— Sayan Chakraborti
“Unfortunately no one can be told what Gokul is. You need to experience it for yourself.” This is what the introduction to Gokul on an online community used to say. Online communities have come, caught the fleeting attention of TIFR scholars and gone, but Gokul has always held a very special place in our minds and guts. When I came for my TIFR interview, I was told that “you can’t pass the interviews without visiting Gokul.” Upon being asked, “What is Gokul?”, I was told that Gokul is a pilgrimage. The OED defines, among other things, a pilgrimage as: a journey to a place of particular interest or significance. In this respect a visit to Gokul definitely qualifies as one.
In a place full of hard-nosed skeptics like me, who love to disagree and refuse to take anything for granted, Gokul is perhaps the one thing that comes closest to a consensus. Many a long discussion about where to dine, ends as soon as one of the debaters suggests Gokul. Legendary dishes which have nourished generations of TIFR scholars include their Chana Dal, Surmai Fry, Chicken and Paneer Tikka. It is widely agreed upon that they serve, at worst, the second best Dal Fry in the world; the best is sometimes found at home. The Dal Fry is to be had with their piping hot Rotis and washed down with the cheapest beer and/or vodka in South Bombay.
The prices have risen with inflation but are always within the research scholars’ means. The freewheeling conversation, the most interesting aspect of the Gokul experience, has always remained free. The “adda” at Coffee House might have faded, but the one at Gokul remains evergreen. The newly added television screen shuffles stochastically between the Indian cricket team getting trashed on ESPN and lions mating on Animal Planet, but always remains muted. The decor, if you wish to call it that, at Gokul does not distract you from the “important” discussions that you might be having that evening.
Many an experiment or lemma has been imagined and discussed into existence over the Spartan tables of Gokul. It is whispered in hushed tones that reality is an illusion caused by the lack of alcohol. The noise in Gokul rises as this illusion shatters into a thousand and one pieces. Many scholars escape the sound of silence at TIFR and immerse themselves in the absurdity that is Gokul. A senior once told me that “my thesis would not have existed without Gokul”. It is rumoured that even entire dissertations have been dedicated to Gokul, including an anonymous one to “my mother and Gokul.”
Disclaimer: This article is based on random TrueRumoursTM. No monkeys and typewriters were harmed in the production of this article. Some electrons and holes were heckled.