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Nostalgia Nuggets

by Deepak Sabnis
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I had to miss my B.Tech convocation due to my stupidity on Janmashtami in 1973. 

I was still on the campus pursuing M.Tech. Some of the guys in the hostel had strung a rope across two wings on the second floor for the handi on Janmashtami day. After dahi-handi was over, I accepted a dare to cross the span on the rope using my hands and legs.

I succeeded. But I’d forgotten that the rope would sink under my weight and ended up having to literally haul myself up for quite a long part of it. Ended up pulling my belly muscle and missing the Convocation which was the next day.

The dare was for a princely sum of Rs. 5. Mrs. Gandhi was the Chief Guest at the convocation. But for the activity involved in winning Rs. 5, I’d have received my degree from her.

First the battle of wits between R. Krishnaswamy (aka Sluggo) and Premji Varsani (aka Tarzan). First a little background information. In H5, we used to have single seated rooms. Each room had a wall on one side and a partition on other side. The partition was open at the bottom (about 4”), and at top. The top of partition was approximately 7’ from floor. It was open from there to ceiling. So light and sound on one side was visible and audible on other side. The two students each living on one side were called “partners”. We lived on second floor of H5 in front wing. Our wing had 12 rooms. Tarzan lived in Room 267. His partner Ashok Mulani lived in Room 268. Mulani was in EE, Tarzan was in Aeronautical Engineering. Mulani rarely lived in his room. When on campus, he would live at computer center writing gaming software to play games on the Minsk 2 computers. But during exam weeks, he would live in his room and try to get ready for exams. Getting him ready was Sluggo’s responsibility, who would try to teach him in 2-3 weeks what had been taught over the semester. Mulani would  use these coaching sessions to prepare his cog sheets more than understanding the subject matter. How he used them and survived the exams is between him and his Creator. But I digress. Often these coaching sessions would be loud and go late into the night. That would disturb Tarzan, who also needed to study. Sluggo also used to laugh in a unique loud non stop Ha, ha, Ha, Ha laughing fit. That would really drive Tarzan nuts. 

So, sometime in 5th year, he got hold of a chalk, and used it to draw a line in veranda outside the rooms. It was just at the point where Mulani’s room ended. He called it the Laxman Rekha referring to the Ramayana description of the protective line drawn by Laxman to protect Seeta, before he set out to look for his brother Ram. Sluggo was warned that if he ever dared set his foot across the line drawn by Tarzan, that Tarzan would inflict a lot of physical pain on Sluggo. Sluggo would retaliate by showing up in our wing at random times and stick his big toe right up to the line without crossing it, and call out to Tarzan telling him he was there and planned to cross the line. Poor Tarzan would drop his books and come out to defend his territory. This went on for a semester before Tarzan realized that he was wasting more time defending his line than would be the case if he just let Sluggo freely come and go. So he erased the line after a semester.

The story about sweets and snacks involved another wingmate M. N. Kale of Aero. Many guys in our wing were Bombayites. They would go home for the weekend on Friday night, and return on Monday morning. During exam period, everyone would hit the books and stay on campus on weekends too to study. Family members of some of these guys used to come over to visit them on weekends and generally bring some snacks and sweets for the student they were visiting. Usually, the quantity used to be generous enough to allow sharing the goods with others in the wing. We used to eagerly wait for the visitors to leave, and as soon as they left, we would descend on the room of the student whose family had just departed. We would get our share and return to our room. If the student decided to accompany his family to the bus stop, he would leave his room unlocked to allow us enjoy the snacks without having to wait for his return, we would make sure that his share was left behind for him to enjoy when he returned.

Mr. Kale too was one such Bombayite. During one such exam time in our third year, his family came over and brought a lot of yummy snacks and sweets. When they left, Kale hid all the snacks in his closet, locked his room and went to Y-Point to see off his family. Kale’s partner too was away for the weekend, making entry to his room impossible by scaling the partition from his Partner’s room.  All of us were livid at Kale for locking his room and hiding the snacks.

One of our wingmates, Mr. Arvind Gogate of Civil Engineering was a very slim and agile fellow. At our goading, he climbed up the front door to the narrow opening above the doors of our wing. This opening was just wide enough to allow entry of pigeons. But Gogate squeezed through the opening into Kale’s room, opened his closet, got all snacks out and passed them out through the narrow window to the side of the door. After passing everything out, he exited Kale’s room from main window to back of the room and crossed over to the window of the room next to Kale’s room on other side, entered that room and out to the veranda. Mission accomplished. We all ate up all the snacks leaving only a single potato chip on the sill of the window next to Kale’s room for him, needless to say, he wasn’t pleased, but had to swallow hard and go back to studying for the exam.

Deepak Sabnis
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