New England (NE) region being rich in science and technology, it is not a surprise that there are several graduates from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore living in the area. As we all know, IISc is one of the premier Institutes in India for science and technology. It is a pride jewel for Indian higher education. Alumni of IISc are a very proud breed of engineers and scientists who are spread among many industries in New England area. Some of the young IIScians are pursuing their higher education in Universities in NE area. A summer retreat was organized by a group of IIScians on Saturday, Sep 15, 2018 at Hopkinton Park. This was the first get together of the NE-IISc alumni at this scale.
It was a perfect sunny day in the beautiful Hopkinton State park, which had a lot of lush green open space for kids to play and adults to mingle, an excellent picnic spot with several benches for food stand. The picnic was initially planned to be held in Pomp’s Pond Andover, but later was changed at the last minute as the park was closed for any activities because of the unfortunate tragic explosion that happened in Andover and around. One of the organizers, Dwarki Varavani, arrived at the scene much earlier than the scheduled assembly time to make sure that a best avaialabe spot is chosen for the IISc Alumni’s first ever picnic!
The event started as the alumni trickled in to the park with the family. Chaitanya had bought in his sound system to keep people entertained with sound mix prepared by his daughter who has great taste in music. To keep the kids engaged there were several games organized where they kept themselves busy; meanwhile the parents were delighted to meet old friends and getting to know other alumni. In fact, there were some who had known each other for long, as they were their seniors at IISc some 20 years ago but met here in Hopkinton for the first time. So, it was a great moment for everyone to cherish the nostalgic moemnts about the good old days at IISc. It was a unanimous decision that everyone had the best part of their life during the time at IISc. Amongst the alumni there were several couples with both spouses being from IISc. At one moment someone quipped that maybe it is worthwhile to create a sister organization, IISc-Couples!
No picnic is complete without tasty food to munch! And the IISc picnic was no exception. Dwarki, known for his expert culinary hands started his chat corner and served fresh chat to the attendees to keep their apetite satisfied while being engaged in conversation. This was a picnic for the whole family, so we had great gathering of varying ages starting from a few months old baby to several, well, suffice to say much experienced adults! In addition to bhel chat there were a lot of other snacks, papad chat, chips, fruits, coffee and tea brought in by volunteers. The organizers made sure that no one was left hungry, so that they can focus on interacting with others. There were parents who were with small kids who had to keep running behind them to make sure they are not in troublle – as one can imagine this was a perfect setting for a relaxed gathering. A lot of picture taking was going on in parallel including the group picture of all the alumni together.
The highlight of the picnic that everyone enjoyed participating in was when the alumni made a big circle and started introducing themselves to the rest. Everyone was very proud of the fact they have been associated with IISc and voiced their opinion on how we can give back to our alma mater. Several suggestions were offered to interact more actively with IISc through the active and vibrant alumni association back home. Everyone was encouraged to visit the IISc website and register there. Several of the attendees also voiced opinion that the youngsters should use this vast pool of alumni to further their career or any other help they would need when they come to the country for the first time. It was a great feeling to see how everyone wanted to give back to the community and help each other. Not only for the youngsters, but this collective group of individuals, where each one of them excels in their field can be a great support to each other. In the end all agreed to meet more often and develop an agenda to devise a plan to give back to IISc and our motherland.
To cap it all, it was time for Sudhakar and Usha to fire up their dosa corner! The fully equipped dosa factory was ably supported by Thara, Veena, Sheela and our “chat master” Dwarki who now moved to the dosa corner. They provided “made- to-order” dosa, either plain, or masalas or Mysore masala or onion dosa. The mere varieties thrilled the participants and kindled more discussions.
The idea of organizing a picnic originated when a few of the IIScians who met at Sudhakar’s house to felicitate former director of IISc, Prof CNR Rao. Prof Rao was visiting Boston aong with his wife for receiving a prestigious award some 6 months ago. It was a small gathering of about 30 people and it was then decided that something more concrete needs to be done to bring together the larger community of IISc alumni in the NE area. The first step was to develop a database of IISc alumni living in this area. Selva volunteered to put together this list and started with a Google doc which was shared to all and invited everyone to include their contacts. Sudhakar and Selva worked tirelessly to develop a comprehensive list – currently comprising about 90 people. Though this list is not complete it gave a base to start organizing the picnic. First, an organizing committee was put together to manage the activities. Key communication channels such as email and whatsapp are heavily used to communicate to the members of the fledgling alumni group and the word was sent out to the 90+ alumni for the first summer picnic.Kushagra and Sriram manned the registration desk. As part of the organizing committee they were responsible for making sure everyone had a name tag and also got their contact information as well as info on other IIScians who are not in the initial membership list. This helped to get the contact in of several new alumni. Along with the registration table there was also Jewellery corner manned by Nidhi Sriram who showcased jewlery made by herself out of her passion. She donated the proceeds from the sale to a voluntary organization. It was great to see how she was able to get quite a few customers in the picnic. She was ably supported by several other kids in this stand who formed their own gang like the parents.
By 6:00pm it was about time to end the picnic but there were a lot of very interesting interactions and exchanges of ideas still going on. At about 6:30pm the still active group members were signaled by the park ranger that the park gates will be closed by 7:00pm! Things were loaded back to our cars in a rush so that we all could leave the park within the closing time.
Overall it was a memorable evening and everyone had a great time, so it was decided to have a winter get together - perhaps indoor. There were already several new volunteers coming forward to host the event. We all left the place hoping that our next event will be even bigger with more IIScians in the mix. Having achieved the idea that first started in Sudhakar’s house to get the group of IISc Alumni going, we set ambitious goals to ourselves to chart out a plan to see how we can effectively give back to our country and our alma mater.