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Banyan tree & boycott days of Pranab

- Album of old photographs ready for President when he visits college on Wednesday

Suri, Dec. 17: Students of Suri Vidyasagar College are on Wednesday likely to learn about the President’s “protest” days when he made the cook of his hostel change the way he prepared fish.

Pranab Mukherjee will visit his alma mater for a felicitation programme on December 19.

Reminding the President about his 10-day class boycott and his adda sessions under the century-old banyan tree is on Sasthi Kinkar Das’s mind.

Das, who studied with Mukherjee in the college, said: “I will definitely meet him. I have to remind him about our 10-day boycott of classes under his leadership. We were protesting a remark by one of our teachers. We were undergraduates then.”

Das will meet Mukherjee after nearly three decades. He asserted that his classmate was always a “good protester”.

Das’s claim was reiterated by Debranjan Mukherjee, who taught the President Bengali, his honours subject. “Pranab used to stay in the main boys’ hostel. The cook there prepared the gravy first and then put the pieces of fried fish into it. Pranab protested and the cook had to change his way of cooking,” Debranjan said.

College authorities said Mukherjee would be taken to his tin-shed classroom, which now lies abandoned. “We will also take him to the century-old banyan tree under which he spent long hours,” said principal Laxmi Narayan Mondal.

“Pranab and I used to spend long hours in adda under the banyan tree just beside our tin-shed classroom,” Das said.

College records show that Mukherjee was admitted in 1952-53. After completion of his one-year IA, he graduated in Bengali in 1955-56. “We have preserved Mukherjee’s signatures. He had signed twice in the college record, while collecting his IA and BA honours marksheets,” he added.

After the tour of the classroom and the banyan tree, Mukherjee would be taken to the main auditorium for a felicitation. Later, he will attend a tea party along with his classmates and college teachers.

College students, who have been given special identity cards for the event, were disappointed when told that no interactive session had been planned. “No interactive session with the students have been arranged. If the President wants, we can do it,” the principal said.

“We are upset. We thought we will get to talk to the President of India,” a Bengali honours student said.

The college authorities will present three albums of photographs of the old campus to the President. “The albums will have several photographs of the old campus, including the classroom, hostels and the banyan tree. A photocopy of his signature in 1956 will also be enclosed with one of the albums,” a teacher said.