Hungama on the Charles: MIT’s Indian Students From the Early 1970s and ‘80s Meet

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This past Labor Day weekend provided MIT graduates and members of Sangam, MIT’s Indian students association, from the early 1970s and 1980s the opportunity to gather for a reunion dubbed as Hungama on the Charles. It was time to coalesce again as a group and reminisce about time on campus, while also initiating and rekindling relationships, new and old.

A total of forty eight individuals participated in the weekend events for this reunion. This group comprised about thirty MIT alumni, and their spouses, relatives, and friends.  Except for a dozen or so local participants, they came from California, Connecticut, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C. and Virginia. Some came even from England, Kenya and India.

The reunion kicked off on the evening of Friday August 31 with an informal “meet and greet” dinner at the Za restaurant in Kendal Square near the Cambridge Marriott where several alumni stayed. The dinner was well attended, as most of the participants had arrived earlier that day. The early afternoon of the following day, Saturday, September 1, slightly more than half of the participants enjoyed “High Tea” at the Courtyard restaurant of the Boston Public Library.

The high point of the reunion was a Saturday evening Boston harbor boat cruise on the Odyssey. The enclosed Admirals Lounge, which exits on to an open deck, was reserved for the reunion. The weather was near perfect – a clear day with temperature near 700 F and a gentle cool breeze flowing across the water. A two person guitar and vocal band performed on the open deck throughout the evening.  Indian appetizers and dessert, catered by Gourmet India were served on the boat by the crew.  These were followed by the main plated dinner course and variety of dessert options provided by the Odyssey and supplemented by Gourmet India.

As can be expected, besides the organized activities, there was time for strolling across the MIT campus, and traversing the memory lanes. Those coming to the Cambridge area after nearly four decades were amazed at the changes in the campus and the Kendall Square area. A buffet brunch at the Marriott’s Champion’s Bar the morning of Sunday, September 2, concluded the reunion events.

The reunion was an impressive gathering of friends, each with a life story to tell of the intervening years in terms of one’s background, professional accomplishments and social service engagements. Yet, the emphasis of the reunion was personal and social. Almost everyone had a personal story on their first days at MIT., and the challenges faced on arrival in a new land with limited contacts and resources. There were many memories associated with Sangam and its activities of the time, including the screening of Indian movies and organizing of social and cultural activities, all of which brought cohesiveness to the small local Indian Community of about four decades ago!

The post-reunion feedback from participants was uniformly and resoundingly positive.  There was much talk of making this a periodic affair.  Abhay Ram, a reunion attendee, best summed up the spirit and outcome of the celebrations: “Prabha and I would like to thank [everyone] for a wonderful time we had during the Hungama on the Charles weekend. It was also an enjoyable time for our daughter Priyanka, as she got to meet glitterati from her parents generation. Otherwise, she had wondered if her parents were leftovers from the Mesozoic era … It was a delightful opportunity to reminisce, with a mega-dose of nostalgia, about our youthful activities at MIT — and, subsequently, indulge in sharing family and life experiences of the intervening 40 or so years. It was a marvelous occasion to rekindle old friendships, and stimulate new ones.”

The reunion was organized and coordinated by a local group consisting of Kaplesh Kumar, Narender Chhabra, Raj Melville, K. Subramanian, Ashok Boghani, and Nannaji Saka, assisted via email from Kenya by Dolly Bhandari. The MIT Alumni Association offered limited support due to operational constraints on account of the reunion dates coinciding with the incoming freshmen orientation activity period.


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