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Convocation… July 28, 2006

Posted by Subramanya in Uncategorized.

Yesterday was the 43rd convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology,Madras. A lot of the people I have become acquainted with in the last 2 years were back for the event, and it was nice to see them one last time before they go out in the world…

I arrived for the event at the absolute last minute. A moment later and it would have been impossible to find place inside to stand, let alone be seated. I went inside and found my friend Mahesh who had dutifully taken a seat at the back. I somehow managed to find myself some place to sit on a ledge at the back of the SAC.As is expected of a public event in India, it started late, Ratan Tata, the chief guest was late. The stated reason being that the flight was delayed and Mr. Tata was on the way. Mr. Tata finally arrived around 30 minutes late.

Thankfully, things got rolling fast as the board of governors, along with Mr. Tata, bedecked in their white robes came walking in a long procession, to the accompaniment of what sounded to me a mixture of “When the saints go marching in” and some other tunes. This was by the band of the Officer’s Training Academy, which is just down the road on the way to the airport. The function got going very fastly after that.The director started off with his report, reporting that it was in short, but even then going on and on for ever. The only really entertaining moment was when he thanked the ministry of Human Resources Development, calling them “enlightened guidance”. It was nice to imagine the disgust anyone of us would feel if we were forced to mouth such things. I was almost in half a mind to boo the statement, but the director doesn’t really have much choice, does he? Also I would probably have been the only one booing him and that would probably have left me in a spot of trouble.

Next, the chairman of the board of governors spoke. His speech was most notable for the different ways in which he pronounced Mr Tata’s name, as he praised his virtues as “India’s illustrious industrial son”. Besides the accepted pronunciation, teta, tutta, tota , were also heard. Mr. Tata himself then took to the stage and mumbled for sometime into the mike in an extremely weird accent. However, he kept himself thankfully short. This led to applause from the audience. The people then went about the business of conferring a ” Doctorate of Science, (Honoris Causa)” upon him. I thought these fake doctorate givings were fairly simple things with a certificate just conjured up from nowhere and given to the recipient like any other memento. But, the people here have an elaborate ritual, which begins with telling Mr. Tata what he did in his life, and then printing it out and giving it to him, and then giving him the certificate produced from nowhere.It was quite enlightening.I would have been more amused had I not been fiddling around with my camera trying to get the exposure right, which I ultimately failed to do.

The people finally got to the business at hand, giving out degrees to 1267 people, 965 of whom had faithfully turned up for the event. They started in the alphabetical order of the branches, starting with Phds, in vague robes in beige and maroon, which looked from afar like the sari-jacket dress that Jayalalitha popularised during her heyday, the Mtechs and finally the Btechs. And it was here that the thing got unbelievably boring. In a scene vaguely reminescent of the music video for Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, a long queue of indistinguishable people went and collected their degrees, each one taking less than 5 seconds.

It was a well oiled machine, one person in white robe handed certificate to the director, who gave transferred degree to other hand shook hands, gave degree and then repeated the action in the exact same way, 965 times. I sat through a few branches, but gave up on the whole affair and left after realising that I did not really know the real names of a large number of them.

I did, however, catch the ending of the function on a live webcast. even though it was the intranet version, it was really impressive. The sound and video were both excellent and they had live titles so you could read what was going on.

It is odd, however, the way millenium old British traditions hold such strong sway in India, albeit with a bit of Indianness seeping into them, (Vande mataram and all). It is hot in Chennai in July/August. It is humid, you can’t walk a metre without getting really sweaty.  I am unable to see any reason to continue the way we are going. I am sure we will be able to come up with a ritual that is more in keeping with our climate. Why wear a cloak designed for the cold climes of England, when an angavastram, or anything for that matter which is more suitable to the climate would have done.I hope that someone sees the light within the next 2 years and I receive my degree in a function which does not put me to sleep and is more suited to our conditions.



1. shortage - July 29, 2006

Pota,good report,way to go!
Btw nice to see that youve seen the wall movie so welcome to the machine!

2. Bhatta - July 29, 2006

ayyo..I told you over gtalk..But you insist that I repeat it here..Don’t know why..

Anyway, this article is way tooooooo boring.

3. Jiggs - August 1, 2006

angavastram!! Cant imagine pota in it :p

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