When time melts distance
When I touched the feet of Prof KS Arya, my hostel warden and later principal of DAV College, Chandigarh, during the recent Panjab University alumni meet, I felt recharged spiritually. As I met Wing Commander Iqbal Singh (retd), Narendra Singh Swaraj, Dr Asha Mohan Sethi and former vicechancellor RP Bambah, all above 80, I felt a sense of unique belonging to this prestigious university. As I saluted vice-chancellor RC Sobti while receiving the distinguished PU alumni award, he smiled saying, "I am also a soldier, an honorary colonel of the NCC." I was touched by his humility and love for the uniform.
Nearly 200 alumni, who had passed out before 1975, had come from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world, for the meet. There was enthusiasm and nostalgia right from the moment we entered the university. Well received and escorted by smart students, we felt young again. The function started with lighting of the lamp by chief guest Pawan Kumar Bansal, union minister, who himself is an alumnus of the university. Thereafter, the distinguished alumni of the pre-1975 period were felicitated.
We relived our student days and shared fond memories. Old and young, all were connected by one thread - we were the alumni of Panjab University. As I stood with my teachers and college mates, I couldn't help recount my debating days, particularly with (BJP leader) Sushma Swaraj, who was two years senior to me.
In 1972, I was in the second year of BA English Hons at DAV College, Chandigarh. Sushma Sharma (she married Swaraj Kaushal later), was a second-year law student at Panjab University. I represented my college in debate and Sushma represented the law department. I spoke in English and Sushma in Hindi. Following a few contests, we of the debaters' club came to know one another well. Among girls, the leaders were Sushma and Jyotsana Pandit from GCG. The male speakers included Ish Kapoor, Rattandeep Singh, ML Verma (later an IAS officer), Lalit Kapoor, Pranav Singhal and yours truly. From St Stephen's, Delhi, the familiar team was that of Vivek Katzu (now an IFS officer) and stocky Chowdhary. We, the PU debaters were a wellknit unit when it came to contesting against St Stephen's, Sushma being our leader. When it came to winning the inter-college trophies, it was mostly between Sushma and Ish. During inter-university contests, St Stephen's generally outshone us.
There are two incidents of those days that stand out in my memory. The first was during a youth festival at DAV College, Chandigarh, in 1972. I beat Sushma to the first position. Later, while we were having tea in the college cafeteria, the tip of my tie accidentally dipped into the tea. Sushma had a hearty laugh and we all joined her.
On another occasion, the DAV team was pitted against St Stephen's at Bhiwani in 1973. I often lost a few points in diction owing to my Haryanvi accent. In this competition, I convinced the judges that I was proud of my mother tongue, which was bound to affect my accent. Moreover, content, style and strength of conviction mattered more. I won the contest. It was a great moment for Prof CL Dhamija, our team in-charge, who always supported me. Principal Triloki Nath especially complimented us on our achievement. Sushma Sharma and I parted ways in 1973 as later I joined the army and she started her law practice.
OLD AND YOUNG, ALL WERE CONNECTED BY ONE THREAD - WE WERE THE ALUMNI OF PANJAB UNIVERSITY