It’s a crowded time in IIT Bombay — fresh new faces, anxious parents, baggage rolls, colorful buckets, brooms, books, computers and compact lappys — you get to see everything, right there on the pavements in front of the hostels. July-August are happening months here in the campus, new students with hearts full of hopes, parents in anxious anticipation and oldies like us slogging through the demands of the yearly APS (Annual Progress Seminars). To tell you the truth — I have never quite liked this season; (a) because I have to study more than what I usually do 🙂 and (b) because the mess, the lobby, etc. are just so full with people. The icing on the cake are the monsoons — the Mumbaiya rains which dare the new kids on the block to fight for survival.
Each one has a “first day” in an institute and so have I. Well, now for a flashback — let’s zoom the camera to July 26th 2005 — my first day in IIT Bombay 😀 . Three years have passed since I was a freshie in the institute 🙂 . That was the day of the flash floods of Mumbai? Huh? Heroic? I agree. I don’t know why am always in the midst of all adventures ( was also braving the Super-cyclone which hit Odisha in October 1999 as a hostelite in Bhubaneshwar), maybe have a streak of the tragi-romantic in my disposition which lands me at unconventional places at completely wrong (perhaps right) times too. Well, getting to the business of memories and remembering, the day reminds me of all that I did not want to happen in my life — but they happened. We were a cataclysmic batch in the real sense of the term — we have added many things to this place and this place has also changed our own grammar in the last three years.
Going back in time… I returned from Nasik after seeing my family off on the 26th afternoon. It was raining then also, but was not all that bad with the red umbrella that I have carried as a dearest possession for the last 9 years of my hostel life. Reached the hostel at 3 pm. Some of us were given rooms in the ground floor of A-Wing of Hostel-11. Mine was Room No:6; ground floor. If you think that ground floor means “the ground floor”, then you are utterly wrong. The ground floor of A-Wing was the cellar floor, with a very narrow dark gulley, below the surface level of the earth. For a change, at the first glance one would feel that you have landed in the half-lit world below the earth which Paradise Lost of Milton would claim that it belonged to the Satan, and our own scriptures like the Puranas would say that perhaps we lived just below the martya but above the patala, in the world of reptiles, asuras and such “other worldly” creatures. The corridor needed light even in the day time and that was insufficient too. Such was our fate then — there were 29 rooms, I suppose, in that floor and most of us were freshie PhDs, who had just joined the institute
Fatigue ridden and home sick, I unpacked my things and went to sleep. The room was already damp with excessive rains and hardly any light. There was only one window that opened out on to the damp backyard of the hostel full of snakes and worms, so you were bound to keep that shut. Suddenly, at around 7.30 pm someone banged my door — was in no mood to open. But, when half opened my eyes after repeated bangs, was aghast to see water gushing through my door and reaching the seam of my ground level rack!!!!! “Oh! Heck! I didn’t know they spray water inside the rooms in IIT!” That was my first dumb reaction. I could not register exactly what the hell was going on! Still in a daze, opened the doors to see neighbours banging each others doors, running with their luggage to some upstairs place, piling whatever they had on the floors of their rooms to a safe place over the almirahs, and so on. If said that it was thorough chaos, it would be an understatement. I was told that there was a flood in Mumbai, that the Powai lake had come to visit us — the newcomers 😦 , that we might bump into a dead hand or a leg piece of gangsters drowned in the Powai lake from the time of Big B’s Don, that we have to shift immediately to the TV room upstairs, that we have to take whatever our stuffs were along so that it’s not a problem, and that we need to pile all our things (the bed roll, etc) on a higher level, so that they remain safe!!! Phew! I wanted to cry — missed my mom — wish someone would do things for me, coz I was not used to doing all that hard work, not dexterous even — but had to do 😦 😦 ! Imagine that was “the” first day!
Anyway, by the time I finished doing up my things it was 8.10 pm and water had crossed the level of my bed. Some of us literally swimmed through the dark corridor (Titanic relived) and reached the TV Room somewhere on the first floor of C-Wing. No electricity, no bed, only a few round-chairs waiting to greet us! I had a bag with a brush, toothpaste and a pair of night-suit and two dresses for the next day’s classes. At 7 pm one of my batch mates remembered with a shriek that she had left her certificate folder in her room in her cupboard — she desperately wanted to reach her room and get those! Some seniors came to her help and they waded through the abandoned A-Wing ground floor, scuba-diving through mud and water and finally resurrected the certi folder — we clapped when they came back. We spent two nights in that TV room, batteling with mosquitoes, struggling with darkness and hunger — first night the mess was in a bad shape, no communication with families and yet attending classes in the morning. The C-Wing ground floor was also affected, but they were M.Techs who had helping seniors. PhDs are always lonely people. Some of us sang through the night with a hope to survive the frustration 😦 .
Classes went on at their usual pace, while we lived in the ruins of our new lives. After 3 days of the floods subsiding, we were deported back to the same rooms with an even more unhealthy atmosphere — stink of mud, worms and snakes. Life had become a walki-talkie Jungle Book. One evening the Director and Deputy Director and Deans visited our hostel for some celebration — the entire A-wing ground floor, flood-affected region of our hostel pounced on them and demanded immediate relief. In fact, the Director was invited and taken into one of the rooms where a snake waited on an inmate’s (reliable sources later informed that the girl was an expert snake-charmer 😉 :D) bed to greet him — yuck! Everyone was aghast! Relief agencies came to our aid soon and whatever could be done was done. Some of my friends, fell sick because of the climate and the unhealthy living condition. We would get together and stand by each other when any of us fell sick — we were blamed by some heartless Profs also for neglecting studies — asked repeatedly to separate personal from professional lives. But, only as victims we understood what it was to collate things back into normalcy after a disaster. We needed time to prove ourselves — and some didn’t want to give that time. But finally we did!
We were again given B-Wing flat-lets where we enjoyed shared accommodation with better living conditions — three in one room. I was given a kitchen portion of a flat-let. Delighted! I had my Cinderella dreams come true — felt like a real Cinderella in that kitchenette. The kitchen was newly painted and smelled nicely of paint and was sunny and warm.
The sun tore through clouds of gloom and ushered a new era in the lives of Batch 2005 … but the memories still remain.