They came from around the world and in all ages, shapes and sizes with only one thing in common — the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.
On Monday, a day after the close of the PanIIT Global Conference 2012, partnered by The Telegraph, two busloads of KGPians, many with their spouses, made their way to their alma mater for a day to reminisce about the good old days.
Chants of “KGP ka tempo high hai” filled the arena opposite the Old Building as they were welcomed to the campus. No matter how long ago they had left the campus, the KGP spirit still seemed to be intact.
As soon as the schedule for the day was announced and visiting one of the old hostels was discussed, the good-natured bickering began. “It should be Patel Hall. It is the oldest,” said one. “There are more people from Azad Hall so that is the one we should visit,” said another. “It is Nehru Hall that is most represented here,” argued yet another. “Why not RP Hall,” countered more.
“There are three things that matter to a KGPian — which year, which branch and which hall of residence,” said S.S. Bajwa, a 1970-batch graduate, explaining the argument.
As soon as Amit Patra, dean, alumni affairs, announced that there were bicycles kept outside the arena for the KGPians to take a ride on campus there was a loud cheer and a large number trooped to the cycle stand.
What followed was 10 minutes of laughter and good-natured ribbing as many of them were wobbly on their set of wheels, getting on a cycle after decades.
“I am just trying out to see if I can. I haven’t been on a cycle in at least 30 years,” said Arjun Malhotra, a 1970-batch alumnus and Azad Hall resident.
The KGPians, on bicycles, prowled their old haunts and checked out the new. Some went to their old classrooms and fondly reminisced about bunking classes and being backbenchers.
Present IITians were in attendance, organising transport, playing the music and managing logistics.
“It is great to have seniors appreciate what we have done. They asked us a lot of detailed questions,” said Aditya Jalan, one of the members of Team KART, which had displayed their third F1 prototype designed and built on campus with which they are going to compete in the Silver Stone Circle in the UK.
Then and now
“It is good to come back to campus, so much has changed but so much still remains the same,” said Hiten Ghosh, the oldest IITian at the gathering. The 1958-batch graduate, who lives in Rockville, Maryland, USA, was one of the few people who remembered having classes in the Old Building which is now a science and technology museum.
“The lake inside KGP, we dug it as a part of our social responsibility. It was just a hole when I left. Now it is a lake,” said Ghosh, who comes back to Kharagpur often but not with fellow IITians.
Ghosh was spellbound by the kind of expansion he saw on campus but was quick to point out that the neigbouring area around the campus needs to be developed to make it world class.
He had many anecdotes to share, including how he convinced his parents to let him enroll in IIT Kharagpur by saying that he was eligible for a scholarship. “I just twisted the truth a bit. I knew I would get the scholarship eventually,” said Ghosh. He did get the scholarship that covered his tuition, fooding and lodging.
If Ghosh was the oldest, Avik Pal, a 1998-batch graduate, was the youngest in the group. The San Francisco resident was born and brought up in Kharagpur but misses being back on campus as regularly as he used to before his parents moved to Calcutta.
“I remember my friends used to come home for home-cooked meals,” said Pal.
Back to class
After a sumptuous lunch, the eager KGPians boarded institute buses to make their way to the various new constructions on campus including a classroom complex. With resounding chants of “’91 ka tempo high hai” KGPians led by the 1991 batch entered a classroom which was built with endowment from the batch.
Being back in the classroom set a fun mood for the next session but it soon turned serious as the alumni members got busy discussing how their alma mater could be transformed into a world-class institute.
After a quick tour of the campus, the KGPians boarded the back bus to the city looking forward to the next time that they are back on campus.
|Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
1. Members of Team KART of IIT Kharagpur explain the third F1 prototype car that they have designed and built, which will participate in the Silver Stone Circle in the UK.
2. Sukhminder Grewal, a 1970 graduate, writes a second order simple differential equation — “the key to life in IIT” — on his classroom blackboard
3. Hiten Ghosh was the oldest KGPian present at the gathering on Monday. He is a 1958 graduate, the fourth batch of IIT Kharagpur, and is settled in Maryland, USA
4. Avik Pal was the youngest KGPian in the group. The 1998 graduate lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is the president of its IIT Kharagpur alumni chapter
5. Arjun Malhotra, chairman and CEO, TechSpan, USA, and a 1970-batch graduate, takes some of the alumni on a tour of the new things on campus on the traditional KGPian mode of transport — the bicycle
6. A KGPian captures his alma mater on camera while riding around campus on a cycle
7. One of the non-KGPians, retired wing commander V. K. Parashar, an IIT Delhi and IIT Kanpur alumnus, took the opportunity of the PanIIT meet to visit “only one of the old IITs” that he was yet to see
8. Students of the 1991 batch get click-happy at one of the classrooms at the new Nalanda Academic Complex that was built with endowment from the batch
9. The KGPians go back to class after years to hear about what is happening at Kharagpur and the path forward.