Jun 25, 2011

Water water water

A group of about twenty students gathered around a hall (which will be called as the mess hall in future), in the summer of '78 to discuss one of the most important issues that were affecting their day-to-day life. The issue: even though the water tank is located opposite to one of the research scholars hostels, the pipeline takes a circuitous route and hence, the water gets dried up even before it reaches their hostel.

"We must protest", shouted one of the young research scholar assuming the leadership position. "Our problem must be heard by the administrators and we must demand an immediate action", he added.

All the scholars acknowledged the speech, and there was a unanimous agreement to the resolution just passed.

"But how to protest such that our problem gets the right attention?", a voice was raised from one of the inquisitive minds. 

"A strike alone will not do. In the worst case, they will ask us to formally write a complaint letter and it will take months before our problem gets noticed!", said another.

"We must call on strike, but with a difference", the leader announced. "Gentlemen, I have a plan".

In the next morning, scholars from the Cauvery and Krishna hostels assembled at the same place where they gathered previous night, all dressed up in their towels and briefs. A few courageous ones were to be found without the latter. There was an empty bucket in everyone's hands indicating the reason for protest and were shouting the slogan "water water water" in unison.

Shouting thus, the protest group slowly started to march towards the director's bungalow, some drumming the buckets, while others raising the slogan in a rhythm. That the leader's novel idea was getting attention became evident with the presence of curious onlookers, who joined the group at a distance to witness the happening.

It was when the group arrived near the central library that the unexpected incident happened. One of the student got carried away with the rhythm, and added four more words to the slogan which totally changed the incident!

"Water water water...water or your daughter" shouted a mischievous scholar, and the new slogan was caught like a wildfire by others in less than a minute! Coincidentally, the then director of IIT Madras had two daughters, both were of marriageable age!

The group marched past the Gajendra circle to reach the director's bungalow, shouting "water water water, water or your daughter" all the while. Fortunately, the director had gone out for shopping along with his family when the protest group reached.

The protest group waited for a while until they saw an approaching car of the director who was returning with his wife and daughters. He saw the group, heard their slogan, asked his wife to take their daughters inside, came outside and stood on an elevated platform, thus making himself visible to the group. There was a rapt attention, and everyone, including the curious onlookers, were waiting to see the director's response.

"Gentlemen", the director addressed the gathering, " the second one can be done. Now, who among you is ready to marry", he asked.

The unexpected direct question startled everyone present. It took a while for the crowd to regain themselves, and burst into laughter appreciating the director's sense of humor.

That the director later promised the group to look into the issue as soon as possible was totally expected then. But what was not expected by most of them was the fact that one of the young research scholars will go on to become a professor in future in the same institute.

Even so, only fewer would have imagined then that after he becomes a professor, he will be invited to preside the Cauvery hostel night as a chief guest, whence he will be recalling this incident to the present batch of students, after 32 years since it happened!