Lee and Shiuli

It began in our second year at IIT Madras (1993). Shiuli Ganguly was an M.Sc. mathematics student, and Anand Thomas Lee was my classmate. And Lee (along with a lot of other people) had a rather high opinion of the lady in question. (He still maintains it. I got a mail in December 1996 saying that he’d tracked her down). However, the same opinion was not held of my computer abilities (understandably so). He bet that there was no conceivable way I could get a photo of Lee and his sweetheart together – by means fair or otherwise. Actually, I lost the bet due to the time constraint, but I did have my revenge.

Lee and Shiuli

One fine Mardi Gras (IITM’s culturals) in 1993, I was roaming around with my camera when I spotted Shiuli. Mustering all the courage I had, and more, I asked her if she would pose – for the Best Face of MG Contest. She did, parting with a “You’ve made my day!” I sincerely hope I did.

The next step was Lee. I knew there’d be no point in just merging two normal photos, so I got Lee to remove his shirt. He posed on the terrace of our hostel – topless. I got him to stand so that the shadow would roughly be in the same direction. Unfortunately, I’d loaded only a black and white film. But that eventually made my task easier.

I was working for the campus magazines as publisher. That more or less gave me free access to considerable resources. I insisted that images needed to be scanned for the magazine, and managed to push in these two photos for scanning. Now I had all the resources I wanted. Pulling together all the image processing tools on the campus (Autodesk Animator and CorelDRAW! in particular) I set about removing the background from their images. Since I’d run out of time for the bet anyway, I had worked out a master plan by then. I put them both in front of the IIT gate, photographed the monitor and got what looked close enough to a real photo – though black & white.

Our holidays had started by then. (That’s what gave me so much time). I had cautiously obtained Lee’s home address (as well as Baddy’s and a few others’, so he wouldn’t get suspicious). Once the grades were announced, I looked up his and sent an innocent looking mail to him. Except that it was an unsealed envelope, marked “Personal & Confidential”.

Dear Lee,

Your grades for this sem are blah blah blah. Life’s fun here. BTW, I’m enclosing a copy of the photo you and Shiuli took near the gate. The whole class is shocked at your courage in baring yourself outside the gate! I know you asked me not to send this home, but I’ve marked the envelope “Personal and Confidential”, so it’s OK. Shiuli’s wondering why you haven’t replied to her for so long. Weather’s fine here blah blah blah…

Anand.

As I expected, Lee’s mother opened the mail! From what I here, it took him two days to convince his family that it wasn’t really him standing topless with a girl near the gate.

August 1993