A Priceless Encounter @ Parsippany



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.

As I entered the hall, a gregarious bunch of people walked up to me, introduced themselves, got me registered, and handed me a gym bag with goodies. Nice touch, I thought. OK, maybe fifty dollars worth; $300 more...I calculated in my nimble mind.

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.

During a break, I met the only other person from the class of 1993 that attended - Ranjit. We gave each other an understanding nod that only NIT classmates could comprehend, and clicked a couple of photographs by the NITROAA banner. The other batches that had shown up in good numbers laughed at the precarious sight of the 1993 twosome clicking away. I was fine with their triumphalism; after all NITR alumni still congregate by their class and they had the numbers. Net-net, a vasool of $25.

I reluctantly sat at the designated table and indulged in some half-hearted "brainstorming" (the others were serious) on "how to contribute to our alma mater".

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.

As I got introduced to other people, I was ushered into a secret antechamber - I am pretty sure it was secret and sound proof, for if the noise had escaped, the NJ cops would have been reading us our Miranda rights. We spent a good two hours there, drinking, chatting, laughing, relating old stories, throwing each other under the bus before the spouses, good-naturedly...

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.

Nihar!! The stylish cul sec, when I was in first year. One of the first names that we had to cram up along with that of the Princy's. He accosted us in a pink shirt, a light-blue, dinner jacket (which only he could have carried off), sun glasses decked atop his well-kempt hair, and a swagger that had aged like French wine!! Ladies and gentlemen of the union, the style and panache remains intact!
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!

Then there was Joydeep...the stud guitarist and the original rock star from RECR! Eons ago, when I was debuting on stage in NITR (or anywhere for that matter), Joydeep was visiting, and had attended the rehearsal. When I started singing, he had nodded in approval, sitting in the first row with my pal, Barua, and that had set off my fledgling singing career in college (relax, it didn't go anywhere, but hey, I have a Smule account).

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!

The personal call of duty beckoned me and I had to leave early, with much reluctance. Things had just started to heat up, as Nihar, Joydeep, and others took center stage.

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!!!

36 comments:

  1. A great read !!! in case you are wondering who I am... this is Rani, Sachi's wife 1997 AEIE

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  2. Brag, that's a great summary of an exciting weekend. Hope to see you with many of your batch mates next year!!

    Siti Panigrahi

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  3. Wow. What a write up brags. I loved the flow. Next time 93 should try to come close to 92. Beating would be a dream!! We will laugh even louder, we will have more love stories to talk about.

    Palash Das

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  4. Wow! Amazing capture of the fantabulous weekend! San Francisco team, you should pay royalty to Braggs and use this to get people to sign up for the next convention.

    Moushumi Roy

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  5. wow. very well written, could't have expressed the experience any better �������.

    Vikas Mehra

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  6. Fantabulous !!! ��������

    Sam

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  7. absolute delight to read this - from a 1991 batcher 10 K miles across India. For me any alumni event is a PitStop where you can get your Racing Car self serviced in real quick time. I had used this analogy time and again with our own batch's silver jubilee for Dec'16 where I too had pitched in lot of my time as well moved few people due to my commitment(Because I had the will as well as some skill, two things that we need most, be it any endeavor) http://willandskillenablement.quora.com

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    1. J2M great analogy that you used there. Absolutely!

      Loved your "Will and Skill" blog! Nice, cozy place you have out there :-)!!

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  8. Brags, glad you came...it was great to catch up and frankly travel back in time, as if we were all in REC. Great writing skills too - my vote is for you to be the editor of the news letter for next year and beyond.

    Anuj

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  9. Brags, loved the way you captured your experiences...next time would love to see you do a Yasu Das number in SF...

    Manas Panda

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  10. Brags, you captured it so well. Really enjoyed reading it.

    Yunus Ali

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  11. Brags - Very nicely written from heart! It was nice seeing you and hope to see a lot more of 93 next year!

    Ranjit Panigrahi

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  12. Brags - Thanks for replicating "roving eye" from our cultural fest days here for the convention. Great narration.

    Sachi

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  13. Marvelous penmanship. Thoroughly enjoyed Brags!!! I could very well relate to my own experience in the very first NITROAA convention in Charlotte where I was the lone member of my batch - but had a fabulous time!!

    Chunnu Mishra

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  14. Brags ....after reading your article, I regret not being there....then we would have been 3...well written.
    Ali Batliwala.

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  15. Wow what a great write up! This must must MUST encourage everyone else who have not attended to come to SFO 2018 otherwise regrets will keep piling up which is not a good thing at any stage of life ��Thanks Sribatsa and team again and Brags for capturing the experience lucidly (and for the kind words ��)

    Joydeep Tripathy

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  16. Too good writing. Excellent capture of the great time we all had

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  17. I didn't know I had my sunglasses on my head. Was looking for it all evening!! Lol!! Old age I guess. Nice write up. Loved it. Thanks Brag!

    Nihar Patnaik

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  18. Too good, Brags.. I had a pretty similar feeling when I attended last year's convention and I would not give it up for anything else. You are spot on the energy and we just need to channelize so we can breed and be successful at it. The flow from your pen was so natural it takes you write back in to those 4 years of your life. Brags, I am not joking.... I would like you to be part of our NITROAA Communications team.
    Rohit Seam
    Meta 1997

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  19. Nice remembrance of Krishna and Suresh. Anna here

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  20. Amazing Brags !!... simply amazing ...The more I read your blogs on NITR, the more precious NITR becomes :)))... what a delightful and vivid canvas you paint ..
    Cant wait for you to publish a book now !!

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    1. Thanks Rachna!!! Publish the book? Why did you stop with that? What about the Booker Prize? I will have you seated in the first row like Bihari babu in Baghban, OK?

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    2. Haan !! And Not to forget Pulitzer !!

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  21. Awesome commentary on the meet! Really well written Brags!

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  22. Brilliant piece of writing. The flow is 'smooth as silk'. Must say that your writing is ageing like French wine too! I better take your autograph soon. Before you become famous and forget lesser mortals.

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    1. Thanks Ritu! Yeah yeah! Jaldi autograph le le...lesser mortal madame author, singer, director, pilot, bakery owner...what else...

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  23. Hey Brags, very well written! Had posted my comments earlier but seems like that disappeared:-(

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  24. Thanks for this, feels like I was there. Hopefully next time.

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