Mindsnack 17: Presidency, Calcutta
One of my professors from Presidency College was asking me the other day, over a Facebook chat, if I miss my alma mater. She was taken aback when I said I don’t. I cannot ever ‘miss’ Presi. It’s far more than a college I went to. My Presidency has grown roots in me and I carry him along, he’s always with me.
It has been ages since I last went to college. I’ve been told that the premise was renovated after the college became an autonomous university. Friends often crib saying that the red, cemented porticos have now turned marble. They say the makeover has taken away the unkempt charm of the college. I’ve also been told that Che Guevara has finally yielded and given in to Barista. Presi apparently has a memorabilia store and a chic coffee outlet now, right beside Promod da’s canteen.
I don’t know what the new Presi looks like, but then again, it doesn’t matter. My Presi is made of memories and smoke rings, an exclusive architecture of recollections, a structure that will remain untouched forever.
The mention of Presidency College does strange things to me. It conjures up images that are baffling in their disparity. I still get goosebumps thinking of Room no. 23 of the English Department where stalwarts like Tarak Nath Sen, Bhabotosh Dutta and Bishnu Dey once taught. I burst into giggles every time Maths’r Chhad (The terrace of the Mathematics Department) crosses my mind and I’m reminded of a young girl fancying herself as a bird after getting stoned for the first time.
Those incessant fights with friends from St. Xavier’s over whose field is larger might seem puerile to everyone else, but is perfectly sensible to any Presidencian. Memories of demonstrating against Montek Singh Ahluwalia, outside the Derozio Hall are as fresh as it was yesterday, just as is the wound of seeing one of my closest and brightest juniors, a state topper in Higher Secondary, wasting his career over wretched, baseless politics and ending up as a good for nothing.
Presidency, at once, brings back memories that are most cherished along with those that are murky. It’s as much about remembering those morning classes on Othello that I could die for as it is about an embarrassing and rather dim account of two years when I was misled and wasted my time getting involved in the gloomiest affairs.
All those of my friends who won’t miss one chance to pick on that past and how Presidency is the natal room of Naxalite politics, must know that I’m most painfully aware of the misdeeds. But then, let’s be fair, Presidency isn’t just about radical Left wing hooliganism.
Over the years the college has become synonymous with a workshop where commie miscreants are manufactured, while the contribution made by the revered alumnus towards the cause of the Right wing is oft not spoken about. It’s not that I can write anything new about the college. The history is too well known to be repeated and any reiteration will seem redundant.
It’s perhaps our own fault that despite the most august heritage and the legacy of luminaries like Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sir Asutosh Mukhopadhyay, Shri Shyamaprosad Mukherjee, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy and in spite of alumni like M.J Akbar, Bibek Debroy and Maitreesh Ghatak, we have most successfully connived to limit the institution’s identity as the breeding ground of a detrimental ideology that has only done harm to the Bengali community and to the nation at large. Hail to our collective obsession with the mask of Liberal intellectualism!