As the taxi driver steers the vehicle over the umpteenth uncovered manhole, a smile starts playing on his lips while he calculates the huge fare that he is about to receive from the four co-passengers...people who, he thinks, can not even comprehend the speed of his thoughts...who have no way to know that he can calculate 1.7 times the meter reading faster than they can say "Joka Management". And what about these co-passengers? They appear to be tense and seem to have little time to devote to saying "Joka Management" (having already said that when they had specified their destination). They have even less time to think of the taxi fare or ponder needlessly over the extended tables of 1.7. All they are worried about right now is a place called Pailan where the last of thier saviours exist.
It is eleven in the evening (evening!!! exclaims the taxi driver but who's listening) and there is the whole night that is to be brought to life. Bringing nights to life, if you have not noticed it already, requires a little more than idle chanter and any charms that even the elusive Joka Management might have for the first timers (which is the category that entails three of the four co-passengers of the now-never-been-happier taxi driver). As the taxi screams down the dirt track, putting all dirt track taxis of the world to shame and screeches (okay, maybe whimpers) to a halt outside the place that the helpful directions refer to, the co-passengers stare in amazement at the run-down dhaaba and the even more run down (if that is even remotely possible) surroundings. But cease the amazement does as the saviour comes forth from the drakness with his shining torch, the elusive elixir that promises to bring the life to the night ahead.
Tucking the nectar under their arms, they make their entry into their nightspot. As the first of the lakes looms up on the visible horizon, there is very little for the first time visitors to drop down for. This however, as promised, is not all and yet to come are the gleaming beauties of OH, the NH, and of course, the WH. As the taxi toils on (but not the taxi driver...he knows what's coming and is...lovin' it), some more lakes pass unnoticed and so do some of the monuments of learning that stand quite close to but quite different from those of education (if it is not too difficult to get, I am sure that you must have realized that I am talking about the academic and the hostel blocks).
Finally, the deserted Annexe welcomes the weary travellers but with nectar in its various forms to refresh one and all, the weariness is soon washed away (or perhaps down) in tune with the exit of the taxi driver (who could not hide his hideous grin as two papers with an old man staring out passed hands). A couple of people can be heard (seeing is difficult because of the all pervasive darkness...of soul??) moving in and lest there be panic, there appears light at the end of the staircase. As the party moves up the staircase and looks down at the central quad, short talk of the possibilites of one-tip-one-hand cricket passes around.
And then there comes civilization as the travellers knew it. The computer screen is flashing, the speakers blaring and the playlist stuck (that was after one of the travellers tampered with it) at the "Kajraare kajraare" song from Bunty aur Babli. Like moths get attracted to a light bulb, the nectar does bring life to the sleeping campus (or would you prefer to say that no one had been home at all...not yet?) as the room next to the top floor square gets filled up with intertwining limbs and light hearts. The neighbours are not in and they shouldn't have been especially since the genesis can be quite upsetting for some but then...perhaps not for this neighbour. Paper leaves orphaned and even the book trees abandoned, the beast sits proudly. The future Frankenstein and/or(?) Dhapadhap is stationed in the corner in all its glory and as the new comers struggle to get the better of its experience, the beast plays along.
It is time soon for the ultimate journey...the goal whose pursuit had brought the new comers to this strange land. Despite having come from the hills and having lived on clean and thin air, they were prepared for what was to come. As the bridge (with a famous name sake) appeared and the stories were re-laid about morning sojourns and nightly crawlings, the visitors are amused...the grass lands they come from and the wood and concrete and iron that they find...interesting is all that they say with any sort of commitment. The next in line are the temples. The travellers are wondering if the temples are spelt as Temples and while all this wondering is happening, their eyes dart all over the pithy quotes strewn all over the place. There is darkness all around but as must have been the case with earlier visitors (in front of whom the temples are always showcased), they seem to feel the light.
From temples, across muddy lawns after the evening's showers that were not threatening enough to act as spoilers, our vaoyageurs move on to the Big one. The nearly 500 seating auditorium with enclosing lakes in abandon (and of course, the only parking lot nearby) seems to entice the travellers, mock them with its grandeur at the same time. While they ponder on all this and pass by the academia again, they stop...not physically but to apply their thoughts...what lies beneath, they speak aloud?
And then come the tales of glory, of tradition and bravery...of raids on the enemy and the wars...of digging the tyre in and getting it out...of liquids less than a month old...of booking advertising space by forming human chains...of the con and the parties...of other nights that have been brought to life earlier...of the silver jubilee reunions...of the hang outs and the jetty...of boating round and round and not being able to find the shore...of climbing atop the 70 feet high water tank and getting scared coming down...of much much more.
As the travails of the day start taking their toll and the wanderlust seems to have taken a break, and as the firt timers retire to bed, one of them can not but think of what sets this place apart. It is not the lakes...not the buildings...not even the bridge or the temples or the audi or the huge acres of land that stare at you as you peek out of the balcony. It is people who have made this place what it is right now. It is not by virtue of being the oldest that it is grand, but it is by virtue of having played host to people who wish to return, to keep themselves associated with the tradition that they had helped set up.
It is because of all these things that one of those three people, the new comer...the traveller...the first timer, while setting his body and mind to rest on a very early Sunday morning, says his final words aloud, "I salute you, IIM Calcutta".
Posted at 05:54 pm by Nitai