Artwork by Prof. Arun Inamdar
Somewhere in the second semester, we were told that we need to have a field trip to gather the mandatory 100 hours needed for social service in the first two years by Prof Major.
And since we had chosen NSS (because we didn’t get selected in either NSO or NCC or maybe we had thought NSS would be easier) …this was the googly Major kept for us. So it was decided at the end of 1st year, and before the 2nd year began, we would have to go to some place in Kalyan and spend some days or a week doing social service, which would be considered our field work.
And so it began … on a hot Saturday morning … and we realised then that Prof Major was actually a Major when he made everyone line up at every station in Bombay where we had to change trains and count the heads. I remember Lottery (Sachin Pachlag) was responsible for tapping the heads of the participants and reporting to Major every time this happened. I think he felt that the job was nothing bigger than counting chillars when you already know how much money you have.
But he moved on and so did we. We kept wondering what else was in store for us on the trip. Eventually, after 3-4 hours of train journey, we reached a remote village in Kalyan. And we visited a farm where after taking the tour we understood that we have to bring drastic changes … I felt the person who was explaining was waiting for ages for our batch of vanar sena to come and build the Adam’s bridge for Lanka, basically bring a revolution to uplift the state of that farm, and that means taking up the very tools our farmers or the construction workers use and get to use them effectively to earn our daily meals. That day when we walked around 15 kms on our way back to the camp, many of us thought when we can use the grey matter we will rather not use our muscle matter or lack of it. And so some of us started having medical issues – or should I say developed overnight, things like unknown rashes in their hands and legs, some even done by self-inflicting wounds.
That night was also, I believe, when Prof Major witnessed some core language of the IITians … used inside the hostels only. He was quite taken aback, (what else he expected to hear, sadguru vachan like Ramananda Sagar at every end of Ramayan episode?). The mind and weather both were hot and so the camp obviously was indeed going to witness a revolution. And on the 3rd day by evening it was clear the revolution was not in the farm but in our camp itself.
Major General had to bow down to the army of Vanar Sena who refused to build the bridge and conquer Lanka in the expected masquerading episode. So it was decided people who think they cannot sustain the physical demands of the camp can leave by giving the right reason. Of course, we can always have the right reason for everything. (Who says IITians don’t run away from big challenges, here I was witnessing it). And I was just wondering how many possible reasons people made to get out of the camp that evening: stomach pain, leg pain, ear pain, pinky finger pain, difficulty in breathing, history of asthma, (someone’s grandma had it so he feared he would too in these conditions), food allergy, white rashes, blue rashes, brown rashes, joint pain, throat pain, nose pain, etc (I did wonder even a professional Doc would wonder what these are).
I was one of the few who stayed on, not because we wanted to take up the challenge – after all I was an IITian too – but because we thought we didn’t want to spend another 100 hours during academic sessions in second year of NSS in second year, we did fear the XX grade.
Interestingly, the remaining few days were completely different. Prof Major has actually became the professor we wanted him to be, and he had announced “you guys enjoy and have fun, no more rules, no more demands, no more field work, no more bridges” So the few of us who were there, partied well. We had to cook though, which was a better deal than taking up field work, and of course we got to eat aplenty, We did made peace with Ravana eventually I would say. So no need for the bridge, I remember (Samrat Ghosh) from EE was an expert in making chapatis even during those early years. Some others were pro in the food business too. And we cacked a lot though we missed the OH component – but that’s okay we completed the necessary NSS hours.