The year was 1964, a watershed year in my life. I was just 16, and had passed my Senior Cambridge Examination from St. Joseph’s European (now Boys’) High School, Bangalore in December of 1963. Following which I had cleared the JEE from the IISc, Bangalore in May 1964, and had my interview at IIT Madras. I was so proud of my achievement when I was offered & accepted admission to IIT Kharagpur for the 5-Year Integrated Degree Course in Chemical Engineering which was due to start in July 1964.
While there at IIT Madras for my post-JEE interview, I ran across a fellow student from Bangalore itself who had travelled for the same purpose. He went by the name of Ravi Pandit. Ravi now also secured a seat at IIT KGP in Civil Engineering. Well the fact that I was happy to make an acquaintance would be an understatement, I was beyond elated to have found a friend and a travel buddy even before setting a foot on the campus of IIT Kharagpur. We talked and we bonded and we decided to embark on this beautiful journey together when the time would arrive.
And the time did arrive, Ravi and I then set out on our 5-year educational adventure at IIT-Kgp. After travelling a total of 1250 miles by rail from Bangalore to Kharagpur, we arrived at the Kharagpur Junction after a strenuous journey of two days and three nights. The train pulled across the station at 5 A.M on July 1, 1964, it’s been a long time but the memory is still vivid in my mind. I can still picture myself and Ravi stepping out of the train a little happy that the long journey ended but a little scared also about the new life-altering journey we were ready to undertake.
Much before we were about to leave for college we had been assigned our Halls of Residence. I had been assigned Vidyasagar Hall of Residence and my good friend Ravi had been allotted Azad Hall of Residence. Little did we know at that time what a special place these halls would hold in our life not just as a place we resided in but a place where I met these wonderful people with whom I stayed, learned from, and made memories that still make me nostalgic.
At the station, we engaged a cycle rickshaw, with my driver following the one ahead of that Ravi hired. When we arrived at the Campus, my driver pointed to a building still under construction and said that was Vidyasagar Hall. I was taken aback and a sense of panic set in which I had been keeping at bay all along. Being in a completely unknown place for the very first time that too in such early hours certainly didn’t help my situation. For a moment I was nonplussed, but quickly regained my senses and told my rickshaw driver to just keep on following the rickshaw ahead. As I crossed the hall under construction I couldn’t help but feel flustered, surely there has been some sort of mistake. Pushing away from the foreboding that plagued my mind I started to observe the place as the rickshaw moved on. I am not sure if it was the early morning cool breeze or the chirping of the birds that stole my heart, but in that short ride, I found myself falling in love with this beautiful rustic place tucked far away from the hustle & bustle of towns.
In about 5 minutes we arrived at Azad Hall of Residence and the kind gentleman there saw my predicament, sizing the situation I was in he put me up in a double room with Ravi Pandit. I stayed there as the construction of Vidyasagar Hall dragged on & on. So, for July, I resided in Azad Hall, and during that time one block of Vidyasagar Hall was completed. It was the eventful date of August 1, 1964, when I was finally able to move into the hall which was originally allotted to me. My new room was a single room, and with the hall being new there were no seniors to rag me so I enjoyed quite some freedom contrary to what my peers enjoyed!
This is the official photo of the Office Bearers of the Chemical Engineering Department, at IIT Kharagpur, taken in March 1968, in my 4th (pre-final) year. I’m the third person from the right in the back row. Back then I was the Student Editor of the Departmental Magazine.
Whenever I jog down my college memory lane, I still feel the chills I felt in that 5 AM morning on seeing a construction site in place of my hall. But with these chills also come a flood of warmth that I felt when the kind man in Azad Hall let me stay there unofficially. I may not remember the name of the gentleman that opened the doors of Azad for me but I do feel grateful for his spur of the moment decision to take me in. Though my stay with Ravi was a short one I made some long-lasting memories there as a fresher.
Fast forward to 5 years later, I owned a First Class Honours Degree in Chemical Engineering from IIT Kharagpur and was all set and ready to go for my next great adventure to Toronto, Canada starting in September 1969. Also in January 1976, I became a licensed Professional Engineer after passing 4 P. Eng. Exams.
It has been 51 long years now, I am still in Toronto. In the last few years, I have been bestowed with an FEC (Fellow of Engineers Canada) in November 2009 as well as an OVSA (Ontario Volunteer Service Award) for 15 years of public service.
This picture here shows all the 14 Members of the Batch of 1969, IIT Kharagpur (total of ~600), who attended the Sep 16–17, 2017 Reunion in Toronto, Canada. This photo was taken at the Dinner Banquet at the Delta-Marriott Hotel, 655 Dixon Road, on Saturday, Sep16.
During my days at IIT Kharagpur, my philosophy in life was to grab the bull by its horns, or the tiger by its tail and never let go, well the very same fire still burns in me and always will! Signing off…
Derek Michael D’Costa (IIT-KGP’69, P.Eng.’76)