Thursday, February 09, 2006

Amalgam (The Chennai Trip)!

Pragyan, our college technical fest, ended on the 31st of Jan amidst utmost fanfare.Thanks to the 5k prize money from my techQuiz win, there were frequent calls of "treats" mostly from less-known people. Classes went on as regular.
Barely 2 days later, Ravan asked me whether I was interested in going for Amalgam. Amalgam??? "What is that?" I asked him just to confirm whether what I just heard was correct or not. Well, it turned out to be IIT-M's metallurgy symposium and a handful of the final years along with Subbu were gung-ho about going there and Ravan had known about it from them only the previous evening.
The following day myself and Ravan made our way to the Octa, bunking a lecture in the process. We logged on to the IIT-M site,with an element of uncertainity since it was the 3rd of feb that day and Amalgam was scheduled for the 4th and5th. We followed the various links right till we reached the symp site. A mammoth list of events, their description and their corresponding registration dates were given neatly and to our chagrin we found out that the last date of registration was given as 28th of Jan.
" Big deal" we thought, " As if we'll smash the event by registering ourselves." But something prompted us to send a"request" mail (laced with pleases' and thank you's) to the amalgam desk . And as expected we forgot all about it. A casual visit to the netlab a few hours later late in the evening saw a surprise spring up. They had accepted the request and said we were welcome. On contacting them by phone, we discovered that no bonafide was necessary, the college I-card was enough and all registrations were on the spot.
Travelling to chennai by private buses can be a real bargaining game, the money always seems to be double your budget, though the ride is fast and comfortable.Our sole source of refugee now were the famed Govt buses. " Get set for abumpy ride" I thought ,since ,out of the 3 of us,I m the one who boasts of a rich experience of travelling in Govt buses(the previous trip toTirupati via chennai was also a shocker of a ride).
I could make out from the expressions on the faces of Subbu and Ravan that they were feeling rather awkward and out of place (lol, It was funny, anyway). Subbu was shuffling uncomfortably in his seat (he was alone), while ravan treated himself to a long,fiesta nap, mouth open, regularly falling over me and waking me up with a start.Sleep proves to be the lone remedy for such journeys. The night passed off in a jiffy (at least for me). Subbu and ravan got off before the bus reached the central bus stand, at stops which were closer to their house. I got down at central and called up aththai(aunt). She has shifted to a brand new apartment and I just had the address and phone no. I called her up and a plethora of bus numbers, landmarks,bus stops came up with, of course, the exact name of the place ;Theynampet (Mount Road)! She then realized that she had given a little to much info for my comfort.( thank god that there was a pen and a small notepad in my wallet.)

And to make a mockery of it all, the series of bus numbers didnt help since none of them started from the central bus stand. After further enquiry, I got into a bus , slept of and got off atleast 5 stops away from my destination. The landmarks helped me while going by auto and I was there.The house sounded much bigger than their previous one.
There is one thing common to both mummy and aththai .Even after 10 years, they may look as they are. Since it was a saturday, it was supposed to be off-day for her but she said she considered it a half day's work (man, this is the height of devotion towards work I thought).The bespectacled arjun(ajuni) was busy with his work ,occasionally having something to ask about,sometimes picking the ball and blasting it against the wall with his tennis racquet, paying no heed to chithi's warnings.

The preliminary rounds were scheduled at 11.30. So after bathing,a brunch and some talk I was on my way to IIT (Guindy). It boasts of a giant-sized campus,bigger than IIT-Powai too. Shuttle buses were regualrly available and I reached the seminar hall of the Meta dept just in time.IIT'ians ,like us, have their own lingo and in contrast to our symposiums where we have to wear formals , they come in casuals. Also there is even less faculty participation than our symp.That way it stays even more cool.The quiz had just started and it was in the form of a cross-word with meta clues.Shravan was partenerless. We sat down together and teamed up to crack 25 out of 35 in the 1 hour time limit.We had no idea whther this effort was enough to get us through to the next round.Alongside us were 2 more teams from our college, teams from other NIT's,teams from IIT-M. The IIT guys said that the results would be announced at around 2.30 .
The meta dept of our college is nothing in comparison to wat they have. Their dept consists of 3 building supplemented by 5 labs.There is aAC-seminar hall for each dept. Subbu, Ravan and me had a light lunch at a restaurant at the gate and got back to the hall where the second event "math modelling" was goin on.It was a written paper. Our seniors were in it and I could see from their faces ,they regretted participating in it. A glance at the questionaire told me why.

The results were out, rather projected on the big screen. We were one of the 6 teams through and stood at the 3rd position. Not bad for a start, we thought! We were pitted against 3 IIT-M teams, the final years' team from our college and another NIT team. The final was to be held on the following day, the 5th.
In the evening there was an event called X-factor(treasure hunt with meta clues with a map of the meta dept given to us) and a guest lecture on nano-materials. Nano quiz was scheduled to start at 7 in the evening but both of us very really exhausted and made our way home. Subbu teamed up with a final year and they got through to the finals.
It takes hardly 30 minutes from home to IIT and there is a direct bus. I was just in time for dinner. Treated to good food I was (everything else sounds good if you are a mess-goer in our college). Later I was treated to some photos from Singapore on the comp and lots of talk about my dept, studies, hostel, food( thats wat most ladies love talkin about, dont they?) and stuff. Was fun talking to aththai. She found it surprising that we sleep after 12 in our hostels.There was an instance when I was explaining all about metallurgy and its difference from chemistry to her and felt it better to talk about it just as to a layman, trying my best not to tread on hi-fi technical terms.
"Is it related to inorganic chemistry?" she asked

" Oh yes it is. I didnt talk about it since I dont know whether you understand what is inorganic chemistry?" I told.

"Hello, I am a major in chemistry" she told.
Crash! I should have asked her that before talking metallurgy.

The following day I reported to the campus on the right time , infact just in time. The paper presentations had just got over.

"We are screwed." Ravan told me "there are 3 IIT teams against us. They will smash it."

"Yep,doesnt matter, ,at least we will get a participation certificate to show to our college ." I assured him

.So there we were at the All india material quiz!All teams were seated and the first round questions(mostly fundaa type,connecting type) were projected and alternately said and explained by the quiz guy who was a final year meta from their college. Both of us cracked most questions from the first round, even thought they were of the high quality andwe raced to a massive lead.
The second round was the buzzer round,which was a test of our knowledge andspeed. What helped us was most teams were buzzing and losing points in negatives, while we got 1 wrong and 4 correct. We were upto 105. The next nearest teamwas 40 points behind.
We did not score in the final round but still maintained a healthy lead of 35,winning comfortably and bagging the prize.Unbelievable it was! The teachers there, congratulated us ,so did the organising students.
The valediction ceremony was scheduled at 5.30 pm that day.Both of us went home. Had lunch and some rest.
Aththai comes along as a voracious reader.Ihad brought a novel to read during my boring bus journeys. She was at it thewhole day on Sunday and finished it off. And then talked about "those days" when they had no distractions like a TV or a computer and reading books extensively was a hobby when she was like us(senti) .But as time went by "priorities have changed in life" and there are a lot more things to do now. By late afternoon, I was on my way to IIT again. Again in the nick of time(would youbelieve it)!
Our names were called and we received our handsome loot of 1.5k ,certificates and a nice, big plate in a glass case. Cameras clicked.Since this was the first time that IIT-M was opening its symp to non-IITstudents, they asked for someone to come up and talk about it . I was asked to go up. Thanked one and all saying it was a good event. And informed them casually that our symposium "mettle"is on the 3rd and 4th of march. laughs all around. "No, I m not inviting anyone now." I said. More laughs mainly in surprise. "You will be getting a forma linvitation from our dept." I thanked the guy called richie who had replied to the "request" mail that I had sent , because of whom we were here and ultimately won the quiz. Ravan's younger brother had come too! We had a few more snaps on the DigiCam.
The nano-quiz finals were going on and subbu and his partner were staring down the barrell. They could muster just 5 points.It was tough to say the least.I came home and decided to stay the night there. Bunking one day wouldnt make a difference. The next day morning I woke up early at 7. Ajuni had left early for his tennis classes. I left home at around 10 for the bus stand. The return journey was much more comfortable though. My wing mates and friends were happy to see me ,wondering where I had been (My room is locked for 1/3rd the time even when I m there in college) .
Just yesterday I "treated" my friends in the snacky.

My work as co-editor is just about to begin and the second cycle is on its way.
As always , its a balancing act!



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