I stumble out of my room with a pen and paper looking for Swetha Chowdary, the present General Secretary of the Student Gymkhana. I spot her on the other side of the wing attending to a call. I wave my hands awkwardly at her to catch her attention, nearly knocking the glasses off an innocent passer-by. Five minutes, she gestures. I sit down on the steps and wait.
Sw: Sorry I’m late.
Me: Light, akka. I was late too. Okay, this is weird. I have no idea how to do this. Is it okay if I record this? I’m too lazy to write anything down.
*I test the voice-recorder on my battered and abused iPhone. Oh-so-conveniently, it refuses to oblige.*
Me: So much for that. I’ll have to actually write this down now. So…*looks at list of questions*…What’s your favourite hobby?
Me: I’m kidding. You don’t need to answer that.
Me: So you’re running for Overall Coordinator, Elan.
Sw: Yeah. Most fourth years would rather relax and concentrate on their future, but I wanted to keep myself busy. It will be nice to get back to working with my first love Elan(laughs). Running for General Secretary happened by chance, really. I went for it mainly because I had given up being an Elan core for Inter-IIT as our Volleyball team was still growing, and realized that this was somewhere I could make a difference.
Me: How did you campaign for the post last year? Is it only this year that the candidate is running unopposed?
Sw: That happened only this year. As for campaigning, I didn’t do anything special, really. Just talking to people outside the mess and going door-to-door about my agenda and why I’d be a good fit for this post. While going door-to-door, one has to deal with two types of people – the ones who care and grill you about your agenda, and the ones who just treat us(campaigners) as a temporary annoyance. This disinterest can be aggravating sometimes, but there’s very little we can do about it. In the end, I guess being more, for lack of a better word, popular, among the student body will always make a major difference.
Me: What about girls running for unisex posts? How often does that happen? Has anyone ever won?
Sw: Not often at all, really. It was only last year that a girl ran for Academic Affairs Secretary. She lost though. That, and I’m Sports Secretary now. Often there aren’t enough people to push, plus the reason I was just talking about will always be there. This is slowly changing with more and more freshers being girls, hopefully soon we will actually have girls running for and winning a few of the unisex posts.
Me: In other IITs, there are no gender specific posts, reducing female representation in their Gymkhanas even further. Why the difference here?
Sw: There, there are various hostel secretaries under the General Secretary, so there is no practical need for separate secretaries. Separate posts were introduced here mainly because our institute is very small for now. The post may be scrapped as the institute evolves.
Me: But isn’t that why the UG Representative posts were split into two this year?
Sw: Partially. The Director approved this so that in the long run, if General Secretary-II turned out to be a Postgraduate, the Undergraduate girls would might be left without representation
Me: Backtracking a bit here. You being made Sports Secretary happened because of the resignation- there were three in all, right? When exactly did these happen?
Sw: The Sports Secretary and General Secretary-I resigned near the end of November. The UG Representative resigned only recently. I took up the post of Sports Secretary for the 50th Inter-IIT.
Me: For Inter-IIT? You’re still the Sports secretary, right? Aren’t there supposed to be re-elections if such a thing happens?
Sw: Yes. I meant that I’ve held that post since then. And yes, actually there should, but the decision to conduct re-elections must be taken along with the Student Activities Coordinator according to the situation. Since the matter was serious, it was taken to the Director, who ultimately has the final say. He felt that it is unnecessary to disturb the students for two fortnights in the same semester. If the resignations happened earlier in the semester, things would have been different.
Me: Did you volunteer for this? Who took up the other posts?
Sw: No, I was asked to do this. They asked me if I could handle both posts at once, and I said I could. As a part of the Sports Council, I already knew how things worked. Otherwise it definitely would have been a burden. I guess I managed to get everything done by not having the luxury of wasting time. As for your second question, mainly the President and UG Representative took up the work, though the extra work load was shared by all of us.
Me: So, to sign off, what do you feel would help the incoming Gymkhana improve on what this year’s Gymkhana has done?
Sw: I feel that having the same enthusiasm and energy throughout your tenure is really important. It’s been happening that one campaigns successfully, and then starts the tenure enthusiastically, but loses interest afterwards. This is the root of half of our problems. If all the Gymkhana members love what they do, they’ll definitely help IIT-H grow.