Thursday, December 29, 2011

The South Zone Experience

I knew I was committing to something which ran strictly against my beliefs, when I gave a nod to Baby sir. The prospect of spending an entire week with a group of relatively unknowns did not tempt me.  Add to that the disappointment of missing out on arts.
Honestly speaking the journey didn’t start off in the best possible manner either. Was terribly early for the train owing to some mis-communication.  And when I realized I was going to spend the next 24 x 7 with people whom I had seemingly no similarities with, I was completely overwhelmed by an urge to get down at the next railway station and just leave. But I’m glad I didn’t, cause the train ride to Chennai turned out to be very interesting to say the least. Infact it was a teaser to what the south zone would finally do to me – break the conventions. The journey alongside Kerala’s unique ‘Bharatapuzha’ was not spent looking for Pulitzers. Instead we talked loud, shook the entire compartment with our ‘naadan paatu’ and gave the fellow travelers one hell of a time.

We did not really have to reach Satyabama to get the initial impressions. Apparently the only place in the college where a boy and girl can be seen together is the college bus. Just on the emblem outside though. Inside there is a strong iron rod separating the two sections. I wonder if they put curtains in there as well!
Satyabama is a weird college to say the very least. They don’t allow mobile phones, have separate ‘everything’ [ from food courts to hand wash] for boys and girls, sizzling fountains[ quite ironical really, cause they also have bathrooms without water]. Add to that some dumb management, which spells ‘block’ as ‘black’ [ I suppose the blame goes to the pronunciation ], which requires the permission of the HOD to take a printout, and who considers trousers to be ‘against their culture’. Unlike the contemporary engineering colleges which have cameras installed to watch what the students are upto, the folks at Satyabama believes in a more ‘supreme’ power- MGR.  There are portraits of the great actor  everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE! Its almost like “ Beware rascala: MGR is watching you.”
The real problem with Satyabama was not their strictness though. Every college has their set of rules. Infact they were willing to do anything under the sun, provided they were allowed to do it in their own way. Where else on Earth would you be provided with a bed and attached bathroom for a fest of this magnitude? What they failed to realize was the whole essence of the fest. These were some of the brightest talents in the country competing.  An assemblage of South India’s best not outcasts.  A platform to meet and share. If only they would’ve realized this and sought advice from anyone who’s been an integral part of these fests. Killed the infinitely many restrictions they had employed. Brought unbiased judges and quizmasters who knew what they were doing!
Conducting classical music inside a hall that’s 16 degrees away from freezing point was not wise.  Hosting the folk/tribal music and the quiz competition simultaneously in venues that shares a wall wasn’t brainstorming either. Too many silly glitches that could’ve been avoided.
But the story of 27th south zone has nothing to do with these insignificant flaws. Or the infinite dogs and buses that haunts the college. It’s a story of love, how strangers became a family.  Of discovery. A tale about team spirit. The joy of winning. And most importantly the spirit of losing. The attitude some of my friends showed when they were clearly hard done by. Priceless lessons for life. You don’t become a genius sitting under an apple tree. The amount of practise everyone puts in is something one should witness first hand. Add to the dedication their passion. Infact my team mate and I would sit there in that corner of block 7, watch the mime practice in complete awe and then feel guilty about not doing anything ourselves.
Another highlight of the whole journey would be that night when our team decided to serve food for the sub-staff in the college. Satyabama is a mini-nazi camp. From drivers to cleaners, there must be more than 1500 under-paid staff inside the college. And to them, being served was an out of the world experience. Many had tears in the eye when we talked to them. Sometimes it’s good to know that, in the big scheme of things, we are all just human beings.
When I broke freethat murky evening at Mcleod Ganj from the rest of the gang, I thought being alone and having the world to yourself was the ultimate experience. Today, I sit in front of my laptop a changed man because now I realize that happiness is only real when shared. Those walks in search of tea and the happiness when one gets a bonus 'vada'. The backstage before the skit. That makeshift procession. Those ‘evaluation’ sessions in the night where the 'seniors' kept reminding us about the 'south zone' spirit. Crawling through Sholinganallur in search of 'Rasamalai' and the reactions after seeing the bill. All rich memories of togetherness.  The week has transformed me.  Moreover  I got to  know that ‘Hubli’ sells incredible shorts, why madras filter coffee is the world’s best,  ‘Kollegala’ dance is groovier than samba and the answer to the autograph book question “ the best moments in your life so far.”
Iconic journey if ever there was one.


Amal said...

Good one!;)

sree said...


Baby P K said...

Dear Nevin, You did it in true spirit.... Nice

Nevin said...

thanks sir :)

sudha...a touch of madness said...

Hey a really nice post...your writing is honest and you have a sunny approach to life. keep it up :)

Nevin said...

thnks sudha

phatichar said...


1st time here. Won't be the last. :)

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