For the entire interview with out-going General Secretaries Social and Cultural, Shashank Singhal and Shreyas Mahajan, read further:
TSA : How has your tenure been, so far?
Shashank – This year we tried to improve our relations with the judges. The judges in GC are really not interested in judging the events. This has been giving the students a bad impression of the Gymkhana. As far as Spring Fest goes, I think it was a very well-organised fest this year. There were very few glitches as compared to previous years and the entire team was proud of this fact. Taking an overall picture, I think my tenure was fine.
TSA : Which of your proposals have been implemented?
Proposal 1: Introducing a film-making event in GC
The GC schedule is already jam-packed with 22 events. The events are going on till the 4th of April and we have the End-Semesters from 19th. Also, we cannot have many GC events in Autumn Sem as it is packed with Illumination, Durga Puja, etc. So there wasn’t enough space to include it as a separate event. I spoke to Prateek (VP,TSG) about this and we tried to bring TSFMS under the Gymkhana. President Sir has already given his verbal confirmation regarding this. It will obviously help the film-making enthusiasts, even if not through GC. And this is what my proposal was aimed at. It will be giving an opportunity to those interested to hone their skills and maybe learn some technical issues in film-making.
Proposal 2: An open workshop by Governors of societies for non-members in the fields of music, dance and drama
I have already talked to HTDS who are ready to conduct a workshop for Dramatics after the elections, since they were busy with their Freshers’ Production and a couple of out-station events before this. I also hinted to ETDS regarding the workshop and they were not reluctant, in fact they were positive about the idea. So we will try to organise a dramatics workshop for sure. Since TDS already conducts such workshops, my main focus was on music and dramatics. But even for music it was not feasible to conduct the workshops before elections. I will speak to the Governors and have a workshop open to all who just want to learn something.
Proposal 3: Adventure Sports during Spring Fest
We introduced Adventure Sports the year before last in Spring Fest, and since then we have been improving upon the number and quality of events. This time our sponsor from Woodland and we got a national level association Paramount Trek and Travel for Great Adventure. This year we included 2 new events in Great Adventure - Commando Walk and Tarzan Swing. It was a huge success, with a tremendous participation in Paintball. One of the best things was that the Great Adventure was visible from the Perpz stage, the most active place in the arena – unlike last year, where many participants after the fest told me that they were not aware of Great Adventure because it was in a corner.
TSA- What about zorbing, parasailing etc.?
Shashank- Parasailing is not possible in Kharagpur because the Air Force has an upper limit for the height, above which one is not allowed to go. And zorbing was increasing the budget a lot. We had a proposal from a company for three really good events for Great Adventure, one of which was Zorbing. But the three events were really overshooting the budget so we could not include them.
Proposal 4: Sending two people from ETMS/WTMS to Kolkata to learn about the technicalities of Sonodyne
Actually the main problem with the Sonodyne system was that the mixer was inside and there was some problem with the wiring. This year, we got the mixer in the front and the problem was solved. During Spring Fest, there was a technician who had come over, who worked under Shubhayan, the guy who organised the whole sound system in Jnan Ghosh and is one of the biggest event organisers in India. The ETMS people, as they performed then, got some help from him as he was very well-acquainted with the sound system.
TSA : Why was the SF arena smaller this time?
Shashank – There were two reasons for this. Firstly, the new complex of Computer Science department is coming up, which we came to know of only in the first week of January. So we had to change the arena entirely. We were not willing to shift the entire arena from Jubilee Park elsewhere, because what we believed was Jubilee Park was the best place to have the Spring Fest arena. Our arena has been there for many years (even I don’t know how many years).
This gave rise to a few constraints. Taking all these into consideration, finally we decided that a compact arena with informal stage inside the arena itself and Perpz stage right in front of the entry would be a good experiment. I feel this was a much better case for Perpz. If we could have increased the arena a little bit on the right hand side, it would have been great. But, I don’t think anyone complained about the size of the arena. After all, whoever comes to the arena goes to the Perpz stage to have fun, which was bigger than last year. So I never received a complaint about the type of the arena.
TSA : There was a proposal regarding the celebration of Diamond Jubilee via ‘Exhibition of KGP Life’. How was that worked upon?
Shashank – A documentary on KGP Life was made by TSFMS. Regarding the cultural performance, this year what we tried was to get the budget from the Institute and organise a Ghazal Night during Spring Fest through the Institute, which will be celebrated as the Diamond Jubilee night of IIT Kharagpur. But the budget for the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations was finalised last year, i.e., before the commencement of my tenure, by the Board of Governors. Even President Sir was very interested. We talked to Prof. B K Mathur who was in charge of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration. Even Director Sir was very positive. Everything was clear, including the Director’s approval. We were hoping to get a very good Ghazal artist whom we could promote at the Diamond Jubilee Night of IIT Kharagpur. We had even collected quotations from Pankaj Udhas, Hariharan and Ghulam Ali. But we faced the financial constraint because of the Diamond Jubilee budget and it was not possible to contact all the Board members at the last moment.
TSA : How many of your proposals have been implemented?
Proposal 1: Setting up of a Photography Club
Regarding the Photography Club, TSFMS shall be brought under the Gymkhana. It has been verbally confirmed and just the documentation is left, hopefully should be done before our tenure ends. TSFMS, once under the gymkhana, will also be taking care of the photographic events occurring all across the campus.
TSA : Why is photography being clubbed with film-making under the same society?
Shreyas – We talked to President Sir and it was expressed that having too many societies under the Gymkhana brings in budget constraints and too much diversification at one point becomes a problem. So he suggested that people were involved in film-making can possibly also be interested in photography. So why not promote it through the same society?
TSA : So will the name be changed to Film-making and Photography society?
Shreyas – No, the name might not be changed. They have kept the name for two years so I don’t think that would be disturbed. But the main aim of promoting photography throughout the campus can be achieved.
Proposal 2: Food Festival During Spring Fest
Shreyas – We did try it, but due to some or the other constraints regarding sponsorship or problem in people coming down from various States it did not work out as planned. We did try it with Orissa Tourism and other Kolkata-based firms to bring in the variety of foods, but they cancelled last minute.
Proposal 3: Introduce a Gymkhana award to appreciate and encourage the social work done by a student of the Institute
Shreyas – There has been a discussion and the various points have been thought over. But the actual procedure can be started only after the elections. So, it’s only after that, that we can decide upon its feasibility. All through this year, the officials at the gymkhana were busy with the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and the fests. So we could not finalize the matter.
Proposal 4 : Formation of a language club
Again, the budget constraints were a problem. Also forming a new society means getting a whole new set of logistics, infrastructure and the right people too – which was a problem.
TSA : We already have languages like German in the curriculum. Also how was this planned? Will people go out of their way to go to a society and learn a language?
Shreyas- Having a course is more of a strain. You are constrained to follow a path. But the idea was to learn a language interactively with friends, rather than from a book. And it is all, out of interest. For example, when we came here we didn’t know a word of Bengali, but by the time we graduat, we would have learnt phrases that we start using in our daily lives. So, I feel that there might be quite a lot of people wanting to learn a language from those who are good at it.
TSA : We already have a communication society – Communiqué. Didn’t you think of coordinating with them?
Shreyas- As far as I am aware, the main aim of Communiqué is improving English speaking skills. It aims at increasing the expertise in a language that is very much necessary, but these are the languages the one learns out of interest and are not compulsory. So I felt that it might dilute the efforts put in by Communiqué.
TSA : You have two proposals with respect to starting new societies. While photography society is being integrated into TSFMS, you don’t think you should merge a language society with a communication society?
Shreyas - A society for regional languages requires a number of people from the same region. So, merging a society solely based on one language with others did not seem to make much sense. Moreover Communiqué does not come under the General Secretaries’ responsibility, so I was a bit hesitant to diversify. I’ve spoken to a few people, and maybe it’ll come up by next year.
TSA : Could you update us on photography exhibitions that were proposed to be held?
Shreyas - The Alumni-cell took up something similar with their calendar. And moreover, the photography club has not been formed. So it was a tough step to take before the club was formed. My proposal actually stated that if the club is formed, it’ll take that step. Hopefully once the first step is taken, everything else will follow.
TSA : Have there been any new introductions apart from those mentioned in your proposals?
G.Secs. : In The GCs, creative writing was introduced in the Open IITs; and in Spring Fest we tried to diversify and move a bit away from the Star Nites. We had Makrand Deshpande and the Model United Nations which was part of the diamond jubilee initiative. There was also a new dance event in SF - Shuffle.
TSA: Were any initiatives taken to boost the participation of KGP students in out-station fests?
G.Secs.: This was the first year that we included the reimbursement policy in the budget. We had 2 lakh rupees dedicated just for out-station participation. This was a major problem told to us by the governors, and we felt that keeping out a lump sum of money to reimburse at least the to and fro ticket costs as well as the registration costs would greatly encourage students to go out and participate.
TSA : Any hardships that you faced during your tenure?
G.Secs. : The main problem was getting judges for the GCs. It is very difficult to convince someone to come here and judge. But now things are improving. And secondly - Spring Fest is always a tough task. It’s a part of the game and we really enjoyed the hard work. It payed off and Spring Fest was a big success.
TSA: As you have been elected largely due to the support of your halls, was there any pressure from your own hall during the General Championships?
G.Secs.: It’s a misconception that a G.Sec. from a particular hall is partial towards his/her hall, as there are not many things in the hands of the G.Secs.. It’s the judge, who finally gives the verdict. And the system has been made as transparent as possible. There was a change made in the rule book this year that anything conveyed to the judges must be done over a microphone in front of everyone. Although it was previously conveyed through the G.Secs., we thought this might increase the transparency of the system.
TSA : Is there anything you want the people to know, about how a General Secretary should be?
G.Secs. – There will be times when the G.Sec. will face dilemmas, but finally he/she should listen to his/her heart and not what is forced upon them by their hall or anyone else for that matter. They must be able to make the right decision.
TSA : Finally, any tips or words of caution for the next General Secretary Social & Cultural?
G.Secs. – We have already passed our suggestions to all the four candidates. All are very hard working and deserving. We wish them good luck.
At the end of what seems to have been a rather smooth tenure, both the General Secretaries wish to add a special mention and thanks to their secretaries. They are –