Saturday, October 06, 2007

Autumn in Delhi, and some IIT memories

The evenings are becoming quite cool. Sun sets at around 6:30, which is pretty early. We don't do daylight savings in India. With most of the population anyway having a very cavalier attitude towards time, the amount of confusion that DST can cause would be amazing. There is no longer the need for an A/C at all times. And even the fan can feel quite cool in the wee hours of the night.
This is the time of the year when the "raat ki raani" (queen of the night) blossoms. This plant has a very sweet and distinctive smell, and very strangely, gives out this smell only after sunset. So in the evening near my house you will be accosted by this all-pervasive aroma. The smell suddenly triggered a very nostalgic memory for me - my first year in IIT.
The session at IIT starts in August, and by the time you get over the ragging and are in a position to appreciate the surroundings, it is mid-september. When you are walking back to the hostel after evening basketball practice, you encounter this very same smell. A very relaxing time - practice is done, you are looking forward to dinner at the hostel (i know i know .. a lot of people would argue with me on looking fwd to the hostel meals, but to them i say "Ghee and boora will make any meal look-forwardable"). You might go to a movie later at night. Or maybe just hang out on the roof, having one of those endless discussions. If anything, IIT was a place where everyone had an opinion. And was not shy about expressing it. So discussions would rage on and on, and on a particularly varied gamut of topics. From the sex life of african bullfrogs, to the variation in a particular starlets looks over the years, to the best way to blast a steel glass high in the air using fireworks.
Or there were the ever present challenges of physical prowess, usually suggested, started and sustained by the competitive natures of Johri and Bhand. Fastest to climb down the 5 flights of stairs. Highest kick on the wall. And these led to other impromptu challenges, which had to settled on the sports field. Right then. The good thing about IIT was, most fields were floodlit. So I have played tennis with Johri and Rawal at 2 AM to settle a bet. Just as an example.
Whims were turned into records, which were duly noted down in IIT book of records. How many poeple can you fit in one standard hostel room ? I think the answer was more than a 100, with tables being used to create 2 levels in the room for people to crouch into.
Somehow our batch in Kumaon hostel was a very healthy collection of "Dhakkans" from all engineering departments. Dhakkan is a term used to describe the folks at the very end of the department merit list. Dont know how it happened, but it caused our batch to be the subject of many a advisory sessions from the seniors. But it did create one the better sports batches in the history of our hostel. Well, maybe there were people with greater skills, but we were definitely the most "enthu" (short for enthusiastic). Which makes up for a lot. Bhand, Rawal, Johri and I played almost every sport to a certain respectable level. And in our first intra-hostel competition, we kicked some serious ass, and in the process ruffled a lot of feathers in the senior batches, who felt they were not getting the respect they deserved.  These events were held after dinner, and the four of us alone made up atleast 3 or 4 different sports teams. The games would be scheduled back to back to fit in the limited time available, and on days we would play continuously from 9 pm to 1 am. This AFTER normal basketball practice in the evening. The adrenaline rush that comes from beatings more established teams was probably the only thing that kept us going. And we lost some also. But we fought .. fought for everything. Johri was the most aggressive one, not taking any shit from anyone. And we followed his lead. And we were soon getting the respect we deserved. Because we WERE good !
This beginning led to bigger things, specially the time in our third year when we won the inter-hostel sports championship. Just because we decided that we would. Rawal was the one instrumental in organizing it all. I dont think any other person could have done it. Rawal was the people person, convincing everyone to get with the program. Pure luck that we picked him as our sports secretary that year. I could not have predicted that he would succeed so well. Again, the four of us formed the core, but Rawal was the one who tapped the talent in the junior batches which took us over the edge.
Anyway, enough self-promotion ! I just got started on this and the words kept on coming. I think its something in the sweet smell of "raat ki raani" !

Went to IIT last sunday to play basketball. Had a good game. Varun constantly surprises me. He is good ! I think this weekend game has potential. We might just enter the IIT sports meet as an independent team. We have the people i think, even though the legs are not as sprightly as before !

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Back home (?)

Interview date has been set. 8th of November. I will be back in San Francisco (and possibly Dallas) at that time. This is quite exciting. Till this came through, i did not realize that i am quite missing the folks in SF and Dallas. V should also be there in SF this time i go there.
Things have changed while i was away. Dani is not in SF anymore. Moved back home. Something like what I am trying. She is moving for someone. And herself.

Somehow i have not had a chance to use the 5D for a looong time now. not to say that i have not taken pictures. been trying things with the point and shoot. mine, niki's and delphine's. will post some samples soon enough. But i must say that i am itching to use the big one by now.


Let me introduce the Delhi Gymkhana Club to you. Its supposedly a Delhi institution, a legacy of the british, still being subsidized by the government so that the elite of Delhi can have a place to go and find a sense of belonging. There is a 30 year wait for membership. So I was quite curious (well , a little) to see what the place is like.
The building is an old colonial edifice, and looks beautiful with all the whitewash and greenery around it. It is situated in the poshest part of Delhi. The real estate cannot even be appraised. You enter through a driveway which curves gracefully into the foyer in true bungalow style. The gate informs the general public that the institution is for members only. There is a flunkey actually checking cards before he allows you to enter. But then, he knows most of the members by face and does not have to bother anyway.
He knows most of the members because the average age of the member is about 70 years. On the sunday evening i went there, it looked like a geriatric ward in a Florida hospital, complete with the "lady in the wheelchair with glucose" (who was duly admired for being the brave woman she is .. to come to the club to socialize even as she is half dead. LOL). These old fogies are trying to revive long lost memories of the Raj, or the time just after it when these folks were still relevant.
The restaurant serves "Paneer a la Kiev". The room has been renovated to a kitschy  decor that the romans would be proud of. But the cutlery and the dishes still proudly bear the logo of DGC (delhi gymkhana club). (What the f*** is gymkhana ? can someone please enlighten me ?). Well fed rotund forms (well fed for the last 60 years !) order from the centuries old menu, which no one in the club has dared to change.
Somehow these places give me a sense of alienation. These are folks with whom i cannot find an iota of common ground. Army generals (nothing against them), retired bureaucrats, self-styled intellectuals, in short - people who have no touch with reality but still have the power to shape India's future. Still loath to let go of anything they can get for free (or subsidized). Not wanting any fresh air to blow in their burial chamber.