The other day I was busy explaining a rather complex C program to a few (female) classmates during lunch break at college, when I was called by seniors. Sindhya Kartha, the IEEE Chairperson of our college, in her trademark husky-voice, informed me that I was ‘selected’(or rather, unanimously-nominated! :D) the LINK representative of IEEE from our college and that I’d have to travel to Pala for the Face to Face meeting on the 8th of March, Saturday. It was more command than instruction; I had no choice but to agree. I was reluctant initially, since I wouldn’t be able to participate in Tejasvi and Dreams: the forthcoming intercollegiate fests. From what I could gather from chechi’s words, it wasn’t a bad proposition after all, so I gave in.
I’ve been a member of the IEEE Student Branch in our college for over a year. I’d joined thanks to a membership-fee-reduction I’d obtained by topping an IEEE quiz. The prospect of being a part of the world’s largest community of Electronics and Electrical engineers was enthralling. I used to be (and I STILL am) proud to mention that I’m an IEEE member! Getting elected as an Executive Committee member and the LINK representative was a shot in the arm. LINK (Local Interactive Network of IEEE Students of Kerala), is a forum where IEEE members get to meet and socialize. The LINK conducts Face to Face (F2F) meetings every quarter to add cohesiveness and meaning to IEEE endeavors. It’s more networking and planning than technical discourse. To those who haven’t been to a LINK meeting, it’s an event in itself.
The meeting was to be held at The St. Joseph’s College of Engineering & Technology (SJCET), Pala. Sindhya Kartha (Chairperson), Vineetha (Secretary), (both are my seniors at college and Sixth Semester Electronics students), and myself boarded Venad Express at 4:55 in the morning that fateful day. It took me quite an effort to convince my perennially-skeptic dad that this IS serious stuff. Though he agreed to leave me at the station in the morn, he categorically refused funding, making me poorer by Rs 138/- (i.e. the cost of tickets). I noticed his left eyebrow shoot up on observing that there wasn’t a single male among my partners, and I had a tough time explaining to him that they were my seniors. A fact my dad refused to believe despite the best of my efforts, thanks to …erm… their looks! (Duh!)
I half-expected the journey to Pala to be obnoxiously-boring, and had equipped myself with a good book. It turned out redundant and mostly untouched. Sindhya Chechi, Vineetha Chechi, and myself spent roughly three and a half hours, chattering non-stop on sundry topics ranging from nuanced-issues in Electronics to college-mates’ affairs! Other delegates for the F2F who’d boarded our train paid short visits once in a while, chipping in more inclusive topics for discussion. 😉 In the midst of all the glib discussions, we inexorably forgot breakfast.
By the time we’d reached the Kottayam railway station, we were a motley lot, sniffing around for anything edible. Vineetha Chechi and I survived on a pack of biscuits she had tugged along, so we were okay-okay at large. The reception at the railway station blew our hearts away. Ashish (Link-rep), Rashid (Secretary), along with a host of others from SJCET literally spread the red carpet towards the swanky SJCET college bus parked near the station! Amid all the hurried introductions to fellow-IEEEians, and the bonhomie amongst those who’d met each other at previous F2Fs, we boarded the bus. The journey to SJCET, which was located in the outskirts of Pala, was full fun and frolic. By the time we’d deboarded at Pala, the contacts list in my phone had actually flooded to full capacity.
The SJCETians sensed the need of the hour and filled our rumbling tummies with some classy breakfast (Appam and Vegetable curry) without further ado. It wasn’t particularly relishing or something, but our appetite ensured large-scale ingestion! Though the food was manageable, tea supplied alongside wasn’t. It was more hot water + sugar + Some-pigment-which-makes-water-look-brown! Oops, forgot to mention the college in the midst all the food-talk. The college was ENORMOUS! And, by ENORMOUS, I mean, GIGANTIC! (Just 20 times the size of my college. :o) The red-carpet welcome coupled by the sense of camaraderie made everyone feel at-home. In addition to smartly-designed posters and banners, there was this machine which flashed a “Welcome” sign to everyone. It’s a different story that its machinery had some snag, which caused it to function by its own whim… Still, it all looked pretty impressive and high-brow.
We then proceeded to the exquisitely furnish
ed seminar hall for the proceedings. After the customary prayer-song, IEEE code of ethics, and self-introduction; we carried on with events of the day. Soon, following a concise speech on IEEE Kerala Section by Mr Gopakumar (Head of the Section student branch), there was the ‘Hub Driver’ election (For dummies: Well, erm, it’s a rather important post. Hubs, btw, are sections into which Kerala Section’s further divided). Some quirk of fate, assisted by hands-on campaigning on my behalf by Sindhya Chechi, saw me emerge the unanimously-elected hub-driver of Hub 1(south zone)! Though I was told that I’d have to stand for the election, I didn’t have the faintest idea that I’d get selected. 😀 It came as a pleasant surprise, and added some-30 more contacts to my already-filled Contacts list! (Maybe I’ll use this as an alibi for a full-featured phone before dad. Naah, dumb idea, he’ll murder me with abuses!) The IEEE LINK website (which, though ripped-off in parts, was good) was unfolded to world soon after.
By now, the clocks had struck one and the SJCET guys had actually showed us that their ACs were not just for namesake and that they worked with utmost perfection, freezing us to the skin in the process at 18 degree celsius! It was lunch time and the 300-odd delegates moved to the canteen for lunch; which turned out better than the breakfast. Before the lunch, Ashish and Rashid of SJCET presented this innovative game to recharge us. If I’m goanna elaborate it here, I’d have to shuffle servers, ‘coz I’d overstep the 1 GB limit Blogger has set for us low-end bloggers! 😛
The post-lunch session began on a rather boring note, when all colleges presented their plans for the future. Every college reminded each other of the IEEE-sponsored activities they’d be conducting in the year. It was followed by a rather rejuvenating WIE (Women In Engineering) interactive-session by Arun Raj, Vice Chairman of IEEE LINK. Looking back, I would say, it was *THE* best presentation at F2F ’08. The guy woke up an on-the-brink-of-sleep audience, and revived us to action, with his informal style and handy, tongue-in-cheek wit! The lighter moments he orchestrated with his twin (Varun Raj, who chaired the IEEE section at Mar Baselios College) enticed quite a few guffaws. The fact that March 8th was the International Women’s Day added on to the irony. Lots of innovative new ideas to ramp up women in Engineering came from amongst the audience. Meanwhile, the loquacious Sindhya Chechi, left-aside her treasurer duties for a while to storm the stage, sassily-countering a point which had risen citing the lack of initiative among women. Easily, (apart from the games, of course) Arun’s presentation was the cynosure of the day.
Arun’s take on WIE was followed by another set of rather inventive games. Ashish tried a hand doing the now-popular “bus” game, but failed. Then there were some interesting women’s day special games with sole female-participation! A volley of them was put into action. There was this musical-chair-esque game where participants had to keep transferring a box of gifts. The top four had to arm-wrestle with each other to win a pair of ‘Nestle Munch’es! Then there was this game where participants had to burst a balloon by blowing air into it. This girl from TKM did that in a mind-blowing 1.2 seconds! (Whoa, that’s cool, if you ask me!) The entire event had the audience in splits. It might sound way-too-boring on paper, but if you’d seen it, you’d have concurred.
With the final keynote speech by Gopakumar sir followed by vote-of-thanks and customary formalities, the event came to an end at 4:30. Then, there was a group photo session (where, instead of “CHEESE”, we used “I-triple-EEEE…”) The photo-ops were followed by tea (which was way too better this time) from the canteen. Gradually, we trudged into the posh buses, reluctant to leave the gigantic college and fellow-IEEEians. But, as Hugo Weaving’s character, ‘Agent Smith’ rightly remarked in The Matrix: “Everything that has a beginning has an end!” After another eventful bus-journey to the station, we parted amidst shakehands, fanatic good-byes, high-fives and bear-hugs, not with tears in our eyes, but with hopes to meet and work together!
I slept all through the bus-journey and woke up when we reached the station. We were initially doubtful whether we would get the train on time. Thanks to the efficiency of our dutiful bus driver and our perennially-inefficent railways, we managed to board the Venad Express (which, thankfully, was late by five minutes). Vineetha chechi had problems with the ‘parting’ tea at SJCET, but timely-action by Sindhya chechi and myself by buying her Good-day biscuits, ensured she didn’t puke anywhere!
The return trip was even better! We had a lot of interesting moments. Our seat reservations, unfortunately, were such that my teammates were in the edge of a seat, and I was in the one adjacent to them. They were in various stages of dozing off. Since I’d slept in the
bus, I wasn’t sleepy and began reading my hitherto-redundant novel. After about half an hour of journey, this guy climbs into the train and seats himself next to me. He’s roughly fifty years old, and reeked of Whisky/Vodka/Beer. Appalled, I wanted to shift seats, but the train was packed, meaning I had no option but to stay put. Misled by his intoxication & my executive attire, he might’ve guessed I’m well-employed and high-brow. He calls me ‘Sir’, and tries to start a conversation with me! I answer his queries in syllables without lifting my eyes from the book. Then he offers ground-nut to me and fellow passengers sitting around him. When I refuse, he coaxes me to have more! I’m at the edge of my wits!!
Soon, he starts a monologue on how Lalu Prasad Yadav is God personified, thanking him vociferously for reduced-ticket prices. His rather interactive monologue soon finds takers (who, apparently, are drunk too!). The topic shifts from Lalu, to Chidambaram to Karunanidhi to Jayalalitha. He boasts of having met them personally and how he and Karunanidhi spent days arm-in-arm during his career in the army (suitably fishing our an ID card to certify authenticity). The sound of his voice was increasing geometrically with time, and I felt like pulling all the hair in my head out! I decided to call it quits and move elsewhere when he offered (nay, forced me to accept) chips. Thankfully, the guy sitting next to my fellow-IEEEians left, and they gracefully pulled me back to sit with them, rescuing me in the process! (Whew!)
Again two hours of small talk! My seniors knew that I’m a pretty-good singer, and I was forced to sing two or three numbers at the train. That broke the hell out! High in spirits (if you would pardon the pun), our military man bought a song-lyrics booklet from a train-vendor and started murdering old, mallu-classics, singing at the top of his tuneless voice. Another intoxicated guy assisted him in crooning. Within no time, the entire bogie crowded around them! Enraged, Sindhya chechi and Vineetha chechi asked me to counter-sing to the guy. I couldn’t complete any song, for, by the time I sing two lines, the military guy’s voice would leave us laughing our heads off!
Finally, enduring the guy’s obnoxious crooning using our own ingenious methods (namely, chattering loud!), we reached Trivandrum Central station by 10. Sindhya chechi offered me a lift to Pattom Junction in her dad’s car, where, my dad would come to pick me. In retrospect, F2F ’08 was more an exercise in networking than a technical blitzkrieg. I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy half as I’d did, had I gone to Tejasvi/Dreams. Besides, I’m elected the hub-driver. Sindhya chechi tells me it’s a tough job…
Whoops! Phone call. Think it’s my IEEE mate from GEC Palakkad, calling to enlighten me on his intercollegiate fest, ‘Volcano’. Catch ya later. Bye!