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Once a Presidencian, always a Presidencian

My second home from 2005-08 – The Physiology Department

 

On this day, 13 years ago, I first stepped into Presidency College as a student. With trepidation in the heart, and alacrity in my steps, I was eager to walk down the hallowed portals where the greatest minds of the 19th and 20th century once worked.

The memory of that rainy day is still vivid in my memory. That metro ride from Tollygunge to MG Road, wading through knee-deep water on College Street, and finally rushing through the black, iron gates for counselling – it was a dream come true. So what if I did not receive my owl, Hogwarts was here.

The colourful journey that began that day can best be described in Bryan Adams’ oft-quoted line: “those were the best days of my life.”

From making friends one can cherish for a lifetime to learning the lessons of life, the three years helped me come to terms with my own identity, shaped my personality, gave me the confidence to face the world – and embrace the spirit of life.

Prem (love), porashona (studies), politics – these are the 3 P’s a Presidencian swears by. Whether you like it or not, you’d be initiated into all three P’s during your stay. Well, I did secure the 4th rank in the admission test, and 4th topper in Physiology in the University exams at the end of third year – that settles the P about porashona. And college life without ‘prem’ is three years wasted. Presi gave me my first love. I first came out of the closet during the second year, and it was Presi that helped me muster the courage.

 

Presi Greens – Overlooking our Baker Building

 

We were ‘lucky’ enough to be in college when student movement in Bengal was at its peak, because of the huge backlash three-decade old Left Front government was facing for its policies. From being beaten up during a demonstration at College Square, to being detained by the police, the violent students’ union elections, where friends turned foes – the three years at Presi shaped my worldview of affairs.

Bunking classes, adda at portico, the raucous discussions at Quadrangle and Pramod Da’s canteen, rehearsals for drama at Derozio Hall, book (and food) hunting on College Street – the fleeting memories of the years gone by turn sweeter by the day.

There is one lesson that Presidency taught me, and I hold dear to my heart – tolerance and multiculturalism. Unlike some elitist institutes which often make headlines in the media, Presidency always supported free-thinking, critiquing and knowledge which is free, without discriminating against merit. Presi has always been inclusive. Presi has been the bedrock of revolution. Presidency stands for the glory days of Bengal – rising like a phoenix from the ashes.

To borrow Khaled Hossaini’s famous line, you can take a Presidencian out of Presidency, but you can never take Presidency out of a Presidencian.

 

An Open Letter To Presidency University

প্রিয় প্রেসিডেন্সি

আজ আমার খুব মন খারাপ। লজ্জায় মাথা হেঁট কাল থেকে। প্রেসিডেন্সি আমায় দিয়েছে অনেক কিছু, প্রতিদানে ভালবাসা দিয়েছি যথাসাধ্য।

আমার মনে আছে সেই ভীরু পায়ে ২০০৫ এর জুলাই মাসের প্রথম পদক্ষেপ। তারপর তিনটে বছর, ইতিহাস!

কাল আবার ফিরে দেখা প্রেসিডেন্সিকে। এ কোন প্রেসিডেন্সি? ছাত্রবেশী এরা করা? কি চলছে আমার সাধের এই ইনস্টিটিউশনে? মুখে এক রাশ রাগ আর চোখে জল নিয়ে মেনে নিতেই হলো প্রেসির এই অধপতন।

কাল রাতে ঘুম হয়নি ভালো, টিভি দেখছিলাম সারারাত। মেধার উত্কর্ষস্থল যে প্রেসিডেন্সি, সেখানে মধ্য মেধার মুষ্টিমেয় কলরব। আর কতদিন? এই অবক্ষয় ঘুণ ধরিয়ে দিছে দেওয়ালে দেওয়ালে, নৈরাজ্যের লেলিহান শিখা গ্রাস করছে শিক্ষাকে।

কাল গর্বে বুক ভরে উঠেছিল যখন শুনলাম দেশ বিদেশ থেকে গুণীজন আসবেন ২০০ বছর পূর্তি উপলক্ষে; নিমেষের মধ্যে গর্ব ধুলিস্যাত হল চোখের সামনে। যে “স্বর্গের সিঁড়ি” তে একসময় নেতাজি করেছিলেন বিপ্লবের সূচনা, সেখানে চলছে প্রহসন।

ভয় হচ্ছে। যে স্বপ্ন প্রেসিডেন্সিকে নিয়ে আমরা সবাই দেখেছিলাম, পূর্ণ হবে তো? যে উগ্রপন্থী ছাত্র রাজনীতি একসময় প্রেসিডেন্সিকে গ্রাস করেছিল, সেই দুর্দিন ফিরে আসবেনা তো আবার আমাদের সাধের প্রেসিকে কড়াল গ্রাসে জড়াতে?

প্রাক্তনী হিসেবে দুঃখ আর অনুশোচনা ছাড়া কিছুই দেওয়ার নেই আজ আমার। আর পাশে থাকার বার্তা।

ভয় হয়। প্রেসিডেন্সি বেঁচে থাকবে তো?


Dear Presidency

My heart is heavy with grief today. My face blackened with shame. My Presidency, the institute that gave me my identity is going through a dark phase. In return, I can only offer my love.

I still remember that day in July 2005, when I walked into the campus for the first time. With trepidation in my heart. Presidency welcomed me with open arms, made me her own. The three years that followed are history…

Presidency visited me again. Last evening I watched with shame as the two hundred year old institute was desecrated. My face burst with anger, my eyes wet with tears. We have no choice but to swallow the ignominy with a pinch of salt.

I could not sleep last night. Kept shuffling channels on TV. The Centre of Excellence that once produced the brightest minds of the world has been hijacked by lumpens who claim to be students.

For how long? The pillars have withstood the test of time. Will they tide over the systematic crumbling of meritocracy? Will they continue to be blackmailed by a handful who hold the might?

I am scared. In less than two years time, Presi will celebrate 200 years of existence. The world is expected at our doorstep. Is this the image we want to project to the world? Will the institute allow itself to be grasped by the seeds of anarchy and directionless student unrest?

We dream of Presidency occupying the hallowed ranks as Cambridge and Harvard. We want her to fly towards new heights of glory. Can we allow a few to shackle her with fetters of a dead ideology?

As a former student of the institute I have only apologies to offer for what happened last night. I can only extend my hand of solidarity to the place that helped me grow!

I can only pray that Presi survives over this crisis at hand!

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