I tried to get them in...but in vain. Hardly a couple of my class mates had signed up.
Persistent convincing from Ravindra and relentless follow-ups from the convener, Sribatsa, had made me register for the NITR overseas alumni meet, but I was likely not going to attend. I had my excuses rehearsed...I was jet-lagged from a recent trip to India, none of my classmates were joining...blah blah blah.
Finally, the clincher was the three hundred and fifty bucks that I had paid as convention fees.
"That seems a hefty sum. Just go and attend, at least, to justify the money that you shelled out" my wife, Jayanthi, reminded me, begrudgingly.
Let's get one thing straight. In spite of the apparent cynicism, I love NIT Rourkela. I spent the best four years of my life there. My best friends around the world are all NITR alumni. I just look for a pretext to meet up my college buddies - of course, mostly from the class of 93.
That said, I also had a torrid time at college, with professors, pungas, and sundry. So, I was somewhat ambivalent about partaking in a cross-batch, semi-officious event, where it appeared people were up to some serious sh#$ - the agenda had cyber security, innovation, and immigration law!
So, on a brilliantly pleasant Saturday, fighting against a part of myself , I reluctantly arrived at the Sheraton in Parsippany, NJ, halfway through the keynote session on cyber security, with the singular objective of recouping my convention fee and show my wife, I meant business.
I looked around for familiar people. I found none. The room was filled with a cornucopia of faces - young, old, bright, intelligent, actualized, smiling...all from my alma mater. How cool is that, I thought. My thrifty mind wasn't that amused. $10 worth maybe...it said.
As we were debriefing, I saw the first familiar face - Krishna, as he nearly uttered the four-letter word to make a point! The bugger had not lost any of his spunk since college, I thought. I didn't reintroduce myself or remind him that he was one of the first people to rag me - with his classmate KR Suresh - and had made a spurious signature as my local guardian (LG), once! I will give a hundred dollars for that moment of nostalgia, I thought, in a fit of magnanimity. $165 more...
Then on the far corner, I noticed Palash, preceded by his infectious chuckle. I didn't remember it from college, but by end of day, I had gotten so used to his laughter! I affixed a value of $50 for that...
There were more faces and names that I recognized...Sandip Das Verma...the vibrant contributor on the whatsapp group...Sachi, whom I had heard about from another friend...Vikas Mehra, whom I remember playing TT with...Ashutosh, who used to frequent my Hostel 3 room to meet his UP (and Bengali) brethren.
It was fantastic! This was quality Rengcolian time...with Ashutosh, Vikas, Anuj, Palash, Bakshi, Siti, Ranjit, Moushumi, Seema, and a few others. I was suddenly at ease with people that I was meeting after twenty five years; and some that I had never met in my life..See, that's what NITR does to you. I have been on this quest for the last twenty four years, and I can't find that bonhomie and brotherhood in the company of any other group - colleagues, neighbors, relatives, and such. What is it about NITR? I will continue to be bewildered by that question.
I will give a hundred dollars...wait a minute, I thought. OK, I shall stop counting the dollars from this moment on...I was well past paisa vasool phase, and this was getting into MasterCard "priceless" territory.
We went back downstairs to the kids' talent show, and now I recognized more faces.
My mind raced back to the first time I had seen him - possibly when he sang "rim jhim gire sawan" during a Rotaract event. I knew I was not counting anymore, but I thought I will give a million dollars for that!
There was Rahul Roy...the Sanju baba of REC! Back then, he could have definitely switched for the other Rahul Roy from Aashiqui; and looking at him now, he would have done just fine in Aashiqui 2 as well!
It struck me much later that the guy who was on the panel was THE Ishpreet! His reputation clearly preceded him at college, mostly from the "orientation" that he gave the freshmen of that era ;-)! It was good to see that he was doing very well for himself.
The early batches, who had come in with their families, were full of life, and taught us how we could give back as well. The young, bright chaps, brought the energy and the ideas. This was such a perfect setting!
As I was driving back home, the laughter of Palash and Bakshi ringing in my ears, the energy of the event still enthralling me, Nihar's and Joydeep's music resonating in my heart, I wondered where this will lead us. Actually, does it really have to lead us anywhere? Does philanthropy and altruism have to be the only purpose of this organization? Maybe it does. But, when I pivoted back to the topic of our "brainstorming", on what it takes for people to give back to the alma mater; for me, the #1 prerequisite for that had to be that we like hanging out with each other.
Based on my half day with the NITROAAns, this gang of ex-Rourkelans, absolutely meet that criteria.
It is this energy that I want to take back to my classmates and tell them why they all need to be part of it.
I hope that the 1993 batch will be well represented next year...and no one will laugh at us! I, for one, will definitely not be counting my dollars for an experience that will be priceless. My wife will just have to learn to accept that;-)!
|The Man behind it all!!!|