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.
The second day of the last month of the years always brings with it painful memories. Tears roll up in a corner of the eye automatically as those horrific images cloud any logical response. The National Conference of the Physiological Society of India was just 5 days away and we were engaged in last-minute rehearsals for cultural programmes.
It was lunch hour and I clearly remember I was munching on a dosa outside the gates of Presidency College when the news came. Kolkata TV (back then the only independent voice against the Left regime) was airing horrific footage from Singur.
It was a cursed morning. Blinded by their ego after winning 235 out of 294 seats in Bengal Assembly, the Left was determined in acquiring a multi-crop land in Singur for setting up a car factory for Buddhadeb’s comrade Ratan Tata (although alternative land was available not far away). December 2, 2006 was the day when fencing began.
Kolkata TV footage was scary for any democracy. Black fumes over the entire village as houses were burnt. Images of women running helter skelter as CPM harmads ran after them, tugging at their clothes. Footage of the police, acting at the behest of the government of the day, beating up men mercilessly for not parting with their land and standing up to a Bourgeois industrialist.
The students’ union at college, run by Independents’ Consolidation, decided to hold a protest rally immediately. A road blockade was planned at College Street-MG Road crossing. Several people, tired by then of the incessant Bandhs and rallies called by then Opposition parties, had extended their support to us, horrified and sickened to their core by state-sponsored terror.
Buddhadeb had imposed Section 144 on key locations in Kolkata by then. The party of the proletariat had by then refused to listen to the voice of the people. Absolute power corrupts, Buddhadeb was a leading example. behind the garb of an intellectual, a fascist was presiding over the carnage of innocents! The white robe he wears is nothing but a shroud, hiding the skeletons of Singur, Nandigram, Netai, Bhangar in his closet!
2 December, 2006 – SFI goons tried to stop PCSU’s rally. Buddhadeb’s police detained students, beat them up for the right to protest. Few honest officers lamented, their hands were tied!
Eight years have gone by… The martyrs of Singur still demand justice soon. After all, the party of the people is in power now! Unlike 2006, we have full faith in the Leader of the State now.