Friday, November 18, 2005



The literal meaning of bakar is, I suppose, meaningless or useless conversation. Or even, God forbid, gossip. But it is much more, and importantly, far from useless. It plays a major role in the overall development of the personality of the average NITTian. Or so we delude ourselves. As engineers-in-the-making, we are expected to be technically proficient. We are supposed to spend the majority of our time acquiring and practicing the various skills that will turn us into the technocrats of tomorrow. I’m now going to let you guys in on a big secret: we don’t do any of that. Instead, we spend quite a bit of our time earning bakar points. So, what exactly is bakar? If you ask me, it is the heart and soul of life in our college. It ensues when a minimum number of two NITTians meet and start talking. It can happen anywhere; in the mess, in the snacky/canteen, in the hostel, in front of the coffee shop, even while waiting for our turns in front of the shower cubicles (fancy name, isn’t it, for where we take our baths?). Anywhere. The intelligent reader will at once ask: what then, is so special about this? What distinguishes it from the ordinary conversation that two friends have when they meet? Frankly, I’m not too sure about that. There probably isn’t anything. But if there’s one thing I’d say that might be unique about this, um, phenomenon, it is that usually even passing acquaintances (and often complete strangers) end up talking for hours about pretty much everything under the sun. I guess they only need to be NITTians. My friends from other colleges who have visited have often remarked about this; the general lack of reserve seen in the junta here. The conversation can be about anything, from sex to sport to aliens to the question of sex with aliens for sport (I’m so proud of that little thing I just had to include it).

For example, one of our major sessions occurred about a week or so ago, when I sauntered into my friend’s room around midnight with the noble intention of chaating him. Halfway through the process (I was making excellent progress on obtaining his psychological portrait on the basis of the colour of his cycle), I was rudely interrupted by another friend who came in and made the profound observation that being a film star in India must be easy. This immediately started it. The group quickly swelled to six (NITTians have an uncanny instinct for detecting bakar; they can sense an ongoing session from incredible distances, sometimes even from the other wing of the hostel). That particular session lasted for 6 hours. We moved to the terrace at around four in the morning, drinking in the view (the Lapis terrace has one of the best views in the college) and also some, uh, liquids. Besides, it was wonderfully cool around that time.

Some topics covered in that particular session:
1.) Parameters of success in Indian cinema and, of course, the inevitable comparisons with Hollywood.
2.) Who is greater: Einstein or Newton (we finally decided, after much heated debate, that it was unfair to compare the two of them).
3.) Why our age seems to have no truly great scientists (except maybe for Stephen Hawking).
4.) Trying to build factual bases for legends (for example, the Brahmastra in the Mahabharat/Ramayan.). We had fun with this one.
5.) The question of the equality of the sexes (we finally decided that men and women complement each other, and need not necessarily be symmetric sexes, as far as ability is concerned. Each sex has a role to play, which is defined by evolution and the requirements for the propagation of the species).
I can almost hear the lynch mob.
6.) Trying to understand the nature of a somewhat eerie light that suddenly appeared on the banks of the lake.
7.) Trying to come up with a workable model of a condom that generates electricity during coitus. This was inspired by an IEEE conference that was held here a month ago, in which we engineers were exhorted to solve common problems that affect all of us. Started out as a joke, but the seriousness of our discussions is increasing with every session.

If all of that sounds very intellectual, then here’s an extract from that session that might clarify things:

The Sinister Case of the Sinister Light

N1: Hey, what’s that light over there?

(After much pointing and follow-my-finger exercises, the position of the light is established to everybody’s satisfaction).

N2 (he’s crazy about aliens): Maybe it’s the searchlight of an UFO.

N3 (shouting at the light): F**k you!! You hear that? I can see you! F**k you!

N4: You know, maybe all this time, the light’s been draining the life-force from us, while we were talking about it.

Nervous glances exchanged all round. It’s four in the morning. Reason and logic have long since made their exits. Accusing stares leveled at N3.

Me: You better apologize, man.

N3: WTF? Apologize? What do you want me to do, say sorry?

N1 (pointedly): The lake is deep, you know…. you could fall into it by accident…. and none of us here can swim.

N4: Um, actually, I can.

N1: We’ll send you to fetch help. Come on, man, do it.

N3 (at the light): Jeez, I can’t believe I’m doing this….Sorry! I didn’t mean it!

I live for this.

P.S. As for the cribbing about our non-existent love/sex lives, here’s the reason: the sex ratio of our batch is approximately .09. For the benefit of all Casio-deprived engineers and other arithmetically-challenged people, that’s about 11 guys to every girl. Seriously, need I say anymore?