Room 429 is probably the furnace of the boiler. For it is on the topmost floor, thus a few inches of concrete in between the roof above being hit with direct sunlight (remember, the skies were clearer in those days with less pollution) and the furnace underneath. It is also the west most facing room, so, even with the sun eventually tilting to the west, there is the western wall and the glass window to ensure the furnace transforms, at best, to a greenhouse.
But it is a special room, for many a would be engineer comes here for one thing—its steady supply of Fuji Noodles (the predecessor of the now omnipresent Maggi), a water boiling coil and a pan—all one needs for a midnight snack. The chit chat then veers to advice on GRE and TOEFL, for the inhabitant has recently aced both these standardised tests and is waiting to get the daylights out of the never-ending last semester of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) to head off to the US.
The roof of “Boiler”, aka, Nazrul Islam Hall of Buet, is also special. When there is a power outage, the inhabitants of the hall make a bee line for the roof to engage in a battle of illustrious cussing against the equally, if not more, cerebrally adept future doctors of Dr Fazle Rabbi Hall, Dhaka Medical College. Imaginations and the choice of words run wild as the colourful verbal volleyball continues till the collective “ah!”, followed by laughter and applause, as the area gets back its electricity. Engineers, architects and doctors, back to the books.
These are not the only “special” places/rooms in the halls. Rashu’s room at MA Rashid Hall promises live running commentary of cricket, no matter where the match is being played. It is only audio, through crackle, static and noise, received through short wave, analogue radio signals. For some reason, we rarely see Rashu vertical. Perhaps due to his physical build, he is in an eternal horizontal state, eyes closed and dozing off, not without slight snoring. However, he wakes up with clockwork precision immediately upon the fall of every wicket and not only that, gives a thorough analysis of the three prior overs leading to the fall of the wicket with precision and depth that would put every commentator on the radio broadcast fearful of his job security.
The same hall has Ershad Ali’s room, known as the “source” (as opposed to us all being “loads”), where the source (of knowledge) would often escape from his own room so that he would not be bothered by the loads looking to be downloaded with explanations of the toughest microwave theories.
Shere-e-Bangla Hall has the special room, the abode of Ruhul, known as the Bhupen Hazarika of Buet. For the fried brains would always find solace through the unplugged ballads of the cover singer, whom we lose on the last day of our classes before graduation as he sang his last song on “rag day” while lamenting: “I am filled with sorrow as today is the last time I will sing here at my beloved Buet”.
And there is the Venturi, the narrow space between the library and the café where the bohemian few would sit to observe the bulk of the student traffic—class to café, hall to library…you name it. It is called the Venturi for proving the Venturi Effect of increased wind flow due to the narrow wind passage, learned at the hair losing Fluid Mechanics class.
And finally, the Shaheed Minar area, for roasted peanuts and people watching.
So, it’s not that Buet didn’t have its “special” rooms, nooks and corners. But I suppose, times have changed…
Naveed Mahbub is a former engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA, the former CEO of IBM & Nokia Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla’s The Naveed Mahbub Show and the founder of Naveed’s Comedy Club.