Saturday Story 12: Inquilab Zindabad
Mayank stared at the ceiling in his hostel room, following the journey of the ceiling fan. It went round, and round, and round, at a pace as slow as the Mumbai monorail. Just like his life – 18 years of going round and round, to reach the same place. What was there to look forward to? Kya point hai in working hard and passing endless exams?
“Just wait till you reach college,” Papa would say. “Then you can have all the fun.”
It was this thought that kept him going for those two torturous years in Kota. The dullest place for a teenager, in the entire world. All you did was study, study and study, in the mistaken belief that the more sincere you are, the more likely to get into IIT. Well, that hadn’t happened to 95% of the students at Bansal Classes, had it?
Instead, Mayank had landed up at Podar Institute of Technology and Science, the next-best option. Also known as PITS (what were the founders thinking!). Satish uncle had studied there, long ago, and was quite chuffed. Beta, he said, go and have a ball. These 4 years are going to be the best years of your life!
Armed with this encouraging advice, Mayank arrived at PITS, Goa on a rainy July morning. Six months later, all his hopes were dashed. PITS Goa was a new branch of the college and it was nothing like the mother institution in Himachal Pradesh. Where rules exist – mostly on paper – and the 5-leaf clover grows wild and free on the roadside.
“Some of you have here to have a good time.” said Dean Kulkarni on the first day. “You have come to the wrong place.”
The man was a firm believer in ‘discipline’. This started with early morning wake up gongs and ended with night curfews. (7 pm for the girls hostel, 10 pm for boys). The internet was not available between 12 midnight and 6 am (to prevent all-night online gaming). Boys were expected to come to class in collar t-shirts and girls in salwar kameez (no sleeveless allowed).
Any violation was examined by the DISCO (Disciplinary Committee).. A student could be fined anywhere between Rs 2000 to Rs 20,000, depending on the gravity of the offence. Well, if nothing, they were all learning the art of surviving in a police state. With bad mess food and no night canteen. And what was the option, really? Aaye hain to degree lekar to jaana hai…
Lekin zulm ki bhi ek hadd hoti hai. One February morning,a new directive was released by Dean Kulkarni. The full impact of this new rule was realised by junta later that night.
“How will we survive?” they cried in collective despair.
There was no leader, no ‘call to arms’, but it happened. By 11 pm that night, more than 2000 students had gathered at the SAC (Student Activity Centre) auditorium. They wore headbands and carried hastily scribbled posters. Someone had even invented a song of protest, inspired by an old Bollywood number.
Yeh… naya rule… hum zaroor todenge. Denge fine hum magar… apni fight na chhodenge!
The students finally dispersed, at 2 am, after receiving assurances from the deputy dean, and the warden. Dean P K Kulkarni was finally relieved from his job and replaced by Dean S P Singh. A man who had not completely forgotten what is was like to be young, bursting with hormones and bubbling with dreams.
“There will be rules, of course”, he said. “But in consultation with the Student Council.”
The next 3 years will be years to look forward to, thought Mayank. The best years of my life!
Recipe for a revolution: bring anger to a boil, it will eventually burn you. Dean Kulkarni should never have banned the use of electric kettles.
“Didn’t he know Maggi is the lifeline of every engineering college student?”
A late-night ritual, a rite of passage. Don’t mess with the cult of the yellow noodle, okay?
Don’t miss the audio file: Inside the Author’s Mind: Why I wrote ‘Inquilab Zindabad’.