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From My Memory
By Biswa Nath Chatterji

It was June 29, 1961. I was coming from Allahabad to IIT Kharagpur. I had reservation in Kalka-Howrah mail from Allahabad to Gomoh (in those day only seat reservation was possible). From Gomoh I took Gomoh-Howrah passenger at 6 AM on 30th June. A group of young people could sense that I was going to IIT Kharagpur and approached me to join them because they were also going there. They were very friendly and were coming from places like Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, etc. Except for one of them (who was a fresher like me) rest were seniors and a few of them were residents of Patel Hall of Residence where I was allotted a room. I had a very nice time during the journey because I came to know many things about IIT Kharagpur particularly the students' life. It helped a lot during the first few days of the hostel life. During this journey we became very friendly and shared food.

We reached Kharagpur Rly. Stn. at about 3 PM. We took rickshaw (that was the only mode of transport available) on sharing basis and reached the destination -- Patel Hall of Residence. The rickshaw fare was 75 paise. With their help I could get a room within ten minutes. I was extremely satisfied with the room, furniture and other arrangements. I could meet the Warden and Asst. Wardens in the evening. There used to be a residential Asst. Warden who used to stay with his family in the Hall itself.

Next day 01 July, 1961 was the opening day of the Institute. After a brief address by the Director (Dr. S.R. Sengupta) and introductions of Heads of Departments and other administrators the classes started the same day. In those days the teachers and students were very particular about the classes, class tests, assignments, etc. The laboratory classes, workshops and drawing classes used to have marks for every class-work. The session used to be on three term basis. The first term used to be up to Durga Puja. Then there used to be holidays upto Kalipuja / Diwali. The second term used to be up to January. There was no winter break and the third term was from February to April. There used to be a large number of subjects in each term. It used to vary from 12 to 15. Many subjects had open book examinations. In Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering I had the opportunity of attending lectures of Prof. H. Rakshit (the then Head), Prof. G.S. Sanyal, Prof. J. Das, Prof. K.K. Bose, Prof. B. Chatterjee, Prof. M.N. Faruqui, Prof. J.V. Ranga Rao, Prof. B.N. Das, Prof. R.C. Ganguli, Prof. M.C. Mallik, Prof. H.B. Dave, Prof. B.K. Saraf and Prof. K.V Reddy. However Prof. P.R. Sengupta and Prof. A. Bhattacharya who were also in the Department did not teach us. That time there were three Professors from USA namely, Prof. Emery (Microwaves), Prof. Fett (Control Systems) and Prof. Bitzer (Computers) in the Department.

As the undergraduate teaching was the main academic activity that time, there was very good teacher-student relations. I want to narrate one incident. After a few days of my stay in the campus in my first year, one day I received a note in one of my class that I should meet the Department Office immediately. That time the Department was in the top floor of the middle wing of the main building of the Institute. The Department Office directed me to the room of Prof. B. Chatterjee. As soon as I went to his room he asked me to sit and told me that I had a letter from my house which has been given to him because his name is Biswanath Chatterjee and he belonged to the same Department. After talking for some time I could know that he stayed at Allahabad for two years and had education in the same school (Anglo Bengali Intermediate College) where I had my education. We talked about Allahabad and the school for a long time. Later on also on several occasions our letters got exchanged. Of course I did not know that time that Late Prof. B. Chatterjee will be my Research Advisor for Ph.D and will be my ideal teacher. In addition to his extremely brilliant academic career and significant research contributions he had many qualities like sincerity, hard work, punctuality, availability and desire to finish the work as early as possible. I have learnt a lot from him.

The Department did several visionary experiments in teaching with our batch. The laboratory viva-voce used to be conducted by a Board consisting of almost all the faculty members of the Department. It used to be in a big classroom and all the students of the class were supposed to be present. The candidate had to go to the black board to answer the questions. All other students were supposed to write down the questions and in three days' time everybody was supposed to write a report (in addition to Laboratory report) on the questions and answers.

That time in the final year there used to a Design class where students were required to design a big engineering problem. I remember that it was in our batch that this design problem was replaced by project work. We were given small systems which were to be designed, fabricated, tested and demonstrated. Myself and my partner had to fabricate a small analog computer. Later on this concept was followed in other Departments and became operational elsewhere also.

Amongst our batchmates I remember Sukumar Sikdar, Suhas Patil, Surendra Singh Ahluwalia, Harish Nivas, Ajay Dubey, Raghu Raj Singh, Ravindra Bhatnagar, Ravindra Ghai, Haresh Patnaik, Brij Mohan Arora and Stevens. Sometimes I think of those golden days and these nice persons. Unfortunately now I don't have much contact with them except with Sukumar Sikdar.

The hostel life was excellent. The food was good and was combination of foods from all regions of India. The wardens used to take a lot of care. The common room had several facilities like radio, table tennis, carrom, chess, all sorts of magazines in different languages and a wall magazine with contributions from hostel students. Students used to take part in many games, sports and cultural events like music, quiz, debates, etc. There used to be a large number of competitions and events. I used to take part in badminton and bridge (card game). But there used to be problem with water. We had water supply thrice -- 6 AM, 11 AM and 5 PM lasting about 30 mins. every time. The pipeline from Kasai river was not there and the water from deep tubewell was the only source. Many a times we found the tap water stopping while we were taking bath.

One very prestigious event used to be the Hall Day. On that day the students used to show their cultural skill to the teachers and students of other halls. There used to be decorations, painting and drawing exhibitions, wall magazines, music, drama, jokes, speech by chief guest and warden and finally a grand dinner. The students used to be very busy with studies and extra curricular activities. Quite frequently we used to see films in South Institute, Milani and Bombay Cinema Halls in addition to our weekly Netaji Auditorium cinemas. Going to long distance like Midnapur on bicycle was also common. Sometimes students in a group tried to go even to Digha. In most of the cases they had to return by bus. Digha was also not developed to the extent it is now. There were only two hotels and a few cottages that time. During our time Inter IIT sports meet was started. IIT Kharagpur was the champion in most of the events during the initial few years.

Campus interview was another event that started in our IIT during our final year of study. Prof. K.G. Chandiramani of Mechanical Engineering invited several reputed organizations (West Bengal had a large number of Engineering organizations that time) for the placement of the B.Tech. (Hons.) students of Mech. Engg. This was so successful that next year students of other disciplines requested Prof. Chandiramani for similar placement facilities to which he agreed. Thereafter this was followed in others educational institutions with a full-fledged Training and Placement Section.

The IIT Campus was very small that time. The Dandakaranya area was a jungle that time. During night time the presence of jackals and foxes were common with their usual noise. We have seen the construction of C-type quarters near Technology Market. The market was very small with tin-shade shops and two old buildings with tiled roofs. These were dismantled later. Students' Corner was the only book and stationery shop that time. However, Thackers had a book and stationery shop at Golebazar which is still existing. A few small shops including a hair cutting saloon existed near Patel Hall. Only a few eating houses and sweet shops existed near the campus where the students used to go to take food occasionally for a change. The New Restaurant and Sweet India were there at Gole Bazar. The Hall ward boys also used to supply items like milk at night. The electricity supply was poor. In many evenings there used to be power supply breakdown and the students used to rely on candles. The festival Holi used to be celebrated almost in the same way as it is done now. But the Spring Festival used to last for about two weeks but only in the evenings without disturbing normal classes.

I could remember only some of the facts of my student life at IIT Kharagpur. In my opinion the facilities were much less than what it is now. But people in general and students in particular were more happy.

 

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