Sunday, 22 January 2012

India Trip 2011-2012 - Chennai

We visited 5 cities as part of this year's trip, and Chennai was our point of arrival and departure between India and overseas. We spent 3 days there at the beginning and at the end of the trip.

When riding around parts of Chennai, one can't but notice the heavy construction activity going on for the Chennai Metro Rail Project. This should make a major difference to the lives of commuters when it debuts in a couple of years.

Our India trip this year was mainly to attend the Silver Jubilee reunion of my IIM Ahmedabad batchmates (30th Dec - 1st Jan). But when in Chennai, I fortuitously learnt from an email that my earlier alma mater IIT Madras was also hosting an alumni reunion for a junior batch on 28th Dec, and all alumni were invited. So I took the family on a trip down memory lane, and the long-suffering ones came along without a murmur.

The speeches by alumni were fun, but Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi (himself an alumnus and 5 years my senior) should have kept his speech shorter and less boring, especially with so many non-alumni spouses and children in the audience. Lots of people left the auditorium before the end of his hour-long speech.

Walking around the campus, I realised I had almost forgotten one of IIT-M's unique charms. Chital deer and black buck roam freely in the sprawling, wooded campus, and students tend to become blasé about seeing these animals along the way when cycling to class. The male black buck is much darker than the female and has horns, leading many to think they are two different species. A quiz question during my time at IIT asked how many species of deer live on campus, and common answers were either 2 or 3. The correct answer is 1, because only the chital is a deer. The black buck is an antelope. [Interestingly, deer have antlers and antelope have horns. Antlers are shed and regrown, but horns are a permanent fixture.]

I spotted (cough) a herd of chital cross the road a trifle nervously as they spied a break in two-wheeler traffic.

where the nerd, deer and antelope play

The trip down memory lane led all the way to the corner of the campus where Mandakini hostel is located. "Mandak" was where I spent the first year of my 5 year B.Tech. course (Yes, a bachelors degree in engineering took 5 years back then).

[All hostels in IIT Madras are named after rivers (e.g., Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswathi), and the institute's buses are named after mountains (e.g., Nilgiri, Kanchenjunga), which inspired a city quiz question about where in Chennai one can find moving mountains and stationary rivers.]

Room 251 (circled) was my domain from July 1980 to April 1981

In my next post, I'll talk about the second leg of our trip, to Ahmedabad and IIM.

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