Sunday, July 31

Remembering TISS

Pursuing a professional course at TISS was a joy in retrospect. In retrospect. Some of us did not value its timelessness then. We thought it was bureaucratic. We complained about things not moving. May be it was. May be it was not. That was the best thing about TISS. One could afford to talk in “maybes” and never be judged. It passed off as an attitude. Unlike lot of other campuses in the country who measure themselves on the basis of computers per students or sq. ft of space per student and eagerly wait for survey results we chose to be different, we shunned all surveys, didn’t want to be part of them. May be it was a good way to be, may be not.

We were a chilled out, relaxed class of 29 people who had taken up the PMIR course. A special course in TISS that catered to the Human resource needs of the organization. In fact this too can pass off as a personal opinion. We didn’t care who we catered to. I can visualize some old school Professor squirming at this piece and later debating that TISS is an academic Institution and catering anyways has something to do with the hotel Industry. Customer Satisfaction be damned!

TISS is a very green campus for Bombay. Very lush. A little too romantic for studies, some of us often countered. If it were not for the inconvenience of the attendance system, the rains would have us completely drenched waiting for more rain to happen. We celebrated Monsoons at TISS in Aamchi Bombay style. With the new batch joining in the festivities were doubled. Drama, dance , blaring music, invoking the rain God through the age old festival of Megh Mudra. It actually worked, it did rain. When it didn’t we got water in huge tubs and pipes, threw newcomers into the puddle and made merry. People had opinion on wasting water when women in South Gujarat (I guess) had to walk miles and miles to fetch water for their lives. A poster to that effect was put up in all the bathrooms making morning ablutions a very guilty affair.

That was the other good thing about the place. Opinions floated in the air, just about everyone had one. In fact opinions were available, everywhere, the general body meeting, the discussions, the dining hall had chart displays, full of opinions. On anything under the sun. Female feticide, non vegetarianism, WTO , India signing the CTBT, Narmada Dam, gender inequality, just about everything, one just needed to align oneself to the available options. The campus had a seething political underbelly, not apparent to a passerby. But extremely functional within.

One of the few Institutions in the country with a reversed gender ratio, the manifest inequality would be a fantasy for the IITs of the world. The good looking junior guys were paired with the smart senior girls in the megh Mudra. The list was drawn painstakingly and had representation from all departments. The annual candle light dinner had men being asked for; it also saw women dining with each other. Surprisingly nobody raised eyebrows. Tolerance floated in the air while the campus swooned to Elvis Persley tunes. Feminism too came in different shapes and sizes. It was also visible in a disdain towards looking good - Khadi Kurtas and crushed salwars being a fanatic uniform and bordered towards a chest beating attitude on gender issues. But on a sublime level, women defined the contours of their lives in TISS in academics and research away from social stereotypes. We learnt that fulfillment was usually abstract and mostly within.

Oh yes, the interruption of lectures and assignments in an otherwise learning Institution. Generations of seniors at various interactive forums had cautioned not to let schooling hamper education. And since this piece is on retrospective thinking, lectures weren’t bad at all. We read about real stuff, one that gave goose pimples. Sometimes. When we were not discussing Freud and the Odiepus Complex. Freud intrigued us and inspired many vodka sessions in a run down highway Dhaba called Vijay Punjab. We gurgled cheap beer and cheaper Vodka in the non AC section over shocking revelations. Accusations were hurled, beliefs were exchanged for debates and Victorian values attacked while Vijay Punjab thrived on the money from our homes. We also read about the Trade Unions in India, the rise of Datta Samant. He garnered support and engineered the Textile strike in 1982. We tried psychoanalyzing this hero of the downtrodden in our Psychology assignments and later abandoned him in favor of Hitler.Our reasons were far more pragmatic. Internet had more literature on Hitler than Datta Samant. We went to Bombay Dyieng almost a decade and half after the Mill Strike. Our questions were theoretical the answers were very uncomfortable. Years later when I walked down the Tulsi pipe road I got some answers which had eluded me in the Bombay Dyeing factory that day. Few days back a Taxi driver struck a conversation on my way back from office. His rootless ness from a small village in Bihar was a chosen one, his job as a taxi driver was not. I met another victim of the strike that day, learning goes on…

We were an odd bunch of people. A curious mix of intellect and insanity and the latter often got better of the former. We had a guy in the class whose initials was PHD. And it couldn’t have been more apt. PHD was interested in studying about endogenous growth theories. Well… bugger was also interested in quoting them in the Economics class much to the abhorrence of the Literature graduates. PHD got picked up from Campus to help the richest man in the country save his money. Don’t know if he liked to do it, last I heard, he went to INSEAD to do some more theories. “Serves them all right”, I can almost hear the English Honours snorting.

We passed out with our degrees and our jobs. We did cater to the Industry (sorry, Prof- that’s where the dough is). We made Rewards Program and Employee communication for various organizations we worked for. Some of us are actively selling jobs to people in market, we hire regularly for organizations we work for, with or without the psychoanalytical tests. Some left well paying jobs to study more (like our PHD). Some have found joy in matrimony and some of us are still searching for the higher meaning in Life. A fellow TISSian called up, he has just quit his job and “dropped out of Life” Just kidding, he has taken a break from his mainstream career and wants to be with himself in the hills for a while. It’s just that his insanity took over his intellect.

People marvel at the choice he made while we smile, we know where he learned to choose. Our alma mater taught us to choose. Chose to be or chose not to be, ultimately you choose or else eventually you will have to choose.