YouTube Fan Fest 2016

18th March 2016:  I guess this happens to most of us – we make a LOT of plans but don’t really succeed in executing them; and the impromptu decisions are the ones which lead to the creation of the best memories. A classmate of mine had offered the tickets to the YouTube Fan Fest (YTFF) last year, but I decided against it after weighing the pros and the cons. I had realized only later what I missed out on– the show was hosted by my favourite YouTubers Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath (YTFF is a fest where popular YouTubers perform live – there are a LOT of events and performances by budding musicians as well as comedy channels). I was excited on hearing about YTFF this year too. There was a lot riding on the week ahead – a host of submissions and evaluations. After a big fat fight between the rational and the irrational part of my brain, the irrational one persisted, and I found myself waiting excitedly with the red wristband and the pass to the event at NSCI, Worli. My classmate-cum-project-partner Sree was equally psyched to be a part of it.

After much deliberation I left most of my stuff at Sree’s place and we took the local train to Mahalakshmi station. As we weren’t really aware about which direction to proceed, we approached a guy at a stall and asked him about NSCI. Without a thought he pointed to our right – I guess we weren’t exactly the first people to ask him for directions. We finally boarded a 661 to Nehru Planetarium and walked from there to NSCI (Thank you Google Maps!). We didn’t need the help of Google maps after a little while – the crazy screaming was just about enough to guide us there.

We went to the red carpet area first – and saw our favourite YouTubers being welcomed at the red carpet area. The interesting part was seeing them perform fun tasks in 7 seconds – right from posing for the perfect red carpet look to spelling the name of their YouTube channel backwards, and even quick nail art! I loved Kenny Sebastian’s response when he was told to do a cartwheel in 7 seconds – he said that he would attempt a cartwheel, although it might just turn out to be just a handstand for a split second. The atmosphere was pretty charged – the crowd would just go crazy at the mention of Connor Franta and Lilly Singh (a.k.a. ||Superwoman||). I couldn’t help but cheer with the crowd – I felt my voice getting hoarse with all the screaming, and this was barely the beginning!

The sultry weather didn’t do much to help the icky sweaty feeling, except for the occasional momentary breeze. After being stuck in a claustrophobic stampede-like situation for a good part of an hour we found our way to the auditorium. Although it was a mad rush, we enjoyed every instant. Sree and I had general passes, which meant that we wouldn’t get close to the VIP area. However, as we were one of the first people in, we did find decent seats. Abish Mathew was hosting the event. I didn’t really enjoy the first performance of the evening (a couple of prank channels pranking each other, and ultimately the audience). However, the frigid auditorium felt supercharged with the performances by Nucleya. The performance left us enthralled, especially the song Aaja, and we found ourselves cheering our throats hoarse by the end of it.

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Nucleya

This was followed by stand-up comedy groups – AIB, Kenny Sebastian, EIC and SNG. Kenny’s song was pretty refreshing – especially the aalap. I loved the way the comedy groups incorporated the current affairs into their acts – Vijay Mallya’s escape from India was the butt of half their jokes. The mere mention of Superwoman was enough to make the crowd inside go completely nuts! SNG’s performance was refreshingly hilarious – it was an improvisation (They asked the audience for suggestions): what not to do in a particular profession. Other groups such as the Viva (with the mimicry of Comedy Nights with Kapil) and Put Chutney also had us in splits.

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EIC

There were a series of musical performances scheduled, each one more stunning than the previous. The Indian Jam Project by Tushar Lall was my favourite – it felt like a trance (Here is the link). Another one of my favourites was The Sarthak Mudgal Collective – the only Opera singer in India had me at the edge of my seat throughout her performance. Maati Baani’s performance really set the stage on fire. Arjun, Shirley Setia and Kurt Hugo Schneider were great. Shirley has an amazing voice, and her choice of songs was just perfect.

I enjoyed the performances of Prajakta Koli and Rickshawali (I guess she forgot that Biswa is an IITian!) but was a tiny bit disappointed with Kanan and Biswa’s performance. They only hosted the Connor Franta event, which seemed pretty short. Sree was kinda unhappy that they didn’t let Connor speak much. The “Sealink-Ceiling-Streeling” joke was pretty hilarious though.

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Biswa, Kanan and Connor Franta 😀

Abish was a fantastic host – he has a great stage presence. The part I loved about his segment however was his slow motion mimicry of cricket players. It was perfectly realistic – exactly like the slow-mo videos they show on TV (Call it weird, we could feel the time kinda slow down!). I was disappointed that I didn’t get to stay long enough to enjoy Sanam and Superwoman’s performance. I hope Ryan Higa comes to YTFF next year – he would elevate the fun level altogether!

The fun part was travelling back home alone – it had been a while since I travelled alone at night and hence I was a little uncomfortable about it in the beginning. The experience was totally worth it though. No matter what time of the night it is, one can always find someone walking on the roads – Mumbai is a city that never sleeps! Going for a late-night ice cream (and making my sister jealous with the photos) more or less made up for missing out on Superwoman’s performance. YTFF is one of the experiences I will remember for a long time.

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Experiences…Enjoyment…Memories – TechFest 2015!!!

I guess this post is coming a little late, considering that the annual TechFest at IIT Bombay was over a month ago.

I missed out on Mood Indigo (the annual cultural fest at IIT-B), which was conducted in the last week of December 2014, as most of my friends weren’t around (and I was in absolutely no mood to go alone). This was one of the reasons I didn’t want to miss out on the TechFest, which was to be organised there on the first weekend of January 2015. The other (and the more prominent) reason for attending the TechFest was my sister’s over-inclination to attend it. In stark contrast to my sister’s attitude, I wanted to spend the last Sunday before my college began sleeping. Destiny had another plans though.

We decided to attend the Fest on the last day – 4th January, and spent a couple of hours the night before chalking out our plan for the visit. I was fortunate enough to have one of my friends volunteering to accompany us as well. Never did I expect in my wildest dreams my friend and my sister to bond so quickly and gang up against me. Being the shortest among the three, I had the privilege of being constantly picked on. Honestly I didn’t mind, as I had never imagined enjoying the day so much.

The highlight of the day (and the reason that really tempted me to attend) was the speech by former President of India – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, at 4.30pm. Planning accordingly, we decided to be there by 2.

One of the most hilarious parts of the day was finding a bus. Although a number of buses go to IIT, we had a hard time finding one. After 20 minutes of waiting (and looking like complete fools at the bus stop) we found an A/C bus. Even then, I felt as if a joke had been played on us – the air conditioning was so faulty that it was hotter inside the bus than outside. It didn’t bother us much though, as my friend and I had enough to catch up about.

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After registering and finally entering the campus, we walked around a little and then proceeded to the auditorium where Dr. Kalam was to speak. I hadn’t imagined the length of the queue to be that crazy long (apparently, people had outsmarted my idea of waiting there 2 hours prior to the speech). After waiting a decent half-hour in the queue we calculated and concluded that we wouldn’t get a chance to get in, much to our dismay (I guess we caught a glimpse of him towards the end…but it all happened so fast that it seems like a blur).

Although disappointed, we decided to make the most of what we had. And I am glad we did. There was so much to explore – the campus, the activities, the exhibitions…It was a complete delight. There were exhibits by the Indian Army and Digital Art among others, which were pretty impressive. However, the part I enjoyed the most was walking in the shade of the lush greenery, past the hostels and the lecture halls. The three of us walked till we could walk no more, and walked again after resting briefly.

After about three hours of such incessant walking, we proceeded to the cafeteria. It was a rather refreshing to have a Chokolade B at the Café Chokolade counter. The warm afternoon weather made the the cold chocolate icecream-shake rather irresistible. And the highlight of the afternoon was the pani puri. It was definitely worth a try.

 

“Be Spontaneous!” screamed my sister as she dragged me to the Zorb Football Arena. I gave in, although really reluctant at first. Divided in two teams of three each, our goal was to tackle the person opposite to us to the ground, while wearing body zorbs (Here’s the link… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVo8FzATac8). Thanks to the mismatched momentum, I ended up at the bottom of a 4-people pile up, while my friend laughed hysterically (and so did I, a couple of moments later). Needless to say, the 2 minutes of impulsive spontaneity were one of the greatest and the most refreshing moments that I ever had. Towards the end of our adventure, the three of us sat down and caught up on each other’s lives. I never expected catching up with an old friend to be so much fun – we are so different from our school-days selves, yet so similar.

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The dreamlike experience came to an end as we walked out the IIT main gate, abruptly reminded of the traffic, the hour long journey that lay in front of us, and finally, the new semester at college that was to begin in less than 15 hours.

 

Breaking all Barriers…..to Bring a Smile

“What could I possibly do to make it special?” I thought. There were only hours left to my Avva’s (Maternal Grandmother’s) 75th birthday and I was yet to come up with a decent idea for a gift. It would have been easier to gift something if I were with her…but I was more than 500 kilometres away, and running out of time. I turned to my cousin brother a couple of state-boundaries away for ideas.

After a quick brainstorming session we agreed on a gift, which would not only make Avva smile, but also allow us cousins (more than 10 of us) to be a part of her birthday celebrations. The task was more or less cut out for us – we cousins are spread across four continents. The challenge would be to present the idea to all of them, coordinate with them and get them to send a video each, and finally, to integrate individual videos into a big one.

Had such a problem been presented even half a decade ago, we would have concluded that it would be nearly impossible to coordinate with all of them and come up with something in less than 6 hours! Technology made it possible, and more importantly, easy. It took us less than 15 minutes of efforts to get everyone acquainted with the idea (courtesy WhatsApp), and in an hour-and-a-half or so, we had the videos (hearty thanks to Google Drive). The only part that we had to rack our brains about was how we were going to present them, that is, the order. And a little while later, we were done. Although the output wasn’t very fancy, I was satisfied. 12 grandchildren, scattered across continents, uniting electronically to wish their grandma a happy diamond jubilee – it doesn’t get better than that. If only there was a way for all of us to taste the birthday cake….

The icing of the cake (not literally) was to see her reply and thank us for the wishes by the means of the same media – a video. We met her, without physically meeting her. Technology really redefines togetherness, uniting people by virtually erasing any geographical boundaries that exist. I realized its true power today – its ability to bring a smile to the face of somebody you love.

Un-junked for a Month!

After gaining about 10kg of weight in a span of 4 months I decided it was time to eat outside less frequently. From the weight gain to reduced stamina, I experienced a lot of change in a very short time. Dorky as it sounds, it made me aware of eating healthy. Thus, a day before the start of a new semester in college, mom and I made a short-term resolution over a pizza with an obscene amount of cheese: complete abstinence from fattening food in August 2013!

Fast food had become an integral part of my college life. Right from the pav-bhaji dripping with butter to the modest vada-pav, I love it all. Maybe that’s why the first week was so painful to me. I was experiencing “withdrawal symptoms” seeing my classmates have cheese grilled sandwiches. The worst part was my journey to and from college – the presence of two McDonald’s outlets on the way. At times, when the aroma of the cheese burgers became too tempting, I prayed for the month to get over soon so that I could start eating all sorts of junk-food again.

The next week and a half was slightly less painful, as I stopped going to the canteen altogether to avoid looking at the junk food. I stuck to the chapatti-subzi mom gave me for lunch instead. The “withdrawal symptoms” had more or less subsided as the effect of abstinence was already showing. My stamina had increased. I could now climb eight stories of stairs without ending up completely breathless. That extra layer of fat I had slightly reduced as I made it a point to walk at least three kilometres every day.

Towards the end of the third week, I ended up craving all the more for a pizza. Three weeks without having a pizza was a miracle in itself for me (Even my pizza-detesting grandparents had started missing it by then). With great difficulty I talked them (and myself) out of ordering one. “Just another week!” was the only thought that stopped me from ordering one. I treated myself to a grilled sandwich (without cheese) instead to curb that need for junk food.

The last week was surprisingly painless. Temptation to eat junk had pretty much subsided and I didn’t feel the craving even while walking past McDonald’s. Although I didn’t end up losing all the extra weight I gained, I now can feel the change in me. The best part about this experience was the feeling of accomplishment once it was over. It beats everything else.