IIT Hyderabad and Student Gymkhana : What they mean to me

Naveen Chintamaneni

I studied in this institute* a little while ago and I am proud to say I had the opportunity to, in fact to just be there, and ‘exist’. I had a great time here and obviously like how life generally is, there were a few extreme highs and many little lows. In short, in 4 years I had learnt 80% of the things in life which books could not teach me in my 16 years before that. It is that simple. Probably because I am seeing it in retrospect but again it can only be seen that way. I am not going to talk about how ‘awesome’ my time here was or how ‘exciting’ my life is now. I will write about it some other time if you’d like to know. For this conversation, I would like to restrict myself to my passions and interests when I was in college and what mattered to me. All I’ll try to do is tell my story, what my friends were doing, add a little perspective and leave it to you for interpretation and action.

A little flashback:
I was just ‘another guy’** on campus until an opportunity knocked on my door, in this case a call to my chinese manufactured cell phone(or korean? I don’t remember) when I was home sleeping on a cold December morning. One of my seniors whom I knew very little about at that time asked me what I was doing and realising it was unimportant and insignificant anyway(without listening to what I had to say). He asked me to join him in a meeting the next day to meet a few people and learn a few things so that I could take up a few more marketing meetings from then on. Many members of the marketing team would leave Hyderabad for vacations/Inter-IIT,etc after a few days. I gladly obliged. Earlier I had applied to be a part of the marketing team(was everyone’s dream job, fancy word you see) when people collected names of interested members to join various positions. I was not selected, obviously. Most likely because I was just another guy who they didn’t know except for a reference for being the guy who wrote(got people to write) about “The star”***. I had applied for the marketing position like 10 others but was useless. Note: that number ’10’ was like sky high then for any position in gymkhana/elan. I hear it is the same now and has been for a while(a depressing stat). I attended that meeting and many many more from then on and now I do that day-in day-out, talking to people, building relationships, building things which start off with existing only in your mind and stuffed with good intentions. That call has played a significant part in shaping who I am, at least it started the roller-coaster ride. This was December 2009 and the marketing for Elan ’10-our first inter-college fest. Anyway, history lessons aside, that was how I started my ‘real’ journey on campus, doing things which mattered to me and my friends.
What I did:
I became a part of the marketing team, then another marketing team and then twice in gymkhana as the General secretary(I? II? sorry even I get confused having changed it pointlessly, once I think) once and then the President, Student Gymkhana. It gives me great joy and pride when i think of my time being a part of the ‘big’ things on campus. “Big’ not because of the power it gave us but the responsibility it brought in us and the way my friends and I could do something with it and about it.  I can and always wanted to say that I’ve done a few things not for myself but for something I blindly loved, IIT Hyderabad. I was discovering my interests, ambitions and meaning in life and only ‘IITH’ meant something and worthy enough to do something about and not even my parents’/relatives’ expectations or crashing confidence/self-esteem could make me do something. Most of my close friends felt the same and in fact they became closer because of this shared situation I think. Obviously I screwed up a few times, screwed up big time once but that is what has taught me that 80% I was talking about.
To share a glimpse of what my gymkhana team(2011-12) did when we achieved this in one year purely through self-motivation and passion for our institute. I am not saying this is amazing or the benchmark of any sort, in fact we had only reached 50-60% of our personal targets but again our 100% targets were at least twice or thrice of what everybody else was expecting us to do. There are many many people who contributed in different ways but I’ll talk about only the gymkhana stuff.
Snapshot of an email to our Faculty Advisor then: (towards the end of our term)
unnamed (1)
We just tried to do our best and this is what we achieved. It was just moonshots when we started, when we had nothing to learn from or build upon. Once I made**** my entire team of Gymkhana(6 others) work on researching a total of 50+ constitutions of student bodies of top universities all across the globe to understand how it works everywhere. We want the very best for the generations(on campus) to come. We wrote our own new consititution, followed the rules, drafted, pitched to diro/hod’s/prof.s and everybody to get feedback. It had a flaw and also was not the right time to do something about it as we assumed we would move to the new campus in atleast 1 more year(ah! the evergreen joke, happy it ends this year), which was not to be. Our time was also over before we could do something about it. We passed on our ‘gyan’ but like any ‘gyan’ ours didn’t stick(at least thats what I hear).
Why we did what we did?
All of us wanted our campus/institute to be the best in the world. We didn’t even want to compare/benchmark against other top IIT’s in the country and that was the message which was embedded in our brains from Day 1 by our director Prof. U.B.Desai. It reached us, most of us and we did something about it. Everything you see, every club, every activity, every constitution/set of rules, Elan, the football team(deserved honorary mention) has the DNA of selfless passion and efforts of numerous of my friends(my batch and my seniors) and junior batches as well. Gymkhana, Elan and the football team especially were built purely on the passion and sweat of the people who wanted to make our institute the best in the world and we didn’t expect anything in return. We just hoped the show will go on. Bigger and Better. We also accept responsibility for all things wrong. No excuses. We want you to do something about it. We did all we could. We exploited our time and mental stamina. Now, it’s your time. Change it. Make it. If not for yourself, do it for people around you, do it for the people who will not know any of what you did today but you will be glad you did something and makes your inner self feel bliss.
Coming back to things that matter i.e. what you could do: (this Gymkhana election and all other team selections that follow)
All I can say is be honest, responsible, contribute in anyway you can. Make us(alumni) and our institute proud in whatever you do.
1. Participate in the election process, take responsibility and do something with the power the constitution vests in you.
2. Please vote for the deserving candidates and them only. Don’t be involved in regionalism or some sort of elitism, all isms, etc. Do the right thing, now. If not now how would you even do something right tomorrow, voting in the general elections, etc. I have seen it ‘n’ number of times, people getting elected out of hype and short-lived enthusiasm and then dropping off in just a couple of months whereas being a gymkhana member is a 24*7 job of dignity and tremendous responsibility.
3. Do it with passion and for the right reasons, whatever you do. Nothing half-hearted is ever done right and also never lasts.
4. Being a part of Gymkhana/Elan tests you as an individual, your views, your maturity, your character, your ideals/ideas and how you interact with others. It teaches you more about people, human relationships(friendships), values and ethics and most importantly yourself, more than you can ever imagine.
5. GBM/Mess committee attendances are always low. Please do attend. They are boring, like any legislation always is but make sure you at least pass by for a few minutes.
Please do take your time on campus seriously! I’ve been a part of gymkhana/elan for a good amount of time and know how it feels to be doing something you like. I have also been in touch with teams over the last couple of years, trying to keep the fire going 😛 It’s never going to be easy and nothing great ever is.
P.S. : I always like chat to with a few people from our campus, just to know what’s happening and ask questions like how are things, any good thing? stupid things? How much has our campus culture changed? etc. Also answer any questions you have. So, the last month when I visited our ODF campus to set up the alumni association I had a chat with a few juniors, almost all of them I’ve known for a few good years now(feel too old typing this) but more or less things are how they are, stuff happening the way it always was with declining interest and a few surprising changes. That’s all I could get. Not to forget the move to new campus too.
P.S. 2 :  Just exploring this style of writing, pardon me for the numerous errors or parts which are not so interesting, plain boring. I am not here to give a lecture, just shared my experience. Also, some references for my batchmates/seniors.
I am always available at : naveen@kaddy.co / @chnaveen3 – prefer emails/tweets over fb chats. If you would like to talk to alumni with some specific interest areas or questions, you could reach out to them. I would also love to connect you with them for better/focused advice as you might not know them.
*not a college(gymkhana/elan folks should get it) 😛
**intended usage of the word ‘guy’
***A good old memory
**** they were cursing me, obviously

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