A New Beginning
5 am, 16th July 2014
I set my feet on Kanpur Central Railway Station with verve and panache. Two more turns of the minute hand – I cross the KIAP era halls and set my eyes on the imperious Hall 10. I’m introduced to an amiable fellow, my ‘bapu’ ‘Aditya Jain’ who I later realized is an ordinary person with extraordinary sensibilities. C416 it is and I march forward and upwards onto the third floor.
An Antithetical World
Towers of my expectations started crumbling in the heat and humidity of a room infinitesimally larger than a coffin for two people. A sense of foreboding developed, a sense that was vindicated by events that have followed. That night I was drilled on customary observances. That night I developed a factitious hall identity,and a tolerance for peculiarly ornate and metaphorical language. That night, I realized that the first ‘I’ in ‘IIT’ means ‘Indian’, that I was momentarily not proud to be. I had no one to talk to, so I slept after half an hour of existential self introspection.
A New Day, But Not A New Beginning
The orientation started officially. The addresses by the professors, especially the DOAA were the most prudent words to be heard over the next 10 days. They were in the most literal sense, the real golden rules, to be adopted in thought and action. A few things he said, left me disconcerted: people in the highest echelons knew what was happening and statements being made were nothing more than a legal boilerplate, but …… more on that later. The orientation program progressed seamlessly. The articulate planning by the Counselling Service implicitly revealed their hours of hard work. The concern of the Assistant Coordinators I talked to and of others by extension is indescribable in words, but our agony in its absence is. Our lives would have been exquisitely miserable if it were not for these people. I would like to categorically thank Gaurav Doshi, Shubham Karnawat, Prasham Jain and Ankit Goyal for being so considerate.
Sexism Masqueraded As Opening Up
I had my first encounter with blatant sexism on the very first day, and it only increased in orders of magnitude in days to come. I could not but notice the transition from innocuous ‘meant to open up’, double entendres to the unabashed invocations of salacious symbolism, unmistakably intended to demean and vilify the fairer sex. The latter is not justifiable on any grounds. To be fair, the counselling service did organise an excellent session ‘Cognizance’, with the aim of inculcating gender sensitivity.
To break a [senior (your age + 1 or 2)/junior] “interaction” barrier one needs to go through some rites of passage.
They can be anything from enacting a pornographic act in all audio and graphic detail or invoking a female family member and describing an act about the center of gravity of her body. On doing so, seniors apparently reveal the much touted maxims which form the cornerstone of senior-junior interactions. The most thoughtful ones are listed for reference:
Not using expletives is unbecoming of a man.
Not watching porn is unbecoming of a man.
Not stimulating genitals is unbecoming of a man.
Studying is an anathema.
Sleeping on time is an anathema.
Waking up on time is an anathema.
Prof’s are stupid. People talking to profs are stupid.
“We will confiscate any laptops if found but we will provide you the choicest of stuff even if you don’t ask for it”(Read between the lines).
There are many more ‘sutras’ of becoming ‘bakait’, but all are essentially freudian frustrations vented in the facade of cultivating creative genius.
A New Hope
When one is trapped in this blitzkrieg of insanity, it is our own task to find advice for making rational choices. In the last session with Profs, Suchitra Ma’am repeatedly emphasized one thing: “Do not ignore the profs”. I was listening and it has paid me back. There are some really intelligent and helpful seniors, people you can look up to for advice on all matters, but one has to find such people. In my case it is a certain ShCh. There are many good people, but what sets him apart from the rest is his unassuming disposition and childlike curiosity towards life in general. So, yes, there is hope, maybe as evanescent as the morning dew, but it is there!
Written by Aditya Kumar