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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sanghi and Sanghi

This is a special post. With this post, I complete my century of posts on this blog. I thought what should I write about as the 100th post, and decided to postpone my comments on the compromise reached by IIT Council yesterday. I am yet to make up my mind fully about its consequences. Will wait for a couple of days.

During this entire saga, a lot of people have asked me whether me and Prof. Sanjeev Sanghi of IIT Delhi are brothers or at least related, and I tell them the story of how we met for the first time thirty years ago. I thought it would be interesting to narrate that story on this blog. I hope Sanjeev does not mind my narrating this story.

I had received the admission offer to the BTech program of IIT Kanpur. Obviously, the whole family was very happy and we had to brag about it in the entire neighborhood. It so happened that Sanjeev's aunt was our neighbour, and close family friend. She told us about the existence of Sanjeev in IIT Kanpur, who had taken admission there two years earlier. I learned everything about Sanjeev from his aunt, and armed with this reference, came to join IIT Kanpur.

I had read a lot of stories about ragging in universities at that time, and I was quite scared. On joining IITK, I quickly found out that Sanjeev was a fairly popular character. He was famous for two things. He would take tutorials in the evening for weak students, and was considered an excellent teacher. Everyone knew that he is going to be a professor one day. And he was very good at reciting poems in "Veer Ras." No cultural program could be complete without his poem recitation.

It occurred to me that I could make use of his popularity in avoiding ragging at IIT Kanpur. Since "Sanghi" is such an uncommon surname, everyone would invariably ask me whether I knew Sanjeev, and my answer to them would be, "Of course, he is my brother." In reality, I had never met him.

I noticed that I was ragged very little. Most of the time, it would be asking some embarrassing questions. Some times, I would be asked to sing a song, which I hated. But this never lasted more than 30 seconds, since they hated my singing more than I did. The worst that happened to me was that one particular student asked me questions for almost an hour, and I was told to keep standing till his questions are exhausted. So I had to keep standing for full one hour in his room.

Many of Sanjeev's friends were confused. How come Sanjeev never told them about his brother who was giving JEE. But I could answer all questions about Sanjeev's background, his family, and all that. So they had no option but to believe me.

I was thinking how smart I was in avoiding ragging. One day, I was in Lecture Hall 7 (L-7), the largest lecture hall, where movies were screened in the evening in those days. I was waiting for the movie to start, and a student comes up to me. The conversation went on like this:

He: Fresher?
I: Yes, Sir.
He: Intro?
I: Gave my name, city I came from, JEE rank, department, etc.
He: Do you know Sanjeev Sanghi?
I: Of course, he is my brother.

A pin drop silence, and then he said: "My mother never told me that I had a brother lost in Kumbh Mela." (In Hindi, of course, with a dialogue delivery better than any Hindi Film actor.) He was none other than Sanjeev himself.

There was no way, I could continue to claim to know him. And then I noticed that ragging had changed. I was not embarrassed any more. I was not asked to keep standing for long. Just a friendly chit chat.

It later occurred to me that there was no ragging in IITK even in those days. What I went through for the first 4-5 days was actually more than what most of my batchmates went through in terms of ragging. Everyone was keen to rag Sanjeev Sanghi's little brother.

Moral of the story:If you think you are smart, you do not understand the situation.

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