Now that Saarang, the annual cultural festival of IIT Madras is around the corner what better time to write about a true and an amusing incident that took place in the campus during the mid eighties, a time when Saarang used to be called Mardi Gras. I have a friend, an old timer who has made IIT M his home since his B.Tech days (now a Professor there) who can testify that this incident is no Urban Legend.
Hostel rules in those days weren't too strict. Inmates didn't have to be in their rooms on time and during the Mardi Gras season it was normal to find IITians hanging around their hostels past the witching hours.
So it is around 10:30 PM and four hostel inmates are taking a stroll back to their hostels in one of those dark and lonely roads that snake through the campus. This one in particular runs behind the newly built computer science block (built in the mid 80's) and in front of the hockey ground and tennis courts. If you were proceeding inwards into the campus from the Velachery gate, this road starts on the immediate left after the NCC building. In those days when the green and forests were thicker you would'nt take this road alone in the dark particularly if you were walking. I will never forget the incredible sight of a serpent entering a termite hill on a morning jog on that road. Now that’s another interesting story but I’ll save that for another post.
Coming back to our story, bear in mind that this was a time when cell phones were non-existent. Had they been then this incident would'nt have been so amusing. In fact it would not have taken place at all.
For sake of anonymity we’ll call our IITians, Siddharth, Adithya, Chaithanya and Pranay. As they are walking on that road, unknowing to Siddharth and Adithya, Chaithanya and Pranay have already conceived a mischievous trick on the other two.
“250 bucks for the one who can walk butt-naked for 5 minutes on this road now.”, Chaithanya bursts out.
While Siddharth, wasting no time has completely removed all of his clothing, Adithya has removed his Tee and is just about to unzip his pants. Meanwhile Pranay and Chaithanya knowing that their plan had worked perfectly well grab the clothes of the naked guy and the semi-nude guy and flee the scene. Siddharth devoid of any clothing and knowing he can no longer trust anyone grabs Adithya and clings to him, never letting him go. None of the promises from Adithya about fetching him clothes from his hostel room can convince Siddharth. Like a parasite holding tenaciously onto its
host, there was no way he was going to let go off Adithya.
So now what? The 2 plus Km stretch to the nearest hostel seemed like an endless journey ahead. The only light on the road were from the dimly lit bulbs of the street lights. Fortunately these street lights weren’t placed close to one another and there were long patches of darkness between two successive lamp posts. At this late hour there was hardly anyone on that road too. Another advantage but one far from offering a solution to the dilemma.
Siddharth pushes Adhithya to a bush nearby to discuss plans. Just as they are discussing they notice someone not very far flashing a light at them. "Are the pranksters back, calling the joke off?". This is their first thought. "Or is it another friend who having heard the story from Chaithanya and Pranay, is back with clothes? As the light comes closer to the place where they have been hiding, much to their vexation, they realize it is the security guy on duty trying to figure out what the sudden commotion behind the bush was. As he approached the bush yelling “Who’s there”, naked guy Siddharth slips out from behind the bush and takes cover behind a nearby tree. In the darkness he prays nothing nips, pricks or takes a bite at him or more importantly, his essentials. The bushes are so full of insects. Garden lizards, scorpions and snakes thrive in these bushes too. As the security guy approaches the bush with caution, semi-nude Adithya raises his hand telling him not to come any closer. "Why? What's going on there?" asks the watchman on night-duty, to which Adithay replies saying "My stomach's upset and I am easing myself out. I couldn't find a toilet nearby." A perfect lie to deter the inquisitive security guy from coming any closer and it worked. Letting the the chap take his time to finish what he started, the security guy went away. He left though puzzled at what he had just encountered. As soon as he was out of sight, Siddharth rushed back to Adithya and pounced on him like a predator. He was taking no chances and the thought of Adithya ditching him and making a dash to the hostel and leaving him alone was impaled on his mind so firmly that he he decided he was not going back naked to his hostel. Afterall he was clinging on to Adithya not only for comfort but for "cover" too.
It was then the thought of one of their seniors working late at the lab came to their mind. They could reach him as the building wasn't so far away though it was a detour from the road they were taking.
Time was ticking. Picture this. One naked guy clinging on to a semi-nude guy moving from bush to bush, tree to tree all along the stretch of the road and then running to the nearby building to take cover. Small streets, pathways, corridors and stairways where they had walked free were treated like enemy trenches. Once they had reached the building they were happy to see lights on the floor where the senior would work. A few others also seemed to be working that night. Now they had to avoid them as well. Moving cautiously they were able to scale the steps, reach the floor and get to the room. But alas, luck had run out on them! The room though lit was locked from the outside. An idea then crossed Adithya's mind. "What if we get to a rest-room and lock ourselves inside a toilet waiting for the next day.", he asks Siddharth. But then the thought of being caught naked and the prank becoming an unforgettable insult of his college life forced the words "No way!" from Siddharth. "Let's Get back.", he yelled to Adithya. With perfection and precision, avoiding any detection they get back to the trees and bushes of the road from where they had taken the detour.
Having lost the only hope of help Siddharth and Adithya's only choice left was to head back to their hostel. No small bush or tree was neglected as long as it gave cover from occasionally passing cyclists, motorists and other vehicles. Pedestrians were few but they were the worst as they were slow in passing by and chances of being noticed by them was high. It was already past midnight but it hardly mattered to our duo.
By then news of the duo had spread and inmates were all woken to witness the spectacle of the duo’s arrival. What a reception awaited the duo when they ultimately reached the hostel. It was 1:30 A:M.