First impressions are often amplified and romanticised, but my life experience tells me that they are unreliable, fragile, ephemeral, and often flat-out wrong. My first memory of walking into the Azad Hall of residence in July 1990 is feeling a little letdown. What I saw was very different from the mental image I had built of the campus of India’s premier institute of learning. The Azad Hall looked a little neglected. The grass between the various wings was approximately a foot high. As I walked along the corridor from the mess to C-wing, I saw the poles that presumably held the volleyball net, but there was no court to be seen amidst the tall grass. The croaking of frogs, buzz of mosquitoes and other small insects referred to as “LGB’’ (Little Green B*******), in KGP lingo, made for a distinctly uncomfortable and slightly depressing first impression. It was raining heavily and the dark clouds were mirroring some of my internal thoughts. I was going through this internal churn all the while I walked to my assigned room with my luggage.
The first few weeks were a bit hard for me. I had to be in presentable attire and interact with all the 300 Azad Hall residents. All through my elementary, middle and high school, I had largely kept myself to my small circle of friends, with almost no effort to reach out and connect with others. Now, I saw myself stepping out of my comfort zone and getting to know other Azadians. While, I must say I slowly found all this quite a liberating exercise. Some things I learned there are particularly relevant in today’s digital world, where people are hooked to their mobile gadgets at all times. I am often reminded of the simple dining table rule that was drilled into us during the orientation period. Anytime you joined or left a group sitting at the table, you sought permission from those present. The relevance of this simple act of acknowledging those around you at the dining table cannot be overemphasised. The banter we exchanged at the table made the mess food more palatable.
The sheer gamut of extra-curricular activities at IIT KGP was just mind-boggling. As I look back at my four years at KGP, the time seems to have passed in a blur — orientation, Illumination, Spring Fest, Hall Days, Elections, Inter-Hall competitions, Treasure Hunts, Victory processions (VP), GBM meetings, TFS shows, bhaat sessions. The Soc-and-Cult included almost anything under the sun like music, dramatics, debates (even Bengali-1AM sessions for non-Bengali speakers, go figure!). During these four years, Azad Hall took many awards for Illumination, sports and Soc-Cult. The other more creative award that Azad Hall used to give to its residents was the “Turbo Basic” award for the individual responsible for turbo-charging or raising everyone’s shared “basic” portion of the mess bill. There were many such creative awards for which a committee of students would recommend, discuss and nominate!
What a wonderful time those years were. The volleyball court in Azad Hall was one of the favourite places for all of us to hang out. Even the mess workers used to join us in a game or two. The seniors who had sent a chill down my spine on our first interaction were actually easy-going and fun to be with. In short, all the ideas that had clouded my impression were definitely erroneous (except for the LGBs, which persisted all through my four years in college!)
- Gauri Shankar Govindaraju | 1994 | Azad Hall | ECE