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An Ode to the Board

I will begin with an untold story. The story of a piece that outdid itself.


Professor S maintains an articulate, sometimes razor-sharp, and witful account on the forgotten universe of Facebook. A profile would now and then enter into a verbal duel with him on his political commentary — a manifestation perhaps of the polarisation in the present times. It even lead us to ponder his inclusion in one of the events of BSP once. His presence will polarise people, a team member mooted. We found someone else soon, and the discussion was short-circuited before it could reach any logical conclusion. Prof. S’s influence on the work of the Board, however, came about in a more remote and inadvertent fashion later on.

A post by Prof. S that year hailed the success of a scheme at IIT Delhi, which had, as per the data he had access to, completed its preset goals. I stumbled on this post at a time when the conceptualisation of the second Inquirer, the bi-monthly magazine of the Board in 2020, was underway. A bulb tripped — a barrage of questions flying over my bemused face. There, it began.

The ground for a long-form narrative piece – borrowed in part from the questions the post had birthed – was to be laid over the next few days, starting with a concept note that consisted of a rather ambitious series of steps. The full article took a couple of months of toil to come to life thereafter, in what also became the first instance of a piece of the Board to be sent into the larger world beyond the boundaries of IIT. ‘What Effect Has the IIT Supernumerary Scheme Had? A Look at IIT Delhi’, read the title on The Wire Science.

Prof. Rao, the former Director, shared the article across multiple social-media platforms)

The reception was majorly a testament of the hard-work of the journalists and technical editors who had knitted the piece, and borne with my persistent inquiries. Professor S shared it via his profile too, unbeknownst of his own contribution therein. He doesn’t know still. His profile continues to attract dissidents and supporters alike.


I met Nishant in the rustic corridors of Shivalik Hostel in 2018, month one. He was an year elder, many years wiser. While I was aware of the Board’s work beforehand, Nishant told me how BSP could house and marshal my desire to write and tell stories. He reaffirmed my keenness to be a part of the Board, that I’d harboured right from the beginning. Unsurprisingly then, I stumbled on Nishant during the eve of announcement of the team of BSP for the session of 2019-20, around the hostel mess.

Yash and Khushi – two Chief Editors in that session – had asked me to decipher an artwork in the interview three days before at SAC, besides posing some questions about the functioning of the Board. In the limbo that followed, I would curl in my bed every now and then, hypothesising, and dreading, a sophomore year without BSP.

Did you see the results? I was selected, I said.

I already knew from Priyanshu, Nishant said.

Why didn’t you tell me then? I was anxious all this while.

You know it now, congratulations, he chuckled.

Nishant’s potshots, at times – I would later learn – were a way of teaching. He didn’t, though, shy away from taking credits of anything and everything I partook in BSP in the months to come. I distinctly remember a message of his, saying how I had to win whatever monthly award BSP was doling out. Unaware, he was referring to the memento of ‘Journo of the Month’. I told Nishant it didn’t matter as long I enjoyed the work. Your idealism will not last for long, Nishant contended. He made the remark ample times later too, hoping, hopefully, to be proved wrong on every count.


The doors to BSP opened for us freshers towards the fag end of our freshman year in 2019, only after the hullabaloo of who-will-become-what had been laid to rest in the preceding institute elections. I found out about the schedule of the interviews for the position of Journalist via a friend, as we sat biting the rotis in our mess. The mail of the schedule had, owing to some Gmail goof-up, not arrived in my Inbox. I wouldn’t have perhaps known about the timings and dates of the interviews, if not for that friend and the stumbling at the mess. Ironically then, he’s a trenchant critic of the work we do at the Board today.

My first assignment as a member of the Board in 2019 was to co-cover the Open House being held at the Lecture Hall Complex in the month of April. I asked one of the ex-members in my hostel about the intricacies of the task before moving onwards. He said something on the lines of maza aayega — a remark that held, in the least, the promise of recreation. It was indeed, in the vein of my senior, mazedar.

Images from the report on Open House, 2019

Open House is an exhibition of the ongoing research at IIT Delhi, thrown open, in all senses of the word, to the starry-eyed kids from across the schools of the city. I recall being as stunned by some of the projects as the curious students in uniforms. The report of the event was published a couple of days after.

Instagram hadn’t upturned the social scape of the college till then. Our report on Facebook thus, was a classic mixture of text and pictures. Beautifully plain. Plain beautiful. We don’t do such reports anymore.

The trope of maza, or fun as people tend to call it here, can allude to a range of endeavours. To venture out, to participate, to strike friendships, to root for your friend, to meet and greet new faces — can be equally exhilarating. I had a lot of fun for instance in all the stories that came my way as a journalist at the Board after Open House, from the interview with Ramashray Bhaiya to the story of the hike in the fees of the M.Tech. program at IITs. It’s imperative, however, to distinguish fun from its homophonic counterpart: फ़न (craft). For it may be fun to have conversations with who’s who for your article, and listen to them spill the tea about this and that, but it only takes फ़न (craft) to carve a riveting piece out of the conversations you have had. We at BSP can do a lot of fun, but cannot do without the फ़न (craft) of knowing and telling stories. No well-meaning media organisation can, for that matter.

It also takes फ़न (craft) to make conversations at first place, to hear a story before you can tell it, tell it well. The conversations we indulge in as a part of our stories thus become as crucial as the final piece that follows it. Why would a Ramashray Bhaiya open-up to us? Why would a Security Officer elaborate on his viewpoint? Why would a Professor give us their honest take on the system we inhabit? What makes them speak to us?

In his essay The Mission Statement is in Italics, Raj Kamal Jha emphasises on this facet of good journalism, one where “you try to be better at listening.”

“Because you need stories like fish need water, birds need sky, you listen to others. But before you do that, you need to convince them that you are interested in listening. Not just out of politeness but because this is who you are, story-teller, truth-seeker, fact-finder. You ask them questions not because you need a few paragraphs which have inverted commas, quote unquote, but because you have worked hard to come up with those questions and you, genuinely, wish to know the answers,” Jha avers.

In the course of stories that a member of BSP pursues, a conversation for the mere fun of it thence becomes meaningless, untenable rather. It’s only the other फ़न(craft) that accords the conversations some meaning and flavour, composes them into a piece that engrosses a reader, leaves them thinking. Answering, raising, questions aplenty.


April, 2019. I sat in the frosty indoors of the CSC on a drizzling dusk, surfing the blog of an author who had visited the institute a couple of days back, to workshop us on the elements of a short story. On a side note, I extended an invitation to her to adjudge the pioneer edition of LitMart (now LitFair) in the next fall. She agreed, but had to opt out on the day of the event due to a medical condition. Fated as it were, she judged the second edition of the competition in 2020.

Nevertheless, I caught the sight of a trio entering the CSC as I hopped across the entries on the blog that evening. I recognized the three of them as the Chief Editors, one of whom had interviewed me a few days back. The first full team meeting of the Board in 2019-20, which I were to attend in the capacity of a journalist, was still a couple of days away. The Editors opened the website of BSP, navigating to the Inception of previous years. The website was notorious for its processing speed, or lack thereof, back then. A couple of whispers followed, and they turned around to leave.

Utkarsh Tyagi was amongst the three that day, glancing at the website for around a couple of minutes. A measure of one’s acquaintance with Utkarsh, I realised in the coming months, was perhaps how they addressed him. Anyone who knew him well-enough — and almost everyone knew him well-enough in those days — called him Tyagi. Slogans were raised in Tyagi’s name. Facebook pages made to document his fandom. Tyagi for Cultu. Tyagi for G.Sec. All failed campaigns. At throning a human who was only after his happiness.

Towards the tail of our tenures as journalists, after the lockdown had been imposed and the selections delayed, Tyagi asked me to write to a professor for an interview. I wrote in earnestness, committing an unexpectedly silly mistake.

Utkarsh Tyagi Chief Ed: It’s not of, it’s for

Raunaq Saraswat Journo: What?

Utkarsh Tyagi Chief Ed: You wrote Board of Student Publications in the mail to Sanghi, it’s for

Raunaq Saraswat Journo: Oh shit, sorry, sorry, I didn’t know how

Tyagi was, and remains, effortlessly cool in his demeanour, a trait which perhaps made him both the subject and recipient of too many jokes. He smiled at all. I, too, particularly enjoyed picking an argument with him in meetings, objecting to a remark he had made, or an article idea he disapproved of. He smiled at all.


The acronym BSP can be, presumably, expanded to the twins of Board ‘for’ Student Publications and Board ‘of’ Student Publications — the former being the accurate. Most members who spend an year with the Board know the correct name, sometimes after using the incorrect at least once, sometimes apriori. Every year, however, a description or a mail or a message by the Board ends up using ‘of’ instead of ‘for,’ underlining a difference that is, at least seemingly, insignificant. While this error is inadvertent on almost all counts, it makes for an intriguing insight into what the Board is, can be, and ends up being. Why are we ‘for’ and not ‘of’? Or are we, in actuality, a mix of both? The first edition of Steller, a competition BSP facilitated, could become a case-in-point. How it came to be, is an eventful story too.

An Instagram story of BSP, post-Steller. Steller 2020 became my last performance on stage.

It was around February 2020, when I came across a post by Tape A Tale, a popular oral storytelling and slam poetry channel on You Tube, pronouncing the launch of their Pan India Storytelling Competition ‘Steller’, for students from across colleges. Tape A Tale had reached out to institutions across the length and breadth of the country for the same, partnering with the suitable student bodies, to host the preliminary selection rounds. This was also a first-of-its-kind event, and saw humongous response from all corners. IIT Delhi, surprisingly, was not a part of the roster till then.

What happened next was more impulsive than intentional. I commented on their post, blurting, “Why isn’t IIT Delhi on your list, did you even try approaching us?” The organising team reverted back shortly, proposing to ‘make it work.’ Tape A Tale partnered with BSP in the next couple of days, added IIT Delhi to their roster, and co-hosted the first edition of the competition at the Seminar Hall a week later. Steller cross BSP went on to become an annual feature after that, and has so far seen three editions. One on-the-ground, two on-screen.