Artwork by Prof. Arun Inamdar
Once upon a time, there was a magazine called the Debonair. It was famous for its nude centrespreads. Nobody knows what else there was in the magazine.
Maybe a couple of movie reviews. Some recipes. Or maybe an article on the economy. No one knew and no one cared. Apart from some magazines that had “views” on various subjects like politics, economy etc. (eg: Illustrated Weekly of India, India Today, Sunday), Debonair offered a different kind of view which made it important enough for H4 lit sec to subscribe to it. But this subscription came with a problem attached. As soon as the issue hit the lounge, eager people rummaged through the rag to find the centerspread missing. This led to an uproar and the then G Sec Limsey found a good way to address this problem. He would take the centerspread out, put it up in a lockable notice-board. This way, he saved valuable hostel property from being plundered and everyone had an equal opportunity to gaze at some very “heavenly bodies”.
But soon, this too came with a problem. When we say that everyone had an equal opportunity, it also included parents of hostel kids who visited the hostel occasionally to meet up with their kids, get them some homemade kheer and carry back some dirty laundry to wash. And yes, some of these parents were aghast at what they saw in the notice board and the lock prevented them from tearing up the centrespread.
Irate hostelites who were the progeny of visiting parents were up in arms and wanted the practice to stop while the “despo” lobby wanted status quo and asked the doted kids to not bring the parents to the lounge. This was a hopeless situation and left people wondering how the new G Sec Manu Parrikar would address this problem. And this incident brought out the best in Manu and qualified him for his later duties at the Goa Sachivalaya and Raksha Mantralay.
Manu wanted to a) satisfy the doted kids b) satisfy the despos c) generate some entertainment for the hostel and d) wanted to raise money for the hostel. And this is how he dreamt up his masterstroke. Implemented one decision that satisfied all the 4 objectives. He would collect all centrespreads and once every semester, he would announce an auction of the centrespreads in the mess after dinner on a day that we did not have any parents visiting. Needless to add, the auction idea was a massive hit that netted in about Rs. 50 revenue every semester for a cash-strapped H4. Kids of visiting parents were not embarrassed anymore and the despos had the centrespeads spread out in the center of their room wall. And the auction process itself provided lots of entertainment. (cheers and jeers at what the merchandise sold for) And there were a lot of smiling faces too. RIP Vinod Mehta (then editor of Debonair).