Erratic Engineering

As I work on editing and think about the shape and layout and progression of the IIT Hostel4 book, I am amazed at the audaciousness of these boys’ lives (they were all boys, H4 is a men’s hostel, and I say ‘boys’ and not ‘men’ because they were between 16 and 22, and my experience with a 19 year old son tell me ‘boys’ is appropriate). Some of those boys are now men, and some of them tell stories wonderfully, and a lot of them have stories to tell. This is, to me, a kind of collection of legends and folktales and myths and memories that together gives a picture of hostel life in the early eighties, of course, but also a glimpse into the psyche of that age group – a highly intelligent group of them. I have fathers (two) and a husband and many old and now many new friends who were IITians. I have always wondered – do they have to be a certain way to go into that institution, or did they come out that way after being there? I was hoping for answers while reading these stories, but there seem to be none so far.

While doing this book, I am painfully aware of another looming deadline – I made a commitment to my editor that I would write a collection of short stories by the end of August. Not just short stories, a collection of erotic short fiction. It started as a joke, and I took it as a challenge. But I was also curious about my writing. Could I write to spec and still be me as a writer? and could I break out and “go all the way” in my writing? I’m two stories down, about seven to go. To me these stories seem more bizarre than erotic… but, we’ll see. And I am certain that living day in and day out in a hostel full of seething teenage hormones (I’m sure no one will disagree with me here) – which is what I do when I read and edit the H4 stories – is hindering me badly in my quest for the perfect erotic story. There’s nothing erotic about engineering students… or is there?

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