Tuesday, December 21, 2004

happy sesquicentenary COEP [Pune, December 16, 2004]

The biggest irony about the celebration of this birthday was that my undergraduate engineering college COEP (now regrettably TIFKAC � The Institute Formerly Known As COEP) no longer bears that name in the official sense of the word. It now has the bland-as-unsalted-cowdung moniker of PIET (Pune Institute of Engineering and Technology). The second thing that sent me into splits was the choice of this interesting English word to describe the birthday. Given the generally anaemic English vocabulary exercised in the place, I can see people stumbling over this phrase every time they had to use it. Mercifully, the festivities will be over soon.

The first time I had heard about this badly marketed blast was when I was googling about for something and ended up at the fakely impressive front for a website for COEP alumni. What does "Fakely impressive" mean? Well, the first thing that hits you on the front page is this massive flashy image and then as you click through the links, you are transported to pages that don't match up to all the zing. A pity, really.

A phone call and an old friend were enough motivation to be involved at the last minute (no surprise here!) in the cultural proceedings on Thursday, December 16, 2004. It was both a pleasure and honour to get a chance to perform along with past students whose Firodiya exploits I had only heard; alumni who had since made a mark for themselves � Vijay Koparkar and Ramdas Palsule (whom, coincidentally, I had met under different circumstances in Atlanta earlier this year). And then there was Milind Mulick, whose live painting done in tandem with a musical performance went up for auction and netted a good sum (I wonder who gets to pocket the cash though! � making a donation to the always-underfed cultural fund would be a good idea).

But the most interesting aspect of the evening was that not one soul used the new moniker to refer to the college. Apparently, even the alumni felicitated in the morning's events were critical of the change. I have no idea what the reasons behind the re-naming were, but the college has a 150-year old legacy with the name, and I contend that it's indelible enough to be worth fighting for.

In sharp counterpoint to the great celebration were the frugal and unimaginative lights adorning the old dusty buildings, a few forgotten metal boards bearing the old college name, and a landscape that hasn't changed over the years despite the insistence of the administration of measures to move forward (trifles like a uniform -� ugh!, autonomy [an argument similar to the one about India not being prepared to deal with the independence it had gained in 1947 comes to mind], revised syllabi) while continuing to ignore the most fundamental problem (a completely incompetent faculty).

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