Recently some of my batch mates of the good old engineering college days got together from different parts of the country and went to our alma mater. They then posted pictures of the institutute and the hostel. It was nice to see my friends after decades. I keep visiting my college off and on. Though I must admit, due to the demands of my job I am unable to visit my alma mater as frequently as I would have liked.
Every visit causes pangs of nostalgia and a feeling that somehow I no longer fit in. I remember my first visit almost a decade ago after being separated from BIT for a long, long time. There was a 3 day seminar and I was nominated by my organization to attend it. I have random memories of that day.
I reached well in advance, parked my car next to the workshop and started wandering in the corridors of the institute, peeping into every room. I moved around aimlessly, lost in my thoughts, reliving old memories. As I stared at the empty benches, in my minds eye I saw my friends, the professors etc. I even imagined I heard their voices.
In my eyes-wide-open dreams I did not realize how time ticked by and soon it was time for the seminar to start. I went to the hall and was welcomed by the slightly greyer, older version of my professors. No good mornings or hand shakes, I received tight hugs. It was very heart warming.
Speakers had come from various organizations and I looked forward to their speeches. Dr. C (let us keep it at that) was the nominated host. The Chief Guest was Dr. Pillai, a senior scientist. I remember in the welcome address Dr. C spoke thus "…we are honored to have Dr. Pillu as our Chief Guest…". There was a shell shocked silence and then came the giggles. However, Dr. C immediately corrected himself. (Guess it came from the heart :-)).
That fiasco over, we went to the hall where the lectures were to be conducted. The proceedings started. I sat there half listening, half eager to leap off and run to the hostel where I had spent years. I got my opportunity after lunch. I went to the hostel and walked upto "my" room. It was locked. I stood there staring at the sheet metal door, absorbing the ambiance. I don’t know how long I stood there but suddenly I was aware students were looking at me from a distance. Then one approached me to ask if I was looking for the occupant. I said "No" and thanked him. I did not have the heart to say "I am looking for a bygone era". Either way he was too young to understand. The fella looked at me as if trying to fathom if I was an escapee from some lunatic asylum. I smiled at him and moved away. I walked down the stairs and stood on the cemented platform under a tree just outside the hostel. We had spent many evenings sitting there or sprawled on the adjoining stairs, doing what we did best, "HAWABAZI". The cracks in the cement too looked familiar. In short, the hardware was much the same as I had left it more than two and a half decades back but the software (the people) was gone. I felt like Rip Van Winkle.
As I was walking down to the institute in my heart broken state a cheery voice greeted me. I looked up to see a swarthy, balding man with a king size grin lighting his face. I had no clue who he was. He introduced himself as one of the mess staff and addressed me as Room No. ** wala sahib. Frankly, I had not cared to remember my Room No. But he did. I chatted with the fella about good old days.
After the first two days the sessions were more about side issues. To my mind, the difference in perceptions between academicians and industry people was very apparent. An example was a lady professor who was talking about waste disposal. Illustrating various methods by examples, she suggested that effluents of a biscuit factory could be put in leak proof, non-eroding capsules and dropped in deep holes drilled in the soil. I asked her what the biscuits would cost? She looked at me as if I was some naughty student trying to trouble the teacher.
I remember the concluding session was to be taken by a very senior professor from Jadhavpur University. He was going to talk about something like "Science through Mathematics". Dr. C had been talking about it all along. I was curious too. The professor started the session by stressing that the mathematical models he was about to discuss were being used in the developed world. He started with an example of the fishing industry and how math was used to maintain a sustainable population of fish. He drew a amoeba like figure on the board and proclaimed let X be the number of fishes in it. After this he launched himself and filled the board with integration and differentiation symbols which, after so many years, meant Greek & Latin to me. I sat there bored stiff, looking for a escape route. Not finding any I started to doze mentally – the kind where your eyes are open but unfocussed. Suddenly the professor stopped and asked us if we had a doubt. I was jerked out of my standby mode. An idea came and I raised my hand. The professor looked swell pleased that he had at least one alert audience. The rest of the sleepy folks turned around to see who I was with degrees of bewilderment on their faces. I asked "In an ocean how do you define X at any given point of time?" The professor’s faces turned several shades as he attempted to answer the very basic but all important question. He could not. Dr. C came to his rescue "Friends we have little time….". Thus ended the seminar.
I am sure my friends must have experienced the same nostalgia as I did. At least they had each other to socialize with.
Rajesh Chaubey, Guest Contributor, PatnaDaily.Com