It was 24 years ago, in 1989, that I first entered the campus of IIT Powai through the main gate – alone, scared, unsure. For the next 4 years, the campus was to become my home, my friend & mentor. Driving the same main gate, 20 years later, with my family this time, brought back the fondest memories, just as vivid as the 4 years of the most formative years of my life here.
As I drove from main gate to Hostel-6, I could resist a sneak look at Hostel-10 on my right. My wife did notice the meaningful smile (and I subsequently had a lot of explaining to do J ). Driving further down, I saw lot of changes & buildings, which were not there 20 years back then. As we drove, saw lot more motor cycles, cars and lot less cycles on the road. A few eating joints have sprung up – a Dhaba near SAC, Coffee shop in H-8, another eatery in H-5. As I neared the H-6 entrance, I expected the beginning of the jungle. What I saw instead was sprawling buildings – a new hostel I believe designed by Hafeez Contractor. For us, Hostel-6 was the end of the world –both literally & figuratively. Was a bit disappointed as I drove in to Hostel-6. The fountain had been tiled, barricaded and it looked “different”. And this different was not good – even if people call me old fashioned but give me the landscaped fountain at the entrance any day. One thing which stuck me, the students were definitely much better dressed than what we were. Despite all these changes, the place still retains its charm and aura.
As I entered through the gates of H-6, encountered a familiar face of Shekar – the canteen boy. No more a boy, sadly, he is retiring next month. He saw & surprisingly recognized me. Had a nice time chatting with him about the good old days. He walked me to the canteen and bought a cold drink. No amount of persuasion could force him to take money for this. He said – “this is your treat”, referring to treat that we used to get from various hostel secretary’s for carrying out some work. The mess in H-6, which was to feed me for the 4 years is being done up and I am told is going to be privatized. Hopefully the students now will get much better food but they will surely miss the loving presence of Shankar, Kutti, Maharaj, Mukund and many more.
Walking upto my rooms -Room #249 (1990-92) and #252 (1992-93) brought myriads of memories flooding back – the Basketball court which was more of a underarm cricket field, the volleyball court, which sadly was in a dilapidated state. The look and smell of the corridors in the wings was still the same – soiled & torn T-shirts, shorts, undies hanging as we walked along the corridor. The room 249 was locked but 252 had an occupant available, Amit (forgot the surname). The rooms looked surprisingly small – one reason could be that there were two beds. In my time, we had a room to ourselves. My son recited the Munna Bhai dialogue – “papa, yeh room to shuru hote hi khatm ho gaya J”. Chatted up with Amit and curiously enquired what was the wing called. Was thrilled to know that the wing (245-256) is still called “Bhaiyya Wing”, referring to name given when yours truly graced the wing between 1990-1993. I had mentioned to my wife about a decade back of my exploits in IIT Hostel-6 and how the wing got named Bhaiyya wing, since I was from UP. To hear that the wing still retains the name, filled me with an unusual pride. Around the same time, some other wings had got names – like Southie Wing, Jabru Wing, Keeda Wing, Iskon, Dron Wing, Nabadistan etc. Surprisingly, all wing names have been retained.
After taking my family for a guided tour of the hostel, we drove upto the MB. The MB façade seen from outside, still remains the same. As we enter, changes are noticed. A Shivaji statute has come up, the small pool Japaneese pool at the entrance is much better maintained and has fishes in it. I recall, this pool used to be dry and stinky. The lecture rooms were locked, so could not get inside, but was told by the watchman that the lectures also had been done up. A few pictures in the lawns of MB with family clicked, walked upto the corrirdor and arch “ Gyanam Parmam Dhyeyam”. Then it used to sound so frivolous, now realize the meaning of it….. Kids had a great time shouting under the arch with voice echoing.
Walking through the corridor to Chem Engg, noticed big changes – like Victor Menezes building and a few others. The walkway and the buildings around it looked much better maintained. However, the Chemical Engineering staircase was still a disaster and unsafe as it was then. Chemical Engg department itself has been done up quite well with new tiles. The brownish tiles though looked a bit garish. Had Chai in department canteen to relive the old days while my family stuck to standard cold-drink and chips routine. Post Department tour, drove to SAC and around the campus for some more time before calling it a day.
Spent almost 4 hours with family in IIT Campus. My family which would rather have spent time in some shopping mall or movie theatre, was surprisingly very happy to have spent time in the campus. They thoroughly enjoyed the tour and my wife said – I can imagine why you would have loved staying in Hostel for 4 years. That sort of echoed my love for IIT Powai campus and Hostel-6. It’s been 20 years, the friendships built then is still retained. Much before Facebook, Twitter came up, almost 50 hostel mates from that time, have stayed constantly in touch. We catch up regularly through sms, mobile, e-mails and have very frequent get-togethers. The harshest & honest feedback, whenever I want, is always given to me from these friends, because they know me as a person and not as a professional in some organization.