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Personal Possessions
By Late Prof. Dilip Dasgupta

It was almost the autumn end of 1961. My hostel, the Nehru Hall of Residence, was going to celebrate the Hall Day. During those days the residents used to decorate the hostel, erect a stage for entertainment programmes to be performed by the residents, arrange a sit down dinner for about 3000 guests, and an exhibition in the common room. In the afternoon, I was standing on a stool, kept on a small table placed on a bigger table, giving finishing touch to the welcome gate erected on approach road of the Hall. I was dumbfounded when I came down from the stool to find Prof. S.R. Sengupta, the then Director of IIT Kharagpur, holding the small table for my safety. I bowed down and touched his feet. He patted me but scolded affectionately by saying, "This is not done. There are three hundred odd residents in the hostel but none to help you here"! With choked voice I defended my hall mates by saying that they were here fifteen minutes ago and since I was doing a small job, they all left to join others working for the stage. He was not happy but asked me to take him inside the hostel so that he could see the arrangements being made for the Hall Day celebration.

Prof. S.R. Sengupta used to roam around in the Institute and meet whomever he wanted. His attitude was such that all used to appreciate him. One day in April 1962 he met me in the laboratory while I was sitting on a stool and working with a calorimeter. He was standing by my side and did not allow me to get up. On being asked, I explained to him about the job I was doing. But I could not answer him about the functioning of the calorimeter. He said, "Whenever you work with some equipment you must know the details about it. Suppose if this was made in our country, I am sure all of us would have been proud and happy". I promised to him that in future I would never commit such a mistake. He left the laboratory with a smile.

Prof. G. Bandyopadhyay, a man of fame for his academic excellence in both Physics and Mathematics, was also famous for being absent minded. Once he went to the Library counter and asked for some postcards, stamps and envelopes. The person at the counter politely told him that this was the Library and not the Post Office. Prof. Bandyopadhyay was very embarrassed and said, "Look at me, I must have then dumped the books on the counter of the Post Office". Another very famous incident of Prof. Bandyopadhyay goes like this. He was explaining limit in a class. He said "Suppose 'a' is the limit of 'x', 'x' can approach 'a' but never cross 'a'. I shall give you a concrete example. Suppose the 'door' is the limit for 'me'. I can approach the 'door' but I cannot cross the 'door'". Saying so very cautiously he got down from the dais and started walking towards the door of the classroom. When he was near the door he very briskly walked across the door, and left the classroom. Such was Prof. Bandyopadhyay. He caught hold of me in the corridor and said, "Dilip, I had been frantically searching for you. I have some important job to do with you. Today is 23rd July 1966, you meet me on 10th September at 4 o' clock in my room". He brought out a diary, noted it down and left the place. Within a couple or days I completely forgot about the appointment. But, believe it or not, on 10th September Prof. Bandyopadhyay was in my room at 4.45 PM and told me, "I was waiting in my room for 10 minutes and you did not turn up". I remembered what happened on 23rd July, I profusely apologized and asked about the important job he had with me. He very coolly said that he just wanted to see if I was mature enough to keep appointments and maintaining punctuality. I kept my head hanging and decided that henceforth I would honour appointments and maintain punctuality.

It was possibly in the month of August 1986 that the IIT Teachers' Association, of which I was an active member, had a very long drawn meeting with Prof. S. Lal, Director of IIT Kharagpur. The meeting started at about 4.30 PM and lasted till 11.30 PM. Hundreds of members of IITTA were waiting outside the Director's Office from the beginning till the end of the meeting. One or two of those who were inside with the Director occasionally came out to brief the members and took their advice. At about 7.00 PM, I came out of the Director's room and after briefing the members I was relaxing bit when Prof. A. Sanyal, wizard of mathematics, got hold of Prof. Manoj Kumar Maiti and literally dragged him to one corner. I followed them. Prof. Sanyal was extremely serious and asked Prof Maiti, "Manoj Babu, tell me frankly and clearly who has 'gheraoed' whom? Is it that we have 'gheraoed' Prof. Lal or Prof. Lal has 'gheraoed' all of us? If we have 'gheraoed' Prof. Lal then why is it that I cannot go to my quarters, relax and have a cup of tea"? Neither Prof. Maiti nor I could offer him a satisfactory reply and this particular aspect of 'gherao' was brought out for the first time by Prof. Sanyal.

I was a student of IIT Kharagpur and was a teacher in the same institute for about thirty seven years. I have jotted down a few incidents, out of many more, which are like gems in my memory. From each incident I have learnt a lesson. I grew up during a time when people had different values of life. I am proud that I have inherited many such values which are obsolete now. I have no regrets.

 

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