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Nostalgia Nuggets

by Vintage Batches
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Photograph: H4 fifth year students of Class of ’71 (April, 1971)

I always recall the eclectic collection of professors from all over India who taught us various subjects during our years at IITB.

There was one calculus Prof who got very upset by the ruckus in the back benches during his lectures and decided to punish the class by saying, “I declare that this chapter is done”. Then on he was always greeted   as he entered the class room with the chorus ” Please Sir, Declare today’s chapter!”. Then there was one who taught Solid Coordinate Geometry and had a particularly strong Bengali accent. He used to send ripples of laughter in the class when he was referring to the vertex of a cone and end up sounding like he was alluding to the rear end of the human anatomy (and had no clue as to what was so funny about the equation of a cone in 3-D space). But two other professors are worth a special mention with some detail.

First one is Prof. M.S. Kamath of the EE dept who taught our class “Electrical Machines” and I believe also “Electric Circuits” in our pressure packed third year. As you all know, he had a reputation for being an extremely hard Prof in terms of his homework and exams and usually was reserved for teaching the EE majors. We waited in trepidation of having seen the initials MSK on the time table and wondering why us and hoping that he will cut the poor souls in the Met E class some slack as EE courses are not part of our core subject list. Much to our dismay, on his opening lecture he came in with a grin and said something along the lines of, “I don’t know why I have been asked to teach this subject for Met E students but rest assured that the content of the course will be no different than what the Elec E class would get. Pay attention and I am sure you will learn something useful!”. He was true to his words and was demanding but one of the best Profs I remember from our classes. I also recall his wonderful musical ability– he was always invited to the annual hostel functions and “Saranga tere yaad may” was a favourite request from the audience. He used to render it in such a melodious voice with a gentle emotional touch – a stark contrast to the tough Prof image we used to see in class!

Raj Nair of our Met 71 class adds “Prof M S Kamath was easily the best and the most dreaded Professor at IIT. A brilliant bridge player and a good singer. Clarity of thought rarely seen in people”.

The other Prof is the kind and gentle D.L. Roy of Met E who taught us Thermodynamics in the fourth or fifth year. His always smiling and mostly incomprehensible lecture style belied a sharp mind that I had the privilege to experience as he was my undergraduate project advisor. I recall one especially frustrating lecture before our impending first midterm exam. I think he was deriving and explaining some of the thermodynamic equations on the board merrily changing signs on the left and right of the equations as usual leaving even the most avid notes takers bewildered. Then at the end of the lecture he announced that he will hold a midterm exam in the next class.

One of the students asked a tactical question. “Sir, will there be questions asking us to derive the equations?” to which he answered in the affirmative. Then came the immediate follow up question, ” Will we get partial credit if we don’t get the correct answer?” After a brief pause, Prof. Roy answered with his customary giggle, “Yes, I will cut half the marks for wrong answers.” There was an immediate uproar and objection from all the benches of the class who saw a failing grade looming on the horizon given that we had no clue what was going on during the lectures and there was no text book to fall back on. At this point, a somewhat bewildered Prof. Roy managed to quiet us down and explain what he meant to say was that he will cut 0.5 mark per question each of which will be worth 10 marks! I think most of the class got an A in the course whether or not we recognized the third law of thermodynamics even if it stared us in the face!

~~ Sampath Purushothaman & Raj Nair (Met, H6)

In our first year, one Friday evening, two freshies and I left for home knowing fully well that on Saturday we have NCC training. We got into the bus at Y point and I got a seat by the side of a well-dressed gentlemen with tie around his neck. He asked me if I was a first year student and was going home to which I said yes. Next he asked me if we have NCC training on Saturday. I had studied in vernacular language up to my SSC and had recently acquired some slang English vocabulary. So very smartly I told him that yes we have NCC training tomorrow but we are bunking the same. He immediately asked me my roll number. I knew something is wrong but had to give him my roll number (I was not smart enough to give him some wrong roll number).

It turned out that this well-suited booted gentleman was none other than Prof. S D Dhamankar who was our Deputy Registrar at that time.

Next week there was a letter to my parents telling them that I remained absent for NCC on a weekend and they should ensure my regular attendance in future.

Information was also conveyed to NCC authorities and next Saturday Prof. Billa Rao made me do Daddoo Parade. Funny part was he put Avasare to monitor me taking Daddoo Parade for full round. When out of site, Avasare allowed me to walk instead of Daddoo Parade. This was spotted by Prof. Billa Rao and both myself and Avasare were made to do full round each holding rifle in our hand raised above head. And as if this was not sufficient, he made me do one more round of Daddoo Parade.

My God, you can imagine my condition until a couple of days thereafter.

~~ Ramesh Punjabi (Chem, H5)

I remember my first day in the Chemical Engineering department. Prof. Kamath delivered the Welcome address to our batch. In this address he said the duty of Chemical Engineers is to manufacture different chemicals which are useful for the people in a variety of ways and serve our different needs WITHOUT BEING A NUISANCE TO THE SOCIETY.

Remember this was in 1968 when pollution and environmental degradation were unheard of. At that time to underline and emphasize this specific requirement shows the greatness of his vision.

He was the only HoD in IIT Bombay who did not have a doctorate and had more than five PhDs working in his department. All other departments had a system of rotation for HOD. Only Chemical Engineering department had Prof. NRK as its permanent HOD till he was working. He had made this an issue and had to sacrifice the dual post of Dy. Director of the institute he held for some years.

NRK was a consultant to many companies at that time. He was asked to advise on sourcing of a very large equipment (ODC) by a company from Calcutta. He suggested a supplier from Baroda. The company asked if they could get it from L&T Bombay with whom they (the company) enjoyed good rapport. His reply was, “There is a bridge on the way from Bombay to Calcutta over which it will not be possible to transport the equipment.” This demonstrates the necessity to take into account all aspects while giving such advice. There was the classic case of the paper mill at Dandeli in Karnataka. The imported large size equipment for Dandeli caused one narrow gauge railway bridge to start sinking. Military help had to be obtained and as a result the cost of this equipment to the company more than doubled.

~~( Late) Satish Bapat (Chem, H4)

It’s a novel idea to talk and write about the Professors who moulded us into what we are.

We all agree  that the greatest period of our life, I believe so, was  spent in the days of our IIT learning. It sort of made us from young  boys to the men that we are.

And quite a bit of the contribution of making that period golden came from  the Professors.

One of the most colourful Professors of our times undoubtedly was the Prof. of Physical Metallurgy, Dr V Balasubramanian, popularly called  Prof. Spikey for his oily short straight-projecting hair.

A man with the lean intelligent face, he had a ready wit for every situation. I remember when we were just learning to draw micro-structure of  metals, he used to wander around the class and peep into the circles and globules being drawn by us. When, if I remember right, pardon me if I am wrong, he peeped into Chawla’s notebook and said loudly,” I didn’t ask you to draw cucumbers!”, the whole class broke into raptures. He had a disarming smile and a ready joke all the time.

He used to take  practicals and had decided to cut down on his smoking on his wife’s orders, so he would smoke strictly by the hour. He would say, it’s 4 o‘clock, so time for a Charminar, but at 5 o’clock, it was time for  Wills. Those days Wills used to be in short supply so everyone would try and get the quota as soon as Wills cigarettes would come to the Paanwala. Spikey would go the Paanwala and ask, Wills aaya kya? Paanwala with greatest respect to the Prof. would say, “Saab aaj hai, kitna doon? Spikey’s response? Acchaa Wills  hai? To phir 10 Charminar dey do.

Anything for a smile.

Spikey was a walking talking bible on the Second World War, they said he would quote with  the page number the event of the Second World War from the big authentic book on that war by William L Shirer, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”.  He was a big fan of General Patton, the war hero.

I remember the Prof entered the class on a rainy day, looked out of the window, saw the pouring rains and broke into a song, ” Oh, Sajanaa, Barkha Bahar Aai“. He was taken in by the famous movie of those days, Parakh.

Prof Spikey was a great Bridge player partnering with the formidable Prof M S Kamath. You may recall that Prof Mani, Math Prof who died in a freak accident, was the Bro-in-Law of Spikey and also a great Bridge player.

All these Profs were great pals of each other and would spend time in solving or rather making new crossword puzzles in mixed languages to make it tough for each other.

So I quote one Crossword by Prof. Spikey and I challenge anyone to come out with the answer. Some of us knew the answer, of  course! The answer with the explanation, much needed, had come from the Prof himself of course!

  1. It’s a name consisting of two words with 8 and 7 alphabets
  2. The name is of a famous Thriller Story Writer.
  3. He is a Muslim and can hypnotise.
  4. The second word is also of a famous Tooth paste brand.

Kindly guess, it’s a mix of languages, I warn you!

If someone contacts Prof Balasubramanian, who I was told is living happily in Thane region (his son went to IITB), please convey my greatest Salute!

~~Prakash Koppar aka Gary (Met, H7)

Sound Advice

It was the second lecture of the day and it was past the middle of the week during our first year at IIT. Most of the back benchers had collected a sufficient number of chalk pieces duly broken into suitable lengths for an enjoyable chalk fight that was planned to break the boredom.

When Dr. C. R. Sarma, who taught us Physics, finished the roll-call and turned towards the green glass board to write something it was a signal to start. There was to be only a brief period of action before the cease-fire which would come into force when he turned around to face the class. The chalk pieces flew all over the class room.

Unfortunately, due to a calculation error in the angle of projection, one piece missed its target and hit Dr. Sarma.

“Who threw the chalk?” demanded Dr. Sarma.

R decided it would be wise to own up and close the matter to avoid escalation. “I threw the chalk, Sir. I am very sorry.”

Dr. Sarma’s reaction was totally unexpected. “Don’t feel sorry. You are still very young. There are going to be many things in your life for which you are going to have to be far sorrier. This is just a piece of chalk. Sit down and pay attention to what I am saying”.

~~ Anand Gupchup (Civ, H8)

Some Memorable Teachers and Staff

Prof G S R Narasimhamurty of Chemical Engineering Dept. could easily have won the top prize for the most attendance conscious academic.

He spent the first fifteen minutes taking the roll call, reading out all three names eg Assar Madhusudan  Bhagwandas. For the sake of late comers, he would repeat the roll call of those marked absent in the first round. Since he knew some students leave the class after giving roll call, he would have a final roll call at the end of the hour before concluding his lecture.


We had a tough taskmaster during our NCC parades who was very particular about the cadets adhering to instructions. I think he was from Mech E Dept. ( Prof. M Achutan? ).After he called Parade, Samney Dekh, he would shout: “Look in front. Don’t look at me; I know I am handsome.”


Another Professor who taught us Physics in the first year (Prof. Murthy?? ) combined sarcasm with self-deprecating humour. Hey, he once exclaimed, that’s an easy question – even I can answer it!!


One of our Professors was a mild-mannered unassuming man. Many did not pay much attention to his lecture and when he turned to write on the board, there would be talking, shouting, catcalls and general mayhem. On one such occasion, he turned around with an expression of low-key anger saying, what is this murmuring going on? Pay attention to me & don’t murmur. I don’t like it.


Professor Tembe used to teach us Engineering Drawings. More well-known on campus for his three daughters. Home work would be done using glass topo method in the hostels. He always used to prescribe reading material for the next lecture. If any student asked him a question, his standard reply was “Have you read the book please?”. One day when he made his standard reply to a query from a student, a voice from the back of the class said “No, sir – I am waiting for the movie!”.

Written with inputs from Keshav Rao, Elec 71, H4)


I can never forget Prof. Sarkar of Chemical Engg. Dept. who taught us Fuels. During a lab test, when asked for the calorific value of Kerosene, I gave an incorrect answer. I don’t know whether I was taken aback or amused when he said “I pity your wife”. Years later, when I got married, I noted that we had switched over to LPG as fuel in our kitchen.


Daffy likes to relate this incident concerning Prof M S Kamath of Elec. Dept. His question papers appeared to be the toughest one can come across the entire Institute and he was as much feared as he was respected. For one of the exams scheduled from 2 to 5 pm, Prof. Kamath announced at 4 pm that the time limit of 5 pm was withdrawn and they could take as long as they wanted to answer the paper. Daffy had enough of it and started to walk off. Prof. Kamath was at the door urging him to spend some more time trying to solve the problems in the question paper. Daffy said Sir, I will require one year more and walked out.

~~Niranjan Bhat (Chem. Engg. H4)

There were some habits, practices, routines adopted around 1966-68 by us IITians in the campus which would not do us proud!

I am referring to the evening walks pre and post dinner to Y Point to play ‘matka’. I never indulged but did listen to the talks around the hostel mess of what will be the ‘open’ and ‘close’ numbers between 0 to 9. One could earn between 9 times to 99 times of the  amount you bet. The bets were placed  for a mere 25 paise and every night Monday through Friday at 9 pm (open time) and 12 midnight (close time) the hostels would roar once the numbers were informed on the hostel public phone by one of the players. Some of the jargon I recall was ‘mendhi’ for 0 and ‘langda’ for 7 or satta. And if you got both numbers right ( you have to predict both nos before 9 pm) it was called a ‘bracket’.

And how are the numbers drawn? Some guy in Kalyan (Kalyan matka) or Worli (Worli matka) would randomly draw three cards and the last digit of the sum of the three cards was the winning number! If you were able to predict the three cards in advance for open your winnings would be 99 times, if you predicted correctly the open as well as close numbers, winnings could be 10,000 times. And mind you these IITians made huge money!

It was enjoyable to listen to these guys next day over breakfast.

~~Sunil Navare (Met, H8)

Speaking of accidents my wing mates and I narrowly escaped a bad car crash. During our third year second term beginning, myself, Harsha and Kenneth had gone for a joy ride in my father’s car at night. We went to Juhu Beach. On the way back I missed the Andheri level crossing and went on up to Jogeshwari, where I realised my mistake. In order to come back to Andheri, I was taking a U-turn at very low speed when the front left wheel fell off. Had this occurred at the normal speed I think all three of us would have landed up in a hospital. Fortunately, a group of car mechanics was passing by and they fixed the wheel for a paltry sum.

~~Vasant Kale (Chem, H4)

What’s in a Name?

In 1965, there were complaints that some students spent hours outside the campus and returned very late to their hostels. Apparently, it was triggered by some students going for a late-night movie at Shreyas theatre and creating a ruckus there. Perhaps the movie was bad or they were in high spirits or both. As per Daffy, the movie was “Aankhen” at Shreyas and the guy who got bashed up (or nearly so) was Naresh Gupta. He was caught stealing the HOUSE FULL sign by the theatre staff.

Someone who knew the Diro complained to him. He introduced this rule that those returning to campus after 10.30 pm were required to sign the register kept at the Main and Y Point gates. After about 2 weeks or more, the project was abandoned as the first few guys had signed in as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Richard Burton etc. The rest had followed suit with Elizabeth Taylor, John F Kennedy and other famous names which the poor Nepali Security guy could not decipher.

~~ Contributed by Raman Giridharadas (Civ , H3 ) & Daffy (Elec ’75, H5)


Celebrity Visits to IIT

The Director decreed that students were at IIT to study and learn. Therefore, they should be in their rooms by 9.30 pm to spend their time fruitfully in serious study.

But who was to check if the students were indeed in their rooms and studying? Of course, the wardens! What else were they appointed for?

After a few unfortunate incidents where the wardens were locked up in the corner room in the last wing of the second floor with the lights off, they refused to do the policing they had been asked to do.

The Director, however, wasn’t a man to give up so easily. After all, he had been a soldier.  So the situation was analysed and studied from all angles and it became obvious that the Main Gate was the crucial point, a veritable chicken’s neck. At night, henceforth, the Main Gate, which was the only entry to IIT, was closed and manned by ex-soldiers – who were definitely tougher than the wardens. This seemed the only possible way to control the students – for their own good, of course – and see to it that they stayed in to study.

In addition to these measures, the Director also decided – in fact, decreed (once again) – that students coming into IIT after 9.30 pm would have to enter their name and other details in a register at the Main Gate.

A month later the editorial board of Technik studied the entrance register and, after analysing it, presented their report.

It turned out that, unbeknown to us all, a large number of celebrities had been visiting IIT after 9.30 pm. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had visited IIT. (Yes, this did happen in their era.) If Hollywood could come to IIT, Bombay, could Bollywood have been far behind? Dharmendra and Hema Malini had also driven in and that too several times. Even Disney wasn’t far behind, they found. There were, once, four Donald Ducks in a taxi. Einstein too had come down from the heavens to see what IIT was all about! However, the person who most often came in late was a gentleman called Brig Bose.

After that Technik report the Director’s august decree was quietly rescinded.

~~Satish Khot( Chem, H2)

It was the day I landed at IIT Bombay. We were just settling down in my room No. 2 (H4). Suddenly two Parsee students appeared in the corridor. There was a small hill across the pipeline behind our hostel. One student said “I will go to the top of the hill and return within 15 minutes.” The other student said “No, you can’t”.

They had a bet of Rs. 100 on this. The first man went and completed his return trip within 15 mins.  Now the second man said “He would do this within 12 minutes.” They had a bet on this also. And to my surprise the second man completed the task within 12 minutes.

The first man was our hostel mate Phiroze Bhagat. You can’t guess the second man! He was none other than our classmate Veeraf Sanjana!

I have remembered this incident and wanted to share it with our fellow students all these years. Thank you for providing me an appropriate platform for this.

~~(Late) Satish Bapat (Chem, H4)

The other funny story is about the ALL  hostels mess servant strike. For about a week the Institute tried to carry on. Many were encouraged to try their culinary skills. Permitted absence from class was a huge incentive. Prof wives were deputed to hostels to provide “Technical” guidance. Many of these ladies threw up their hands since cooking for five could not be escalated to cooking for 300 using a multiplying factor. No chapatis but bread instead. Some Dal, messed up vegetables and bread was the typical menu.

The Institute was shut till the strike was resolved.

~~Raman Giridharadas (Civ, H3)

Bombay was under the threat of evacuation during our first year at IIT owing to severe water shortage. By August, the situation had turned dire. Thankfully, this dry spell was alleviated by a raging, albeit late, monsoon.

In December 1967, Maharashtra was rocked by a strong earthquake that shook the Koyna River Dam. I joined the boys from our institute who had formed a relief team with the objective of rebuilding the township. We built a school for young children entirely with our own hands. The whole enterprise opened our eyes to the merit of hard toil and the service that we as engineers could provide to the slowly modernizing economy of rural India.

IIT also provided excellent opportunities for cultural upgradation. The convocation hall as well as the lecture theatre were alive and buzzing with the theatre performances of Alyque Padamsee, Girish Karnad, Vijaya Mehta, Satyadev Dubey, and Mahesh Elkunchwar as well as the screenings of the movies of Satyajit Ray – gems like the Pather Panchali trilogy, Aranyer Din Ratri, Pratidwandi and Mahanagar – Ritwik Ghatak and so many other stalwarts. Other movies that we saw at IIT, like Uski Roti, Saara Akash and Bhuvan Shome, showcased a different way of life to our own in an extremely novel way and awakened in us a new kind of sensitivity. They spoke of the corruption that had beset Indian life at all levels, the poverty that urban centres were creating, the social stratification that was its outcome and the agony of the middle class caught in its midst. In this whirlpool were tender emotions and sentiments struggling to whisper and be heard and wanting to manifest. These movies stirred me with a strange nostalgia for the days of wonderful emotional and intellectual confusion and blissful ecstasy.”

~~ Pramod Chaudhari  (Mech, H4)
(Excerpts from his book “As Is What Is”)

During my second year at IIT, in 1965, a guard caught three students ragging a fresher. The then Diro, Brigadier Bose, wanted to make an example out of this case and asked them to apologise in public at the Convo Hall in front of all students and staff. One of them said I have been asked to apologise and hence I say I am sorry for the incident. After the  three students spoke, the Diro asked if anyone had any opinions to put forth on this issue. Atul Tandon and I raised our hands and were called on stage. Both of us made some anti-establishment comments. The Diro was unhappy and put a stop to  any further discussions on this matter. While leaving, he asked both of us to see him in his office. Prof Mhatre, then HOD of Civil Engg., was with him. When told that I was in the 2nd year, he made some caustic remarks and laid out a threat regarding my graduating from IIT. Both of us were asked to call our parents to the campus to meet him. Our parents came and apologised to the Diro and assured him that such behaviour would not be repeated. Since the Diro held a ceremonial post of Colonel in the NCC, we were charged with insubordination and during the next NCC parade, were given some light punishment.

Later, the Diro forgot the matter and I had excellent and cordial interactions with him when I was GS of the Institute.

~~Shailesh Gandhi (Civ ’69, H2)

There was an air raid on Bombay one night during the Indo Pak war in Aug 1965. It was futile and Pak planes were driven away by our fighter Gnats in a short time. 3 students from H3 wanted to see how Bombay looks from top of the hill, behind the Workshop. It was night time and they had to use torches to see their way to the top of the hill. These lights were noticed by Bhandup dwellers and reported to the police station. The police, expecting that the offenders could be Pak agents and armed, had to climb the hill crawling on their elbows, with their rifles. On reaching the top, they found three students, unarmed. The father of one of the students was an Asst. Commissioner of Police and he mentioned this. That saved them from getting “lynched” on the spot.

Later, the three were made to apologize in IIT.

~~ With inputs from Pramod Phadke  (Chem ’67 H4), Sunil Navare (Met ’71 H8) and Raman Giridharadas (Civ ’71, H3)

Hostel Functions

At the freshers’ nights, we freshers had to serve the food to our seniors. There was no chicken and ice cream left when we volunteers sat down for dinner. Since then I used to make sure I would be a volunteer and enough chicken and ice cream kept aside before we volunteers served the hostel mates and guests.

Some seniors who were a terror used to be quite civilized while sharing the tables with the staff members and their families. The guys who never bothered to take a bath and  shave looked quite different on the hostel function nights.

Got introduced to gambling during the hostel fetes. Remember one guy having a under and over 7 stall where you would double the amount for under or over 7. But if you bet on 7, you would get 4 times. Convinced 2 guys to bet on under & over 7 regularly in partnership till this stall owner got tired and quit.


Road Signs and Housefull Board

Whether it was in my hostel H5 or H4 I don’t remember, there were many road signs right from Pedder Road, Lady Jamshedji Road, Tamarind Lane et all, flicked from the roads (sorry, “borrowed” as my friend put it) in the hostel.

In the enthusiasm to collect such boards, one guy from another hostel decided to walk away with the Housefull board from Shreyas theatre. Naturally he was stopped and a fight started. Best part was the guy who wanted the board got away and other IITians continued to fight with Theatre bouncers.

All the wounded “soldiers” were duly escorted by other guys from IIT. Brig Bose (Diro) threw out the poor Police Inspector who had come to inform him about this incident. Shreyas theatre manager took back the complaint due to prospective loss of large clientele.

Next day anyone entering the campus after 11 pm had to write their names & hostel nos. That is how the security guys at the Main gate received live and dead dignitaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Jawaharlal Nehru and yes Marilyn Monroe too.


Indira Gandhi, Convocation, Helipads and Press Reporter

For the Convocation ceremony in 1972 we had Indiraji, our then Prime Minister, as Chief Guest. 3 helipads were constructed on the gymkhana ground (towards 1st hostel after Hobbies club) but only 1 was used. Excavation & foundation may have come useful for constructing the present swimming pool. Three of us (Naren Shah, Achala Dalal and yours truly) were the volunteers for the VIP entrance. All the visitors except IITians were required to show their invites. Walks in a smart girl and we naturally demanded the invitation letter. Visibly offended she said “Press” and our spontaneous reply was “Press what”? It took us some time to understand what she meant as Press when she said she is from Times of India and joined us for a hearty laugh.

Indiraji was yet to arrive and Achala was asked by Mrs. Naik (then CM’s wife) for a glass of water. She asked me to help. Went to the foyer and found there was only one water cooler. Saw a table with a solitary glass kept on it, almost grabbed it but a guy stopped me. It turned out that he was a policeman in civilian attire. When I mentioned Mrs. Vatsalabai Naik’s name, he was unmoved. Said the glass is for Indiraji after she finishes her speech and has been tested so nothing doing. Carefully avoided Mrs. Naik’s stares till the Convocation started.


Hospital & Missing Patient

Dr Chakravarty and  Dr Belliangadi were the Doctors in the hospital facing the lake. My close friend Kamlakar Wad was admitted after running a fever. He recovered in two days but Dr Chakravarty would not release him. Being a good friend, yours truly hired a taxi from the Main Gate and brought it to the hospital entrance, in gets Wad and we took off to Ghatkopar Uday theatre. Naturally dinner followed and when we came back to the hospital in the night, there was a lot of activity going on. On spotting Wad entering the hospital, a nurse shouted “sapadala” in Marathi (found!).  What had happened was when the night nurse arrived to take charge from the day nurse at 9 pm, our friend was missing so she refused to take charge. Nurse rang up her husband and poor guy was deputed to H5 to locate Wad who wasn’t there.

Needless to say, the Doc released Wad next morning.

~~ Ramesh Ukidve aka Uki (Chem 74, H5)


I drank tea rarely before joining IIT. And I think most of the others hardly drank it either. But once you joined IIT you were pretty much bound to become addicted to tea in a very short space of time. Tea soon came to have myriad uses for us. You started your day with a cup of tea for sure. Similarly, you ended your day with a cuppa too. You drank tea to spur on your efforts to study for the exams and you also drank tea in order to relax after finishing with your exam. And so on and so forth. Yes, there was coffee too at IIT but it was made in the same pot as tea and so had a distinct hint of the taste of tea. We called it “cottea”.

Evening tea was served in our hostel from 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm. You could drink as many cups of this elixir of the gods as you wanted. Thereafter, however, the tea urn was taken away quite decisively and you could plead with Nair, the head cook, to your utmost but his answer was always “No tea after 6.30.”

Romesh, the brilliant entrepreneur that he was even then, found here the potential for a niche business opportunity. He started a canteen offering tea from 10 pm to midnight. Not only was there tea on offer but also cigarettes, bidis, even pastries of fluorescent hues – bright pink and green. But it was for tea, glorious tea, that everyone flocked there, making his business venture a huge success. The much appreciated cups of tea were initially priced at 20 paise each but that was the introductory offer. Soon the tea was sold at 25 paise. Ah, tea to inspire you, tea to relax you! Ah, tea, wonderful tea! And so we all, flocked to the canteen for our fix of tea and a pow wow, tete a tete, whatever.

However, it is the special talent of the IITian that he seeks and easily finds loopholes to every rule. “I” – and I don’t mean me – I’m just calling him “I” so as not to reveal his identity and also to avoid any cases of defamation he might bring against me – well, this guy “I” had a eureka moment while contemplating the tea situation. He discovered a loophole to the rules binding the serving of tea. “I” – not me – brought a thermos from home. Remember, you could have any amount of tea until 6.30 pm. “I” – not me – came to the mess at 6:15 pm and filled his thermos to the brim. It was, after all, free at that time. Then at 10:00 pm he walked into the hall, beaming from ear to ear, took out his thermos and proceeded to pour himself cup after cup of his freely acquired free tea while the rest of us dished out our 25 paise coins and sipped our tea judiciously, not using up all our coins. We shelled out our coins while “I” – remember, that’s certainly NOT me – looked down his superior nose at us all.

This kind of thing is just not acceptable at IIT. No one could get away with projecting himself as better than another. Even worse was showing off. And “I” – not me at all – was showing off and not even sharing his tea with his mates. At IIT sharing was the accepted way of life and heaven help the guy who didn’t share.

So, a plan was hatched to teach “I” – who isn’t me at all – a lesson.

A digression: IIT had a mini hospital which did a fine job of treating students for the stress they were in when faced with exams they weren’t prepared for. For minor ailments we turned to guys like “IS” (full name reserved as he could be accused of practicing medicine without an MBBS degree). “IS”‘s father was a doctor and had equipped “IS” with a large number of medicine samples to see him through any minor health issues. “IS” prescribed and gave you medicines for colds, headaches, stomach upsets, mild fever, constipation, loose motions etc.

“IS” had plenty of Ex-Lax (a chocolate flavoured laxative) which, in the three years time it had sat upon the shelf in his room, had coalesced into a sticky round ball. This was the weapon agreed upon to teach “I” –   not me at all – his lesson.

When “I”-not me- went to dinner one unsuspecting night, the gang of avengers picked “I”‘s lock.  (Another digression: in the first year at IIT we study Locksmithy 101.) They entered his room with ease and put the ball of laxative into his thermos of tea. The thermos was shaken, not stirred (as bartenders of tomorrow would learn to do) and put back in its place, looking, for all the world, like a most innocent thermos of tea.

At 10.30 pm everyone in the know was in the opposite wing with their windows open. Even I – and this time it is me indeed – joined the waiting posse. There was a hushed whisper when soon we saw “I” – and that’s not me this time – walk to the toilet and back. A little while later “I” – definitely not me – went to the toilet again but this time at a smart trot. And the next time he positively ran. We all agreed that he ran nearly as fast as our 100 metres champ Hoshi.

I – that’s me – went off to sleep by midnight. But others who stayed awake could not agree whether “I” – not me – went to the toilet a dozen times or a “baker’s dozen” times.

“I” – not yours truly – changed his beverage of choice from tea to coffee, or rather to cottea from then on. And the thermos flask was sent back home.

PS: There was much discussion that if Hoshi were to be given the Ex-Lax treatment would he win the gold medal at the next inter-IIT meet. However, no-one had the guts to experiment with this idea.

~~Satish Khot (Chem 71, H2)


It was a standard practice to get a nickname during the first few days of ragging. That came naturally and for many it continued till late in life and was used by all IIT friends. The only persons who didn’t get a nickname were perhaps those not colourful or popular enough. I have a set of two friends who still call each other by names Maran and Prince? Wonder how it happened?

The names can be fascinating. The longest name I remember was of my friend Ram from H5 Met 69 topper, whose real name was (hold your breath) RamasubramaniamMelmangalamMahalingamDikshitamIyer. That’s not the end of the story; Ram went to a top US College, got his Doctorate and came back as Dr Athreya. Can you beat that?

Another example was the nickname of Sadashiv Kaushik, H5, can  you guess why he was called Bully?

Simple by IIT logic:

Kaushik, Kaushit, Bullshit and of course, Bully !

That was not the case for many who got names unmentionable now. That would be horrible. We had friends like  Landu (H5), Funny (H3), Psycho  ( H5 ) and worse even to mention here. They are all respectable citizens now. Those nicknames were discreetly dropped for the sake  of decency – we had grown out of the IIT days, thank God for such small mercies.

~~Prakash Koppar (Met, 71)

School for Koyna Earthquake Victims

IITB built an earthquake proof structure for a school at Village Vihe near Karad after the Koyna Earthquake in 1968 summer with design by Civil Engg Dept led by Profs. Limaye, Gadgil & Deshpande.

Director Brigadier Bose took the initiative and about 50-60 students of all disciplines did “shramdaan” for 3 weeks to build the school. Shailesh Gandhi then GS was the student leader. The Illustrated Weekly carried a full-fledged article in their issue covering the IITB initiative. All materials were also funded by IIT. We stayed in the Karad Engg College Hostel and commuted daily by IIT bus to site about 20 miles away. On completion of the construction the local villagers hosted a feast and Minister Balasaheb Desai personally attended the function to express gratitude of Government of Maharashtra!

~~Sunil Navare  (Met, H8)

Swaranjali – The Classical Music Group

During our times at  IIT Bombay we had a classical music group by the name  “SWARANJALI .”This was started sometime in 1968 or so and we regularly had concerts of many renowned musicians during the two year period.

The first concert was by Pandit Jasraj. It was a two session affair with each session of roughly 3 hours. It was a custom that any artist performing in a Swaranjali concert would be invited for every future concert. Thus Panditji graced several concerts at IIT Powai with his presence.

Over the two and half years we had performances by ALL THE LEADING ARTISTS of the time. The list includes names like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Kumar Gandharva, Gangubai Hangal, Phiroze Dastur, Vilayat Khan, Amjad Ali Khan, Prabhakar Karekar, Parveen Sultana, Laxmi Shankar, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Arvind Parekh, Vasanti Mhapsekar, C. R. Vyas, Dr. Prabha Atre, Dr. N. Rajam to mention just a few! Ustad Allarakha- father of Zakir Hussain, Nana Muley and Purushottam Walawalkar, Tulsidas Borkar and Eknath Thakurdas were the accompanying artists who came for these concerts.

An incident that I remember happened when Arvind Parekh came to perform. It was in one of the lecture halls. I don’t remember at what time he started that evening, but after a dinner “interruption” he continued, until around 2 am he remarked that, though he’d love to play more his fingers were refusing to cooperate!  Recall that he was a full time businessman and that the sitar was his passion.

There was more than one concert by several artists. Most of these concerts were held in our drawing class rooms but we also had some concerts in the convocation hall foyer and there were two concerts which were held in the convocation hall itself. These were the concerts by Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan. Both the concerts were “House Full”. There was one “Lecture Demonstration” by Nirmala Devi and Laxmi Shankar and the performance by Vasanti Mhapsekar which were held in the then Lecture Theatre.

One hallmark of all the concerts was the paan supari served at each concert. The attendees could assemble paan according to their taste and eat it.

~~ ( Late) Satish Bapat (Chem, H4)

More on Swaranjali

M.S Shaikh, Met ’68, H7 joined IITB again for his M Tech. As luck would have it, he was in my wing of H-1 (zero wing, on the road). I was one year senior to him and had joined IITB for M Tech in 1967. Shaikh had a good collection of LP/EP records of classical music. More important, he had a record player. I was also keenly interested in classical music and we soon started enjoying music in his room. After a couple of months, I had a brainwave. You see, Hostel 1 had an excellent record player/changer. Why not hold a programme in H1 common room in which everybody on the campus could participate? This idea appealed to everyone in our group.

Before starting Swaranjali, a programme of classical music was held in H1 in Sept/Oct 1968. For this programme, LP/EP records were collected. I remember Ashok Joglekar( Met ’69, H2) brought 40+ records from his maternal uncle. The program started at 9 PM and ended at 7 AM next morning, listening to only recorded classical music. Initially about 100 attendees reduced (attenuated) to about 20 in the end.

This was enough encouragement for us to start an organization that was named Swaranjali. Main person was M S Shaikh of course. To assist him, there were 4 students – Ashok Joglekar, Subhash Avasare (Civ ’71), Tembe, and lastly, yours truly. This is how Swaranjali was born.

I wish to stress that Shaikh’s contribution to Swaranjali was indeed huge. He did a lot of running around for arranging programmes of artistes.


Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi

This reminds me of an interesting episode involving M S Shaikh. Somebody in H1 owed him Rs 10 (it was a relatively big sum in those days, we used to give Rs 10 [a generous sum] as wedding gift to our close friends!). That guy chose to pay back in the form of a bearer cheque of Rs 10/- drawn on SBI (State Bank of India). Those days, there was no branch of any bank in the campus. SBI Ghatkopar Branch had an extension counter at IIT. This counter was in a barrack type make-shift building behind Civil Engg building. Shaikh presented the cheque, got the token and waited for his turn. Even after about 30 minutes, his token number was not called out. He got fed up and left the bank for his (Met) department as he had an experiment lined up there.

At the closing time of bank at 5 PM or so, the cashier got jittery as a token was missing and a payment was pending. Since this was an extension counter, the local manager was responsible to Ghatkopar branch manager and had to close the daily accounts before proceeding to Ghatkopar. A missing token was a very serious lapse and would easily have cost the counter manager his job. There was hence a sudden hunt for Shaikh. It was found that he belonged to Met Dept and the bank peon was rushed to Met Dept on his bicycle. By that time Shaikh had left the department for H1. So, the peon rushed to H1. The entire drama unfolded before us in the mess at the dining table at about 7:30 or 8 PM. We all participated in it and enjoyed.

The crux was that the peon demanded the token and Shaikh refused to part with it without getting his Rs 10. So, after dinner, Shaikh proceeded to the bank with the peon and at last got his 10 bucks after all the drama.

The manager almost touched Shaikh’s feet and assured him that next time he wished to encash any cheque, he should come into the manager’s cabin and get his money without any delay.

We named this episode as “Panch Rupaiya Bara Anna” much on the lines of the song from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi.

~~ Pramod Phadke (Chem ’67, H4)

This a story of the one and only Hari of Hostel 8, Civ 71. As every hostelite is aware, there were a few hostel mates who did not like sharing their snacks brought from home. We had a few such persons but this story is about a tall person who wore ‘long short pants’ that were checked. Let us call him ‘X’. On one occasion he was in an unusually generous mood and opened a tin of biscuits and said ‘have a biscuit’. Everyone took ‘a biscoot’ but my friend Hari reached out and tried to take a second. ‘X’ snatched the biscuit and put it back in the tin and said ‘I said – a biscuit’. Hari is not known to forgive easily. A week later, the bicycle of ‘X’ went missing.

Hari put it in the water tank on the hostel terrace. It was never found.

Years later, Hari met ‘X’ in Delhi airport and informed him where he could find his long-lost bicycle.

The first part about the biscuit is a true story as there were many witnesses but knowing Hari, I can’t vouch for the incident years later in Delhi. It may be concocted by his imaginative brain.

Hari being a generous person could not tolerate selfish persons. We had another similar guy. He used to hide his stuff. One day, we broke the grill above the door and entered his room. There was distinct smell of food but we just could not find it. Hari finally sniffed it out. Believe it or not, the food was hidden in his gum boots.

~~Mohan Kavrie (Civ, H8)

Debating, Elocution, Dramatics competition etc proved we were all not just nerds with slide rules.

I think it was Jayant Pendharkar who was teased for his crush on Aruna Gokhale. Convo Hall came into being around 1966 or even later. Mood I started in a small way first by bringing Nirupama Vasant for an exhibition Tennis match. Then came Mrinal Sen who said he brings with him the smell of the 7 seas and typically the audience wisecrack followed asking him to take a bath. The episode of Hemant Kumar was interesting. He was gloriously late arriving at the IIT Gymkhana. Then asked for booze without which he wouldn’t be able to sing. So one guy whose Dad was in the army rushed out on his bike and got a bottle of Old Monk Rum from Dad’s quota. HK practically finished the bottle and then started singing around 10.30 pm and I think there must have been 700+ of us all huddled in blankets and sitting on the cricket field listening to that great voice till about 2 am. Then, since we had Victor Menezes and Homi Patel and a few others like Uday Wagle we started calling Sophia and St. Xaviers for competition. Our Delhi guys roped in Stephens and Miranda. And that was the beginning of Mood I which was named after a famous Jazz piece of the same name.

~~Raman Giridharadas (Civ, H3)

There is this poem called “The Saga of Bholanath and the Tiger” published in Rejectra. Ravi Malhotra, Elec ’69 and Larry Malarkar, Elec ’70, both from H2 have recalled from their excellent memory this poem which goes as follows:

The Saga of Bholanath and the Tiger

Into the jungle I am went
On killing tiger I am bent
Bugger tiger has slaughtered wife
No doubt I have to revenge poor darling’s life
Too much quiet snakes and leeches
I am not afraid of these sons of beeches
If tiger will appear I will let loose rifle
And never more with wife will tiger trifle
Clutching gun with eyes to sight
I am diligently looking from left to right
Knees are knocking, Eyes are sway
I think I will shoot tiger some other day
Something something I see cave
And say to myself “Bholanath be brave”
For death or dishonour you must prepare
For from nonsense smell this is tiger’s lair
Behind rock I am wait
And call to tiger I think just like his mate
But my efforts no doubt are not much good
As one buffalo before me with red eye stood
Turning around I am going to go
When tiger from backside is giving one bloody roar
He is flying over ground like shooting star
I commend myself to Kali Ma
Through the jungle I am went
With monstrous tiger hot on scent
Swearing to myself that never in my life
Will I risk again for damn fool wife

~~Raman Giridharadas (Civ, H3)

At the time of admission, we were given a “Prospectus” which also doubled as a rule book of sorts. In our time (1962-67), there was a rule RB-7. This rule stated that you cannot fail in 1st year B.Tech. If you do, you will be thrown out. We used to scare one another (jokingly, of course) and tell friends to go and study lest you get thrown out by RB-7. There was no possibility that anybody from 4th hostel would need to leave IIT due to RB-7 as about 50 JEE toppers were in H4. Despite this, we had a rude shock when one of our classmates failed and had to go out. So, the joke was on us.

There was another rule RB-9. It stated that 2nd and 3rd years had to be completed in 3 years maximum. If you failed in 2nd year, you could not afford to fail in 3rd. Similarly, 4th and 5th years had to be completed in three years. Thus, you could take maximum seven years for the five-year course. One H4 friend joined in 1961 and failed in 2nd year. He was with us till 4th year. In 4th year he failed again and finished his B.Tech in 1968 one year later than my batch.

In 1963 or 1964, RB-7 was dropped and perhaps RB-9 was also changed. I am not sure if the rule was renamed RB-17 or not. So, before Daffy’s time, there was no scope to be in IIT for more than 7 years for B Tech at all. Hence, his record of nine years should be correct.

~~ With inputs from Pramod Phadke (Chem ’67 H4), Sunil Navare (Met ’71 H8) and Raman Giridharadas (Civ ’71, H3)

Koyna Earthquake – Nuremberg trial and School at Vihe

After the severe earthquake in December ’67, Koyna dam was damaged and the damage extended to most of the villages nearby. IIT staged the drama ‘Judgement at Nuremberg’ to raise money for the quake victims for building a school. One of the plays was at Tejpal hall near Kemps Corner on Pedder road. I was a volunteer and after the show got over late night, we left for the Powai campus in the IIT bus. Most of us wanted some tea and snacks and smokers wanted to buy their stuff, one know-all guy suggested we go to the red-light area which remained open all night. So the bus was diverted to a restaurant serving chai, maska  paav and all that. While enjoying the late-night tea, suddenly the driver came running and said the bus carries IIT name and should not be seen in this area. With a lot of reluctance, we started our journey back to IIT.

Anyway, after the funds were collected & an earthquake proof design prepared by Civil Engg. department, it was decided that we should build the school ourselves to ensure that the funds would be utilized properly. After the earthquake, there was a surcharge of 50 paise on each ticket for the weekly movie at the IITB Convo Hall which was donated to the Koyna Fund. So, in the summer vacation a bus full of IIT students and professors left for Koyna. Karad Engineering college hostel was available where we camped ourselves. Land for the school was made available at Vihe village nearby. I remember Shailesh Gandhi & many seniors were in the team. We were watched by all the villagers getting amused while digging & removing the stones. One fine day it got on our nerves due to their laughter so some of us who knew Marathi went and asked for their help and most of them disappeared. However, we were treated to a lavish lunch by the villagers after the school building was ready. Satish Bapat recalls the most delicious dish which formed part of that feast and vows that he has never tasted a better mutton dish since then.

~~ Ramesh Ukidve aka Uki (Chem 74, H5)

Many memories but all disjointed. Nowhere near as detailed as you guys!  One thing sticks in my mind though. At one of those big variety thingies at Convo Hall (Metamor4sis I think), Beheruz and I were co-comperes. We wore helmets at one stage and cracked terrible PJs, to deflect the audience’s jeering to us, rather than the acts.  One PJ I recall was “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet!  What’s twain? It’s that cute thing that wuns on twacks!”

~~ Uday Wagle (Elec, H4/H3)

When we moved in to H4, a group of us (non-bawas and bawas) devised this system of calling for help if anyone was being ragged: To shout out “XYZ (the person who was being ragged, or on the verge of being ragged) wants you.” Of course, we moved in in early July and devised this system soon after. My birthday is on the 31st of July, and my mother had made a small cake for me to take back to IIT to share with a few friends. That Sunday evening (July 31, 1966 was a Sunday), when I returned to IIT, I told one of my friends that I had a cake to share with a few friends and asked him to help me collect them in my room.  He goes out to the corridor and yells, “Beheruz wants you to come to his room (which was on the ground floor at that time).” Within minutes, I had 25 freshers in my room, thinking that I was being ragged! The cake had been intended for about 5-6 people, so, all of us had a very, very small piece of cake that night! But, hey, at least we found out that the system worked!

~~Beheruz Sethna (Elec, H4)

Camaraderie at its best in the hostel room
What better time to catch up than while doing the morning chores in the 4th Hostel bathroom.
"Who said hostel mess food was awful"?
Those were the _SLIDE RULE_ days desperately calculating to finish the homework.

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