It’s monsoon magic show-time again folks, evoking some poignant memories of one’s salad days on the campus. Memories of winds rustling through the trees, gurgling brooks, cuckoo concerts and croaking frog competitions (which sometimes even hostel chatter resembled). Memories of missed lectures because it was raining heavily (or not, sometimes). Of course, there was the pitter-patter of raindrops delivering mellifluous surround sound. And the pounding crescendo of heavy showers accompanied by the whistling winds. There was an innocent, wicked joy watching umbrellas turn inside out to become rain harvesting structures. And the superior, smug feeling generated watching the muggoos returning from lectures to the hostel like wet rag dolls.
Rains have been traditionally accorded god-like respect in our country since much of our agriculture (and rivers) is rain-fed. It’s a well established phenomenon that consumer goods’ managers rubbed their corporate hands with glee when the monsoon was bountiful. There are many, many rituals and celebrations propitiating and welcoming the monsoon in the villages. More importantly, systems had evolved over centuries to harvest the rain precipitation in consonance with the local geo-morphology. This has been our hoary traditional mechanism for drinking water and food production, sustainably using the natural resource of water. Alas, urban development of late has always been at the cost of our water resources and conservation structures. However, though depleting groundwater and polluted water bodies bode ill for the nation; this is not the subject matter here.
History missed the date, Varsha Stuti-to-be was nixed and some mountaineering / hiking thingy took place in 2001.
Personally, was seduced by the monsoon magic right from the first day on the campus. After emerging triumphant (albeit battle-scarred) from JEE1966 slog, moved in to H5, complete with a lakeside view and attached toilet. The Powai lake, surface rippling with raindrops in myriad patterns unsullied by the dictates of Drawing 101, presented a fascinating scene. The advancing sheet of rain across the wide expanse of the lake was visible right from the L&T end until it hit the hostels. This, of course, necessitated lying prone on my bed and gazing out of the window. Being so privileged to observe the rains from the (dry) sanctuary of my room, it proved nigh impossible to make it for morning lectures.
Much waters flowed into the lake and thence into the Mithi, and it was late 90’s when I joined the alumni activities helmed by Sharad, Sudarshan, Parag, Mahavir, Ranju et al. After the alumni from the other 4 IITs were roped in and we saw large numbers attending the programs, there was a palpable pan-IIT alumni movement. Eminent worthies came to address the Mumbai Monthly Meets, including Julio Ribeiro, Bachi Karkaria, Medha Patkar, Rajendra Singh, and many others.
The monthly meets blossomed, and some life got infused into the gang. It so happened that our Raja (Deshpande) was working at NABARD and offered to arrange a site visit for us to a village, Bhoyare Khurd, about 120 kms from Pune. They had assisted the villagers in transforming the drought-hit agriculture to growing bountiful crops in a paani lote programme – the desi way of saying ground water recharge. Around 40+ alums and spice (read many spouses) got into the Indrayani early morning to Pune on October 1, 2000 and there, piled into jeeps for a 4-hr rollicking ride. At Bhoyare Khurd, traditional wisdom was implemented for rain precipitation to percolate into the ground, thus raising the water table and ensuring ample water for their crops to flourish. Thaali peeth was had for lunch with the local yokels, us city-slickers absorbing the rustic scenario. This, you could say, was the alums’ RWH 001, entry level for rain water harvesting and water conservation. Needless to also say that on the way back, the country’s crème-de-la-crème could not arrive on the next step forward, for onward delivery to the community.
With little money for the event, one had to convert connections and goodwill to take care of the fiscals. The first stuti fell into the alumni lap, so to speak.
With this as backdrop, I made a game effort to curate a monsoon specific event next year, logically a music event and shastriya (Indian classical) at that. However, good friend Sudhir (Badami) pooh-poohed the idea – koi nahi aayega. History missed the date, Varsha Stuti-to-be was nixed and some mountaineering/hiking thingy took place in 2001. But with relentless persistence and bringing democracy into play, Sudhir was over-ruled for 2002. Thus Varsha Stuti was established for the end-August slot for venerating the rains. Since the medium was to be music, raag Malhaar and its various flavours became the default music to set the mood of the day. And I can confirm that very year there has been rain on the day, even if in the morning. Alumni propitiating the rains haven’t faced a dry day.
With little money for the event, one had to convert connections and goodwill to take care of the fiscals. The first stuti fell into the alumni lap, so to speak. That guy Raja again. His gracious and talented wife Ashwini (Bhide), now a sparkling light in the music firmament, agreed to come and even offered to waive charges for her performance. Tweaking the nascent IIT brand a bit with a liberal amount of angst provided the chill factor, literally. Fosters were our hosters for their brand of beer, supplying what Kreyzig would deem as necessary and sufficient quantity. So it was exhilarating music followed by a light dinner. In between, one could proceed to the guest house to whet…err wet one’s throat. A couple of rooms would serve as the adda, stocked with accompaniments in keeping with high standards for the intelligent elite (ahem…) on this august occasion. In short, the first Varsha Stuti set a very high benchmark indeed with the khana-peena and bajana. And with every passing year this built up steam (water vapour?).
In short, the first Varsha Stuti set a very high benchmark indeed with the khana-peena and bajana. And with every passing year this built up steam (water vapour?)
Unfortunately, 6 years down the line, some H3 guys came to the g-h in an unconnected event and messed up the diro’s dining room. This put an end to our transit bar since there was nothing official about it. More hurtful, all spirited g-t-g in the g-h were banned thereafter. But never has a Varsha Stuti gone dry, since blessings from the heavens always arrived.
Among the many luminaries who paid homage to the rain gods here was Smt Veena Saharabudhe, also an alum-spice and faculty then. She headed a music cell in the campus, rounding up the education for the nerds and other brains studying (or not) on the campus. And she also performed gratis. Nearer in time, we had a robust concert by one of our own, Pt Arun Dravid.
If IIT alumni wish to put back into the community, learning and implementing rocket science does not necessitate leaving terra firma at all; putting water in (literally) adds to the community good.
And may this tradition sustain. This is good exposure to the budding student, hopefully orienting her to the environment for the rest of her life. If IIT alumni wish to put back into the community, learning and implementing rocket science does not necessitate leaving terra firma at all; putting water in (literally) adds to the community good. Not too many alumni, even with millions in their bank, will have a +ve water balance. And this is the critical, nay, mission-critical factor for the country – shortage of water. Inter-linking of rivers can only destroy the riverine systems, harvesting rain will make them flow perennially. So our fore-fathers revered the monsoon. And sang paeans to the rains.
After all, if you want to make in India, it can’t be water – this has to be harvested.