Last January I visited Eden Hindu Hostel and Presidency College with Shannon and Anand after many years. I spent two years 1955-57 here for my Intermediate Science. I can scrape through many sweet memories of those days. I met here with many celebrities of the country including Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India. Dr. Prasad also had lived here during his college days. He came to attend a college function and visited Eden Hindu Hostel. I vividly remember his simplicity. One of his grandsons accompanied him. There was hardly any security cover but for his sole bodyguard who never tried to be very near unlike the politicians of today. My grandfather also happened to be with me. I remember my conversation with him. I said, “Bengal unlike Bihar has at least no problem about caste.” And Dr. Prasad replied, “It was not so in his days in the hostel.” He said pointing to a corner, “There used to be row of kitchens one for each caste.” And just few days before Dr. Prasad’s visit, another very old gentle man from Bihar who was contemporary of Dr. Prasad had come visiting Hindu Hostel. He was quite jovial and talked how he didn’t know how to use a toilet pan. In those days only, once the famous historian of Mogul period, Sir Yadunath Sarkar came to the hostel in one function near around Sarswati Puja.
I was one in a group of five friends who moved together in hostel. Rampall Joshi actually was studying Intermediate Arts in Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad College. Samir was in Presidency but in Arts stream. In 1993, I met Rampall once when he came to meet me in Maurya Sheraton, Delhi. We spent the whole day meeting alumni of Presidency College of our time in Delhi including Dr. Kamal Dutta. Ashok Sengupta came in the reception function of Rakesh-Alapana marriage. Samir is no more. It was Rampall who told me his story. Prof Amiya Mazumdar, a renowned philosopher was the warden during our time. I still remember how boring was the food of the canteen. I was strictly vegetarian and the cooks used to put small fish in even vegetable and dal. However, I had more problems with smelling and outdated heavy utensils in use. Once in a week I used to go to an eating-house on Harrison Road (present MG Road) for some ‘puri-subji’ paying a quarter of a rupee. However, I used to like the food once in a while when it used to be a ‘feast’ (what the ward boys used to call it) in canteen. Those were the difficult days. I was to spend very miserly. My grandfather used to visit me in the hostel quite often. However, I couldn’t have offered food for him from the canteen, as I was not sure of its cleanliness and vegetarian purity.
Shannon was enjoying my moving around in the hostel to the ward where we lived. Some boarders near the gate requested me to take a photograph with them and we complied.
While going up the stairs to the first floor of the Presidency College, I always get a nostalgic feeling. It reminds me of the incident associated with Netaji Subhash Bose and his slapping of an English arrogant professor. However, many doubt if that is true. But when I walked through the corridor I got reminded of many professors including Prof. Tara Pada Mukheji (professor of English, teaching Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser), Taraknath Agrawal (Hindi), BN Dutta and Prof Rakhit (Chemistry) who left lasting impressions on me and I feel proud of being one from this great institute. Presidency College could have become a deemed university in itself or an institute of national importance but for the leftists’ government in West Bengal. And I hate leftists for neglecting this great institute.
The Presidency College has given West Bengal most of its great sons and daughters. For many like me, it remains a temple. I used to get excited with the respect that I was given when any Bengali came to know that I have attended Presidency College.
I was lucky to have my grandfather to look after me. Today, when I look back to remember the days in Presidency College and Hindu Hostel, his dairies of 1955-57 provide some interesting information beside reflecting his intense attachment for me. According to the same, it was on June 28, 1955, when we reached Presidency College after getting harassed from Scottish Church that I instantly got admission based on the marks obtained in school final examination. On July 11, 1955, I got into Eden Hindu Hostel after paying only Rs 69 as initial charges.
It was great to visit the place again with son and daughter-in-law.