Chronicles of KGP: A home away from home — AZAD Hall, We are Blue
When I entered Azad Hall 55 years back, wondering what was in store for me there were a lot of apprehensions. Having never left Hyderabad alone since childhood, I was getting mentally prepared for new challenges. The moment I entered the dining hall, seniors started the ragging process by giving me the title “illad no. 4” the nicknames were given to South Indians. Though ragging was the first experience, the help I got from the seniors was invaluable, starting with managing our expenses carefully to buying second-hand books. Ragging was fun after the first day, and no senior tagged more than once and usually ended up giving you a treat. On 15th July there was a freshers introduction day, and ragging stopped thereafter. Then the elections of Gymkhana and inter hostel events started giving the boost of hall tempo, which grew fast in our impressionable minds and still lasts till date.
We faced a real problem before our first term exams when there was a bombing in Kalaikunda airbase from then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. That day two Sabres were shot down, and we took our bicycles to Kalaikunda and brought memorabilia from the aircraft. One of the pilots who was killed was an ex Kalaikunda pilot who defected during the 1962 war and was thought dead, and his wife had been receiving a pension. His name was Mohammed Afzal. He died while bailing out of his aircraft. The same evening Kalaikunda officials raided our halls to retrieve all of the aircraft parts we had collected. What followed was a blackout for 20 days, which affected our studies gravely. We requested Dr SR Sengupta, our then Director, to postpone the term exams, but he refused. Everyone suffered terrible results. However, when we returned after Diwali, things became normal, and the next semester started with the spring festival, which used to be conducted at Jnan Ghosh Stadium. Preparations for the spring festival started in December itself. The enthusiasm was so high that people worked day and night practising and preparing backdrops. An Increasing amount of cheering to encourage participants and the Interhall sports events cultivated this hall tempo. The major events that entailed were 80 per cent inter-hall events except for an inter-college debate drama and quiz competition with Kolkata colleges. That was the time tempo played a major part.
Those were the days when if someone woke you up at 11 pm or midnight for a cup of tea, we went without complaining. During exams, we would sleep with messages outside pinned to our doors to wake up at odd times. There were a lot of power cuts during our times, which would often lead to an interblock gaali competition, you see how an idle mind can behave like devils spawn. There was also a great rush for the Saturday night movie where HPT or high-pressure technology was adopted by someone not having film cards to get into Netaji Auditorium.
There was always a lot of fun and excitement for Hall days and other functions. In our time E block was not there, and behind D block, we used to have a playground named Pant Stadium. Our common room was famous for TT cartons and Chess, while a bridge game would be taking place in many rooms. As there was no TV, we used to go to town to watch movies with dinner at Anarkali SI BNR or Minsen, a shoe shop. They opened Waldorf in ‘69.
One incident keeps coming into mind. Besides Azad and Nehru, there was open ground, and beyond that a famous tea shop Shambhu’s where we used to get pyaajis, aloo parathas and chai any time in the night. During the blackout after the Pakistan air raid, we decided to play a prank. In the night, we went to the open ground and started flashing torches. Immediately there was a huge hullabaloo saying paratroopers had landed, and a huge crowd from Nehru and Azad rushed, and we joined the fun of chasing imaginary paratroopers.
We used to have before our farewell a debate between outgoing Azadians versus the first four years. Till 1985 batches Engineering was a 5-year course. Only people joining from 1982 had 4-year courses. Our topic for the debate was our juniors proposed that we learned nothing in the 5 years at IIT. My answer was we learned to tolerate you. I would love to recall a poem written by one of our fellow Azadians Ms.Zamin 1969 batch (MT), on our farewell day.
We stand before you on this day singing merrily
Facts from here and there to make this melody
And as we sing to you we think of days gone by
A lovely time we had with you throughout our entire stay
Azad Hall, we are blue…
We will think and think of you
Of our friends and of our stay when we say goodbye to you.
Those happy fresher days with nothing to worry
With second-year going by just marking mastic
And on to the third year we came, we were busy I Say
Still, then we had lots of time for Azad ka tempo high hai
Azad Hall, we are blue…
From 4th to final year was fast and now on to this day
A lovely time we had with you for our entire stay.
That is why leaving you we all find
You are always welcome to us wherever we will be
Azad Hall, we are blue…
This is your home away from home we are sure you all agree
A lovely home you make of it, a lovely home it will be.
The tempo of the Hall must stay so always keep it high
The spirit of the Hall must live so never let it die.
Azad Hall, we are blue….
- Raju Subramanyam, 1970, Azad HOR