When time melts dis­tance

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Live - - OPINION/EDUCATION - Boule­vard Col RD Singh

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.



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