Saturday, February 25, 2006


It was not a stormy day though it ought to have been. A day with the usual Chennai sun blazing away to glory. Nothing in the air suggested anything untoward. Incidentally it also happened to be Valentine’s Day. Also the first day of our quiz 1. For the fourth semester. The exam for that day was of phase transformation

I always looked forward to my first exam for phase transformation. The reason for this strange yearning lay in the fact that it was going to be my first open book exam. Those people not accustomed to this paradoxical concept, it is an exam in which you are allowed to bring your notes to. Funny, but something we all dream of. The night before the exam I had a terrific time going to every room and mentioning cheekily what a pity it was that they had to work so hard for the next day’s exam. While all I had to do was go through the pages once and ensure I wake up in time.

Well, that little detail about getting up on time did me in. Over confidence led to utter disregard for a certain crucial element- setting the alarm. Under usual circumstances, I have strategically placed alarms in three vantage points in my room. These points were decided on by me after some complex geometrical calculations, for I needed them to be at the farthest positions from where I sleep. Topping the three mechanical alarms, I also repose faith in human alarms. Namely, my wonderful neighbors who happen to believe that getting up early in the morning is a good thing to do. But my pertinent taunting the previous night as mentioned above resulted in them “accidentally” forget that I too needed to be awakened. So much for the human alarms then.

So, in view of this catastrophic failure of my convoluted wake-up buzzer system, it was not surprising that on waking up I was slightly ruffled. The time which my watch dial showed suggested that unless I had been bitten by a radio-active spider or had kryptonite shoved down my throat while I slept the chances of me making to the exam-hall in time was close to naught. Nevertheless, I pulled off an astonishing performance and found myself in the hall only seven minutes late and totally out of breath. I had missed the initial instructions but considered that after all there was nothing more to know about.

I sat on the first row with none of my batch mates in the near vicinity.

Of course, in all this rush, I had not forgotten the all too precious notes. With a song on my lips and mirth in my heart I took up the question paper and glanced through it. Just as I anticipated, it was a piece of cake, rather a slice of pizza as the Italians would put it. Three direct theory-based questions preceded by a long numerical which was the only thing which required me to work the grey cells. The concept based questions required direct lifting of material from the notes. So I wondered the need for having an open book exam. It seemed a futile exercise. It was more like, in terms of Microsoft word a test of one’s copy and pasting skills. On the other hand I told myself not be concerned about such mundane stuff ad rather concentrate on replicating things properly. So I laid out my notes and got down to business. Time flew and before I could realize I had only five minutes and the whole numerical remained to be completed. I had taken so much care to write the rest that my time management suffered significantly. I managed a shoddy solution and submitted the paper. Incidentally, we were also supposed to attach the question paper with it. Something which had escaped my mind altogether. Thankfully, I become conscious of it immediately and asked for my sheets back. Prof Haridoss handed them back and I attached the question paper. On resubmitting began the legendary conversation which will haunt me for a long long time.

He asked,” Have you attached the formulae sheet?”

I replied with a frown,” Which formulae sheet?”

“The one you had with you. The one in which you wrote all the formulas for the exam.”

“I didn’t have one. All the things I required were in my notes”.

“Notes! You mean you had your notes with you? Why?”

“Why? What why? It was an open book exam! That’s why!”

“Open book exam! Who told you that? I had specifically told in class that only formulas were to be brought and then the sheet attached to the answer paper.”

“What! You mean….. You mean…..I mean…..mean…well…..oh god!”

I was speechless. I was without speech.

“Yes, you are right. It was NOT an open book exam. I think someone needs to do some explaining here.”

“Well, basically sir, what I thought was………….”

What happened next is yet another long story. Surprised, stunned, dazed, upset, traumatized, appalled are some adjectives which can barely describe my state then. Prof Haridoss was as shaken as I was. He never knew that ignorance and stupidity could reach such depths. Just imagine. Those 50 minutes in the hall, I happily sat with my notes strewn over the desk copiously noting down the smallest detail and no one even noticed. And not for a second did I comprehend that something was horribly wrong. Whenever, I think about it I can’t help but laugh….To salvage some lost position I did ask him not to mark me for all the theory questions in spite of all this being unintentional.

Nonetheless, from now on I deserve some respect. For I am Sayan. Lord of the Idiots.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thank you Jhantu, for everything.


It was in Gapa’s room that I had first met Jhantu. Chanani the previous night had told me of these seniors who were absolutely amazing in Dumb-Charades. He said that I had to see them play to believe it. So next day in the evening we tagged along to Gapa, our lit-sec’s room. It was full of fourth years. Gapa, Bhave, Bacchi, Banner, Tg with Jhantu sitting in the corner. After the preliminary introductions by me, they got down to business. For the next half an hour I saw one of the finest Dumb-C performances ever. Jhantu was the main actor while all the rest guessed. He performed with a raw intensity which we notice in professional sportsmen. I was really impressed. For the next one week, Chanani, Nai and I underwent a grueling practice schedule. Under Jhantu of course. He taught us all the nuances and we lapped every bit of it. He chided us for any mistake committed and smiled when we cracked tough ones. From then on, I always considered him a friend rather than a senior.

Jhantu was the de-facto lit-sec of Mandak. I doubt whether anyone in the years to come can ever match his passion and dedication. When he came to know that I wasn’t partnering with a certain guy in quizzes because of personal differences, he scolded me telling that petty quarrels shouldn’t affect important matters. His fundaes sessions will always be legendary. Invariably all his sentences began with “Basically…….” Treasure Hunt, Fete, Choreo Night. These were the times when Jhantu was at his best. His disappointed face when none would turn up for those late-night planning sessions, would be so compelling that we freshies scampered all round the hostel pulling people out of their beds.

He was a talented guy. No doubt. Acting was his forte. His mind-blowing renditions in elocution and mono acting are still etched clear on my mind. Organizational skill was something I have learnt from him. Whatever people may believe about Mandak being litsoc fanatics, it always needed people like Jhantu to get things done in a proper and neat manner. His way of requesting was such that people seldom could refuse him anything. Winning the treasure hunt was one of the highpoints of freshie year. I will never forget the military precision manner in which the entire game plan was thought of and executed. Needless to say Jhantu had a huge contribution in this regard.

His sense of humor was marvelous. I would like to write of one such incident in particular. The mono acting prelims was in progress and Jhantu was performing a piece. It was about a boy who was asking whether god would fulfill his wishes. He said,

“God, will u answer my prayers? Will you? O.k. lets see. I have a request. Do you see that girl sitting at the back? In the pink dress. Second last row. Fourth from the right.”

(the whole auditorium turns back and stares at the girl who was beginning to feel very self-conscious now). Jhantu continues,

“god, can you make that girl kiss me? Can you?”

A deathly silence prevailed for a moment before every one present burst out into uncontrollable peals of laughter. The girl went deep pink in embarrassment. Jhantu had just presented the show of the year. Another episode occurred when the ragging session was in progress. One of my wing mates 4kg was warned that about a hairy giant of a senior in the first floor who incidentally also happened to be gay. With this cheeky lie, he was told that this senior (Jhantu) wanted to meet him. So very apprehensive of what was about to happen to him, 4kg went to room no 207. Jhantu opened it asked him to come in and sit down on the floor. After that he is supposed to have pulled off some stunning act. He put off the lights and took his shirt off and asked 4kg to sit with him on his bed. His mannerisms and speech was so well presented that 4kg got totally petrified with fear and burst out crying. Only then did Jhantu put on the lights consoled him and convinced him that it was all in good humor.

Always ready to lend a hand, Jhantu was perhaps after Loki, the senior to whom I most close. I had spent numerous hours in his room on his computer surfing the net, checking mails. He had this collection of old Hindi flicks. I recollect watching “Ek Ruka Hua Faisla” while he happily slept oblivious to the fact that he had an exam the next day and had a very meager knowledge about what it was. An avid foodie like me, he gave me full details of eating-joints worth checking out in Chennai. He loved chatting and chatted long hours on various topics. Always smiling, he would never forget to wave whenever we met in the corridors or outside the hostel. He always asked me about how I was doing academically and when I habitually replied on how I was not doing so well, he replied with a mischievous wink. I recall how once we came across him in the Dhaba. He cribbed about how lazy he was and warned us that academics was very important. These statements were of course followed by his customary smile and wink.

After passing out he went to Mumbai. One day we came across online and he asked how life was treating us? As expected he was unhappy about Mandak’s litsoc status and cautioned me to do better or else….. That day he also gave a long sermon on how I should be more optimistic about things and prepare for the future. He was happy with his job but complained about the long commuting hours. Then last month, one week before Saarang, as I was returning from class, I met him. He had got this French beard and was as imposing as ever. He promised to come and meet us that night. I had forgotten all about it by evening and was taken by surprise when he turned up at twelve. Inspite of the busy schedule, he had kept his promise to meet his junior. He chatted for around thirty minutes when he again cribbed about his torturous local train routine. I jokingly asked him not to be so miserly and get a car. He then left saying that he had a flight to catch early next morning.

Yesterday, on 21st February 2006, at 9 pm Akshay Barman alias Jhantu fell from a local train in Mumbai. He suffered from serious head injuries and passed away that night itself. His parents had expired while his stay in IIT. He had no siblings.

He is survived by no one. Wrong. He is survived by a legion of his friends, well-wishers and people who he had affected in some way or the other. Jhantu, we love you. We respect you. We will always miss you. Forgetting people like you is a difficult task indeed.I had but known you for just one year. What about the people who grew up with you, who spent the most crucial years of their lives in your company? God has been more cruel to them than he has been to you. For they will have to live with this fact forever that you are no longer there

But this is all so sudden that I am yet to actually believe that I am writing this. A small voice urges me to click on the messenger icon and see if you are online or not. Just like that you have gone from our lives. You have left me wishing a lot of things.

I wish I had known you for more time..

I wish I had spent a few more time in your room, chatting.

I wish there were many more litsoc events for you to guide me in.

I wish we had sung a few more songs on Holi.

I wish we could have spoken for some more time last month.

I wish…….

It was an honor knowing you.

Thank you Jhantu, for everything.