Some sweet memories, some golden moments and those old friends suddenly emerged on the memory board when I entered into that sprawling campus of my alma mater IVRI. As soon as I stepped in, those two banyan trees were still standing in the same place as if they were waiting for me, carrying old memories. The value of the moments spent with friends under these banyan trees was truly felt that day.
That day with a pleasant gust of wind, I was so lost in the memorable moments spent at IVRI that I did not even know when I reached the guest house on foot. Earlier, I told the taxi driver outside the campus that I wanted to walk from here to the guest house inside as I wanted to live those golden moments of my youth to the fullest today. More than 24 years had passed since I first stepped in IVRI in Feb 1996 but it seemed that it was only yesterday.
Few days before I received information that a tigress had strayed into the rubber factory near Bareilly city and I had to immediately rush to Bareilly to tranquilize the same, so I got a chance to stay at the guest house of IVRI after a long period. The moments spent here started rolling like a movie in front of my eyes.
The graduation degree of our batch got delayed due to a student agitation at Pantnagar Veterinary College. Because of this we got delayed by one year in getting admission in IVRI. That was 29th February 1996, When I first stepped into IVRI, it felt like a celestial dream of a Veterinary student being fulfilled.
I had heard about IVRI many times in student life and from my father’s mouth. When I really stepped inside, I realized it was a wonderful institution indeed. I was allotted hostel number four. That time it was a new hostel. But staying in a hostel where students from all corners of India and with different languages and religions resided, was an exciting experience. And this was such a golden opportunity where knowledge was scattered all around, it just needed to be absorbed. It was unforgettable to meet students not only from Kanyakumari in the far south, but from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to India’s head Kashmir and from the Thar desert to Arunachal Pradesh, the land of the rising sun. Overall a small India was settling in IVRI.
Yes, there was a new thing in IVRI that student’s mess also varied according to the catering of different regions. Such a unique arrangement is rarely seen. But due to this, the students had many options to eat, whenever they wanted to eat the cuisine of the different region. Some of the students had made friends with all the mess students and so was mine. Although I had joined North Indian mess, I was often seen in South Indian mess. Because I loved south Indian dishes especially idli. Apart from this there was a very nicely managed Maharashtra mess and my friends from Maharashtra very often invited me there when they came to know that I was fond of Shrikhand.
At that time the circulation of letters had not ended. Everyone at IVRI used to wait so eagerly for the letters from home that every day someone or the other student used to reach the nearby Izatnagar post office to bring his own and everyone’s letters. Such frequent was this practice that even the postman used to bring letters in IVRI only when no one had reached the post office to collect them.
Those days basic phones were available in homes, but we had to stand in long queues at PCOs to talk to our families, especially after 9 pm when the call rate was reduced to half. That time those queues always reminded me the time of the nineteen eighties decade, when people used to break the ticket windows of the cinema halls to buy tickets for the first show of new films of superstar Amitabh Bachchan.
Izatnagar railway station and post office were nearby. Izatnagar railway station was having meter gauge railway line at that time. I would like to share a very interesting and memorable incident connected with Izatnagar Railway Station. That is, I and an immediate senior had to appear in an interview of assistant professor/subject matter specialist in Pantnagar University. But due to the closure of the railway level crossing, (That time there was no under pass or over bridge) we started going towards the ticket window from the side of the railway line. But before we could reach there the train started moving. Both of us started running and caught the train without taking tickets and reached Pantnagar. See how the wheel of time turned. That ticketless journey later made me a wildlife expert because I didn’t get selected but I later unknowingly got what I was fond of since childhood. And the senior accompanying me is now dean of a reputed college, because he was selected.
Let’s go back to IVRI campus again, there was a very nice centrally air conditioned library with computer and internet facility, that time having an internet connection was nothing less than a luxury. But in the scorching heat of Bareilly, the library was a quiet, cool and relaxing place. There we all used to go but less to read and more to enjoy the cool air of AC.
Now let me take you to the Y-shape building. This building, visible from afar, is also a unique specimen of architecture. Seeing this reminded me of the Cellular Jail of Andaman. The only difference was that it had three wings instead of six. But it is a very beautiful looking building which has given many eminent scientists to the country. I also had a desire that I too should do something in the field of research. But may be something different was written in fate and also something according to my interest. During school days, There was a zoo near our school in Bikaner and it is from here that my love for wildlife was born. And coincidentally, Destiny automatically took me to the Wildlife Field.
Whenever I used to look at hostel number two, the balcony of its rooms looked very attractive. Because the double road, library and a long chain of trees were visible from these balconies. And yes, many of my new friends also lived in this hostel. Even my course mate in bacteriology was here. Thinking of this, I shifted to this hostel. Another thing that prompted me to shift here was that my father spent his IVRI days in this hostel in the early nineteen sixties. I also wanted to live those moments of my father virtually.
We used to do classes throughout the day and at dusk, we used to go out on foot among the dry leaves falling on the double road in the quiet and picturesque surroundings of a long chain of tall trees. Standing at Sharmaji’s shop outside the campus, while talking and having a light breakfast, it seemed as if we were having gossips in the famous coffee house.
Life was progressing like this gracefully. But ups and downs are an aspect of life. Someone had knocked in the heart of my one of the dear friend. He was very good singer and kind hearted guy. One day he hesitatingly told me everything about her. Indeed they were a very beautiful couple. But suddenly there was an upheaval in their lives. But somehow I and some other friends and seniors handled the situation. We are glad that both of them are living a happy life today.
One strange thing used to happen during night. A shadow was often seen from my balcony in the dark of night. It was as if a figure were floating on the roof. It happened almost every day. He looked like a shadow and seemed as if someone on the roof was looking down while smoking a cigarette. My curiosity was growing day by day. One night I dared to unveil this secret. I shared this with a close friend. And as soon as that shadow appeared, we too, with a stick in one hand, slowly reached the hostel roof. We peeked through the roof door and saw that he was perhaps a PhD senior who was very reserved natured man. He rarely talked to anyone. I often wondered why he was so missing and introvert. That night he was writing something and at the same time he was blowing smoke rings. Some papers were torn and thrown on the roof. When we came back to our rooms, we were confused as to what he was writing in the dim light of the lamp post at night.
Just before sunrise we reached the roof again. We picked up the pieces of paper lying there. We placed the pieces of paper together, but those pieces were telling the story of the broken life of that senior. It is not appropriate to write more about this here. It’s just that on these papers there was a story of one sided love. We could not understand who she was, but we did understand why he stood there at night and looked in one direction. After few days he left IVRI without completing thesis work. Why do people sometimes get so attracted to someone? and ruin their own life in one sided love.
I was in contact with several south Indian boys especially from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra. One of my friend was from Karnataka. From his home town, home-made ready-to-eat items packed in cardboard packets with pleasant flavours used to come by train as parcel. I used to wait for a long time for these homemade eatables from his family. Really he was very generous and used to invite every friend to enjoy those mother-made delicacies. He also had Yamaha RX 100 bike. The joy of roaming the streets of Bareilly at that young age on a bike was something exciting.
No one knew multiplex that time but yes, There were also some good theatres in Bareilly, and really it was a great fun to go on a bicycle with a friend sitting in front rod of cycle to watch movies in those cinema halls. The two films of that time, ‘Saja-e-Kalapani’ and Kamal Hasan’s ‘Hindustani’ were truly memorable films. Once I and my two friends from Maharashtra and Karnataka were going to cinema hall and when we became thirsty while riding a bicycle in the scorching sun we went to a bike showroom. In the showroom, We were behaving as if we had plans to buy a bike soon. We asked for water, but salesman offered chilled cold drinks. It was like icing on the cake. In student life, these small things gave so much happiness that they cannot be put into words. For now, we just wanted to drink water, and that work was done.
Some of my close friends were also from Northeast, Maharashtra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh. The one who is very dear in Telugu is called ‘Mama’. We also call them mama even today. One of them was of very jolly nature. Who used to be always smiling himself and used to make everyone laugh. I used to spend a lot of my free time with him too. He is still young with same smile.
There were many boys from West Bengal. Many of my friends from Bengal are still in contact even today and are holding eminent posts. They were very fond of football and music especially Kishore Kumar. Some were all-rounders in every field.
Some days of my childhood were also spent in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. So it was natural to have an inclination towards both Tamil Nadu and Tamil. The two juniors from Tamil Nadu were very dear and near to me. One of them was very good singer and the other, now in administrative services, was fond of guitar.
Now let’s go to northern and western part of India. Few students of these states were very jolly and lively. With a friend from Jammu, who as far as I remember was graduated from Punjab or Haryana, I often used to talk about the beautiful valleys of J&K and Himachal. He used to explain everything especially natural beauty very well. But after IVRI, no one could tell about him as that time mobile phones were not in trend. There was a junior from Gujarat, he used to bring very tasty Gujarati dishes while returning from vacations and used to invite me to his room and offer it with great love. Though I tried my best to know his whereabouts but He too is no longer in touch.
Some seniors, batch mates and juniors were preparing for administrative services. And seeing their preparation, I was also inspired for this, but I did not have the courage to read so much diversified. It is a matter of happiness that many of them are in administrative or police services today and despite being on these busy and responsible posts, many of them are still in touch with me.
During those days, I used to write some light humorous poetries, so I also got a chance to share the stage with national level poets at IVRI. From here all the friends started calling me to write the compulsory Hindi summary of their thesis. I also did this job with pleasure.
During thesis work, we used to go to the lab at night to note down the results of our experiments. Sometimes even the whole night was spent in the lab. But this too had a joy of its own.
In the same way, time was passing with great fun. Two years had passed and now everyone was trying to complete his thesis. The marriage of some friends was fixed by their family members. Most of us had received letters to join jobs. Some friends wanted to go abroad. All in all, everyone was in a hurry. But as the thesis writing was reaching the final stage, the atmosphere was getting depressed. It seemed that now all this will be gone in a few months. May be some friends will never be able to meet again. Therefore in the evening we all started trying to meet more and more in our free time. Everyone’s heart was saying that time should stop here but time started flying. And every week some friend’s thesis was being submitted and we used to go to the Bareilly or Izatnagar railway station with our moist eyes to send them off in the hope that we might meet somewhere in future from now.
In this connection, Finally the night also came when it was my turn to leave the IVRI and bid farewell to student life forever. In the evening of the next day my train was scheduled. The wheel of the time never stops. That Y-shape building, library, hostel, that double road and both the banyan trees in whose shade I had spent so many memorable moments with friends and yes that quiet and secluded temple in which there was a feeling of unprecedented peace, everything was about to go out of my life now. I was thinking to spend few more days there but I too had received the letter to join the job.
That evening with a heavy heart I Picked up luggage and went to meet remaining friends who were in final stage of their thesis submission. Everyone’s eyes were moist. But one of my friend did not even open the door of his room, when I wanted to meet him finally. I knew he could not bear the pain of our separation. Finally, as the scheduled train time was nearing, I had to get into the rickshaw to go Bareilly railway station. Then suddenly he came running from his room and hugged me. And of course, I knew he would surely come. This was his love. I greeted everyone by waving hands and with moist eyes till they were out of sight.
The voice of famous singer Kishore Kumar was echoing from someone’s room while passing the next family hostel………
“Ham laut aayenge, tum yun hi bulate rahna, Kabhi alvida na kahna”. (I will certainly come back, you keep calling like this by heart. But never say goodbye………)
-Dr RAKESH KUMAR SINGH, Wildlife Expert, Columnist and Poet