Festember 1978 – Light amidst darkness

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”,

said Charles Dickens, depicting an age of utter extremes.

To me, that defined our world in the then REC (Former avatar of NIT). Raised on a co-education diet, the reality that it was an all-male college looked to be the stuff of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for many of us. Hence, you can well imagine our excitement early September about a few salad days that Festember would herald, given that the parched land would be witness to some dynamite in the form of figures in girls attire. Those days the land was barren, devoid of much vegetation that added to the creepy sense of being somewhat forlorn.  So then, the battle to search for a face that launched a thousand ships was truly joined during that September, 1978. There were low plots being weaved at the drop of a hat to be the sole lead in engaging with the opposite sex. I, for one, fully realizing that we should gather rosebuds while we may, inveigled myself to be the lead member of the reception and hospitality committee. That meant unrestricted access to the girls’ abode. One could fancy a multitude of reasons to be visiting them at all hours, a privilege only a very few of us enjoyed. On the other hand, there was a war on who should be given the prize position of being “Escorts” to the girls from SRC and Holy Cross College, each being brought in an exclusive bus. I don’t know how it was resolved since I figured looking after the girls, hour in and hour out at their dormitory, was an enterprise of greater pith and moment for me. I could even imagine hazarding a cry of love across the empty land that stood between my hostel and the guest house that would imprint an affectionate whisper onto my Princess Charming!

The festival, per se, had all the hallmarks of a successful event. Those days, there was a pair from IIT-Madras, Abhijit and Debjani, who scorched the charts during such events. They were nonpareil, almost certainly the first in “Just A Minute” and related events. We were all ready to blow the whistle on their engagement – such was the love they had for each other. I sometimes even felt that they soared to heights of eloquence just by looking at one another. Ladies Colleges from Trichy and Madurai stole the limelight in Carnatic music events. REC always put up a good show with our Neville, who played with so unerring a hand on the guitar coupled with a flowing voice – just what the Doctor ordered for Western music – booking his usual quota of prizes that included his quickfire JAM expertise. We had the great defining Violinist of our age, Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman, as a Judge for some music events. Some plays were somewhat dull though inviting comments not unlike a critic who had said of an English drama that he looked to be at a disadvantage because when he saw it, the curtain was up! We had “Twisted Tales”, a skit with a popular tale twisted into a comedy, like “Mahabarathathil Mangathaa”, that had the audience in peals of laughter at times .

Guys from Ruby founded the first Festacks and made a tidy profit of Rs 2200 to boot! The menu included Burgers, Sandwiches, Patties and Cool drinks – saccharin-infused lime juice in Polythene bags, to be precise. A huge innovation to pack in Polythene those days – no doubt, dynamism and youthful joie de vivre at its best.

When it all ended, the festival had become a story of starting with a bang and ending with a whimper. Whatever little greenery that revived like a watered flower was once again back to its death-throes in desert-like surroundings. A scene of bonhomie and cheery goodwill seemed a temporary respite at best – we were soon back to getting up at sixish and trudging the long paths for early morning classes at 7 a.m.


NIT class of 1979



Team Content for Festember

Published first on September 05, 2014


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