With no sprawling campus to show off and a dark, gloomy corridor visible right from the main road, Asutosh College doesn’t look too inviting at first sight. But the grim appearance notwithstanding, it has attracted countless students over the past 90 years, some of whom have gone on to become big names in diverse fields like sports, films, music and academics.
“Five vice-chancellors of different universities of West Bengal, footballers like Chuni Goswami and Naimuddin, film personalities like Uttam Kumar, Rabi Ghosh and Ranjit Mullick, and singers like Hemanta Mukherjee and Chinmay Chatterjee have been students of our college,” says principal Dr Debabrata Chaudhuri with a sense of pride.
So, what attracted them to the college' And what attracts thousands of students from Calcutta, the districts of West Bengal, several Indian states and even neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan to this college year after year' In fact, this year two students from Thailand have taken admission to undergraduate courses in the college.
To begin with, the college has a distinguished past. The brainchild of mathematician, educationist and the then vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, Asutosh College was founded in 1916. In keeping with its glorious tradition, it now offers 26 honours subjects in arts and science streams, the largest number to be offered by any undergraduate college in West Bengal. It also offers a postgraduate course in environmental science, and professional courses like BBA, industrial fish and fisheries and computer science. Along with a competent faculty, the college, which has a student strength of about 4,000, offers a host of other facilities like seminar libraries for all subjects, over and above the 90,000-volume-strong central library, two boys’ hostels, a gym, an auditorium, a placement cell, and Internet access.
The college has separate, fully-equipped labs for each of the science subjects. The environmental science lab in particular enjoys advanced equipment like the UV-visible spectrophotometer, cold centrifuge, a high-volume sampler, a PCR machine and a laminar air flow machine. “We are well-equipped even for research purposes,” says Dr Swapan Bramha, joint co-ordinator, environmental science. Asutosh is also the first college to have introduced a language lab “for developing the communication skills of students”, according to Prof. Sanchita Bhattacharya, head, communicative English.
With such facilities at hand, it is but natural that Asutosh is making huge strides in its academic performance. This year it boasted as many as 235 first class holders in the Calcutta University’s Part II graduation exams. “No other college has such facilities for microbiology,” says Sandipan Bramha, who stood 9th in the CU Part II exams this year.
Laurels in sports
The college also has an impressive record in extra-curricular activities, especially sports such as football, rowing, cricket and athletics. But Asutosh has its share of problems too, the most glaring one being the lack of space. To solve that, an 11-acre plot has been acquired at Bhasa (near Joka) for a new campus. To address students’ problems, the college has made provisions for a grievance box where students can submit their complaints.
Asutosh College has come a long way over the years. And it is still going strong as one of the pre-eminent colleges of Bengal.
Ranjit Mullick, actor, reminisces about his days at Asutosh College
I studied in Asutosh College for a year before I moved on to the evening college that shares the same building as Asutosh, Shyama Prasad College. I completed my graduation from there.
In those days, studying in Asutosh was quite the norm for most families in South Calcutta. It was certainly the best known college in that area. My uncles, cousins and many other relatives had passed out from the same college. We had a sense of belonging and attachment to the college.
I particularly remember the music sessions we used to have during our off periods. There were quite a lot of them in those days, thanks to the lack of an adequate number of classrooms. I still have fond memories of that one year of my college life I spent at Asutosh.
As told to Urmi Mukherjee