What do MBA students do on weekends? Sleeping-in would top the charts at most B-school campuses, but students at the Dept. Of Management Studies, IIT Madras have other plans.
Much is made about IIT Madras being the only campus which is part of a reserve forest in the very heart of the city. It’s common to see people wearing ‘Walking Passes’ and briskly sauntering on the tarmac within campus. People appreciate the shade, the woods, the wildlife. But off the beaten track is where the fun lies and that is what a few of us set out to explore one lazy Sunday morning.
We started off at 0600hrs, armed with nothing but a sense of expectation and adventure and something to shoot deer with – cameras. The track at the stadium was where we decided to start our exploration. One moment we were in the wide open area of the sports stadium, and a few quick paces into the woods, bordering the track, we had entered the fairly dense, but not too dense forest zone in the campus. Cameras came out, and the shutterbug in us started having a field day.
Being early was an advantage as we could see fresh deer tracks, and other things fresh, contributed by deer but not as exciting. We kept to the narrow path that guided us deeper into the forest, thickly canopied now with overhanging branches of I don’t know what trees. On either side of us were swamps overgrown with moss, inviting less intelligent people to step onto it and ruin their footwear. And just as we were starting to lose our patience, we saw a magnificent sight of a herd of deer led by the alpha male with huge antlers, crossing the path some 50 metres ahead of us. They did stare at us, for a while before calmly progressing. Not an unfriendly stare, just a curious one.
By now, even we were getting a bit of an overdose of trees, swamps, deer, bird calls and the like. But IIT Madras did not disappoint. As the winding path whittled down to a non-existent, imaginary trail, which was found by following the path of least (foliage) resistance, we came across an old temple beyond which, sprawling in all its morning beauty was the Lake at IIT Campus. It is a refreshing sight, a large body of water which is completely hidden even from people who frequent the campus.
We decided not to give any cause for thrilling entries in this narrative and so, did not step into the lake. We even excavated a rusty old sign that said “Caution: Do not venture into the lake”. Respect the aged we said and like rational people, we started walking around it. Cutting across deserted snake holes, playing limbo with thick thorny vegetation blocking our way, along cacti plants, over water treatment plants until we reached the perimeter of the green zone demarcated by ten foot high walls. It was a sad sight that near the wall, there was the universal signature of human habitation – garbage. It seems even a reserve has its limits.
The sun was grinning more brightly now as we circumscribed the lake and reached the residential zone. The lake thinned out at places, and the woods also gave way to patches of clear land, finally ending in a clearing which lead to the Lake View Road. Ha! Lake View Road, where to our surprise there was a sign saying “Beware of crocodiles”. It seemed funny then, but now as I write this account, I’m glad we didn’t come across any. I would have had to sacrifice one of my co-explorers. On second thoughts, it would have been a great photo-op though...
Tired but happy, we started our walk past our beloved department, the mighty Gajendra Circle, the imposing Central Library, smirking at the morning walkers knowing how much more we had seen. Apart from a sumptuous breakfast, Marcel Proust’s saying came to mind:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”