The Game of Charades & ThunderBolt

Dumb Charades

I remember playing ‘serious’ Dumb C for the first time with Suranjan in the 1st year. By serious, I mean Suranjan had signs for every syllable/letter and could act out words/phrases in the blink of an eye. So naturally, I stole all his ideas and promptly formed our own team when I moved to Nehru Hall in the 2nd year.

After a couple of iterations with team formation, we settled into a trio of Anshu, Mantha and me. NH incidentally had one of the Insti’s best teams in the final year and taking a cue from them, we assigned definite roles to each of us; Anshu would act, I would do the guessing part and Mantha’s (additional) role was to only memorize all the words and phrases we had guessed (crucial for rounds that had long sentences with tongue twisters). Yup, this was pro-level Dumb C (or so I’d like to believe).

We ended up as a decent team and were even the SF Dumb C champs in our 3rd year! So, it would be reasonable to say that we were prett-tty confident when we saw this on our Hall notice board (one day towards the end of the 3rd year).

This was put up by the Entertainment Secy on the Nehru Hall Notice Board

A Soc-Cult GC down to the wire, all depended on the result of the very last event — Dumb C. If there was ever a time to roll your eyes, this would be it. Oh, and of course, we were pitted against our old foes, RK. NH and RK were the only 2 halls in the running for the GC that year (or isn’t that every year?).

Coming back to the event, when I say, it was all down to Dumb C, what I am saying is that it was all down to Anshu, Mantha and me. No pressure! Since Anshu and I were together even during the day, we’d practice when we were in the dep — read, Anshu would strut and preen and we’d show-off our abilities/tricks of the trade — all the time (not realizing that), we were being keenly watched by Pethe (incidentally in the RK Dumb C team). We certainly didn’t mind anyone watching us and even the fact that Pethe was an RK-Dumb C team member did not perturb us. I mean, we were SF-Dumb C champs, right? Who the hell could beat us? Hah!

The day of reckoning, and we walked into Bhatnagar, packed to the gills with NH and RK folks. I’d never witnessed such a turn-out for a Dumb C event and recall (for the first time) feeling nervous. Anshu (he wasn’t called Mast-Ust for nothing) soaked it all in and was as cool as a cucumber. Mantha was in his usual state of ‘bliss’.

In any case, the rounds started and that’s when we noticed that the RK team (Pethe, Sabri and Muza?) was very good! When they cracked “Jagged little Pill” in 5 seconds, I think, that was the moment all my confidence flew out the window. As I watched them crack word after word as smoothly as a well-oiled machine, it started to dawn upon me that they had done a one-up on us and had actually improved upon our methods — all their acting signs were only around the face so that there was only 1 place to focus for the guys guessing, shaving off precious seconds in their time taken. All sorts of crazy thoughts began running helter-skelter through my panicked mind. Was the judge, a guy from VGSOM and a friend/acquaintance of the RK folks, being fair?! And why the hell had we been so over-confident, so foolhardy?…

We clearly had a fight on our hands now. Needless to say, the atmosphere had turned electric, with our two teams going neck and neck, RK and NH folks (in the audience) baying for each other’s blood, tempo shouts rang out after every round.

To cut a long story (most of which evades me now) short, it came down to this last round. RK was done with their turn, and it was up to us now. We had to guess a long sentence within 92 seconds to win the Soc-Cult GC. The hall went quiet, so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Everyone waited with bated breath. No one knew which of them would shout out with joy and who would sink into their chairs after 92 seconds. They were as tense as we were.

Anshu animatedly signed, jiggled, moved, circled, and did everything within his power to act out word after word. Mantha and I were at the edge of our seats, trying our best to keep up. The clock was ticking. We were at the last word and as soon as we got it, Mantha shouted the sentence out loud. The moment he did, the entire NH crowd roared in unison, believing we had won. It was then that I heard the judge, trying to shout out over the cacophony, that our guess was INCORRECT! Off went the RK crowd, believing they had won! I realized immediately that Mantha had missed a word or two and shouted (the whole sentence again) at the top of my voice — “THE ENTIRE UNDERWORLD UNDERTOOK AN ULTERIOR UNDERSTANDING TO END THE UNRULY ANARCHY IN ANTARCTICA”. The judge (reluctantly) acquiesced. Much to our relief, we were still under the required 92-seconds time limit. We had WON!

What happened after that is a blur. The whole of Bhatnagar erupted, and I remember the three of us being carried out of the auditorium. Celebrations all around in the hall. And talks of the event for days after!

The next day I skipped classes and decided to stay put in my room. Understanding what I was feeling, Pethe visited me that very evening to mollify me. He knew fully well (the emotional fool that I am), that I was feeling guilty for us having beaten them.

Pethe and me, after one of our long nights talking (about life, the universe and everything) at Veggies/Eggies. Those stories shall remain untold, to protect the ‘innocent’

What follows is another short story (predominantly non-fiction), of the seven (not-so) gentlemen and their attempt at striving for the ultimate in cricketing glory — the “ThunderBolt”. It was (still is? — no idea) also the name of the Annual Night Cricket Tournament in Nehru Hall.

I had negligible interest in the game of Cricket; like, zero, zilch. I know some of you out there are rolling your eyes, but it is what it is. Now, imagine how it was for me at KGP, where the rest of my wing-mates were absolute cricket-fanatics. When folks would ask, excitement dripping in their voices, “Score kya hai?” (about some cricket match that was going on, naturally), I’d quip, feigning innocence, “Game kya hai?” — making no bones about the fact that I resented the assumption. But I digress.

Our wing (DFW) had two people in the hall team, Tamatar and Anshu. Everyone (excluding me) could debate for hours and hours on the finer aspects of hitting a straight drive over short mid-wicket on a googly; as I write this, I realize I have no freaking idea what I’m talking about! So anyway, yes, in our final year, we fancied (flights of?) our chances at winning the Thunderbolt Championship.

Our team looked this:

Anshu (WK), Tandon, Mantha, Raj, Udyan (UK) (C), Tamatar, Sundar

Overall, we had a decent team. UK, our captain, felt confident in our multidimensional skills. Most of us were all-rounders (the term being used loosely here ). Mantha spearheaded our bowling attack with left arm medium pace, assisted by Tandon’s offspin. Tamatar and I would pitch in too. We had a decent batting line-up with UK, Anshu and Tamatar being able to hold their own.

We had a decent run to the finals, with recorded evidence involving vicious pulls to short pitched deliveries, in between bouts of vomiting. I’d like to believe, we played fearless cricket before it became a thing . In any case, what really matters is that we made it to the finals of Thunderbolt.

Standing between us and the final prize was our nemesis wing (DFE) — who were the top favourites to win. They had routed all in their wake, with as much ease as Team Australia does to all other international teams. You could call them NH’s very own Team Oz. Needless to say, each team member of the DFE team had a good degree of proficiency in some cricketing skill or the other.

Isn’t winning the toss considered lucky in the cricketing world? I suppose, Lady Luck smiled on us and we put them in to bat first. Thanks to UK’s deft fielding placements and adroit bowling changes, we did pretty good while bowling but not even in our wildest dreams had we ever expected to restrict them to a mere 32 runs in 12 overs!! Some fielding gems were probably responsible for their low score. I do recall taking a one-handed catch in the slips off Mantha’s left arm pace bowling. Yes, it was a night of miracles.

At the break, our spirits were soaring. 33 in 12 overs — easy-peasy (or so we thought). What we didn’t count on, was the determination in our opponents’ minds. Imti’s fearsome pace, Bikram’s accuracy, Debashish’s deceptive slower balls and suddenly scoring runs seemed an insurmountable task. Wickets fell left-right-centre and we found ourselves pretty much in the same boat as we had put our opponents in, only a little while ago.

Anshu, Tandon, Mantha (our top order) and I got out cheaply. It was left to our captain (UK) and Tamatar to steer the ship. UK got out soon after and we were down to 12/5. Everything seemed hopeless and sitting on the side-lines, our team was really dejected. We had let a match that should have been easily won slip from our hands.

Up until this match, our team had a decent run with the bat. Anshu and UK were our top scorers in the tournament so far. That night, however, it was Sundar who had come in with a different frame of mind. “Mereko opening jaane de, mai jaake maarunga”, he had proffered. He wanted to take on Imti and some words were perhaps exchanged between them! UK mulled it over but decided against experimenting with the line-up at the last moment.

Finally, it was Sundar’s turn to bat. He walked in tall, poised, and with a gait that oozed confidence when all appeared to be lost. Is it a coincidence that Sundar is in fact a huge Kapil Dev fan? Sporting a never-say-die attitude (a la Pandya ), Sundar struck some lusty blows, ably assisted by Tamatar. To add to the drama, towards the end, Sundar was denied a boundary by the effortless fielding of a firmly rooted tree. In the aftermath of what happened later, this really hurt. But much to our relief (that was slowly turning into hope), the two of them took our score to 32. We were this close to winning. Just one more run. That was it. We were on our feet, jumping, screaming, ready to rush into the ground to take the wickets off the ground after that winning single was taken. Was it too much to ask for? Just one run?

But that single was not to be. Our loud cheers died, and smiles faded away as we watched Tamatar lose his wicket at that crucial hour. We were thunderstruck. Couldn’t that have been a no- ball or some such thing? The match had ended in a tie. Where are super overs when we need them? I’d like to believe that was the ONLY time in the history of Thunderbolt that the finals had ever been drawn. Well, we should have been happy with the result, anyway, shouldn’t we? We were the underdogs and had not only reached the finals, but almost defeated the favourites. ALMOST — that’s the key.

Taken immediately after the match — you’ll have no trouble knowing who’s in which wing. (Hint: All the glum faces belong to DFW)

What eventually lifted our spirits was the prize — the 6 bottles of Thunderbolt. The bottles should have been shared between the two teams, but most of the DFE folks didn’t consume it and we got to partake in more than our share.

Sundar did decide to remain glum for that entire night — for him, it was akin to missing a chance to defeat the mighty Ozzies in their own backyard.

Some sort of cake for the winners — some faces are still glum, but some are beginning to cheer up at the sight of food and drinks

All’s well that ends well, so we made our way to Chhedis, to indulge in some Tinkus.

~ Rajarshi Das | 1998 | Nehru Hall | Indu



Students' Alumni Cell, IIT Kharagpur

Alumni cell is a student body in IIT Kharagpur with the aim to foster and bridge the interaction between the institute and its Alumni.