Monday, April 27, 2009

The Complete Story - The NSS Valedictory Fiasco

Not everything went according to plan at the NSS Valedictory Function on the 25th of April. This is a chronicle of all the events that took place. This is the mail that I sent to the NSS group to explain the effect of their individual choices on the collective whole.

Hello everyone,
For those of you who don't know what has taken place, let me give you a quick summary. For those of you who do, you might have missed some of the following points. Please go through this carefully. 
1. The Chief Guest for the Val function was Dr. Harsh Sinhval, Dean (Alumini Affairs)
2. The Guest of Honour was Dr. Gaurav Raheja - Institute Architect
Both of them had agreed to be present at the Val function at the last moment. They had been invited at around 5 pm the previous day.
The fiascos that took place:
1. Almost no one was present at the venue at the allotted time of 3:15 pm
2. Dr. Sinhval arrived punctually at 3:28 as the time given to him was 3:30 pm
3. 3:28 pm onwards - we push the panic button and start calling up everyone to be present at the Val function
4. 3:43 pm - Dr. Sinhval expresses his anger at the state of events and threatens to leave the function if the event doesn't proceed by 3:45
5. 3:44 pm - We start the event. Dr. Sinhval requests that all the doors to the auditorium be closed to prevent the entry of latecomers
6. We disregard his request. We keep on calling up people. We even request the Dramatics section to fill up the auditorium. They refuse. I call upon personal friends to help me out at this point of time. The NSS activity list is being read out by Shruti.
7. Close to 4:00 pm: Dr. Sinhval is asked to say a few words to the audience. He is furious. Total audience strength: close to 40 people.
A quote from his speech: "Normally, it isn't considered good manners to criticize your hosts but I am compelled to do this today. All the activities that you have read out to me hold no value. Anyone can write anything on a piece of paper and say that we've done this and done that. From an organization of 345 students, is this what is expected? Had I been the head of NSS, I would have clearly stated - those who don't attend this function will have their grades held back."
Just then, someone enters. Dr. Sinhval responds - "Aayiye, Aayiye. Mushaiyare mein tashreef rakhiye. Aakhir yeh mushaira hi hai na, koi function nahin." The entire executive team is looking shamefaced.
At the time of inviting him, Dr. Sinhval had expressed happiness at the work we were doing to teach students. He had asked us about the problems we were facing and had even offered to get a room for Prerna students to be taught at the ABN School on Saturdays. This is what he said then:
"Naga had told me about the problems you were facing in teaching students on weekends. I had thought of helping you in this regard but after what I have seen here today, I shall most certainly not be doing that. This is all that I had to say." He proceeds to his seat.
Can you imagine the plight of all those present there? Katiyar sir on the dias, sitting right next to him. Me and Naga sir down below - looking at the dismal empty chairs of the Civil Audi, desperately hoping that something can still be done, our hearts sinking with a feeling of deep loss. What should we do next? 
8. Dr Raheja states a short story on the work that NSS has done. He maintains a calm disposition, but it is clearly seen that he's disappointed with the state of events. Meanwhile, Katiyar sir is desperately trying to calm Dr. Sinhval. Water arrives for the guests. There was no bouquet for any of them as the flower shops in Roorkee were closed. 
9. Dr. Sinhval realizes our plight and requests the mic to say another story, this time a humourous one to diffuse the tension, but it is obvious that he is still simmering under the surface.
10. Naga sir was asked to announce the new team - Katiyar sir interrupts him and asks him not to do so.
11. The prize distribution for all the active volunteers takes place. Dr. Sinhval's comment: "I hope atleast they are present here". First two names called out are not present. Just to save face, we start sending other people up in case those that were being awarded were not present. Katiyar sir is given a memento for being the NSS Program Coordinator. There are no mementos for the Chief Guest and the Guest of Honour.
12. Prize Distribution over. I come up on stage and try salvaging the situation. I highlight the fact that the NSS Volunteer Awardees have worked close to 100 hours over the course of 2 semesters for a 2 credit course and that the people sitting in the audience aren't the "masses" working for grades, but those that realize the importance of their work and the service they are rendering to the nation, not out of pity, charity or kindness, but out of a feeling that every person in the country deserves as much as his country can give him.
14. I escort the guests down from the stage towards the refreshments. Dr. Sinhval refuses to leave the stage before me (as is his right, being the Chief Guest of the Event). This is an indirect slap to my face.
15. Katiyar Sir and the other Guests chitchat over refreshments but Dr. Sinhval refuses to give an assurance that he will continue to help us in the future.
16. The guests leave.
Let me make a few points here:
1. Why do I make such a big fuss about punctuality?
     a) I realize the value of time. So do others.
     b) This is what happens when you're not punctual. I know this. That's why I care.
2. Who is responsible for this mess?
     a) I am - for leaving the management of critical aspects of such an important event to my juniors.
     b) Naga Sir - for doing the same.
     c) The new executive team - for not taking their responsibilities seriously.
3. Who is not responsible for this mess?
     a) The first yearites - You have done exactly what I had expected you to do. You will prioritize 1 hour of sleeping or lazing around in the name of studying over coming for the val function. 
Don't you think that your seniors might have spent many more hours getting the permission for the Civil audi, tallying the attendance, getting the certificates printed, writing the names of the people, getting the mementos, arranging for refreshments etc? Aren't their examinations on the same days as all of you?
   All you guys had to do was to get up and come over for one hour - one single hour away from your studies too finally see and understand what you have achieved as part of NSS, what other cells had done and why you should be proud of your work and give a farewell to the current team. Of course, most of you weren't interested.
4. Who should bear the brunt of the consequences?
    The NSS Team. They are now entrusted with the task of jumping through administrative hoops and loads of red tape to get permission for the simplest of things. By serving your self interests, you have inadvertently denied NSS a golden opportunity to have better relationships with the administration.
In any case, there is no use crying over spilt milk. You have done what you had to and we did what we could to save face. That's all there is to it. Thanks everyone for a very "memorable" farewell. It affected me to the depths of my heart... really. Thanks a lot...
Divye Kapoor
Ex-Joint Secretary
NSS