I am not sure if I know what it means to be an alumnus. I passed out of VNIT in the year 2009 and since then have been struggling to find a place for myself in the world outside VNIT and that pretty much sums up all that I have done in the two and a half year after graduation. It is a little premature on my part to speak about the world outside, the rules of which are no better known to me than you and it is quite unnecessary to speak of the world inside – I am sure every one of us have our own little versions of it and I believe no one has the skills to generalize it in a composition of a few hundred words. So I was in a little dilemma when I started this article and then I thought since I can neither write about the world inside nor the world outside, let me write about something that separates the world outside from the world inside – The Bajaj Nagar Gate to VNIT.
(If you believe that the Admin Block Gate is the real entrance to VNIT, I will safely assume that either you have never studied in it or probably things have changed greatly between the time you passed out and I did.)
I took my first baby steps into college life through these gates. On top of two huge orange pillars and a mesh of iron grill stands a broad sign-board that proudly proclaims the name of the place that I would eventually call home. And very close to it, of course, is the girls’ hostel – I am not an expert but I believe most colleges thrive in and around their girls’ hostel – and that ensures that we always have something interesting to hear about the Bajaj Nagar Gate (The last I heard, they burned down a bike there!). On the other side of this entrance is, what according to the college authorities, the sports facility, according to the day-scholars, the cricket-ground and according to the hostel inmates, a very unworthy-of-the- word football-ground. However, on many casual evenings, when I have either walked-in or walked-out of that gate, I have wondered if life in VNIT would still be the same without this gate being where it is.
The long walk from the hostel to the restaurant on mess-offs, the casual walk with a couple of friends over an interesting conversation and a ‘Kachhi Kairi’ from Dinshaws, the boisterous walk from the auditorium to the ice-cream parlor after a successful stint at the Institute Gathering, the smeared-with-colors and moving-to-the-dhol walk during Ganpati Visarjan, the yes-I-am-from-VNIT walk in front of people from other colleges during Axis and Aarohi – it is strange how different walks culminate or rather happen to pass though this particular gate and that causes so many memories to flood your heart with a pining nostalgia when you refer back to it in time.
The Bajaj Nagar gate remains witness to all those moments when you have leave the college for the semester breaks and when you have come back after one, having figured out that life outside is not as interesting as inside. In fact, words simply roll out of the mouth when you are trying to negotiate a price with the auto-wallahs outside Nagpur Railway Station “Bhaiya, VRCE, Bajaj Nagar Gate? Kitna loge?” And, if you haven’t, you must see this place after the first showers of the monsoon. The dried and dusty vegetation suddenly look refreshing, there are two small puddles of water that get collected just outside the gate and if you happen to take a walk, drops of water from the trees, swaying to the mild breeze, pierce through your clothes that almost all the time reminded me of the small pleasures of life that we so often miss.
Among all these and many other experiences, time flies away and there comes a moment when you have to leave the college through those very same gates, pretty much the same way you came in through it for the first time. Among teary-eyed hugs and many emotional words, this gate stands tall. When I was leaving the campus, I wondered if there was something that this gate would want to tell me then what would it be. I now believe that it probably would have just smiled – the same smile that it would give to the fresh batch that would be joining in a few months time. In that consistency of expression, it embodies what a true constant should be among the changing faces that throng its vicinity every year.
Gates, from the towering ones at Mumbai and Delhi to the ones in front of our buildings have a very unique place in our history, in society and in our lives. Bajaj Nagar Gate is no exception. I revisited the college as a recruiter a few months back. At the entrance, the security-guard asked me for my identity. And as I rattled out the same, I had this really stupid feeling that the Bajaj Nagar Gate was smiling. To comfort myself, I will assume, it knew!
I had written this article for one of the alumni magazines. Today, I just happened to stumble upon it. With one of the batches that I was so close to passing out soon, it made me nostalgic enough to share the article. Cheers.