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The Bharuch diary part 3: of analysis and seniors

Posted on: Jan 29, 2013

The night we arrived on site went in gelling with the team. There wasn't much work done. We just got everything ready for the next day and slept wherever we got a place. In all that setup, there was absolutely no place for anyone to sleep. All the mattresses were purposely used as cushions to sit on or to keep the boards. This discouraged 'unnecessary' sleeping. (Apparently, 3 hours of sleep was more than enough for a hectic day on site). The analysis team had taken up one corner of the room opposite the main hall. We were the only team who sat on the only bed in that whole place (further discouragement). Along with Divya, there was only one other person in the team. Her name was Payal and she was from a second-year.

Divya explained to us that the analysis team was supposed to work separately from the others. We didn't have any fixed spots where we would keep our stuff. We didn't have any designated area to which we would be confined. Basically, we might not even meet or work with anyone during the day. We had to move around in the town and look for 'stuff.' This 'stuff' was going to be very hard to find, and most of it intangible. She didn't elaborate much upon what exactly we would do and told us to get some sleep. The next day was going to be a big one.

It felt as if I had just lain down when there was someone shouting in the room waking everybody up. There were no 'good mornings' or gentle persuasion or even a normal alarm. People who had woken up earlier were just shaking the others and pushing them into the room with the basin. In about ten minutes, most of the teams were already checking their gear and heading down. The team leaders were talking to Nidhi and fixing their agenda for the day. Divya told us to go ahead with Payal and start working. She would come later with Nidhi.

The site was about two kilometers away from where we were staying. Payal told us that we would be walking all the way there. Along the way, she showed us structures and explained briefly about the town. It was one of the old Gujarat settlements which housed a variety of peoples. After having a quick breakfast at a kiosk near our site we finally saw it for the first time, 'Acharwad ni Khadki.' It was like a cozy cluster of houses and narrow lanes. We entered through an empty gateway at the entrance that couldn't be closed and made our way into one of the courtyards that formed at the intersection of the lanes. Divya and Payal had split all the houses among the four of us and we had to go into each of them and sketch out stuff that Payal explained to us. It was like a check list. We would meet up in the evening at the same courtyard and compile them. It seemed that the people had already gotten used to us. They owner of the house didn't even look up when I entered and wished him a good morning. He just grunted in reply and continued reading his morning paper. At noon, I was about halfway through my houses when Ritinha came to call me for lunch. All of us were supposed to gather in the large courtyard opposite our cluster. Lunch was just as noisy as dinner (people never seemed to run out of stories or incidents).

That evening, we handed in our work to Divya and discussed some of the things that we had interviewed them about. By the time we finished discussion, it was already dark. But Divya still wasn't done. While walking back to the accommodation, Divya showed us two other clusters that we had initially selected. She showed us the similarities and the reason why we had not selected them. She also showed us traditional construction techniques that weren't taught in any college (we had a nice discussion about how our syllabus isn't based on Indian techniques of construction).

When we finally reached the accommodation, I was completely exhausted and would have been more than happy to just go to sleep. But we had no such luck. We just freshened up a bit and sat down to tackle the huge mountain of reading material that we had to go through (reading research material when sleepy is the worst possible torture to be conceived). Another interesting development was that the 'ex-seniors' had come. Those guys were from the final year. Two of them were guys who had already passed out. They were our faculty in college. But here, they were our 'seniors.' It seemed that they had come there just to gloat at us. One of them had been the analysis head the previous year and he came and sat with us. It was stunning to see the atmosphere change when these guys were there. There were no jokes except those that they cracked. Everyone tried to make themselves as insignificant as possible so as not to attract any undue attention. It was the complete opposite from the first day. Everything was tense and quite oppressive. It wasn't exactly conducive to work but there wasn't anything we could do but tolerate it. I remembered some of the things I had heard in college about all this. These guys wanted to win. But they also kept us from working properly. No one could sleep either. That was like a taboo in front of those guys. Even dinner was rushed. And everyone was just in a hurry to get back to work.

The guy who was sitting with us was purposely asking us questions that we didn't know the answers to. It was meant to humiliate us. To show us that 'we didn't know stuff.' He asked us (everyone) to take a plan and mark the site on it. Ritinha and I didn't even know where the site was supposed to be in that plan. So, at 10 in the night, we were told to go to the site and mark it. We were saved by Nidhi's timely intervention and given some other work to do but some others were not so lucky. They were indeed sent there to check some of the measurements that didn't add up. I guess everyone pulled an all-nighter that time and went on site the next day in that state. It was a health hazard but we already knew what to expect. And this was only a taste of what was to come.

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