The alumni function over, everyone in the hall filed out of the LT and started to walk towards the lunch venue which was in a hall in the new lecture theatre complex built behind the main institute building. I could never imagine, looking back now, that there was space enough there to erect another building. I always thought that the Institute premises were abutted closely by the ayurvedic research building, but obviously, in the light of current events, I had been wrong.
We walked through the familiar corridors again. A layer of dust covered everything; no it was not lack of maintenance, it was due to the omnipresent construction work which seemed to be going on everywhere we went, on every floor, in every wing.
Pathology, Anatomy, Forensic…..we walked by the departments one by one. Beyond the forensic medicine department, back in our time, the institute corridor used to end in a shutter which was perpetually closed. Now, we saw, this shutter had been replaced by an exit which led on to a covered, concrete pathway which snaked its way around to enter the new LT block. The word ‘new’, I found, was a euphemism, because the building looked as run down as the previous one which we had exited, and was in a state of rank disuse. This was a perennial problem with all government institutions, I thought. Building something was easy, maintaining it nearly impossible. But this must be new phenomenon since, if my memory served me right, the institute was pretty well maintained in our times. Or maybe I was just being nostalgic, and was colouring everything in a golden hue in retrospect. Maybe government institutions have been like this all along. Who knows?
On the ground, on our right, was a medium sized hall, designed to accommodate maybe 100, 200 people? Our lunch had been served in this hall. All the alumni walked into it, chattering, laughing, accompanying their teachers, showing others the way, guiding children, escorting women. We found a table and lay our stuff (the pagris remember?) down on one chair, and then went to get our food one by one. I sat down on the table with the girls to relish the lunch while Vaishali walked around meeting people, and talking to former faculty. I wasn’t feeling very chatty, and did not want to meet many of my former teachers. I did not have very good memories of many of them, or of my time spent with them. The later events had smeared even my good memories of my time here with their own gloomy stain.
If Prof Lahiri had come, I would have loved to meet him, and talk to him, see the twinkle in his old eyes when he recalled my name; IF he recalled my name!! But he was as reticent as his former student, and loved his own company more than that of others. Maybe I took after him in this regard. ONLY in this regard, I think. The similarity stooped there. He was a genius, I barely made mediocre grades, he was a giant in BHU, people had difficulty remembering my name. He had given his life, and his career trying to serve BHU, I would have given anything to rewind my time there, to rewrite it or erase it altogether.
Talking of teachers I could talk to, I could have even talked to Prof V K Shukla, or Prof Anand Kumar, but these people had also not come. They had not come even last year, when it was our reunion. Besides these people, I do not think I needed to meet anyone else, and hence I kept to myself, and focussed on finishing my lunch.
To be continued……………..
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Maybe the old times always seem better …
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