Memoirs of an Inter-IIT Sports meet

Congratulations to the IIT Bombay Sports Contingent for coming second in the over-all standings at the end of the meet. I know that IITB was cheated out of being winners in an unfair manner – they lost by a half point difference, and that half-point difference was only due to the points awarded for the March Past.

Even in the March Past, even though IITB was the best (and this was the unofficial opinion of many officials from so many different IITs), they were ranked almost right at the bottom. And irony of it all was that the home contingent, IITKGP was awarded the highest points despite a shabby performance.
Though this decision was protested on the very first day itself, the IITKGP officials and decision makers acted in a very autocratic manner, with an attitude reeking of arrogance.

The turn of events was really unfortunate, but I guess, as sportsmen, we have to accept it, and decide to do better in the coming years. Congratulations once again to the whole IITB Sports contingent.

I was following the events at the just concluded inter-IIT, and this brought back a lot of memories from my inter-IIT days. This took me back 30 years in time, and yes, it was the Inter-IIT Sports meet in December 1981 at IIT Kharagpur.

So many memories of that inter-IIT came back to me in a flash, but the most vivid are the ones of the final day of that meet. On the last day of the meet, IITB and IITM were running neck to neck, and Athletics points would have been the decider. The double-weightage that Athletics had was crucial to our winning the GC. We were on line in getting the points that we needed in Athletics, and hence winning the GC.

It was in the 4x100m relay. Darryl Netto was the star athlete of that year. He had won the 100m and 200m individual event that year, and was expected to anchor the IITB team to a win in the shorter relay. IITM had the lead over IITB towards the end of the 3rd baton exchange, but Darryl was expected to easily cover the lead and come first. The IITM guy who had handed over the baton to their last runner moved into the IITB lane and blocked Darryl, not allowing him to go forward. Everyone knew that Darryl would have a blazing finish, and come first. But he was blocked and fell.

IITB contingent tempers rose high, we were asking for action against the dirty trick played by IITM to win the GC at any cost. There was an impromptu sit-down protest, right on the athletics track. We would not let the other events to continue. All our coaches and professors were also with us. Professor B V. Rao was Chairman Sports. He too came onto the tracks. But, after some time the IITKGP officials came onto the field and talked to him, requesting him to call-off the protest, saying that they would have a meting and decide about what action was to be taken against IITM.

Our Chairman Sports came reluctantly and talked to our whole contingent that was sitting on the tracks. Half-heartedly he asked us to move off and let the last few events proceed. Slowly everyone got up dejectedly, but I was adamant and refused to budge. I was left sitting alone on the tracks with our Chairman cajoling me to get up. The whole contingent was standing around us. I was so dejected that I declared that if they made me get-up and action against IITM was not declared right there and then, I would not run the 4 X 400 relay in protest. Finally, I too got up and walked off out of the arena. I did not even want to be present on the Athletics field.

We did need the points of the 4 X 400m relay. We had a good team and needed to come at least second, I think. Somehow before the final call of the relay, I could not hold myself back, and walked to the field, agreeing to run the relay. I was to run the 2nd leg. My energy was totally sapped due to the shouting and the protest and tension in the air. Somehow, when the baton came to me, I tried my best, I probably didn’t fare too well in the relay, even wondered if I could complete that lap. I think it was sheer will-power that enabled me complete the lap and to hand over the baton to the next guy, I think it was Subra. At that moment, my parched throat may well have been on fire.

Finally, we managed to come 2nd, just what we needed to get those crucial Athletics points. This was the last event of the whole Inter-IIT meet.

We were all very happy but there was still suspense in the air. The decision on the dirty trick played by IITM was still in limbo. The GC would not be awarded during the prize-distribution ceremony that evening. They decided that there would be an organizing committee meeting later that night, and we would have to wait till the meeting was over that night.

Many members of our contingent were keeping vigil outside the venue of the OC meeting. After a lot of deliberation, they finally decided to take action against IITM for the dirty trick they had played. In the process, the GC was to be awarded to IITB as our points tally would be more. But they said that since tempers were frayed, they would not give us the trophy right then. It would be sent to Bombay later on. We would have nothing of the sort, and demanded to have the trophy which was rightfully ours. They had to relent and gave us the trophy late at night.

The first thing we did was to carry the trophy in a procession and go to the hostel where IITM contingent was staying. Our coaches too came with us to ensure that things did not go out of hand. We walked around that hostel through the corridors shouting victorious slogans. The IITM guys including their coaches were watching us with dejected looks on their faces – which was thoroughly enjoyed by all of us. The best part was seeing the IITM weight-lifting team members – all big guys, trying to shout Tamil obscenities at us, and such big guys were almost in tears.

We celebrated almost the whole night; our victory was after all well deserved. The 1981 Inter-IIT at Kharagpur was really historic for IIT Bombay. Before that IIT Madras had been winning the Inter-IIT Sports General Championships for about 10 -11 years in a row and they seemed to be invincible.

Ashwin Doshi

Alumnus, IIT Bombay

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of InsIghT