Class Of 1966 Golden Jubilee Reunion
“Elias!” the elderly gent yelped, having peered intently at the name tag hanging around my neck. “My god, you’ve changed so much!” And this after 50 years!!
My first impulse was to ask the fossil standing before me if he had lately checked what he looked like 50 years on but, having in turn checked his name tag (the girls in the Alumni Association, being now experienced in these matters, had helpfully written our names in large, block letters!), I instead embraced the guy warmly, and with good reason. This was the noble fellow who had shared his notes unstintingly with me all through the 4th & 5th years, thereby helping me through the treacherous rapids of the EE Dept. without mishap.
And so the Reunion began for me. But for most of the other 30 odd Alumni, many of whom were returning to the Campus after May 1966- especially the half dozen or so who had taken the trouble to come from the US, it was shock and awe and disorientation- shock at the new township across the road where only paddy fields had existed before, awe at all the new buildings that had popped up everywhere, and disorientation caused by the superb Victor Menezes Convention Centre as it certainly did not seem to belong in the IITB of our memories. But if there was one thing that we had learned in our time here it was the ability to cope with whatever is thrown at you. And so, within a short while, once the ice had been broken and we had figured out who was who, the spirit of hostel bonhomie took over, the noise level rose, and the GJR truly began.
Registration and tea was followed by group photographs- always a messy and unruly affair. However the photographers parade ground voice and Subedar Major style orders soon got the boisterous group, and the14 wives present,to settle down long enough for the snaps to be snapped. By then it was the 11am and the start of the real business of the day.
We gathered in a cosy little lecture theatre for an informal session amongst ourselves. Jude Netto, the main catalyst for our Reunion, provided the Welcome address and explained how the Reunion had been organized, the difficulties faced in contacting alumnus, and the need to get the database of email ids updated. The year 1966 saw more than 400 students graduating (B.Tech, M.Tech and Phd) but our combined efforts at getting our batch-mates to come for the event resulted in just 31 alumni turning up. Another matter of deep regret was that we had been able to gather very few photographs from our years at IITB to pool together, neither of ourselves or our classmates,nor of the faculty members who had been so much a part of our existence (and nightmares!). So we resolved to send over to the AA (meaning Namita Lobo) all of the photos from back then that we could each find subsequently.
The session was then thrown open to anyone who wished to offer reminiscences from our days at IIT, anecdotes, updates on themselves, etc. There was a time limit of 1 minute for each, but that was soon forgotten. Several of the wives had their say as well- as wives will, and it was refreshing to hear from them, given their entirely different perspectives! It was light and frothy and a lot of fun hearing each other out.
One of the alumnus mentioned the one unique contribution the Batch of 1966 made to IITB, our very own underground magazine Rejctra. He waxed lyrical about the various articles contained in the four issues of Rejectra. Hopefully some classmate, or others may have copies to share with the Alumni Association so that this creation of unexpected impact becomes a part of IITB’s documented history.
Promptly at 12 noon the Director, Prof. Devang Khakhar, came in to address the Alumni, along with Dean ACR, Prof. Ravi Sinha. Prof Khakhar gave us a very polished presentation on the current state of IITB, its rapid growth during the last 5 years, the strength of its faculty, its growing stature as an institution of advanced research, the ever-higher ranking received each year amongst engineering schools, the number of new faculties,and the amount of funding required each year just to sustain operations and provide financial support for the growing numbers of students from the economically weaker categories. What was particularly gratifying for us to hear about was the close coupling that now exists between IITB and Industry, the grants received for specific projects from corporates and the several projects readied for licensing to Industry. The naming of some of these projects – such as Desktop Printing and IOT-lead to a lot of questions from Alumni and turned the session into a very interesting interactive one. This naturally took up more time than budgeted so that Dean ACR, Ravi Sinha, was left with just a few minutes for his address and we got to hear very little about the various Heritage schemes for setting up Chair Professorships, Scholarship Funds for needy students, and other similar programmes- these were left for a later time. The session ended with a minute’s Silence for the several alumni of 1966 who have passed away, after which it was time for lunch.
Lunch was organized on the first floor at VMCC and was another surprise for us, a very pleasant one, as it was of a class and quality unknown in our times. In fact none of us could even number any attempt at staging such an event back then- it was simply outside the scope of capabilities!
And then it was time for the grand tour of new faculties and facilities. The spouses (what an ugly word, why not spouse & spice, as in mouse & mice, or louse & lice?) were given the option of either accompanying their husbands or going on a shopping trip, instead they kind of disappeared, don’t know where. The group was split into two to make the numbers more manageable and we all proceeded for a roughly 2 hour trip that covered the Solar Cell project under the NCPRE, whose goal is to increase Solar Cell efficiencies from the present 17% to 21% or more. Next was the Chemistry lab for Energy and Nanoelectronics with its Class 1000 Clean Rooms for development of 200mm Semiconductor fabrication technology funded by Advanced Materials, and various ancillary facilities that support these labs. All of these were very impressive and a huge revelation as none of us was aware of the giant strides IITB had made in the last few years.
Next it was the Tinkerers Workshop, a truly innovative and laudable initiative, manned by very enthusiastic and lively under-grads. While this very interesting encounter was still on, prolonged by many questions from the golden oldies, the EE guys amongst the group left for the EE Dept. Prof Fernandes very kindly spared time from his busy schedule to give us a 15 minute presentation about the EE Dept today, the strength of its faculty, the numbers of graduate, post graduate and Phd students, and the kind of R & D projects being pursued. This was followed by a half hour tour of one of the undergraduate labs where Madhumita Gandhi and her assistant gave us a very spirited demo of how the B Tech workshops are now conducted, the specific breadboards that have been developed as experimental aids and the other computer-based facilities. In short, a quick intro to the world of virtual experimentation, sci-fi for a lot of us. The consensus amongst the group post these visits was that even more impressive than all of the new facilities crammed with state-of-art equipment, impressive as they were, was the very obvious sense of pride and purpose shown by every single staff member, research student and undergrad with whom we had interacted. It shone through loud and clear and made a deep impact on us.
And then it was time for the High Tea organized for us at Hostels 4 and 5. The trip there also gave us a chance to take a quick round of the campus and marvel at all the new hostels that have sprung up in every nook and cranny of the campus, the extensive sports facilities, and the dense foliage and tree cover all over. Of course High Tea at the two hostels also gave us a chance to visit our old rooms, and this was probably the one negative in a day of unalloyed positives. All of us, without exception were shocked at the depressing state of the hostels, with all the walls and doors festooned with graffiti and rude slogans, with washed laundry hanging everywhere, and the general air of neglect. We were probably fortunate that all of the hostels in our time were then brand new and therefore in good condition and remained so as it was unheard of then to deface the walls, scratch up the furniture or abuse the facilities in any manner- just some sort of an unwritten code that was followed by one and all. What shocked us most was the congestion in the rooms with 2 students now sharing a room that we felt then was barely large enough for one, with no space for even a chair or access to the study desk . None of us could imagine how we would have managed to live with another guy in the room, even if he was a close buddy- probably would not have remained one beyond the first week.
Perhaps we were spoilt because we were fortunate to be at IITB when it was brand new. Of course we were- and we only now have begun to realize just how fortunate and blessed we were.
And so ended the grand Golden Jubilee Reunion- at least the campus part of it. Later in the evening it was time for fun, with a cocktail and dinner party organized at the Beetle Hotel, and made possible by a generous sponsorship of $5000/- from Sharad Tak. Next morning it was time for goodbyes. A group of 10 alumni, some with wives, left for a one-day visit to Lonavala, while the rest began their journeys home. And while bidding goodbye we told each other that we must stay in touch, meet more often and do this sort of a get-together again, sometime soon. And, of course, we each knew that the probability of having such a reunion again was very, very low. It was truly a-once-in-a-lifetime thing.
Finally,a big Thank-You to the wonderful group at the IITBAA for putting together such a lovely experience for us, one that everyone who attended will remember till memories start to dim.
For more pictures, click here.