! More importantly, they were dry! Thank goodness that there was a id-card inside. I went searching for that guy. Half an hour had passed by and his friends caught me searching for him. I came to know that he had come all the way from swimming pool to hostel in just a towel! Ooh… I had just messed up with a senior! Naturally, his friends started scaring me. After a good dose of it, they said “अरे इसका नाम रखो भाई!” (Let’s name this guy). Someone suggested “chaddi-chor” (चड्डी चोर) meaning “inners thief”. “No no. Not just chaddi chor. He is chutiya chaddi chor — C cube!” said another senior in a fit of creative genius. Now I was scared. Really scared. Chutiya (generally used to mean ‘stupid’, the word has a vulgar shade to it) in my name? I had to act fast and stop the name from spreading. Whenever anyone asked me my name, I used to tell “C square — chaddi chor”. Then I would go on describing in detail the swimming pool incident. I had managed to spread it quite a lot so as to get ahead of people who were present while I was named “C cube”. Anyway, neither of the names stuck. Neither FruitMonkey, nor C square. I was just me — Sujeet!

One of the things I have really grown fond of is your lingo — the insti lingo! Where “put” is an omnipotent verb, “stud” and “cupper” are two black-and-white adjectives sufficient to describe anything under the sun and “peace” means more than what Gandhiji could have ever thought of! Everyone was a “macha”, whether or not one was interested in their sisters. Our “re”s, “bey”s, and “ra”s changed to “da”s, and every tom dick and harry was knighted with a mandatory “saar”!
“Studying hard” was “putting mug”, while “Failing exams” was “putting cup”!
Following “keep on doing your work without expecting any fruits” from Geeta, people sometimes “put infi peace” in hostels.
“Not taking seriously” was “taking lite” and “keeping on trying” was “putting fight”. You could replace any negative word with “pack” — “let’s not go” became “pack going” and a refusal to carry a backpack became “pack backpack”.

I still remember the sheer excitement I felt, when, toward the end of my first year, I put my webpage up on my department site — “Sujeet’s Website”. A proud father, looking at his smiling newborn… a toddler, beaming, unable to contain his joy when he took his first steps… I, looking at “Sujeet’s Website”! Thinking about the tiny bits of JavaScript that breathed life into it…

As scary as it sounded at the beginning, first year had turned out to be quite fun. It marked the beginning of friendships I would come to value unlike anything ever before… Be it Pradeep coming to my mess table and saying “I would like to associate more with you” (what a way to start a conversation, no? Straight, clear, crisp!) or be it Devesh, with whom, many a countless and many times pointless conversations always started with me asking him “So, how is life?”. Did I tell you about the time in workshop when I saw the letters S H E E and L on a class-mate’s notebook and pattern-matched it to “Sheetal” and called him out “Hey Sheetal…” ? That was Saheel!

I must tell you how grateful I am that you ended my sixteen years of solitude. Sometimes it feels like you heard my mother’s silent pleas of help from the times when I used to come home from school, tears in eyes, hug her legs and burst out “Why don’t I have friends? Friends with whom I would really really want to be friends?” Here, you gave me, a group of people — amazing, outstanding people; but most importantly, people with whom I could feel “at home”, people with whom I felt a sense of belonging, people who made sense to me, people to whom I made sense…

And what an amazing bunch that was! Something to learn from everyone. Vaibhav — always smiling, beaming with enthusiasm, never tired! Prashant — I hadn’t seen someone with such a clarity of thought, such modesty in spite of their achievements and their capabilities! Devesh — there won’t be an instance of problem, of trouble when he won’t offer to help you! Arijit — the hacker, the sponge who absorbed and learnt everything! Nitin — ‘geek’ personified, comic book and hindi movie buff, math enthusiast! Vikram — a meticulous planner, hardworking and focused! Deva — ‘the guy who understands’! Saheel — a vicious arguer, never running out of stock of witty and shady yet quite funny remarks! Guru P — showing what feats one can achieve when intelligence meets perseverance! Gunaa — teaching how one can make light of every situation and have fun all the time without affecting studies! Mishraji — great to have political discussions with! All of them united by a single thread… their hatred for my PJs!

And then… there were these awesome bunch of people: Pranesh, BT, NG, Swarun, Slinky, Kirtika, Aditya Shankar and others. Seniors who inspired a sense of awe, who commanded a respect I hadn’t really offered many before. People around whom I tried to model myself, looking up to them, getting inspired by them and most importantly, guided by them. I could not thank you more for bringing these people in my life!

The best gift I received from you would be the exposure you offered. Introducing me to eminent scientists, businessmen, and thinkers, extramural lectures expanded the horizons of my thinking, my understanding. The journey with you has been a journey of discovery — of discovering the world, but more than that, of self discovery. It won’t be an exaggeration if I say that you re-introduced me to myself. I found out aspects of my personality I never suspected of existing, I found out how unpredictable I can be even to my own self. In last December, you showed me, with the right motivation, how I can stretch my limits. In the following semester, you showed me, with the lack of motivation, what a disastrous wreck I could become. It was in your company that I came across, and learnt to deal with my biases and prejudices, I learnt to look at issues from multiple viewpoints.

I guess, in almost everyone’s life, a time comes when it is not just the open air where butterflies flutter. When everything seems brighter and more colorful than it previously did. When you see two birds sitting on leafless branch, a yellow, bright full moon at the backdrop and an inexplicable flood of warmth fills your chest and your heart goes out to them. When every day dawns with sweet anticipations, full of hope and energy… What could have been a better place to experience that if not the campus?

At this parting moment, agreed, gratitude is there, but tell you what... frankly, I feel a bit of anger toward you. How could you let me go? Would any cool breeze ever match the one on the terrace of BioTech department? Would I ever see so many fireflies and feel like a child again? Would I ever get to swing carefree off banyan tree roots? Would a full moon ever be as serene as the one seen from the calm Durga temple? Would I ever be able to laugh as hysterically as I did during JAMs?

I know there won't be any more Department Computing Fun sessions, interesting mess-table conversations, late-night philosophical discussions, and early morning tea-shop excursions. I know there won't be any spontaneous beach outings, on-a-whim photography binges, and TV series marathons. I know, there won't be... there won't be...

Thank you for the friends. Thank you for the opportunities. Thank you for making me. Thank you for breaking me. Thank you for making me who I am and thank you for making me realize that it isn’t a thing to really be proud of! Last but not the least, thanks a tonne for the memories...

Yours truly,
yours forever,
CS09B010, FruitMonkey, C2


    1. At least on one person it did have the intended effect!
      :) \m/


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