Wednesday, August 02, 2006

We had chemistry

When you're the MC of your company's book launch, you pretty much have to sit through the full proceedings, even if it includes what promises to be an incredibly boring chemistry lecture by the author of the book being launched.

And then you're suddenly suprised at the fact that you not only sat up and listened, but you actually enjoyed the talk.

So as I stood there in the Grand Hyatt ballroom and read out that the author had been a chemistry teacher for 30 years, my eyes nearly popped out. I have the greatest respect for teachers and housewifes... errr... homemakers if I may. I think they undergo the greatest sacrifices ever. I can never do what they do. My mom gave up a university lecturer's job so that she could stay home and bring up the susheel and sanskari tapori that I, ahem, turned out to be.

I must pause here to bow to all homemakers and teachers before I proceed with my post.

So this author was relating hilarious incidents from his chemistry lab (he teaches in Malaysia) that involved titillating tales of titration and what not. And I was suddenly flung back in time to my chemistry lab in my school days. My tapori gang days.

We had a very fierce chemistry teacher at first, Mr. B., who left the school shortly after I joined. (I swear I had nothing to do with it.) He was the kind who would not allow you into the lab if you forgot your lab coat. And guys of my class would love to "forget" their lab coats, so that they'd be kicked out of the lab and could go play football in the school field, and find me later to copy my notes. We girls, on the other hand, loved the lab coats. We pretended to be dainty doctors busy in a hospital. Mental hospital. Of course.

Mr. B. would be ultra-hyper during salt analysis. "Be careful with that sulphuric acid! Warna... na kapda bachega na chamda!" He'd snarl and we'd secretly laugh into our conical flasks.

However, on rainy days, the guys would "remember" to bring their lab coats and join us in the practical classes. There was this one guy who heated conc. sulphuric acid till it splattered on to my friend's lab coat. We watched in wonder as the small hole on her lab coat became bigger and bigger. Mr. B. screamed, "Kya hua?" and one of the guys answered back, "Sir, kapda toh gaya, chamda bach gaya."

The guys would write names in alcohol on the wooden benches and light up one end. "Dekh, Sayesha, you have a deewana!" They'd say. Once, someone's lab coat actually caught fire. As usual, Sir asked, "Now what happened??" Someone yelled out again, "Dahej hatya, sir! Bride burning!" The toughest part of chemistry practicals was to control the urge to laugh.

Soon, Mr. B left and Chemu joined us. (I'd mentioned Chemu again in one of my favourite posts.) Chemu was very fun, more easy-going and ready to laugh with us at our stupid jokes. But he knew that the guys were up to no good. Before the practical exams, he called my friend R and me to his lab. We delightedly rushed up thinking that he was going to give exam tips to his two favourite students.

"Girls, I need your help."

"With what, sir?"

"I was setting the practical exam questions, and when I tried out the analysis, nothing worked. Do you know why?"

"Why, sir?"

"Because of the morons in your class, that's why! The buggers have replaced many of the chemicals with water, and mixed up others and diluted others, and switched labels, and I am going crazy. When solutions don't turn pink or red when they're supposed to, the morons come to me and say, "Sir, this doesn't work!" And when I say "What nonsense, of course it works!" and try it out myself, it doesn't! I am very frustrated!"

We were speechless with shock and disgust. Mainly because the guys had not included us in the prank.

"So I have decided to throw away all the solutions, and make them again. Obviously, I cannot do it by myself and you two are the only students I trust." (Yes yes, besides being the Bhai, I was 'that girl'.)

So we spent that afternoon replacing all the solutions and relabelling the bottles. During the exams, when all the tests worked fine, the guys looked puzzled while Chemu walked around with a permanent grin on his face. R and I pretended to know nothing.

To take revenge on the guys, we girls started keeping secrets from them too. I remember sometimes when we would be trying to test whether a chemical was acetone or not, we'd smell it first (not advisable!) and then see if we could remove nail polish with it (not advisable!). If we could, we'd conclude that it was acetone and not do any of the actual tests for it. But we could BS like pros and so our reports looked fabulous. The acetone secret was eventually leaked out to the boys (damn teenage romances!). So they'd come to us with random chemicals and say, "Yeh haath mujhe de de thakur, nail polish nikalna hai!" and we'd be like "Nonsense! What if it's conc. sulphuric acid instead of acetone?" They'd say, "Phir kapda rahega lekin chamda nahin. Ha ha ha!" and laugh like hyenas at their own joke. We'd glare at them in disgust and refuse to help.

Does anyone remember this gas called H2S? A real stinker it was! During salt analysis, if we told Chemu that we wanted to test the salt by passing H2S through its solution, he'd get up to set up (hey that rhymed!) the apparatus for producing H2S himself. He hated the smell. We all hated it. But the guys just loved to see the look of disgust on Chemu's face when he'd be collecting the gas. And it would stink up the school so bad, the classes next to the lab would start closing their doors and windows.

During exams, if there was a salt analysis question, and we'd tell Chemu that we wanted to test with H2S, he'd mutter under his breath "H2S?? Offfo! H2S kyun chahiye?" Each time he said that, we took it as a hint that the salt did not need the H2S test, and we would eventually figure out what salt it was.

Chemu's reactions actually helped us skip a few reactions.

I was overjoyed when some time ago, when I found these morons from my chemistry lab on the net. Internet ki jai ho! And we had one mega yahoo conference. After 8 long years. It was so strange and yet funny, the way they were trying to test me. My school school gang members saying "We wanna see ki tu Singapore jaakar badal gayi kya."

So they shot a million questions at me.

"Wahan Singapur mein Bhaigiri karti hai kya?"
"Bhai, long time no see... tumhaare bina idhar apun log ke gang ka kya waat lagela hai maloom hai?"
" kya haal bana liya hai apna?? pehchaan hi mein nahi aa rahi ho yaar..bhaigiri chhod k behngiri chalu ho gaya kya??? Tera photo dekhkar mann dol raha hai."
"Tu waapas India aayegi?"
"Tu shaadi kab karegi?"

"Tum aisa kahan underground hua baitha hai?"
"Koi naya gang toh nahin form kar liya wahan?"

I read their questions, and I laughed and cried at the same time as I answered them. It was only when I mentioned 'The quarry' that they said "Humne socha tha tu badal gayi hogi, lekin tujhe sab kuchh yaad hai." The quarry was a secret place that we'd all gone to, right after the board exams, just before we were all headed in different directions in life. It was a quiet place with huge rocks to climb and sit on. And we all just sat there, no one saying a word. No tapori language, no bhaigiri, no jokes, no leg-pulling. We just sat there in silence. The air was heavy with the fact that I was leaving forever, and you know how bad guys are with goodbyes. I could sense that they were all getting quite emotional, but I did not want to be the first to break down.

I was still the Bhai after all. And Bhais don't cry.


freebird said...

GOLD!!! Buhahahaha!

oxymoron said...

here's a silver! to add to my collection of golds!

Fishy said...

nice walk down memory lane sayesha... makes me want to log onto orkut and look for school friends

Me said...

gold!silver!bronze!!uh huh!!

oxymoron said...

kya bhai. another 'old-days-yaad-karo' post!
senti kar daala!
reminds me of my school days and chem labs - so many broken test tubes, clothes with acid-holes (socks included; how? dont ask), funny colors in the beakers; all kinds of drama!!!!
ohh i can so write a post on that! but i wouldnt. i shall not resort to lifting ideas from ur posts :D

Me said...

Well when my school was renovating our class was shifted inside the little room in the chem lab and the most horrifying part was the practical exams were on at that time and there were no doors and windows in the little room...i rest my case...

Rebellion said...

Ok.. since double comments are not counted.. am 4th and I take steel :|

Now il get back after reading the post!!! :(

Take care,

neihal said...

H2S...who can ever forget....I remember the book mentioned it smelled like rotten eggs...and I concluded the writer had too much free time to smell a rotten egg...this post brought back so many memories...and yeah my lab teacher shouting something on the similar lines "na kapda bachega na chamda!".

Inder said...

haha... i'll never forget the h2s stink. i hated chemistry lab sessons. physics lab was my fovourite. i liked experiments with spectrometer. i was considered an expert in using physical balance :P

Sakshi said...

*Moi gives myself a big Pat.. steady performance*
Oh My Gawd.. that sounds like my Chem lab! We had Medicinal Chem Practicals that lasted 5-6 hrs. We used to make tea (in the only well scrubbed, acid washed and distilled water treated flasks) and order samosas from canteen! For us though Profs were ekdum Khadus, but the assitants helped us a lot..
Secret of the unknown salt sold for a samosa!

Rebellion said...

ROFL Sash =))

I was laughing all thru your post!! You had a real sweet tapori gang haan :)

Towards the end, senti senti ho gaye yaar but its obvious, I understand :) I found it cute too, in fact you full post was dam cute :)

And yeah, I know, I am a CD =))
Still remembering that & laughing like hell :P =))

Great going!! And next time il surely grab the gold.. one day for sure :P

Take care,

The Smiling Girl said...

Ek dum dhamakedar post hain Sash.. tune to mere college ke din yaad dilaye mujhe...

*SG total nostalgic and poonchofying her tears from her eyes, and also nose.. yikes that was gross*

-Smiling "I wanna meet my college friends" Girl

Bhaarat said...

A cool nostalgic post. I recall numerous times I have been thrown out of chemistry lab for not getting my apron. I never liked chem practicals because one had to remain standing all through the practicals. I bought a cigeratte lighter to light up burners in the lab and my mother suspected that I smoke.
Titration used to be funniest experiments. I do not recall a single person who has not tasted the reactant while getting that critical 10 ml in pipette. We never cleaned or filled chemicals in burrette but still we used to write in procedures in our journal. I had argument with my teacher because I wrote that the titration experiment is all set in advance for us and that we just get right quantity from pipette and add methyl orange or phenolpthalin to flask and get readings.
I found it hard to figure out how some of my friends never got ammonia tests right and they had to go to loo to know smell of ammonia.

Sudeep said...

lol @ kapda n chamda

maine ek dost ke haath ko hot test tube ka chatka diya tha.. :D

replacing acids n water was a prank we too did in school... thnx for reminding those days

n sacchi bol.. tu uss din royi nahi hogi par post ka end likhte samay pukka royi na?

Rishit Jain said...

Hehehe, this reminds me of my 12th standard final chemistry board practical exam, when I did something stupid, and the entire wash-basin caught fire. You should have seen the reactions on everybody's face, they were fraught with fear, hehehe.

shub said...

loved teh "bhais" don't cry part! awwwww >:D< sweet post! mail comin up!

Anonymous said...


Sash, that grrrrrrr was directed at you for making Chemistry sound so 'unscientific'!!!
I am after all a chemist with 9+ years of 'chemistry-giri' experience under my belt, err.. test-tubes, conical flasks, spatula...n all that stuff.:)

lol @ the expert on using the physical balance!!


Anonymous said...

>>>titillating tales of titration


you meant torturous tales of titration, didn't you?

Never knew Chemistry was this cool.

Anonymous said...

bhais dont cry!!



Iday said...


u seem to be in that phase of ur life. The prev 3 posts have been "the life i lived..." kinda posts :)

Di said...

hey..nice post.. :-)

Duhita said...

Ahhhwww made me miss my fav subject:( I had dropped some solution on my uniform when it was colourless, and for the next year and a half on certain days the skirt had a faint pink spot!!! I suspect there had to be potassium permanganate in that solution:D
And of course Chem teachers in Msia rock!:D:D:D

Nirwa said...

Chemistry is something that is totally beyond me.

Perhaps that was the reason I didn't take up science after my 10th.

Your last para made my eyes well up.. Seriously, I think I am in a very senti mode these days! hehehehe

Dev said...

This post took me back to my school days... chemistry lab was toooooooo fun.

I remember this time... there was a test for acrylic acid or some such thing. The procedure was described in the manual, although we were strictly warned never to do that coz it releases a very poisonous gas.. methyl cyanate or something... One guy ends up doin the same. I think we set a world record for evacuation. :P The lab was closed for 2 days and our lecturer was out of action for 4 more.

And the last para... just amazing. Made me remember my last days in college. (sigh) Makes me feel old. Where's my rocking chair (cough cough)?

dharmu said...

awww bahi, tere post ne to mujhe bhi senti kardiya.

and even i am lol at dev's comment. even i was thinking about the same incident. this guy actually brewed the gas and our sir kept muttering, 'u guys wanna kill me'

i miss those days too. er, i never bought a nail polish remover, worked it from the lab :)

Sudhir said...

Great post. Sahi tha I too went back in time.. Keep it coming.


qsg said...

Oooo chem lab days... aah the power of Sodium, and the smell of H2S... oh gosh... and the pranks...thanks for the reminder, Sash, needed it with everything that's going on around me! :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

niiiice walk down the memory lane..
i feel like calling up my friends and talking to them about all those episodes-of incomplete journals being flung out the door, of boys trying to burn rupee coins in H2SO4...of all the chemistry brewing between lab partners....:)

sakhi said...

That was a real hilarious and senti post...good one sayesha :)...a super-duper hug to u >:D<
chemistry labs were real fun for me too!!
//titillating tales of titration
hahahahah...well said :D
I used to like that 'ring' test /..dont rem it exactly though :$:$
take care

soumya said...

Very nice account Sayesha...U've had the most amazing experiences all through ur life...Great!!
Took me back to good old days...Though I still work in a chemistry lab, school & college days chemistry was so different...What with swallowing acids and bases during titrations, throwing pieces of sodium in the sink!!
I can't imagine doing the same things now and some times I can't believe we did all that then...
Now, it is always, safety first!! I just can't bring myself to play around even if I wanted to...
The last para was a gem...The deepest feelings are in unspoken words, aren't they??

Sayesha said...

Congrats! :D

Hahaha! Collection it seems! :p

You should totally do that! Personally I hate Orkut (I even deleted my account and then revived it again) but it's great for finding old school friends! :)


Hahahaha! Holes in socks?? How??? :D
ps: Copyright rests in the expression, not the idea. You can and should write a post on your chem lab. Chal I tag you, mainly because I really wanna read about the hole-y socks! :P Just remember where you got the inspiration for the post! ;)

OMG! That's like a gas chamber! :O

Hahaha! Steel it seems! :D

//I concluded the writer had too much free time to smell a rotten egg

Hahaha! :D

//i was considered an expert in using physical balance

Tabhi... that explains it! No wonder you're not quite the expert in the mental balance aspect! Muahahaha! :D

//Secret of the unknown salt sold for a samosa!

Eeeesh! Our lab assistant was too honest yaar! :/

I'm still laughing at your H2S ka expansion! You are such a CD! :D

#Smiling Gal,
I wanna meet my gang too, but you know what? They're all in different parts of the world! :'(

You comment was almost like a mini-post! Hilarious! Thanks for sharing! :)

//n sacchi bol.. tu uss din royi nahi hogi par post ka end likhte samay pukka royi na?

Well... bata dun? Hmmm... thoda sa :)

Shabash mere sher! Wash-basin mein aag! Wah! :D

Thanks! Oye mail check kar! BC jana hai aaj! I'm already thinking of the gobi manchurian! :P

Hahahaha! Chem practicals in school were as unscientific as science can get! :P

//you meant torturous tales of titration, didn't you?

Nooo! I loved titration, didn't ya?? :D

Almost true. Bhais don't cry. Except when they write closing paragraphs of senti posts. :)
ps: Still trying to figure out why you laughed at my 'inna sara shugah' statement yesterday! :/

Damn, Bhai getting senti?? Kuchh karna padega!
ps: Got your mail. :)

Thanks! :)

Hahaha! :)

//And of course Chem teachers in Msia rock!:D:D:D

Maybe this teacher taught you in school! Mr Tan. Do you know him??

//Seriously, I think I am in a very senti mode these days!

Me too :'(

Hahahahaha! :D

//our sir kept muttering, 'u guys wanna kill me'

Hahahaha! Bechare Sir! :D

Thanks :)

Thanks, babe! :)

#Ipanema gal,
//of all the chemistry brewing between lab partners....:)

Hehehe... always an integral part! ;)

Thanks! :)

//I used to like that 'ring' test /..dont rem it exactly though :$:$

Oh that brown ring test for some nitrate thing?? Sheesh, I'm still that girl! :/

Thanks :)

oxymoron said...

i knew you would bring up the 'copyright' thing! damn u - 'editor'!
i know, we all did princples of law(E144 - by Anil Samtani) in ntu - copyrights dont exist on ideas. its the form in which its expressed that can have a copyright!
maybe, some time in the future, i'll also write a 'purane-din-yaad-karo' post and explain how to 'acidify' socks and make them polka-dotted(holed)

Kais said...

Beautiful post. You made a macho dude like me even, get all watery eyed with that last para :O .... and I never cry except when onions are being peeled!


Harsha said...

Bohot sahi post hai bhai....took me back to college days....those were the days yaar...

And me dharmu and dev were in the same college, I remember the incident very well. Actually our HOD's cabin was just next to it. And he's just too fragile as a person and i think allergic to everything and he was rushed to a hospital.

Hydrogen sulphide (h2s) .... i remember the stench of that even now....

And in tutions, one lecturer had suggested that HCl be poured on skin it reacts with skin to from xanthoprotein. One actually poured quite a bit of Conc HCl in the lab and his hand was yellow for a month or so. Dumb guy!!! Chamda toh gaya, lekin kapda nahin ;)

So you are a bhai from childhood kya??? Btw, how did it start? The bhaigiri???

Duhita said...

Nope no Mr Tan for me, but there was this SUPER famous Mr Tan during my college days and practically any student in KL doign A Levels Chem would inevitably end up at his centre for tuition! At that point he was the cool teacher with long hair and glasses who wore jeans to class! Same teacher??

PizzaDude said...

Oh man!!! This post totally reminds me of my days in 10+2. It was an amazing time. Our chemistry teacher was very much like "chemu". I have helped her out so many times in the chemistry lab to prepare solutions for titration and salt analysis.
Once while preparing the solution for titration, by mistake I had used double the quantity of salt. So during the titration, the whole class was getting half of the actual result. Our chemistry teacher spent two whole days breaking her head as to how this was possible. She never suspected that I had made a mistake cos I was very meticulous at such stuff. :))
Feeling full senti and nostalgic thinking about those days. :D

PizzaDude said...

And the "bhais don't cry" at the end was hilarious!!

SID said...

Wow! Wonderful post man.
Brought me back to the amazing fun we had not only in our chem Lab but also in our Chem lectures.
Definitely brought a smile to my face!

Iday said...

bhai log ko bhi kabhi kabhi senti hona padtha hai!!!

kuch karna hai tho kya karega?!!?
lemme suggest.
throw a big party and invite all of us who visit ur blogs!!!
Kya bolthi thu!?!?

Apy said...

lol... That was nostalgic . n H2S.. of course i remmmebr that... Dayam.. the smell .. i ve still not forgotten that...Nice post babe.. oops .. Bhai... hehe

Anonymous said...


The Inquisitive Akka said...

Tell me about it!! I spent my youth with chemicals! We used this particular chemical called thiol- zillion times worse than H2S! Since I never bothered to wear a lab coat, i had holes holding my clothes together and not the other way around. The only time I would deign to don one was when i was wearing something nice, much to my boss's disgust. Can't get away with all that now, company policies are much stricter. Came back today, i liked your second home quite a lot! Particularly the fact that I could walk around freely at midnight!

satish said...

arey i wasnt supposed to laugh kya????

its just the word 'inna' said with 'bimbo mode on'..,i had to laugh my lungs out. :)

inna sona tainu rub ne banaya,
jee karra dekhta rahaan!

(sorry for the wrong wordings :-S)

sakhi said...

yeah yeah...eggxactly!! brown ring test!! wah wah kya memory hai!! woh ring dekhke ekdam khush ho jaati thi mein ..
Our chem ma'am (labs) was very khadus :|.. once she told me tht i was not following her instruction properly, lekin ring barbar aane ke baad chehra dekhne layak ho gaya tha ..hehe :D :D

Inder said...

haha.. seems all chemistry master/ma'am are khadus... well, except for sushmita in main hoon na...

Aslam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aslam said...

I was a chemistry champ.

saty said...

platinum...!! tell me something, do you write the blog at one go ..or do you write something..then brood over it/change know the other way..either way your style of writing is ekdum hutkay!!enjoy reading it

Sayesha said...

Hehehehe! :P
Looking forward to read that post of yours! ;)

Hahahaha! :D

OMG that sounds terrible!! :O
I was a tomboy when I was a kid, loved to climb trees and play cric with the guys, bash 'em up, fly kites, etc. But the official designation of 'Bhai' was conferred upon me only in secondary school :D

Naah, I think it's someone else! :)

Hahaha! Bechare students! :P

Thanks! :)

Bhai ko akal aa gayi hai ki senti hona utna bura bhi nahin hai... as long as there's a balance of senti and supari, Bhaigiri remains affected! :D

Party for bloggers? Sure! But airfare not included haan! :P

Hehehe... thanks :)

Whoa! Calm down, bacha! No screaming here, have some respect this is a bar! :/ The same thing can be expressed just as eloquently in lower case letters. :P

I don't think I encountered thiol in school. (Phew?) :P

//Particularly the fact that I could walk around freely at midnight!

Oh I jus LOVE that about Singapore! :D

Haan haan theek hai theek hai, batteesee andar! :/

Hahaha! Yeah, getting the right results was so fun! :)

Uh-oh! Too late baby! I already got your comment in my email. What was more interesting was not your question, but why you deleted it. :P
ps: Still waiting for you to start the dsfgsdfg blog of yours! ;)

//I was a chemistry champ.

Hehehehe.... Nice try to cover up your previous comment eh? Sash ko sab maloom hai :D

Platinum nahin re, scrap iron! (Term courtesy American Pi) :D

Sometimes I write the whole post in one breathless go and don't even read it once. (You can tell by the number of typos and grammatical errors in that) :P But once in a while, I do save drafts, especially when I am brooding over something and I need time to figure out what I really wanna write :)

Aslam said...

LOL. You got me. I think it's quite obvious why I deleted what I deleted. If it is not, then keep guessing.;-) And I have no intention of ever starting a blog. Just do not have the time to dedicate to it.

Sayesha said...

I have one thing to say to you - Dhoondte reh jaoge! ;)

Anonymous said...

Very nice site!
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Anonymous said...

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