December 17, 2016

IIT K and the batch of ’63 moved in the campus together. What comprised the campus then were the Guest House, some type III quarters for the handful of Faculty, workshop and just one Hall of Residence with rooms of single occupancy.

The main gate as it is today came much later and entry was from a point further up. As our car turned in and traversed through shoulder high blades of wild grass on the Kutcha road, we spotted a chocolate coloured Fiat to which we waived out to guide us to where I had to report. Out came three gentlemen who introduced themselves as Prof. CNR Rao, Prof P.T. Narasimhan and Professor M.V. George- the three top Scientists of the Department of Chemistry. They were the first people I met at IIT and was fortunate to maintain a very close relationship with them till the very end.

At the interview I was offered the branch of my choice at IITM which I declined. Then they gave me Civil at IITK which I accepted hoping to change midway. Luckily I got my chance when we were given the option to switch after completion of the core years which then were three.

Two of us were crammed in a single occupancy room and Deepak Kunzru who was also from Kanpur and known to me became my partner.

The first couple of weeks were traumatic for us so much so that at one point of time both of us almost decided not to come back after the weekend ! Ragging was at its peak. One night there was a loud knock at our door. It was 2’o clock and as I opened the door, there were half a dozen seniors who commanded us to get out of our rooms and file up on the road outside. The fear of the seniors was so enormous that we dared not ask any questions and did as told. Scared to death, we rushed out in our sleeping suits and Hawai’s to find scores of other batch mates already assembled in Military fashion!!

We were made to ‘left-right’ our way to what was called the ‘Dhobi Ghat’. After forcing us to perform some undescribable acts, we were let off and ran as fast as we could to the safety of our rooms.

Neither Deepak nor I had ever touched a cigarette. But we decided to give it a try. Scared of the seniors, we put a white bed sheet to cover up the glass door leading to the balcony. I gave up after a week but Deepak became a chain smoker and continues even today, smoking away to glory!!

Yuvraj Bahadur was my best friends during the core years. Together we went everywhere, whether to the classes or for meals. He was a great sincere companion to me. Later when we branched out, he to Metallurgy and I to Chemical, we saw less and less of each other. Even as I am penning these lines, comes the sad news of his demise. What a wonderful person he was. May his soul rest in peace.

Ashok Misra, Santosh Gupta, Arun Singhania, Ibrahim Saifuddin Zanzibarwala, Sarwar Hasan, Madhavendra Bhatia,SPS Chauhan, and ofcourse Deepak Kunzru and I all from Chemical Engineering formed the inner group very closely knit and extremely caring and helpful to each other. We were very proud to have Santosh, the Gold medalist in our group. That close relationship I still maintain with him, Ashok and Deepak. Uttam Trivedi was another close friend and his favourite song “Lipstik on your collar” which he sang in his typical boistrous style still rings in my ears.

Director Dr. P.K. Kelkar was a remarkable personality. Very gentle, very humble and highly affable. There were no auditoriums or lecture Halls for social functions which were frequently held by the relatively small Student/Faculty community. And Dr. Kelkar’s soft spokenness and humble presence were the hall mark of all such occasions.

In direct contrast the D.D. was made of sterner stuff. Highly unpopular with the students, he found the atmosphere hostile and at times it was very hard to address the students at functions and rebuked them often for not listening to him.

However much we disliked him, in hind sight, we do feel that it was necessary for him to be that way to enforce discipline on the campus particularly among the non-academic administrative employees who were growing in sizeable numbers.

The Kelkar Muthanna combination was ideal for the IIT environment.

The 63-68 batch had perhaps the best of everything during these years. Under KIAP there were as many as forty American Faculty and their families from the top ten Universities and we had the privilege and honour to have been lectured and taught by them. Hard bound text books were available to us at one third the price. A giant computer loaded on a truck with the banner “Under Kanpur Indo American Program” arrived and was installed during our time.

Infact almost the entire campus that exists today came up whilst we were at IIT K.

Student Faculty interaction was frequent and deeply personal. Get togethers were arranged in Halls of Residences- there being no proper functions ground. The Chemical Engineering. Faculty/Students relationship was famous for its frequent extremely cordial interactions. Infact it was the envy of all.

Notable among the faculty who maintained extremely cordial and informal relations with us were Prof M V George of the Chemistry Department famous for the frequent parties he hosted for the students. He had his typical style and accent. Once, on his way to the library, he met a colleague, and asked him “Ho are you”. P.P.Singh, pat came the answer. “Ho are you.” P.P. Singh sirrr…he replied“ I am not asking you who are you, but I’m saying How are you!!

Professor C V Seshadri of Chemical Engineering was another highly social Faculty Member. Very often he would readily join our functions making them very lively indeed. B Karunesh of Mechanical Engineering who taught us Graphic arts, was more like a Sufi Saint than a professor, with a long freely flowing beard, he used to be dressed in a white Kurta and Churidars and a waist coat, which was his permanent attire.

He too was closely associated with us both in and outside the Classroom. He relished Mughlai Food and I had the privilege of hosting many a lunch and dinner for him at home with my family. M.Gopala Rao of chemical was a very affable teacher. Several of the social activities of our branch were initiated and supported by him. Professor AS Parasnis my councilor was a source of great inspiration and guidance to me. The list can go on and on. Suffice it to say that the Faculty Student interaction outside the classroom was perhaps the best during our years at IIT  K.

Several great events took place during those years. Our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru passed away. It is said IIT K was gifted to him by Late American President John F Kennedy who also passed away in ’63 having been shot by an assassin. The first covocation was presided over by none other than the Great Educationist and President of India Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. I had the prevelege of presenting him the Guard of Honour as CQSM of the NCC. Indira Gandhi made a whirlwind tour of the campus and the entire event was televised on the closed circuit TV with the Cameras mounted on a Van that followed her. This was perhaps the first occasion when such a TV coverage was done in any Institute or University. Maharishi Yogi’s visit was a big draw and this event too was fully televised.

What has IIT K given to me? Well the best education available at that time in the best and most conducive environment that one could think of. But quite apart from the technical knowledge gained, what IIT K most importantly imbibed in us were the unique values and culture that have not only served as a great inspiration to us, but have been a tremendous guide to the future that awaited us. On this great occasion of celebration of fifty years of our association with this mighty seat of learning I stand up in Salute and say “ Thank You IIT K”.  



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