Home 2022 Metamor4sis! Planting Trees Under the Shade of Which We Would Never Sit

Metamor4sis! Planting Trees Under the Shade of Which We Would Never Sit

by Beheruz Sethna
3 comments

Artwork by Prof. Arun Inamdar

As background, I had the honor of serving as General Secretary (GS) of Hostel 4 in 1968-69 1 . During my H4 GS term, we broke all norms for a hostel function (and more).

The leadership of this event was, by no means, restricted to me or others on the Student Council; rather, there were several H4 students who took charge of individual events and did an outstanding job. But, the bottom line was that, to the best of our knowledge, these things had not been done before 1968. Remember that IIT Bombay was only about 10 years old at the time2, and the use of the Powai campus was even more recent, because the first batch started out in the SASMIRA building in Worli.

  • We had a hostel function in the Convo Hall, 
  • We invited the entire campus – all students and all faculty and administrators,
  • We used talent from all over IIT (not just H4)
  • We hired imported talent – some on payment — from town3 (the city formerly known as Bombay)
  • We, the students of H4, funded the entire event.

In my opening remarks to the packed Convo Hall – packed with students from all over campus and with some faculty members as well, I stated that it was our vision that this would lead to a Metamorphosis in the type of campus functions IIT had had until then. We had musicians and guitar players and singers, and other performers from all over IIT and beyond. We did not know this at the time, but that remark proved to be prophetic.

The performance that got the most attention was a girl “Go-Go dancer” (I think that was the terminology at the time) dancing in a cage behind a screen and then outside the screen as well. I must emphatically note that she was fully clothed in a pantsuit, and her clothing went down to her ankles and her wrists. Nonetheless, that dance and the entire event were the talk of the campus.

Director Bose 4 had been invited but he was out of town and had sent his regrets. However, during the dance, I noticed that one senior faculty member went out into the lobby and paced up and down (I do indeed remember his name, but will not reveal it here). I went up to him and said hello, but did not pry. This incident turns out to be significant, as revealed below.

The reaction from the students over the next few days was great, and several students from outside (and inside) H4 were very enthusiastic. We were thrilled with our success.

And, then suddenly, the storm clouds came overhead. Director Bose returned to town. Soon after that, in an unrelated event in the Convo Hall, students clamored for a “Holiday” the next day. He said, ‘Okay, you can have your holiday tomorrow, but I heard about an event at this Convocation Hall that was very troublesome, and that there were dancers on this stage” (words to that effect; it’s been 55 years, and I can’t remember each word; heck, I can’t even remember where I put my glasses this morning!).

That was a very public dressing down. So, I went that same night with a couple of our other Metamor4sis! organizers to Director Bose’s home, took responsibility, apologized, and clarified that nothing indecent had occurred.  As is usual with such things, the story that had got to him (very likely from the one faculty member who was upset and went into the lobby) was probably worse than he would have experienced had he been present. He appeared to understand, and I think he felt much better after that. (So did we!)

Anyway, the event was so popular with the students that, in all probability, this event was the genesis of the Mood Indigo thinking of later years; Mood Indigo was much more elaborate of course, but Metamor4sis! set a precedent and opened students’ eyes to possibilities for the future 5.

To the bullet points I listed at the start of this little piece, I add a very significant one. Years or decades later, we have Mood Indigo and Techfest and other student-led events that attract audiences from all across IIT, from the city, and all over. But, to the best of my knowledge, this one was the first such student-led event from one Hostel that went beyond the walls of that hostel.

In 1868 (exactly 90 years before the first IIT Bombay students were admitted), “The Pall Mall Gazette referred to an old Indian proverb, ‘Blessed is he who plants trees under whose shade he will never sit 6.‘”

To the mind of an H4-ite, this event, Metamor4sis!, will forever be regarded as the grandfather of, and inspiration for, Mood Indigo and other such events. We never got to experience these later events as students, but to those of us who worked tirelessly on this first event of broad appeal, we planted seeds to grow trees under the shade of which we would never sit.

Now, that’s a piece of IIT history most people did not know.

Notes

1 Beheruz was General Secretary (GS) of H4 in 1968-69, of the Institute (Gymkhana) in 1969-70, and of the Electrical Engineering Students’ Association (EESA), in 1970-71. He later went to IIM Ahmedabad to do his MBA, and to Columbia University to do his PhD. About two decades later, he became the first person of Indian origin to become President of a US University, a position he held for 19 years.

2 “Planning for the institute at Mumbai began in 1957 and the first batch of 100 students was admitted in 1958.” Source: <https://www.iitb.ac.in/en/about-iit-bombay/institute-history>

3 When he ran for GS of the Institute / Gymkhana, Technik (IIT student newspaper) referred to him as having “contacts in town.” And, then, jokingly, added a remark – “uses glasses at IIT.”

Brigadier Sisir Kumar Bose was the first Director of IIT Bombay.

5 Comment from Ranju Bhat: “It was easily the most enjoyable variety entertainment programme at the campus in those days. What Beheruz, as GS of H4, wished to convey when he chose the name for the event was that H4 wants to discard that staid, nerdy image and prove that we have metamorphosed into a happening hostel. An objective which was accomplished with panache.  Master Communicator that he is, it was clever merging of the numeral 4 into the word “Metamorphosis”. The Go-Go dancer was fully clad in a shimmering dress but she was so enchanting, exuberant and vivacious that the word spread, perhaps by the backbenchers who couldn’t see her too well, that she was in a state of undress. In fact, she was a hit with all the male students even though the credit should have gone to some lively instrumental music and great singing.”

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2020/04/29/tree-shade/#:~:text=.%20.%20.-,Indian%20proverb%2C%20%E2%80%9CBlessed%20is%20he%20who%20plants%20trees%20under%20whose,shade%20he%20will%20never%20sit.%E2%80%9D&text=Let%20the%20old%20men%20plant,eat%20the%20fruit%20of%20them.&text=Ambition%20impels%20men%20to%20do,except%20in%20their%20own%20consciousness.

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3 comments

Bakul May 15, 2022 - 12:51 pm

People believed that the dancing girl in the cage was actress Rakhi, then not yet Gulzar. And yes, they believed she was nude.

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Niranjan Bhat May 16, 2022 - 10:42 pm

Wishful thinking!!

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Niranjan Bhat May 16, 2022 - 10:41 pm

Dr Sethna was given the Distinguished Alumnus Award by IIT Bombay in the year 2000.

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