Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Unplugged - Anything Anywhere!!: Illu & Rangoli - A Very Rare Form of Art That Finally Became Extinct

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    • People who haven't seen the Illumination and the Rangoli competition on Diwali in IIT Kharagpur have absolutely no idea what's it about.
    • It's an excellent example of a mammoth team work, unparalleled intricate project planning & management - accurate to the minutest level, timely delivery of the highest quality with more than 6 sigma precision (it never failed ever) and finally a very high quality of art that you would see no where else in the world.
    • But what's indeed unique is the size. Generally the common rooms of the hostels were used to create these huge Rangolis which used to be at least 20'x20' or even more.
    • Next let me explain the most unique thing - that's the illumination or more commonly known as Illu in the KGP lingo.
    • The interesting thing here is that the complete lighting was done with earthen lamps - holding a small quantity of oil which can burn a small piece of cloth dipped in it only for a few minutes. Huge structures, called chatai, stitched out of flattened pieces of bamboo - sized at least 20'x20' - were put up against the walls of the hostels covering the complete front elevations. The three storied hostel buildings stretching some 100 or 200 ft were completely covered with these chatais.
    • Now let's come to the monumental task required to put up the Illu and the Rangoli. It required serious planning and meticulous execution. I don't think I would ever get to see such levels of project planning and execution ever in my life. The corporates need to take lessons of leadership and team work from this. The entire event required a hierarchical team with an over all project manager, team-leads for various teams, a very detailed project planning with task breakdown to the minutest levels, regular tracking of the project for 2 weeks and finally a fully motivated team of few hundred residents of each hostel working almost round the clock without any grievance and grudge.
    • The climax was the few minutes before the troupe of judges came for inspection. As the lamps would burn only for 5 minutes in the normal scenario, they had to be lit only when the judges came. We had a team of people giving latest information about the coordinates of the judges. When the judges were just 1-2 minutes from our hostel we started the task of lighting the lamps - the task that required the maximum coordination and involvement. Around 20000 lamps had to be lit in 1 or 2 minutes of time by some 150-200 people. This meant each person lighting 100 lamps in less than 2 minutes - that's at the rate of almost 1 lamp a second.
    • Sadly... this tradition of Illu and Rangoli has come to an end. 2007 was the last time that KGP saw the Illu. We heard that the participation had dwindled down a lot gradually. I feel this had to happen sometime.
    • But with time, every room in the hostel had internet connection - which opened up unlimited entertainment within the four walls of your room. Also I'm sure the seclusion would have ended in the last few years. The very tradition of Illu and Rangoli which used to be our life line became an obligation in later times. Professional competition also increased fiercely. The two weeks spent on the preparation were gradually seen as sheer wastage of time and resources.