Two chaps, during their undergrad days, used to walk all of three hundred meters to a corner of the campus for a break. The walk became longer when their classes shifted from Faculty Divison II to the new lecture theatre complex (better know by FD V, as a result of the average BITSian’s love of orderly behaviour and serial numbering). They made their comments on how the campus was slowing molding them into what it wanted them to become (in second year) and how they didn’t want to lose the identity the campus had bestowed upon them (in the final year). More often than not, they met someone on the way and pulled him along. Now that the author thinks of that time in great detail, the fact that they never met a girl on their way to Sky beats him.
They would settle down on the soft grass (or sometimes on the horse-shoe under the scanty shade of the babool, when it was too sunny) and order their poisons (word used to make the piece sound funky, the closest you could get to poison at Sky was non-alcoholic fruit beer and hopefully, it remains that way). One of them would invariably have a black coffee and the other would start with shikanji, follow it up with something to eat and end up with tea. This ‘something to eat’ would usually be followed by a loud burp indicative of unprecedented satisfaction and a magnanimous announcement that he would to skip lunch. At times it would even sound as if the mess ought to pay him a tribute for his generous decision of not putting them through the pain of serving him the assortment of exotic extras he ordered. In most cases, the first one would pick up a plain cheese and mayonnaise sandwich (for the uninitiated, it is an ostentatious sandwich with one plain slice of cheese, smothered in mayonnaise, in between two really thin slices of bread). Something they couldn’t help noticing was the fact that the shopkeeper had somehow gotten himself into believing that mayonnaise is always pronounced as mo-ee-nee. It has somehow become a legend and even now, whenever they meet someone who’s fresh out of campus, they are still curious to find out if the plain cheese mo-ee-nee is still one of the fastest selling items at Sky!
But once they had their food and drink, they started talking. And it was not mean talk. They would start with the state of the world, the macro issues that faced the world which started existing once they stepped out of the steel gate with BITS written across it, twice over. The world, they were only technically a part of, but nothing that went on in it ever made any difference to them. In fact, in their second year, while the whole of Rajasthan cast its vote for the Lok Sabha elections, these two guys were holed up a room along with fellow classmates writing the ES II compre (for the forgetful and the dumb, it was electrical sciences two, the course which dealt with stators and rotors and winding and coppers wires which gave them nightmares of reaching the end of their earthly lives entangled in a number of those orange, glistening reptilian creatures!). Such was their exposure to democracy in the largest democracy in the world. No doubt, BITSians come out with a healthy disregard for the democratic processes and a healthy regard for the autocratic rule of one Dr. Sundar. Both these guys (or shall I say men? Because I am sure they would love to think of themselves as men now) had their time on the other side of the desk from Dr. S. They won’t dare say that they enjoyed it to a great extent!
But we shall not prevaricate any further, so our men would take their food and talk about diverse stuff and solve the myriad problems that faced the world with their time. But this pretentious discussion won’t last too long. By the time the coffee and the shikanji took effect they would get back safely to confines of their own world of SUB, the general secretary and his painful repeated demands that he be respected for reasons unknown to anyone, the pain associated with academics and such important issues as grossly mismanaged love-lives. They would sometimes be unanimous in denouncing certain idea and people (the 11 o’clock curfew and general secretary for example) and debate over some (the health quotient of the plain cheese mo-ee-nee and the value of attending SAPM class). But on some, they would disagree completely, thus giving direction to what shall soon become a heated debate which, in most cases than not, will remain unresolved leaving each to his own opinion. Nevertheless, they would breach the topics. The necessity to flirt, the food at Noble’s, the reason for not apping even when you have a good CG, the purported hunger for money and fame of the prospective NRI, the love for one’s country and the resolve to serve it. All these things would be talked about, each one giving his view and stuffing as much irrefutable logic into it as possible till they were both tired. They would stop the discussion, look up at the sky at the same time (sometimes with unmatchable comic timing) and exhort the Gods to get the other guy to desert his cryptic logic and fall in line with his own! Finally they would let each one to hold his own view, get up, dust themselves off and amble along to their hostels.
That was something of the past, these two men have grown up now. While one spent the two years after BITS at a University in Buffalo, getting his MS, the other spent a two year long ordeal at one of the critical refineries of a public sector oil company.
Then, both of them returned to Bangalore, one working with an auto company, the other trying to get himself branded with another prestigious logo, after BITS. They meet often these days, but the randomness continues to be a common thread in all their conversations. It is often said that people change with time, but I have this gut feeling, if those two guys were sitting at the same place, eating the same stuff, they might just become two undergrad students ready to change the world. All over again. After all, all randomness has an inherent pattern, sometimes it’s visible and sometimes it’s only felt like a nagging doubt after writing a wrong answer and submitting the paper.