Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Lord of Back Benches

He was feeling a little tired. It was physics class and that teacher had no idea what physics was all about. He had been the best student of Onkar Singh, which meant that this teacher could take few lectures in physics from him. He decided some rest will be great and will make other lectures a little easy to bear.

About half an hour after the class started Prof. Harpreet (I am not sure his name was Harpreet, but I am dead sure he was never a Prof, lets call him pH) noticed him. After a lot of pointing, pin pointing, re-pointing, calling, shouting and many other ing’s pH was able to make that fellow raise his head from the bench. He has been sleeping well. The sleep on a bench in a lecture is the best sleep in a student’s life.

pH had been looking for an opportunity to set him right. His questions always made pH look silly. pH asked him why he was sleeping in the class. “You think you know all the physics”. ‘Maybe not whole but more than you know’ he thought. He raised his sleepy, lazy body a bit higher. He had undone few buttons of his shirt. It was pretty hot and that 1962 fan still going strong in 1999 was in real need of some concepts of physics. The efficiency of the iron giant had increased from 30% conversion of electrical energy into sound to 100% sound.

“Get up. Is this Shalimar Bagh?” I had never found anything charming in Shalimar Bagh, but everybody used this term to refer a useless kind of luxury. Of course it was not Shalimar Bagh. Today pH was in no mood of letting him win the argument. pH rushed and raised his right hand, but he was not as sleepy as pH had thought. That hand was stopped midway, and pH was in Principal’s office before he could redo those buttons.

He, pH, Principal, his hostel warden and Pricipal’s office. Five minutes of hearing from one ear and letting it out of other and he was back to that last bench. That day the spirit of back benchers won. Though he never realized but the journey toward LBB had begun.

LBB: Lord of back benches. There are many special features of this species.

They are most probably found in the last one or two rows in the lecture halls, most probably because some times they are found out (we will discuss this).
They never look like Lords, unless of course they are at their best which essentially means they are sleeping on their thrones (read benches).
There can be more than one lord at the same time for a given bench, depending upon three B’s. How big the Bench is? How Boring the lecture is? How big the Butts are?
They don’t believe in refusing. There is no LOC on back benches. Everybody is invited. After all the number of LBB’s decide the average grade in a course.
If a particular lecturer is a lady and she happens to be good looking one, the number of LBB’s is drastically reduced, which essentially proves that LBB’s are also humans.

There are many other features and each LBB is like the last living being of a nearly extinct species.

So after that moral victory over pH I was like a champion back bencher. Never too bad at academics I never cared much about pH and how acidic or basic my final score sheet he can make. I lost five points in my physics practical but that sleep on back benches is worth n points. n = total points – passing points. Even LBB’s are supposed to get there promotions to next levels and better back benches. Passing points can never be compromised, after all beds are also supposed to be slept on.

At IIT the back benches had extra advantages attached to it. That 75% attendance rule always ensured that the cream of the nation had there alarms up and working. And the design of the lecture halls ensured that the alarms were comfortably set till the last few minutes of the lecture when you can sneak in like a 007 and slip your ass on to the back bench. The 75% rule made more LBB’s than any of those deadly boring professors.

But sometimes it was unavoidable. You can’t beat the Prof. You can’t beat the room design. And you can’t beat the course content. A tough (fighter in IIT lingo) course and you have to show your dumb sleepy face to the Prof. No chance of proxies. Such tough and hard situations brought the best out of LBB’s and the real Lords showed there character. LBB’s found holding on to there beloved thrones were the men (rarely a lady) of substance and to be looked on with respect.

LBBs sometime preferred a stroll outside. When proxies were easy or the prof was cool about the attendance bullshit. One of our profs was real smart. He took attendance both at the start and end of the class. But the door behind those back benches was his unknown foe. The class which had around 60 students during first and last five minutes had 15 short for rest of the lecture. I told you LBBs sometime preferred a stroll outside.

When asked the reason of being LBB you get to listen all kind of responses. No response is the most common response.

“We back benchers believe in healthy competition. Let the lesser brains learn.”
“Like least distance of distinct vision everyone has a least distance of distinct learning, and in our case it always happens to be the maximum distance from the sources of noise (which by the way are professors).”
“Making notes in class costs a copy and a pen. Getting notes photocopied costs 50 paise per page. Sleeping in class priceless.” This one must be carrying a lot of VISA cards in his pocket.

And it is a fact that without LBBs the number of machines that Xerox sells would fall drastically. LBBs play their part in running the economy.

LBBs are the favorite students of teachers (though they will never admit this fact). LBBs never ask questions and whenever teachers want to look really intelligent and smart, they can simply ask a stupid question to those back benchers.

And from the back benches people learn much more about the lives of people sitting in that room. From observing the dogs that sleep in the lecture halls to the new preferences of the ladies in the class, nothing goes unobserved from those LBBs. Sometimes they also wish to be sitting butt to butt with those rare beauties, but than back benches are not as choosy as the one or two non-males you get in engineering colleges.

Apart from the attendance rule and boring profs there are many reasons we have LBBs. Very obvious being the existence of back benches. Also there are many tasks which are much more important like reading novels, writing, and the best one being playing games and making sketches of the profs. Believe me many talents take birth on those few benches.

All said and done. Back benches rock. Back benchers rule. Hail the lords.

PS: In keeping with the LBB tradition I would like to thank Rohinton Mistry for coining the term, LBB. I really don’t know if he coined the term or he also stole it like me.

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