Tuesday, June 27, 2006
College pains (sometime in 1998)
My first semester in Engineering was one of the most interesting chapters in my storied B-Tech days. It all started with me being dragged down, kicking and screaming, from the badminton circuit to CET. I can still remember the sinking feeling I got when I stood in front of the Head of Department on my first day in college (I was a month late and he wanted to know why). We dint like each other. It was pretty obvious. He saw in me another of those sports walas. I saw in him another of those twisted narrow minded nerds who were the reason sports dint flourish in India. His first words dint help either. "Lets get one thing straight...If you fall short of attendance, you fail...It doesn't matter if you bring a certificate saying you are world champion. Anyway...what are you now??" "I'm national champion".
So off I went to meet my advisor. She was a pretty stern lady...but hey...what's a pest after a session with the devil. She took me to class and I settled into the third bench next to a really friendly guy called Anand. On the other side of Anand was a nerd if I had ever seen one. Round glasses, serious face, but what finished the picture was that Physics was being taught and his nose was buried in a chemistry book. I'd seen people do a whole bunch of things when they get bored with lectures... play games, read magazines, pass notes....But I'd never seen someone study another subject because the lecture was boring. Anand chucked at the shocked _expression on my face and assured me that everyone was not like that. The nerd's name was Akhil, and we went on to become best friends. A week after that the fourth member of our gang came to class. His name was Devraj. Anand and I had progressed to being back benchers by then. We came to know in the morning that two students had transferred from another college to ours. And in the second lecture they were done with their meeting with the devil and the staff advisor. Devraj came into class and took the seat next to me and Anand, looked up, nodded at us and said "did you see that girl outside??? Maaaaannnn...she's too good!!!!"... A moment of silence..followed by a low chuckle from Anand... Now this was funny. Here was this complete stranger...no introduction, no embarrassed silence.... starts off talking about a girl...to us....a couple of misogynists. We liked him right then. After all the statement showed he was one of us. He had priorities...and academic excellence was not on top of that list. A few weeks went by..I remember a particularly interesting lecture in which my advisor tore apart the fundamentals of electrical engineering by proving I=VR inspite of feverant protests from me,Anand and a few others.
My second month in college was when I scaled the heights of notoriety. That was the third month of class...midway through the semester. One fine day I got a letter saying I have been transferred to the Industial Engineering Department. I dint want to go. All my friends were in Electrical Engineering...and for the first time in my life I dint hate girls. I enjoyed talking to them and all that. But there was the order...and the hope of being freed from the clutches of the devil. I took the order home and showed it to dad. I've always read of people turning purple...but till then I had never seen it. Dad was livid. He knew me...and he knew that if I were in a class of fun loving boys...I'd probably never clear engineering. It seems that when I applied for sports quota I had ranked industrial engineering over electrical engineering. But I had finally used my merit seat and so the sports seat was supposed to be cancelled. There was some mixup and the seat dint get cancelled. That how I got transferred. Que sera sera .. I told myself .. and went to bed. The next day I had a particularly long session in the badminton camp and was late for class. To top it all.. I spent about five minutes finding out where the Industrial Engineering classes were. Finally, I reached the class, fifteen minutes late. Something was wrong. Industrial Engineering was supposed to be one of the noisiest classes...but the class at whose door I stood was so quiet one could hear the lecture from my electrical engineering class. Then it struck me....I had walked into a pop quiz. I looked at the board where the questions were written and got a familiar sinking feeling. My first day in this class would also be the first time I get zero for a quiz. Better get it over with quickly, I told myself. I took out a paper and pencil and started off furiously writing down all the questions (I dint know the answers...so I figured questions were better than a blank paper). The subject was Organic chemistry. The teacher was a pleasant and friendly looking lady. With all the wisdom of years spent teaching chemistry to those who would never need it again .. she realized my problem. To pass time, we struck up a polite conversation.
Teacher :" So, you're new here eh!"Me :" Well, I'm new to the class, but I was in Electrical before "Teacher :" Really? Well, who teaches chemistry there?"Me : (not turning pink because I'm dark) "umm...lemme see...well..."Teacher :" come on, it's the middle of the semester"Me : (turning pink inspite of being dark) "umm..yeah...well...I know her...or...well.."Teacher :" Does anyone teach you chemistry"Me : (Relieved to get the easy way out) "I'm not sure ma'am, I don't quite remember"
And that was that. I got my zero and she went her merry way. The next day I ran into my actual chemistry teacher (her name was Mary). A few caustic comments from her later I had committed her face to memory and considered that chapter closed. Woe be me .. A week later, dad had the transfer order revoked, and I was back in Electrical. And guess what the first period of the day was? There she was, my favorite Chemistry teacher, doing the roll call, and there I was, sunk so low in my seat, you couldn't tell me from the varnish on the bench. My number was 42. The whole class had gotten quite used to skipping from 41 to 43. So this time after 41, there was me calling 42 in a voice so low the fly buzzing over my head asked me to repeat it, and there was Manju screaming 43 like she wanted the windows to crack when she said it. But still Miss Mary managed to pick it up. The temperature in the class dropped by a couple of degrees. Her pencil stopped and her hand came up signaling the end of roll calls for the day. I made another fruitless attempt to sink through the floor, and finally looked up into a pair of coal black eyes. "So....you're back" . "Listen up everybody, this young man here believes we don't teach chemisty in Electrical Engineering". (huge laughter from the sycophants in the first two rows). And so it went on for the rest of the lecture.....and for the rest of the semester. I got good at chemistry though, thanks to her, and eventually, we got to develop a healthy respect for each other too. Thank you Mrs Mary .. you dint know it then, but you probably saved Engineering degree