Sources Reporting Kharagpur’s Tempo Very ‘High’

Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was published first in 1964, depicting a fantastical chocolate factory run by the eccentric and mysterious Willy Wonka. Cute little Charlie Bucket goes on a journey through this wondrous factory filled with mind-goggling extravagant creations. During his visit to the factory, he discovers a strange species that are the Oompa Loompas (Wonka’s only employees). Wonka’s bizarre minions were the ones who sweated away amongst the walls of the factory to actualize all of Wonka’s brain-children.

Wonka claimed his to be a humanitarian effort owing to him ‘rescuing’ the Oompa Loompa race from their homeland, where they were facing starvation or extinction, and presenting them with a life in his factory. However, the Oompa-Loompas were paid by Wonka in not wages but cocoa beans, which were of no fungible value outside.  The choice presented to them was to live their lives in perpetual servitude or die.

If you happened to catch the first Chocolate Factory movie titled Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (USA, 1971) before picking up the book, Oompa Loompas, to you, would have been tiny orange creatures but Dahl’s pen had originally written them as African pygmy people. All these things put together (‘African people’, ‘unpaid’, ‘perpetual servitude’) were ringing a bell which no one wanted rung. Understandably so, this description was modified upon in the movies so that it wouldn’t remind the audiences of slavery, which was once sizably prevalent in the USA. Dahl’s position as scriptwriter in the movie influenced him enough to revise his book. In subsequent editions, he portrayed the Oompa-Loompas as white.

Now, completely ignoring the need of a segue, let’s talk about what Kharagpur did this Diwali.

Every year hundreds of undergraduates and postgraduates of IIT Kharagpur toil for weeks on end to produce a visual spectacle which lasts for not more than 10 to 20 minutes. Illumination or ‘Illu’, as it is endearingly called by the folks of IIT Kharagpur (who consider it their unbreakable responsibility to forward the tradition), is a visual delight produced by propping ‘diyas’ on huge vertical mesh panels and creating patterns that fire up the passions of tens of photographers and probably a lone arson. The tradition is a matter of pride for the students of the IIT community. This year however, the administration of IIT Kharagpur following their ‘successful’ attempt of eradicating the OP culture, aimed to weed out its derivative, namely Illu.

Apart from being a piece of visual artistic smithery, Illu has been an important gauge of student sentiments. Back in 2008, when the administration enforced the 11 PM curfew rule the halls responded by boycotting Illu. Illu is one of the few things in Kharagpur which have the ability to mirror the sentiments of a large portion of the student populace.

Similarly, this year around, the halls had a message to deliver through their Illumination and deliver it they did. A quick consensus signals that the Kgp populace is generally upset with the administration for removing Illu from the GC, which interestingly enough, was a part of GC Maintenance and Gardening. And yes, the student community does take a lot of pride in their ‘maintaining’.

The most outspoken of the halls was Azad, the pioneer of Illumination in IIT Kharagpur, back in 1981. Although the students then had no intention of introducing it as a competitive event, Illu eventually made its way into the GC.  It can only be left for speculation (considering the sparse availability of televisions, and the lack of existence of internet or flipkart) if the students then knew about Oompa-Loompas, or the future.

Azad’s panel featured four instances of the IIT Kharagpur emblem, with each successive emblem missing a certain element. The panel symbolized the ‘The Eradicating Culture of KGP’, owing to the recent tightening of rules in campus.

 

azad

OP supporters usually raise the point that the OP isn’t a meaningless practise, it is in fact  a part of a culture which contributes to the very definition of IIT Kharagpur. They say that the Hall Culture in IIT Kharagpur was born to help the students in the first place. It did not sit well with them when the administration started placing hurdles in these humanitarian efforts. The supporters responded by not just jumping over these hurdles but with ‘God’ as their witness,attempting to knock them down for good. A speech made during Azad’s Illu presentation also echoed these points.

Azad was not the only hall to use Illu as a medium to make a point.  Illu hopping is one of the few things which make the Diwali in KGP enjoyable, i.e. if you don’t happen to be a second year. However, when the procession reached RP, the gates remained firmly shut for the eager crowd of onlookers. When they were finally given admittance, the panels had been put out.

The story goes that some spontaneously aggravated youth/youths (we would like to emphasize here that none of this was pre-meditated) started de-constructing their own work using the always handy fire extinguishers. The rationale behind these actions cannot be objectively ascertained. An artist lost in his art gets overwhelmed by emotions and does things which a mere mortal will never be able to comprehend. That’s why they’re artists and we’re not. The second years were obviously overjoyed with this turn of events.

These events are a testament to the fact that any reforms that the administration tries to usher in, well-meaning or not, will most likely be met with resistance from ‘certain’ sections of the student community.

Any story floating about RK also protesting is untrue. Yes, a tiny portion on the left was not alit, but that was in fact a simple error and not a subtle nod to right-wing conservative politics.

All these events do not detract the fact that the halls, this year, conducted Illumination despite not having any incentive or reward to do so. This just proves that Kharagpur’s tempo is in fact quite ‘high’, and anyone claiming otherwise is ignorant. One can only wonder what the administration stood to gain from such a cryptic move but that’s beside the point. Especially since the halls managed to circumvent their efforts. No wonder their tempo is so ‘high’.

The fate of Illu remains unclear, but a more important question is whether Willy Wonka is just a glorified slave owner? Should we overlook the plight of Oompa Loompas as one of those things we simply choose to not think about? Do we ignore the dark aspect and turn our heads to the chocolaty, light-hearted side? After all, this article is about Oompa Loompas, and not Illumination.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.