Quite surprisingly, endsems haven’t taken a toll on me. I have been sleeping at about 3 in the morning everyday, waking up at 8, and yet, I feel perfectly normal. Thanks to some sleep in the afternoon, nothing out of the ordinary has happened. I was gazing at the ceiling lying on my bed thinking of what to blog on. Having got two holidays before the next endsems, I certainly can afford to blog for sometime.

This happened to me when I was in my 10th standard. In my school, whenever I was to receive any appreciation for my “contribution” to scouting movement, I would end up making fool out of myself. To receive a certificate, as a scout, you are expected to march down the stage, facing sideways to the audience, go across the stage, make a perfect left turn in front of the principal, move one step forward, a scout salute (three fingers) and a traditional scout left hand shake and then only you are the proud owner f the certificate. Of the three-four times I have received any certificate of appreciation for scouting, inevitably, every time I would make a mistake in one of the steps above. The most common one being the right hand shake instead of the left hand shake. Of course many would make the same mistake. But in my patrol, I used to be the only one.

This incident is not about me receiving the certificate or anything, but about the camp itself. My presidents’ testing camp was held in KV Pangode in Tiruvananthapuram. A scout is smart, so they say. The smartness comes in the way they press their uniforms, the way they polish their shoes, the way they move around confidently etc etc. With all the arrogance in me, I decided to pack the uniforms for the camp myself. It was the first day of my camp. Into the holiday mood, and with all the enthusiasm on first day of the camp, it was a quite jubilant scene in the class room we were allowed to stay.

All of us were wearing uniforms and I took out my shoes. What I saw was two shoes, which don’t make a pair. One of them was a Bata make and other one was Action make. They were indeed of different sizes, 8 and 9. Both were black all right, but one had a grainy finish and other was plain. I took me nearly five minutes to realize that no one was playing a prank on me but it was all my foolishness. Fortunately, one was for the left foot and the other right foot. Having absolutely no choice, I had to resort to getting ridiculed by my friends and wear those pair of shoes.

Well, only friend from my school, whom I had told about my shoes, noticed the weirdo in me. Students from other schools didn’t notice a thing. One of the scout masters, however, did observe the maniac in different shoes. He went around telling every one about it as I passed by him time and again in the camp. Only a highly observant detective would have noticed it anyway. I was relieved after a day in camp when no outsider was pointing a finger at me.

Needless to say now, that I did not get the President’s award. None in my school did. Fact is, we had no certificates to prove our service oriented minds. But I have a reason to blame my failure on. My shoes. Thinking back, I was quite smart to have walked in the camp with those set of boots on. Surely, one would find such crazy chaps in comedy movies with humour gone haywire; I guess I deserved an award just for that. Scouts are smart, not always. That’s it.

Prized Possessions

I was looking at saarang applications forms which asked me to write an article on any item on curio stall. I was thinking of things I had, which were worthy of being presented to a museum. Only a few things crossed my mind.

Several years back, I and my bro had an interest in philately and coin collection. Ok, it was my brother alone. I was just curious enough to look into the collection he had. Though our collection didn’t grow, we did have a prized possession of any soldier. Yes, it is a military medal. It was given to my grand dad during the Second World War. He was in army until he retired before joining postal and telegraphs dept. Being in army and, more importantly, being on the victorious side, he got to advance through several African countries before reaching Europe. He tells me about those days when every soldier in his battalion was asked to change their names to sound more Islamic (Obviously Mr. Sastry wouldn’t work). I do not remember what exactly he changed his name to. Only way to guess which country they were in during arduous voyage was to look out for signs on the biscuits. He also talked about dense African jungles and how water was the only means of transportation in getting through them. He had talked about time when once in a week, on a Sunday I guess, soldiers had to chase dogs and shoot them. I kind of hate this but soldiers have to follow orders. Among so many things, I am thankful for the fact that he never described how war ravaged the countries or how he lost his friends (obviously he would have) in the war. I have absolutely no inclination in asking him about it. When he vividly describes some of those day, he talks about exciting parts of being in armed forces. I guess only my grandfather says this: “unfortunately, the war ended…….” He continues, “……one more week, I would have been in Paris, the most beautiful city in the world.” I once asked him, “What was his contribution to quit India movement?” He laughed before he replied, “I was with a huge crowd, and I threw a stone and broke a lamp post…that’s it.”

The war gave him two medals and a ribbon. The ribbon and a medal is lost now, nobody except him knew its value. The medal is still with me… safe. The army thought him great deal of discipline. He is 80 now, still shaves every day, gets up 5 in the morning and very strong for his age. Hardly 10 years back, he could walk a lot faster than anybody in our family. I my uncle’s home where he and my grand mom stay, he is the most reliable morning alarm.

Coming back to story of stamp and coin collection, at the same place where we found the medal, we also found coin in form of a ring; it is called ‘thooth moor kaas’ in Kannada. I haven’t seen such a currency coin anywhere else, would be interested in knowing more about them. We also found a 10 paisa copper coin whose material value was more than coin’s face value. It will wonderful to know more about them. It is hard to find genuine coins today. The older generations in my family did have such coins. But, they some how failed to learn the value of those antiques. What is more saddening is the fact that some people even today do not understand the value. Any historic article is condemned in the name of religion by hardliners. I am speaking of Taliban destroying Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. In the name of development, the past is forgotten. There are number of historically important articrafts in my state of Karnataka, but it has no takers when it comes to maintenance, not even the government. Its not about having a retro wall paper or a retro Winamp skin. Possessions for which some people craved for years before is now ignored. From what I remember, the people of Bhaghat Singh’s village have preserved the pen using which his hanging judgment was passed. It is time we value them more than we value the sweat shirts or bubble gums chewed by Britney Spears (yes, the bubble gum was auctioned for a short time on a web site before was removed).

Prized possessions like cherished memories stand out in our minds. Maro was asking me if I would feel emotional when I leave this place. My answer was that I did not feel that way when I left my school or college. I will feel the same when I leave this place. Now when I think of it, of course, the cherished memories are the biggest prized possessions one can have. More than the lost medal and ribbon, my grand dad has bright memories of his days as a soldier. It keeps him young. We have our memories too. Hopefully our minds remain young.

Here’s my manifesto

Hostel elections are round the corner. Every aspiring secretary is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to his contribution to the hostel. It’s funny some times when every aspiring secretary is made to work like a dog while looking for votes. My friend once told me that this is the time when any request made to the secretaries are actually heard by the aspiring secretary and positively ‘fulfill’ them. Activities in and around the hostel peak during the summer. Every unkept (if there is such a word) promise by the previous secretary is answered by the contestants. In my hostel, new garden is being built. As an icing on the case new cycle fence is also being constructed. The administration and previous secretary had their own reasons for why this work wasn’t done last time around.

When one reads the manifestoes of every secretary, it is hard not to notice the fact that we hardy have any powers. They include points like ‘door stoppers for every room’, ‘shampoo holder for the bathrooms’, ‘door mats for bathrooms’ and other really really tiny stuff. Nobody ever has any concrete point in their manifesto. I remember reading about student body in IITM hardly has any powers unlike in other colleges. Quite evidently this is true every at a grass root hostel level.

Almost every evening leading unto the elections, we are disturbed by the contestants for their ‘manifestos’. It’s sickening when they try to explain every point. It is like they make us feel 5 years old. They go on to say ‘door mats, so that you can keep the bath room clean when to enter it after a game of cricket……blah blah…same point, 5 minutes’. Are we really that dumb not to understand the purpose mats? The ‘trivial’ manifestoes take at least 45 minutes of our time. At the end of it all, our lives don’t change, no matter what promises are kept. Secretaries are just consolation we are given.

Beginning of every academic year, in all hostels a formal general body meeting (GBM) is held. Our elected representatives head the meeting. The year’s expenditure on all hostel related issues are discussed. For instance, buckets for bathroom are bought from this allocated budget. All 250-300 students share the cost. Here’s how a typical argument goes:

Secretary(S): we need Rs 260 fro 20 buckets.
An arbit guy (G): why 260?
S: because each bucket costs 13 bucks
G: are you sure?
S: of course
G: but you are buying 20 of them
S: so?
G: you might get them at 12.5, have you enquired?
S: 13 is final
G: we are not ready to give 13, bargain for 12.5

Probably somebody should tell him that at 12.5 each person saves 10 paisa. This kind of arguments happens through out the GBM fro about 5 hrs on a good thursday evening in the month of August. Some other regular arguments include, “why can’t cricket team adjust with 3 bats instead of 4?” After much effort, we might end up saving only about Rs 30 for the whole year.

Suppose entire money is not spent, what happens? Well, it goes to black hole called hostel account. I know that over past 5-6 years no money has ever been taken out of it. In fact, our hostel has about 6 lakhs (or 3 lakhs) bucks it. This year, the institute had decided to spend some of it on hostel renovation like garden, cycle shed etc.

Our hostel elections are on 4th of April. May the best deserving candidates win.