Tuesday, July 26, 2005

D0604: National Park

He watched her through narrow eyes, judging when she would be close enough to be taken... She moved closer to him, then further, and then closer again, dancing to some unheard cosmic rhythm. She flirted and teased, flitting about just beyond his reach, taunting him to take her... He would wait. He knew his chance would come. When the trance-like movements ended, he knew he would have her. Only a slight shifting of his lithe body indicated his rising excitement... Blissfully unaware of his heightened senses and the small crowd watching the silent battle, she drew just a little closer. Too close. One quick snap of the jaws and two gulps later, he had had his fill...

I watched, fascinated, as a huge lizard ate an enormous moth just outside my room. I'm getting to watch a lot of this sort of live Discovery Channel stuff in my dorm over the last month or so. Even as I'm typing this, my eyes intermittently stray to a weird bug doing what appears to be a figure of eight on my Human Resources Management textbook (Which means it's touched it more in the past week than I have.) This insect seems to have a shiny black back speckled with bright green spots. It seems beetle-ish, though given the depth of my knowledge of natural history, you'd be well advised to bet against me on that one. Elsewhere, a grasshoppery crickety insect is performing a pirouette on my wallet. Yonder, a mini-cockroachish one is scrabbling up a wall in a desperate attempt to prove Newton wrong, watched interestedly by a dark brown spider.

There are so many more lifeforms... mosquitoes with weird stripes on their backs (anti-malarial tablets every week), brilliantly coloured birds, brightly hued butterflies, all manner and sorts of six-, eight-, twenty four- and one hundred-legged insects, a frog (that seemed even more surprised to find itself on my balcony than I was to find it there). Throw in the stray cats and dogs, with peacocks crying in the background, and the only things missing are a coupla big cats and a stall to collect entry fees.

All this is probably due to the heavy rains we had about two or three weeks back, which swamped large parts of the campus. Here's LKP before and after.

Anyways, I don't mind insects at all, they give me company during long nights spent cursing the chap who developed accounting standards. And when I'm not listening to arbit Tamil, Hindi, English and Telugu songs (in that order), their chirping and trilling and fluttering forms a very pleasant background score...

But my love for all insect forms nosedived last week because of a traumatic experience...

I gave my jeans, which were in desperate need of a good hard scrub, to the dhobi who serves my dorm. He usually does a reasonably decent job on my clothes, and I only thought twice before entrusting my beloved denims to his care.

"Kab milega?" I asked him, still clutching the jeans, unwilling to be parted from them.
"Sirf do din, saab," he said.
"Pukka milega saab."
"Theek hai, iska khayal rakhna...," I said, giving it a final farewell pat.

Somewhat buoyed by the thought that I would be jeansless for just two days, I returned to what turned out to be a rather productive session of Operations Management.

As expected, he brought back my clothes eight days later. I fell upon my jeans like a starving wolf of the steppes falling upon a plump villager who had been on a month-long holiday. A couple of loving caresses later, I placed it on my bed, ready to wear it to class the next morning...

My class starts at nine. I woke up at eight thirty cursing all and sundry, had a half-hearted bath, crammed my books into my bag, pulled on my jeans, locked my door and rushed off to the mess. Halfway there, however, I felt a strange sensation in my pants. A... scratchy sort of feeling. It made my skin crawl. What's worse, it literally felt like something was crawling on my skin! All thoughts of a refreshing and much-needed dosa abandoned, I rushed back to my dorm, barged into my room, slammed the door shut and ripped off my pants. (I wonder how many women are swooning as they read this...)

I adjusted my specs which had gone askew in all the excitement, and peered into my pants (a picture of this would make an awesome topic for an abstract GD!). And my breath caught in my throat as I beheld... ants! Not one, not ten, but a rough estimate indicated their population was somewhere in the region of 2.3 million (OK, give or take about 2.299 million...). It was an entire bloody colony there in my jeans. I had no doubt that the queen was churning out hordes of them even as I stared at the ant farm in mute shock.

Practical considerations saved the day. Fascinating as it was to contemplate spending four hours in class with ants in my pants, it was more fascinating to think of the ways in which my grades would suffer if I turned up late for class. I let out an expressive oath, grabbed a spare pant that had suffered use for the whole of the previous week and ran all the way to class...

As a result of this life-altering episode, I am firmly anti-ant at the moment, and until an ant saves my life or helps me pass an Economics paper or performs some such miracle, I am unlikely to feel any warmer towards the ant community at large.

Just a little something to end this post - if I had been bitten or harmed in any way by the ants, what medicine would I have taken? Antibiotics!

Friday, July 15, 2005

I'll keep this brief, I swear...

Yesterday, I saw no less than four people (unless my eyes deceived me, it was three guys and a girl) walking ahead of me. Not very unusual, you might say. No, it's not, I might reply. So what's the big deal, you might say. I'll tell you, will you let me finish, I might retort. Oh OK, go on, but make it quick, I've got to pee, you might plead. Right, I might say.

All four of them were wearing the kinda low slung jeans that seem to have become very popular among youngsters who have too much money to spend and too much body to show. I don't really grudge them wearing what they want, to each his own (It would have been far more impressive had I said that in Latin, but I don't know Latin, so please act impressed anyways. Thank you.) But what irked me was that for three of them, their underwear was showing.

The perverts among you who seem to frequent this site with alarming regularity and send me dirty messages are probably going, "Snigger snigger... u saw the girl's underwear..." Actually, I didn't. A clear and unobstructed view of her backside, fetching as it was, was not possible coz it was blocked by the bag she was carrying. One must take life as it comes.

Anyways, back to the undie-flashers. Come on guys, what the heck are you trying to prove anyways? That you wear underclothes?! What do u think I have in my pants? OK, that needs to be rephrased... what do you think I'm wearing below my waist? You don't have exclusive hold over the undie-market, the rest of us make reasonably regular use of our jocks too.

And presuming that the uppermost thought in your mind is not the erroneous assumption that others prefer walking around without their intimates, why on earth would you want to show yours? Does it make the region of your waist feel more airy? Do you believe it contributes in some way to the aesthetic beauty of the environment? Trust me, the sight of a polka dotted or pink striped or dirty yellow or boring white undie poking out of someone's jeans doesn't do much by way of pepping me up and making me feel good about life. It only makes me wonder what the hell the world is coming to and causes me to hammer out a blog post on it.

If you, dear reader, thought that was a pointless and uncalled-for rant, get some popcorn and settle back in your seats, coz here's more.

What's with all the swearing nowadays? Everywhere I go, I find unmentionable four-letter words being flung about with gay abandon. (I could make a joke about it also being flung about with straight abandon, but I don't know how many people would get it.) I'm no saint myself, I enjoy a good swear when I'm in a particularly lousy mood or I'm in the throes of deep tension and someone hides my spectacles so I go bumping around flailing my arms wildly and stubbing my toes and knocking things over and banging into doors and injuring people and... heck, I'm getting worked up... (deep breath).

I believe the occasional swear helps, especially when things aren't going well. A few choice, heartfelt curses can go a long way in letting out one's pent up emotions and cooling one down. Cursing also helps clear one's throat effectively so one can then proceed to loudly shift the blame for the cockup to someone else. But swearing practically all the time, for no reason whatsoever? I just don't get it.

Conversations just aren't like they used to be in the good old days... (For convenience, let's consider 'fish' to be a really bad word. If you think that's stupid, fish u.)

Then: Could you please pass me the butter.
Now: Where's the fishing butter? Oh, there it is. Who the fish put it there? Pass it here.

Then: Please do not give me bumps, they hurt. If you do not desist immediately, I shall be forced to take action against you.
Now: You bloody fishers! Just wait till you put me down, I fishing fish your happiness!

Then: (Laughing) That was rather humorous!
Now: Fish! That's fishin' hilarious, man!

Then: Why do you want to do that?!
Now: Are you fishin' crazy?! Why the fish do you want to do that?!

Then: Uh oh. I appear to have dropped my pen.
Now: Oh fish! I dropped the fishin' pen.

Then: I am not interested in dealing with you.
Now: Fish you.

Then: Please explain what is happening here...
Now: What the fish is going on here?

Then: Kindly remove yourself.
Now: Fish off!

Then: (Exasperated) I don't think I'll do this.
Now: Oh, fish it.

You catch my drift... I just don't see why inserting a swear word for every 2.5 non-swear words is essential for inter-human communication. I guess that's just the way the world is.

Have to catch up on a LOT of lost sleep, so gonna crash now... so long, and thanks for all the fish!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Week 2 - whoooosh!

Hell, the last week went by really fast... it flashed by in a flurry of group meetings and quizzes and assignments and unsolvable accounting problems.

I'm really beginning to love this place, the lifestyle here, the customs and the oddities and challenges. I feel I'm growing in many ways. Learning to fend for myself, having to decide my priorities, trying to stay afloat in a tidal wave of intense competition and mindblowing intelligence... Finding new depths to myself I didn't know existed, pushing myself beyond boundaries I had assumed could never be breached... I take up an assignment and think, "What the hell am I doing in this place? I can't do stuff like this!" and then, three hours later, "Whoa! Did I really do that myself? I rock!"

Of course, it helps that we have totally GODlevel professors, who confront us and challenge us and coax us and bully us into coming with up answers to our own questions, and throw up streams of thought and debate that we would otherwise never have considered. They aren't called teachers - they're 'instructors'. And we aren't students, we're 'participants' in the programme. All of which makes for a very unique and stimulating learning environment, worlds removed from the pedantic boredom and pointlessness of engineering. And classes can actually be a lot of fun, as this post of Oka's indicates...

The only major downside of life here is that one has to sacrifice sleep in the interests of passing the course. A very reasonable sacrifice to expect, of course. I slept a sum total of 8 hours over the nights of the 6th, 7th and 8th of this month. And didn't catch up on much in the weekend coz there's just so much happening on campus! Like last night's (this morning's!) dance party that I was at from 2 a.m. till 4 a.m... and the rain dance where we got totally drenched and threw ourselves about madly, glad to let loose all the pent up energy... and last weekends dorm party that lasted a whole five and a half hours, till 3:30 in the morning...

Such nights out are usually capped by a visit to Cafe TANSTAAFL (non-WIMWIans, guess the funda!) on the campus for a soothing cup of hot chai or a sandwich... nice food, but it totally pales in comparison to our mess.

Let me state this loud and clear - the mess here ROCKS. So much so that when we went out for dinner to a popular local restaurant, I found myself thinking, "So what? Our mess is just as good!" Here's a sample menu...

Menu for Sunday, July 10 2005

Rava Dosa with Sambar
Boiled eggs
Bread with Jam
Bread with butter

Giloda Masala
Mushroom Paneer Masala
Dal Masoor
Dudi Ka Raita
Onion rings
Aloo salad

High Tea:
Aloo vada

Cabbage Dry
Dum Aloo
Onion raita
Dal Arhar
Veg salad
Moong salad
Ice cream

We sometimes have awesome naans and baturas, apart from jalebis, gulab jamun and a host of other sweets... and we're allowed as many helpings as we want! My hopes of losing a little weight by the end of the term have been dashed by my tendency to hog on all this good food...

And one of the best things about the mess is the music. Beautiful music, lots of old Hindi songs, a very pleasant accompaniment to dinner. In fact, there's music everywhere, at the Cafe, in the admin office, even in the bank!

Music has actually become quite an important part of my life here. I finally got myself a pair of speakers a few days back (woohoo!) and my comp's been playing practically nonstop since. And nice, peaceful music, not the overdose of Bunty aur Babli (grrrr) that the other dorms seem to be pumping out all day long.

There's just so much happening, so much to keep track of. In times like this - running to submit an assignment, tearing your hair out over an Economics problem, cursing a balance sheet that doesn't tally, wondering why a company doesn't just sack all its employees instead of discussing HR issues with them, frustrated that your Excel Sheet cell keeps showing #!REF - small pleasures take on added beauty. Sharing a joke with a complete stranger, trading a smile with a cute girl, raiding a well-stocked pantry at one in the morning, putting up a Juice on DBabble in a friend's name, giving people bumps for arbit reasons, eating icecream at night all alone in the vast expanse of Louis Kahn Plaza...
It feels like a whole new life.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"Muggo, facchon, Muggo!"

2105 hours, 21st June, 2005.

A tired and dishevelled group of about 10 young 20-somethings bursts into spontaneous applause and whoops of joy.

We were at IIMA, at last.

After a 34 hour journey that helped us bond far more than I expected (most of us had never met the others before) over tea and cards and anti-2-day-1-night-journey-remarks and a crick in the neck (thanks to watching The Passion of the Christ on the upper berth of a three-tier compartment!) we were in good old Ahemdabad. Then a bit of haggling with the taxiwallahs at the Ahmedabad station, and 15 minutes (and a anticlimactic and misleading Ahmeadabad Management Association) later, we were, to use a cliche, in the hallowed portals of IIMA.

At first glance (and the second and the third) the layout of this place is incredibly confusing. You can go around in circles, at three different levels of elevation and still not find your room. Of course, a ready frame of reference is the girls' dorms, which any self respecting guy on campus is expected to know. A little bit of this-way-no-i-think-it's-here-are-you-sure-#$%$#%-we're-lost later, I was settled in my room. By settled, I mean I found it and put down my bags. And ate and slept.

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity. Getting to know my dorm tucchas, who are really amazingly supportive guys - they actually take a lot of time out of their own busy schedules to help us deal with problems, teach us stuff we can't understand, and so on. Experiencing and participating in the awesome practice of tempo shouts. Attending loooong orientation sessions. Being coached on the finer details of campus life and how to deal with the fact that liqour is prohibited in Gujarat. Getting used to the fact that I have to call a 16ft x 9ft room home for two years. And learning to make 3 a.m. bedtimes and 5-hour nights a lifestyle choice rather than an unfortunate necessity.

OK, one thing at a time. I don't know if I've mentioned this earlier on this blog, but I'm a faccha. That's a combination of 'First year' and 'Bachcha' (kid, in Hindi). So its 'fuh' plus 'chcha'. NOT 'fuh' plus 'ka', as I initially read it to be. And my seniors are 'Two' plus 'Facchas', tucchas. My dorm (D6, which totally rocks!) has about 10 each of facchas and tucchas, and the kind of bond of friendship and mutual support that has built in just ten days is awesome. The dorm culture here (your primary loyalty on campus is usually to your dorm, then your section, then your girlfriend, then your institute) is very strong, since one's dorm is practically one's family for two whole years.

And one super manifestation of dorm grouping is a tempo shout. Technically, any group can tempo shout another, and one hardly needs an excuse to begin a shout, but it's most fun as a dorm. I can't tell you how it goes, coz that's an insti secret of sorts. There's a standard template, but the more creative the ones you can come up with, the better. And when 30 guys stand beneath your balcony and yell at the top of their lungs at 2 a.m., the experience is mindblowing. And, of course, if another dorm tempo shouts yours, the entire dorm rallies to outshout them. Some also scamper up to the terrace to throw bucketfuls of water (a practice called 'the dunk') on the intruders.

The campus has, of late, been echoing quite a lot with the other popular shout, that goes "Muggo, facchon, Muggo!", a little bit of friendly advice from the tucchas that it's high time you went to your room and mugged (read prepared for cases and problems - this ain't engineering!) for the next day's class while they leisurely sipped chai at the canteen and loudly discussed how light the workload is in the second year. And its not easy to be a nervous fuccha facing his first quiz in IIMA and have 200 tucchas yelling all over the campus... on the whole though, it's rather fun.

Lots more happening, of course, but I gotta go do some work or I'll have a baaad time in class tommorow.

Coming soon: Canteen quirks, plus Rain dance and party!