Memories of a Receding Past: 22

Completion of College Education

Clearing the Intermediate examination was, in fact, clearing the stage of higher secondary education. My higher education truly started as I stepped into the III and IV years of the college. I chose Political Science, Geography and English Literature for the graduate course of two years, both having examinations conducted by the Agra University to which the College was affiliated at that point in time. Much earlier, it was affiliated to Calcutta University, Allahabad University, etc. Later, of course the college was tagged on to Vikram University in Ujjain before it was brought under Gwalior’s own University.

Before I speak further on my years in the college, insignificant though they were, I might as well write down a few lines about the College building. For a place like Gwalior, then wallowing in the backwaters of the country, it was something to be proud of. While the building in which we studied was built during 1879-1891 the College was established in 1846 and was known as Lashkar Madarsa - Lashkar being the name of the town. It was renamed as Victoria College in 1887. Although located in Gwalior. later it was ironically renamed, not after a Scindia but after Maharani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi who was denied assistance by the Scindias to fight the British during the 1857 Mutiny or the First War of Independence, whatever one may like to call it. Finding her situation hopeless she decided to end her life at Gwalior where she was camping. The College (MLB College for short) is currently known as Maharani Laxmi Bai College of Excellence.

Built in the then prevailing Indo- Saracenic style, the structure is constructed of sandstone procured from what was then known as Rajputana. Even the workers were brought from there and Gujarat. The trellises on the porch and on the storey above are typical of Rajasthan. Its rooms have 25 to 35 feet high ceilings to keep them cool during the hot summers of Gwalior. I remember the tall doors, of teak and frosted glass, on which were writ large two alphabets: VC for Victoria College

What was most interesting was the stairway for going up to the first floor. The first flight of it would commence from two sides as one entered the building from the porch after going across a wide verandah that went round the building. The first flight would end at a wall and the second flight moved along it up to the second landing and then two flights from the two sides would climb and converge on a landing that was suspended in the air, From there two flights took off rising in two opposite directions – one for the Union Hall and the other for the classes. It was somewhat like the stairways of palaces of royalty, shorn of all their embellishments, seen in the Hollywood films of the 1950s.

The building used to look so balanced with its two wings and the clock tower in the middle seemingly piercing the sky. That balance has been destroyed by installation of a statue of Maharani Laxmi Bai very close to its porch - as if naming the College after her was not enough. We Indians are too fond of statues. For decades the College used to dominate the skyline of the town and the hourly chimes of the clock used to be heard right inside the bazaars a mile or so away. My mother used to work by that chime and her blood pressure would rise if she happened to be unable to complete her targeted chores by the time the clock struck one in the afternoon

Built on many acres of land, it had a sand stone compound wall all around it which was brought down by some mad cap who replaced it with very pedestrian-looking hideous compound walls. It had extensive grounds for cricket, football and hockey, spaces for badminton and tennis courts, a gymnasium and some massive trees.

When I joined the College I somehow felt proud as not only my father was a teacher here, all my elder siblings had gone through its portals – some had passed out and the rest were still working through their respective courses. The College was so much with us, so well entwined with our lives that we were happy to be there as indeed, I remembered, I used to be happy to be there with my father years ago in the evenings during my childhood.

For graduate courses some of the professors used to be top class and some others were better than ordinary. Our Political Science professor who used to take classes on Political Thought was a Ph. D. from the London School of Economics where he happened to have been taught by none other than Harold Laski. The Head of the Department of Geography, Prof MA Qureshy, a very close friend of my father, was also exceptional.

The faculty would be very helpful and go out of their way to assist the students to come to grips with the subject. I remember one of the Political Science lecturers was so committed that he invited a visiting professor from the US and requested him to take four lectures on the US Constitution when we were in III year. His name was Schleicher and was perhaps in the faculty of Oregon University. He had come to India on the invitation of Indian Council of World Affairs at New Delhi of which our lecturer too was a member.

As I entered the BA classes I lost a few friends and acquired some new ones. Among the new ones were mostly sons of Maratha feudal all of whom barring one have passed on. The only one remaining and whose father was a government servant, Udaisingh Ingle is still around. So are others like Ramesh Tiwari, DVS Kapil. While Kapil now spends six months every year in the US with his two sons I should like to dilate a bit on Tiwari.

Ramesh Tiwari was senior to me in the College but I just do not remember how I got to know him. He was doing his B.Sc. Having scraped through, he switched to Geography for post graduation and obtained a good Second Div. That wouldn’t have taken him anywhere but for his prowess, despite his bulk, in Cricket, Hockey and Football which fetched him a placement in Bishop Cotton School, an old and reputed public school in Simla. He chucked that job for personal reasons and joined Yadvendra Public School in Patiala. For a boy from a family of modest resources he was pretty enterprising. Throwing the Patiala job he moved to Nairobi to teach in one of the public schools there. While teaching there, he somehow insinuated himself into Reading University in UK and started working on his Ph.D. With a doctorate in his bag, he got appointed in the University of Manitoba at Winnipeg. Before leaving for Winnipeg he came to our place at Bhopal in 1965 from where he called me asking me to go over to meet him. I was in Raipur that was 24 hours away by train. That’s when he revealed his plans to get married to an English girl who is still with him.

He has been a friend for around sixty years, but if one were to ask me, I wouldn’t know how he infiltrated into our household and of all the people, became pally with my mother who was generally known as Hitler among my friends. He came to know very well everyone of my family – all my brothers two of whom are no more.

I passed my bachelor’s examination with a high second division and opted for Masters in Political Science in clearing which, too, I did very well. In those days first divisions were very hard to come by. Only two of my siblings obtained them – one in Zoology and the other, my sister, in Geography. My eldest brother topped the University but missed I Class. I too suffered the same fate.


More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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