In life, you make friends and accumulate memories. Some go their different ways, but again meet later and become close. That is what I experienced since July 1953 after finishing my higher secondary (first year of Intermediate Science (I.Sc.) in Delhi.
Up to higher secondary, I enjoyed the home cooking of my mother. Then I moved to Banaras for 2nd year of I.Sc. in Central Hindu College in Kamaccha, Banaras, which used to be Annie Besant College. It was a branch of Banaras Hindu University. I was assigned to live in King Edward (KE) Hostel. The College Principal was Mr. Lalwani, brother-in-law of Acharya Kripalani, a famous freedom fighter and former President of All India Congress Committee. Kikiben, sister of Acharya Kripalani, was our Principal's wife. She was a freedom fighter in Karachi, and following footsteps of her brother, was jailed. The Principal came to know me as he liked to play table tennis with me.
Annie Besant was a famous educator in India. She started a high school from grades 1-10, but later added grades 11-12 when it became part of Banaras Hindu University. Annie Besant liked Malaviyaji as both were educators. So she preferred to merge her school with BHU.
In 1953, in our classes, only boys were admitted. But now there are separate schools for boys and girls. Even at BHU, for undergraduates, there was a separate Women's College located near the entrance gate of BHU near Lanka area on the left of huge campus. The girls hostel is attached to their college. Sucheta ji (married Acharya Kripalani in 1938) used to teach at the Women's college. Sucheta Kripalani became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, and later Minister in Union Cabinet of India in New Delhi. Many famous people have studied or taught at BHU.
Meals for KE Hostel mess were catered by a Sindhi. Because of the prevailing influence of the Jain community, following their practice, dinner was served before sunset - immediately after the classes. That proved to be a problem for me, as I was used to eating later at 7 or 8 PM. In addition, the vegetarian food of dal, one vegetable, and roti and rice offered in this mess was not that great.
So, my father suggested going outside the campus once in a while to eat non-vegetarian food. Now this Sindhi vendor offered me his home cooked non-vegetarian food a few times. However, vegetarian zealots found out and raided the place while I was being served his home cooked food, as they did not want non -vegetarian food to sully their mess.
I was elected game secretary in voting against a classmate from Fiji, who was a great football (soccer) player. My room-mate was Kansal from Delhi. Some of my other friends from Delhi were Mahen Das, Shiv Luthra, Satish Dhawan, Sehgal, Virendra Mohan, Suresh Gupta, Prem Garg and Parshotam Chaddha.
We had left our Cardinal Ghoslas (nests) in Delhi for first time. Most of us were home sick, and couldn't wait to go home for Durga Puja (Diwali) holidays. Because trains from Banaras to Delhi were limited (faster trains bypassed Banaras in favor of Mughal Sarai), we decided to leave right after our last exam. But the problem was getting rickshaws to carry all of us to the railway station located three miles away. So it was decided that one who finishes exam first will go out and get 8 rickshaws. Luckily, we made it to the train from Banaras to Delhi. Now the fun began in the train as no one was in sleeping mood - going to our Ghoslas after home sickness of three months.
Then came Khumb Mela in Allahabad in 1954. My roommate Kansal was brave enough to attempt to take bath in Triveni. When he reached Allahabad, he found that a bridge had collapsed because a large crowd was trying to touch the feet of Nanga (naked) Sadhu's (with their elephant), thus crushing that bridge. So, Kansal was unable to reach Triveni on time, but saw many dead bodies. With great sadness, he returned.
Kansal was a person whom mosquitos did not bite because they liked my blood and not his. So, I would hide in mosquito net with a lamp and lousy second-hand fan that got heated after half an hour and quit working. Kansal took out his under shirt and used a hand fan once in a while.
Shiv Luthra studied hard until late, and then went for last show of Taxi Driver, in which the hero was played by Dev Anand. Shiv saw it 10 times as it relaxed him. After that he fell asleep, but "people carrying dead bodies shouting Ram Nam satya hai woke me up."
In the early 1950s, people relaxed by going to the last show of movies from 9-12 PM, when the ticket price as Chaar Anna" (1/4th of a rupee). Kamaccha, in the middle of Banaras, is located close to Cremation Ghats and railway station. For Hindus, Banaras Ghats are famous for cremating the dead and for doing Ishnan (bathr) in Ganga. It is a ritual to sing Om Nam Satya hai while carrying dead. It means Name of God (Om) is true. Normally, noise after midnight is not allowed, ,but for the procession of carrying the dead, it is allowed. However, these sounds of death were quite distracting for youngsters like us.
For the College's Annual Day, we invited the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Gobind Ballabh Pant ji. By our good fortune, on that annual day, Acharya Kripalani, a famous freedom fighter, came to see his sister and her daughter, who lived in a house inside our hostel. The Principal asked me if he could bring Kripalaniji, and my answer was of course-great to have two great political leaders at our function.
After finishing I.Sc., Virendra Mohan went to UK for studies, Satish Dhawan joined BITS, Pilani, and Sehgal went to Agra Engineering College. All well placed after their graduation.
The next part of my college journey began in July, 1954 when Kansal was admitted to the Mining College at Banaras Hindu University, and Mahen Das, Shiv Luthra, Prem Garg, Suresh Gupta and Parshotam Chaddha were admitted to the Banaras Engineering College (Benco) for Civil, Mechanical, or Electrical Engineering) in July, 1954.
Mahen Das. BHU 1958.
Shiv Luthra. BHU 1958.
Prem Garg. BHU 1958.
Parshotam Chaddha. BHU 1958.
Suresh Gupta. BHU 1958.
I was interested in joining IIT-Kharagpur, but my father chose Banaras Engineering College because of its proximity to Delhi. The interview question impressed me at Kharagpur as it required critical reasoning, and their semester system. Benco was a tough college as it did not have a two-semester system - one final exam at the end of an academic year in April for each subject.
A building of Banaras Engineering College. Used for practical training in afternoon classes. 1957.
Another building of Banaras Engineering College. Used for morning classes. 1957.
Mahen describes it well," A typical year seemed to be divided in three distinct parts. The first spent generally in frivolous merrymaking; the second involved in the annual functions, and the third totally engrossed in preparing for final exams." There was too much pressure in February and March. Most of us were running to Sankat Mochan (Hanuman mandir) for blessings, feeding Hanumanji and ourselves laddoo/barfi prashad.
At Benco, if you failed one subject in the first year, you were out. That led to a suicide by one of our classmate, when he thought that he did not do well. In our fourth year, one of our classmates had an Epilepsy attack just before one exam in the morning. By the time, he regained himself, most of the exam time was over. There was no flexibility in repeating that subject ‘s exam, as the exam was set by an outside professor, and even scored by outside professors. So our classmate had to repeat the fourth year, and take the exams one year later.
The nice thing for me about Benco was that there were three professors who studied with my father in the 1920's. They were very helpful when my father died after my second year. Also Gopal Grover, two years older to me (joined after B. Sc.) was a great source of emotional help after my father died and I returned to Benco after three weeks of my tragedy in July 1956 with a few remains of my father for immersion in Ganga in Banaras, as he had studied in Banaras for 4 years. Most of the ashes were taken to Haridwar by my elder brothers, where our ancestors' ashes were submerged in Ganges.
Satinder Mullick (author). BHU 1958.
Gopal Grover. BHU 1958.
In Benco, I was given a room in Limbdi Hostel with Shamsher Vaid from Baraut, near Meerut. Mahen, Shiv were allotted a room in Rajputana Hostel. Garg, Gupta, and Chaddha were allotted rooms in Limbdi Hostel.
Sham Vaid. BHU 1958.
Now, Benco had fixed quotas for admission from every state. So, people from different States got admission based on the quota to diversify the student population. Students from different States had different food preferences. So, the engineering hostels provided two rooms to a group of ten students for cooking-dining the food of their choice, with freedom to hire the best cook for their taste.
There was a common mess available but only a few availed of it in spite of the fact it cost 35 rupees per month, compared to private dining which cost close to 60 rupees/month with excellent food. Garg and Gupta were in our mess. Garg used to have 6 parathas Menu on Sunday - Khoya to mutton stuffing, for us to choose from. On Sunday, the mess offered a free cigar, which smelt nice, but I never smoked.
The ragging of first year students was pretty bad at Benco. We dreaded the thought of Holi - where seniors would make an oil pit with colors and put each student in that ditch. Some seniors were crazy, and they used hazing as their fun by choosing a few first year students by going to their rooms around 9PM.
Mahen, Shiv Luthra, and I developed a secret plan to go from college classes to a place outside the university for one night, but Sham Vaid stayed back. Sham jokingly recently called us darpok (afraid). He added "We should face the music." Mahen replied, "Caution is the better part of Valor." I concurred with Mahen - why let a few crazy seniors do awful things to freshman on Holi and spoil our Holi. Hazing within limits is fine, but often, some forget those limits. So we were not darpok - rather, we wanted to take precautions. This part of college experience is not colorful for freshmen at Benco.
Pleasant part of the Holi celebrations was a visit by all Benco students to the home of our college principal Shri M Sen Gupta. He used to personally hug each student, and distribute sweets. It was an emotional moment - away from home.
Principal Mr. Sengupta. BHU. 1958.
His message on the eve of departure from Benco:
"I pray May all your efforts be intelligently directed to promote human welfare efficiently. May you develop a spirit of helpfulness and co-operation for all, a spirit of sober restraint in your speech, action, and in exercise of any power that may be entrusted to you and above all a spirit of gratitude and reverence to your alma mater."
Mahen was known for his fun and singing, and Sham for his respect to elders (touched my mother's feet in Delhi). Shiv was a great companion going to Bengali market in Delhi, for chaat, gol guppas and movies. I used to walk from India Gate to his house in Bengali market. Bengali market is famous for Chaat ( spiced Chick peas, Potatoes etc.)and sweets.
Once, Shiv and I travelled by 1954 Desoto Firedome Sedan (made by a division of Chrysler Corporation of USA, list price of 2923$ in 1954) from Delhi to Banaras with a neighbor's friend in Delhi who lived in South Africa where he earned a lot and had a big house in Banaras. He offered us a free ride with free breakfast, etc.
We left late at night because this person did not like the road traffic during the day. However, he felt sleepy near Etah, a town that is located in an area known for dacoits. We found a Government guest house which had only one Charpai (bed), with its old canes making it very uncomfortable for Shiv and me to sleep on it.
Our friend, the car owner-driver, decided to sleep in the back seat of the car. Both Shiv and I were scared of sleeping, but kept quiet to allow our driver friend to get three or four hours of sleep before proceeding to Kanpur. He treated us to a big breakfast in Kanpur where we freshened up also in the bathroom.
After our breakfast, we proceeded to Banaras. Then, a tire got a flat. Luckily, a truck driver stopped, fixed our tire and replaced it. We reached Banaras in the evening. We decided after this experience to stick to Indian Railways.
Mahen tells a funny story about Professor Kunwar Ganesh Singh. It goes like this. Kunwarji owned an antique motor car. The story goes that it needed a new piston. Kunwarji and his favorite chelas (followers), which included Mahen, searched for it high and low but could not find one. So, one was turned out of local wood in the college carpentry shop, and fitted into the car. With the fuel and ignition to that cylinder blocked, the car worked, albeit with a bit of shudder! Mahen is still a good carpenter - he has made a big round dining table himself in Holland.
Parshotam Chaddha, Suresh Gupta, Garg, Chug, Sham and others were very affectionate. We bonded well over the years. Parshotam, Mahen, Ravinder Nanda and Bhaskar Rao have come to Corning, NY where we live, with their beautiful wives.
At Benco, engineering students were exposed to industry through tours to Lucknow, Calcutta, Bombay, Bangalore and Madras, guided by professors. In my second year, we went for a short tour to Lucknow.
We were informed that there are thieves stealing people's items in the slow train from Lucknow to Banaras.
So a group of us decided to leave early by an express train which reached Banaras around 4AM. But, a few classmates in our group decided to spend late hours in Lucknow, took the risk of travelling by a local train that reached Banaras at 9AM. Well, this group had their coats etc. stolen on from the train. The thieves just jumped out easily. So, my classmates' night fun turned out to be costly.
In my third year, we went for one month on an all-India tour. These tours brought us closer to our alumni, who hosted us in different cities, giving us some ideas of future opportunities. We enjoyed the all-India tour. Sometimes, we slept on railway station platforms, or other accommodations cheaply available in dharamshala-like facilities, or college hostels.
It was a tradition that all dining mess students organize a night boat dinner in the fourth year in the river Ganges. Our cook (maharaj) would serve delicious food. We had a battery operated tape recorder blasting music till early morning, returning when people would be taking their morning ganga bath at ghats.
In Benco, I gained new friends like Joti Nargotra from J&K, Mohsin from Aligarh, Ravinder Nanda from Bombay, Pramod Pande from U.P., Gopal Grover from Delhi, Chugh from Jhansi, Manash Dutta from Calcutta, AB.L. Agarwal from Bareilly, Varshneya from Jaipur, Vasant Kale from Bombay and many others like Bhaskar Rao, Gyan Bhatt, and Suhas Sukhatme. Gyan's father was professor of mathematics and our warden at Limbdi Hostel. I have left out many others like three Mathurs, Khattars, Jain and our principal's son, whom we met in Delhi in 2009. At the foundation laying ceremony of Malaviya Bhavan in Delhi, I met lot of my classmates. It was the hard work of Garg, Mathur and many others that saw the completion of this center in Delhi mostly with donations, and Prime Minister Vajpayeeji's help for land for Madan Mohan Malaviya ji bhavan.
Banaras Hindu University (BHU) was created by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (MMM). BHU is a beautifully designed university with donations from different Maharajas. Even the Nizam of Hyderabad agreed to give donation to BHU, when MMM took his shoes after getting refusal during his first attempt. When Nizam heard that his shoes might be displayed at BHU, he changed his mind and gave big donation.
Limbdi Hostel is located next to Rajputana Hostel. If you cross the road, there are sports fields followed by the main campus of our college. Our professors' houses are just behind our hostels.
Some of them had old model cars, which moved slower than our running speed to the college. There was a joke: One day, Vice Principal offered a ride to a student, who replied, "Sir, I am getting late for my class." There were a few old cars, and all students got a ride after finishing the course in automobile engineering by Prof. Kunwar Ganesh Singhji. I checked this car was made by Packard of USA (Studebaker-Packard) . Packard closed in 1958 with last car produced in 1956. Mahen Das memory is that this car is similar to Kunwarji's car except color. I remember that our Vice Principal had a similar car with black color, of course the color had faded somewhat. Getting parts after Packard went out of business fits Mahen's joke.
BHU Arts students controlled the students union. The students union told us NOT to go to classes because they did not like the Vice Chancellor's policies. We were blocked from leaving our hostels. When these people left, we all went quickly to our classes. Our Principal M. Sen Gupta, instead of teaching, talked to us about not attending the first class of the day. He wanted our participation to answer our questions. Since our class had no issues with the Vice-Chancellor or the Principal, it was all about how to break or cross the Union line without creating any fights. Actually, the Vice Chancellor, Sir C P Ramaswamy Aiyar, was very nice to engineering students and asked for our complaints. We informed him about toilet facilities and he himself went there to inspect the toilets. He had our toilets fixed quickly.
It made me understand IIT's or smaller colleges were better off - they wasted less time on politics. Some students wanted to make politics as their career, but that was not our mission.
At the MMM Library Bhavan in Delhi, there was a minister of transportation who was an engineer. I don't think he entered politics during his days in BHU, but perhaps entered politics later on. Anyhow, he was a key player in organizing the foundation laying ceremony by inviting the Vice President of India, as Vajpayeeji could not attend. Vajpayeeji knew MMM contributions to the freedom movement and education of future India. He looked around Delhi, the capital of India, and was surprised to note that there is no recognition in this city for MMM. Thus the idea of MMM Bhavan in New Delhi was to inform foreigners as well Indians of MMM's contributions.
After finishing our education in Benco in April 1958, we all parted. Fortunately, some of us stayed in touch for a few years. Mahen, Shiv Luthra, Gopal Grover and I met a few times. Mahen arranged a rental room in Bombay for me. I met Grover and Luthra after my wedding in 1966.
I left for Esslingen/Neckar-near Stuttgart, West Germany, in late April 1960, and from there to Johns Hopkins University in September 1961 to my Blue Jay Ghosla. Blue jay is the symbol for famous JHU Lacrosse team.
In Baltimore, Md., the university had arranged Mrs. Lucretia Fisher to pick me up at Baltimore train station and take me to her home in Ruxton, Maryland. Her husband was a famous physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and her eldest son Sandy was doing his undergrad. Sandy drove me around to locate my rental room close to Johns Hopkins University campus near 3400 Charles Street and showed me my Engineering School. He helped me move there in couple of days. Then at Thanksgiving, Mrs. Fisher invited me to her house where I met her brother Lem Billings who was one of the best friends of President John F. Kennedy.
Our class size was only 6, so it was easy to mix quickly with other graduate students. At Hopkins, senior classmates were very welcoming to me. One of them Capt. Robert Bovey, who was married, invited me to his house for dinner a few times to meet other seniors. So instead of ragging, I experienced friendship.
It was all due to Dean Robert H Roy, who created a great friendly environment in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research dept. among all students. There was a weekly class-Seminar after lunch where an invited guest gave a lecture attended by all students from graduate school and a few professors. That gave another opportunity to mingle with others.
Surprisingly, I ran into Virendra Mohan, Chairman of Punjab Semiconductors Devices in Mohali, who studied at University of Wales, Cardiff and got trained in semiconductors in a meeting of Hemlock Semiconductors poly silicon project proposal with Indian Govt. in USA . Later I met Major General Madan (Madi) Sharma, school mate in Noida through my brother. In November, 1966, I met Vasant Kale on top of Empire State building - he was with his new wife, and I was with my new wife. I met ABL Agarwal opposite a Planetarium with his sister in Chicago, and found out that his sister got married to my dear friend Dr. Roy Agarwal, an anesthesiologist in Baltimore, MD.
Lost touch with Tiwari, who shot himself with his model automatic pistol for an intruder with fake bullet for his college project in electrical engineering. Most importantly, Pramod Pande, whose morning song, Jago Mohan Pyare Jago woke us up daily when he was headed to the bathroom, disappeared from our radar completely in 1959 or 1960. He probably died after returning from U.K. on Burmah Shell Fellowship in Allahabad.
I tried to contact Suresh Gupta in Delhi in the 1980's, but the telephone directory has over 50 Suresh Guptas. Finally, Ravinder Nanda started to accumulate the latest addresses of all 1954-58 batch students in the 1990s. That's how I found Suresh Gupta's telephone number and address. His sister married Prem Garg, who was the star of various gatherings, by telling me in first reunion in Delhi that he had Jalebis with Khurchan this morning for breakfast. His cholesterol, sugar all were normal, and so I thought he would be last to" turn off" the lights of 1954-58 batch. (I saw a big poster in 1969 in Seattle when going to the Airport-Turn Off the Lights when leaving Seattle. Seattle's economy was in down trend at that time.) Back to Garg. He was driving to Jaipur for a wedding, when his Maruti car's brakes failed and he hit a truck, killing himself and later his wife. That was a sad part as he was a very jovial guy.
Let me end with a quote from College Chorus:
"If the luck is good, we'll always share the cheers;
If the luck is bad, we ‘ll gladly bear the tears:.
If you keep on smiling at the rainbow;
You will never mind a shower of rain;
Keep your head on the clouds, don't get lost in the crowds:
Always keep the song in Your heart,
And shout Hip-Hip-Hurrah."
I would like to dedicate these memories to Virendra Mohan, Shiv Luthra, Gopal Grover, Prem Garg, Suresh Gupta, Manash Dutta and Amar Nath Chugh. They have left us but are important part of our memories of college days. Principal M Sen Gupta - we still remember you all. I met his son in Delhi, and was in touch with his grandson, who did his Master's at Buffalo University, in Rochester, NY.
There is another person, who posted the stories of our class of 1954-58 in the Chronicle of BHU Global IT. He is from Chemical engineering class of 1977 from BHU-IT. Yogesh Upadhyaya kept track of our class with fond memories. I just found out that he needs our prayers to survive from pancreatic Cancer that was detected in December,2016. Yogesh is a mentally strong person. I pray to Sloan Kettering doctors to take care of our great friend. Yogesh, our class is praying for you.
© Satinder Mullick 2017
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