The Reunion XX: Walking down the Memory Lane

After lunch we piled up inside our cars again and drove inside the main BHU campus. What was on the agenda now? The best part – visit to the IMS, the hostels and ‘my’ temple. 

As the cars entered the main gate of the Institute of Medical Sciences, IMS, our Alma Mater, I felt as if I had entered a time machine and gone back twenty-five years in time. There were so many memories associated with the place – the gate, the parking lot to the left, the deserted road which continued straight to the mortuary, the circular driveway to the right, the stone steps leading to the façade of the main building of IMS, everyplace had its own story, its own memories. If one did not stop at the circular driveway and continued straight, the road wound around the Institute building and turned left to what we called the ‘Molecular Biology’ wing. This part of the IMS was deserted most of the time, especially in the evenings, and one could sometimes spot girls and boys walking around in the area for some moments of privacy. 

The cars stopped at the circular driveway, dropped us there and then drove back to the parking lot. We trooped inside the building, climbing the stone steps once more after so many years, accompanied by our families, and entered the reception area. It was a high-ceilinged quadrangular space and looked much smaller than I remembered. On the left side of the entrance hall was a corridor which led to the Preventive Medicine department and the Institute library, where so many stories had been born, and on the right a similar corridor led to the Director’s room and other offices, where we had submitted our papers when we had joined MBBS as starry-eyed students. 

There was a third corridor too, leading straight from the entrance to the different undergraduate and postgraduate departments of the Faculty of Modern Medicine – Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Pathology, Microbiology, Forensic Medicine, Surgery, Medicine and so on till, at the very end of the building one reached the Institute cafeteria situated on the second floor and the Dissection Hall and Forensic examination room on the ground floor; a place where dreaded post-mortem examinations were conducted. The Dissection hall, or DH, was where the students learned anatomy by dissecting cadavers, and it had its own peculiar smell of formalin and dead people. In fact, I believe, every department had its own peculiar smell, depending upon what was housed there and what was done with the things which were housed there. For example, Pharmacology and Biochemistry smelled of chemicals, Physiology smelled of animals, Pathology smelled of preservatives, Microbiology smelled of urine and stool samples and Surgery smelled of FEAR! Yes, the fear of the students who went there to learn. But I will not dwell on smells and fears here, I have a story to tell. 

In between all these departments were Institute Lecture Theatres, or ILTs, with adjacent open areas in between, commonly known as ‘Institute Quadrangles’. You see, the building of the Institute of Medical Sciences was designed rather geometrically with a central spine and several opposing wings jutting out from it on both sides. The central spine made up the corridor, and some labs and offices etc., and the wings housed the departments and the lecture theatres. In the open space between successive lateral arms were green areas, open to sky, known as the quadrangles which were used for hosting get togethers or student parties. One of these ‘quadrangles’ also housed a temple. Yes, you heard it right! A temple right inside the Institute building. Well, Banaras is a city of temples and the IMS was no exception. 

It is through this structure that we moved as a group. Sometimes small groups with one or two families would break off from the main group and wander off to see some place of particular importance to them, and then come back to the main group again. First off, we went to the DH to see the dead people and show to our children where the journey of learning medicine starts from. Apparently, the stories about the DH had leaked out, like who had fainted on their first day and who was with whom and did what, and the children wanted the see the room with the dead people in it. We entered the huge hall lined with tables bearing the cadavers, covered with linen sheets. The children were excited and posed with us at our tables for pictures. I was uncomfortable and wanted to exit the place quickly; it is not good to treat dead people as tourist attractions or to disturb their slumber either and thus I advised Shubhi-Meethi to get on with the rest of the tour. 

We exited the DH and proceeded towards the lecture theatres and sat inside them, trying to remember who used to sit where. The alumni sat on one side, as a class, the families sat on the other side, giving the former students some space to relive their student days. Vaishali sat with me since she was an alumnus herself, albeit one batch junior. 

Logani sang a song, then me and then Somu Da. Everyone took pictures, made videos, tried to remember what it was like in those days. Exiting from the lecture theatre we made our way to the temple inside the quadrangle, then the library and finally out again. 

At the stone steps of the Institute building, Avinash and Teju had arranged some standees for us to take pictures with. All the alumni gathered around, in formation and posed for pictures. The official cameraman had accompanied us too, clicking pictures. Kanchanmani, Shyam’s wife, also clicked pictures with her camera, as did dozens of other family members. This was it! This was the picture for which we had travelled hundreds of miles away from our homes and our jobs. This was the picture we would cherish for as long as we lived. Everyone looked elegant in their dresses, the girls had dressed in yellow saris and the boys wore dark blue or black suits with red ties. 

Presently, the family members also joined in and we had a huge gathering. Our official photographer took pictures of the whole group, the extended family – it would be a picture to cherish for years to come. 

Soon we found ourselves getting into the cars again to go and see our erstwhile hostels. Our first stop would be Ruiya Hostel! 

To be continued………………………………….

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