Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Tripping Down Memory Lane - Aurangabad Diary 2012

Prologue
The decision to return to any early scene in your life is dangerous but irresistible, not as a search for the lost time but for the grotesquerie of what happened since. In most cases it is like meeting an old lover years later and hardly recognizing the object of desire in this pinched and bruised old fruit. We all live with fantasies of transformation. Live long enough and you see them enacted – the young made old, the road improved, houses where there were once fields - Paul Theroux in my favourite travelogue ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’

Coming back to my college town Aurangabad after 23 Years
Last time I went to Aurangabad it took me two trains and 30 hours. This time it took me 1 hour 55 mins. It normally takes 1 hr 35 mins by air but the pilot chose to abort the landing the first time and treated us to a scary fly round eventually culminating in a white knuckle bumpy landing. A cool breezy morning greeted me as I walked out on the tarmac. Suddenly and inexplicably I felt this happiness inside. I had goose pimples and a smile played on my face. I haven’t felt like that in a long time. I instructed the driver to take me straight to MIT. He didn’t need to be told again where Marathwada Institute of Technology was. Everyone knows MIT lies off the Beed bypass. Same brown burnt earth, craggy hills on the horizon and the same inscrutable shaking of the heads of the locals. Yes, I was in Aurangabad!


MIT Campus
The first feeling was of total disbelief. If Scotty from Star Trek had beamed me down, I wouldn’t have been able to guess that I was in MIT. The changes are enormous. Beed bypass is unrecognisable. Both sides of the road have buildings as far as eyes can see. The MIT campus is a lot greener with trees and lawns.  There is incessant flow of two wheelers with blue shirt MITians driving into campus. The campus has lot of new buildings and some more are under construction. The old workshop where I and my father slept the first night in Aurangabad is now called Central Workshop with scores of lathes and carpentry & iron work classes going on. That was a big relief. All old buildings coexist with the new ones. Mess has been turned into a modern cafeteria. The BSc Applied Sciences has been changed to BTech programme and a new building is under construction. Shops and ATMs have been built just as we enter the campus from the bypass. I thought I will use the ATM just for the transaction slip showing withdrawal from MIT campus. 




Amidst the development, I was again thankful that the old tin shed hostels have not been razed down. They still stand there tall proud of the fact of hosting me for three years. They are being used as storerooms and school classes. Bathroom units are still there along with the drinking water concrete pipes erected upright to serve as tanks. The new hostel where we lived in our final year is a little desolate. Our wing was empty as most of the students are locals now.




The campus seemed purposeful, precise, quite, and efficient and disciplined all round. Classes were being conducted; students worked diligently in their practical classes. With signages everywhere, moving around the campus is simple. Though there are skirmishes between student groups once in a while but nothing like the swordfights we witnessed during our times: O Meerut Bravehearts! Where are Ye? I was informed that the college’s reputation has improved in the last few years. Annual campus placement takes place with reputed companies visiting to hire MITians.

Meeting with Dr. Kawade
Within minutes of reaching MIT, I was in Dr Kawade’s residence/office. He walked in immediately and greeted me warmly. I am not sure but do hope that he recognised me. He informed me that due to illness he was not involved in day to day activities of the college. Apparently his back pain was acting up. His two daughters were in charge now. They were building up Marathwada Institute of Technology brand by naming all their colleges as MIT. There are MITs in Mundka (Delhi) & Bulandshahr (UP) and two new polytechnics are coming up in Maharashtra. All in all, I think Dr Kawade has done a good job. The thing I loved about him was that he kept referring to MIT as ‘your MIT.’ I was overwhelmed when he apologised for not giving us all the facilities during our time. We were soon joined by Mrs Kawade. It was a warm meeting. Afterwards we posed for photos. Mrs. Kawade asked me bring my family next time around. I left promising that I will be back soon.

Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University
Its time I got my Degree
I go meet the Registrar Dr. Shankhala. Dr Kawade had suggested I meet him to help me get my degree from the University! Dr Shankhala turned out to be great person, a retired Haryana Army man who has now settled in Aurangabad. We had a great conversation and he will help me get my degree from the Convocation Department of the University. There is a fine of Rs. 100 for every year the University babysits your degree! So if you have not got it yet, now is a good time. Back home, the degree arrived some weeks later.

 Satara Village Aurangabad
Satara Village
Satara was a dingy village in the south. Now the road to Satara instead of occasional bullock carts, sees regular traffic with apartments buildings on its fringes. You can see the table top hill where you went on several expeditions a long time ago. The temple probably from Holkar time never looked better.


Night Show at the Movies
This time I did not walk ten kms from hostel to get to the single screen cinema hall in the Gulmandi area. I just had to walk next door from my hotel to a multiplex showing Agneepath. What a coincidence. The original Agneepath was one of the last movies you had seen during your college days. As I had planned, this was again the last show of the night; the show we preferred during the college days. But instead of buying the cheapest ticket like we used to, I thought let me indulge myself this time around. So it was a Rs. 120 ticket which put me on a couch on the last row! I could not believe this. The audience consisted of mainly college students. Now these students hooted, whistled, talked, passed comments just the way we did and screw up the movie for others. That makes me want to apologise to all the movie goers who suffered because of us. Maybe, we should release an ad in Lokmat Times asking the local population for mercy for the pain inflicted.

Daulatabad Fort


Chand Minar at Daulatabad Fort
Daulatabad Fort
Last time we visited Daulatabad Fort, we took the train from Aurangabad and got off at the Daulatabad station. Then we walked and walked for about eight kilometres. We hardly encountered anyone on the station or on the way. Then we climbed all of 200 metres to the top of the fort without breaking a sweat. After about 25 years, I drove through the bustling town to the fort door. By 100 m I was panting and my legs felt like jelly. I tried to motivate myself like the Sikh gentleman in the Hero ad by singing the ad jingle ‘Hum main hai Hero’ but gave up and came down. Yes I am a middle aged guy now. I remembered the fort as a proud edifice with a commanding view of the area when I saw it last. Today, it is a picture of neglect, the walls are crumbling and trash abounds. I fear that the fort will be lost forever in the next 25 years if the ASI does not wake up.

Bibi ka Maqbara with Aurangabad city stretching behind

Aurangabad City
Aurangabad is a city on the move. MIT is now smack in the middle of the city. I could see new apartment blocks, swishy car showrooms, and of course the malls. Being a mall rat, I had to visit the Prozone Mall to pay my obeisance and to make my little contribution to the city’s economy. The mall is plush and upscale – one million square feet of heaven. Kranti Chowk has a flyover being constructed over it. The morning newpaper reported that the flyover has developed cracks and is being pulled down! Gulmandi has been closed down as the concrete roads were being relaid. I missed out on the imartis of Gulmandi. Beed bypass is unrecognisable. In place of the dusty track going to nowhere, it is a 4 lane black top highway with heavy trucks barrelling down. From few rupees per square metre then, the area commands rates of Rs. 3000 per square feet now. I still remember the evenings when we would walk from the hostel, cross the Beed bypass and come to the medium gauge railway line. There was nothing to be seen around for miles. Now there are residences, buildings, hospitals, schools on both sides. Railway track lies hidden between rows of buildings.

Railway Station
Just next to the old railway station sits a spanking new railway station touted as the model station of South Central Railways. The station which had two tracks and a puny over bridge now boasts of at least ten broad gauge lines and a 200m over bridge. The time when we would walk from the hostel, across the beed bypass, through the bush, across the single metre gauge line to get to the tea stall on the platform is long gone – sorry you can’t do it anymore. That romance is long gone.

As luck would have it, I made several visits to Aurangabad after this. The trips helped me discover the only city I knew then besides Delhi. In one of these later visits, I did climb Daulatabad all the way to the top. Aurangabad will always be special.

Epilogue
I don’t remember the last time when I felt so happy and euphoric – it seemed like homecoming. The college’s progress filled me with quite pride. I wish I could have brought my late father to see this for himself. He would have definitely been impressed. After a long time, walk down the memory lane brought happiness and not pain. College days at MIT were undeniably tough days lived under tough circumstances but not only I thrived but those days helped me prepare for the unknown battles that lay ahead. The trip felt strangely therapeutic. The trip was part discovery of what had changed & what had remained same; and part making past reminisces come to life.


No, Mr Theroux, at least the MIT past has not turned into anything remotely grotesque. MIT was more beautiful than ever imagined. We all wish that our past scenes of life revisited have the same happy ending. I guess my luck has already run out.

3 comments:

  1. Lovely nostalgic post...reminded me of my college days!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Aparna, the trip after more than 20 years was certainly nostalgic and was a walk back in time! Do visit your school / college when you get a chance.

      Thanks

      Delete
  2. Nice post, Do you really think you can challenge Paul Therox theories, Think

    ReplyDelete