File photo: Convocation at IIT Bombay, 1966
The first girl to join the B.Tech. program of IIT Bombay was Tejaswini Saraf (now Kanvinde).
She joined in 1962 after completing 11 years of High School plus 2 years of science college (Int. Sc.). Hence she was admitted directly to the second year of the B.Tech. program as was the IIT practice then. Since there was no ladies hostel on the campus at that time, she stayed temporarily as a guest with the then professor of Civil Eng. Mrs. Shakuntala Bhagat. At that same time there were two other girls on the campus who were pursuing their MTech. degrees. Since they were also working as lab assistants in their department at the same time, they could get an apartment as an employee. Their names are Pushpa Watve (now Apte) and Prabha Ketkar (now Deo). So the institute decided to accommodate Tejaswini with these two girls that first year. Hence there was no need for a ladies hostel in 1962.
In 1963, five more girls joined the B.Tech. program. Nandini Gurjar (now Jog) joined after her BSc. Degree (11 years of highschool + 4 years of science degree course). Hence she was directly admitted to the third year of the B.Tech. program as per the IIT practice then and became Tejaswini’s classmate over time. Sheela Koppikar (now Warty) joined after completing Int. Sc. just like Tejaswini and hence was admitted to the second year of the B.Tech. program. The remaining 3 girls who joined in 1963 are Kusum Apte (now Chandragupta), myself Neela Gavankar (now Mudgal) and Rekha Rege (now Nadkarni). We three joined after FY. Sc. (1 year of science college after 11 years of High School) and hence were admitted to the first year of the B.Tech. program
So now there was a need for a ladies’ hostel. Constructing a new building was impossible in the time frame and not financially viable for such a small number of girls. Hence they decided to give us an apartment on the ground floor in a Type III building located centrally in the Asst. Professors’ quarters. Each apartment had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, a separate dining area, and a kitchen. Each apartment could accommodate five students. The living room and the bigger bedroom could be equipped as double rooms and the smaller bedroom as a single room. However, that first year we six girls lived in one apartment and each room was made a double room. Each girl had a bed with a mattress, a writing table and a small steel cupboard as a wardrobe plus book shelf. There was a good size dining table in the dining room where we could eat together and chit chat, share our daily experiences, etc. Our warden was Ms. Leela Rao who was a professor in the department of Physics. We had a resident lady cook named Janabai assigned to us full time and a part time maid named Sheubai who used to commute daily from her home for all cleanup as required and laundry. So, we really lived there like a family and could dedicate our time to our studies as required without any problem. Plus, we were lucky enough to have a family on the campus who went out of their way to provide us some social time during that first year. Professor Parulekar of Mechanical Engineering and his wife Kamal Tai, as we called her, used to invite us for an afternoon tea/snacks and chitchat as often as they possibly could during our first year. We really relished that and have fond memories of the same. Many thanks to the Parulekar family.
From 1964 onwards more girls started joining not only the B.Tech. program but also the M.Tech., M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs. The Institute then started giving us more flats as required. Things started becoming more complex. One cook and one maid were not enough, but still somehow managing. On the other hand from 1966 onwards girls started graduating and leaving the hostel. Tejaswini and Nandini were the first two girls to graduate with a B.Tech. degree from IITB. (Even though Pushpa and Prabha did not live with us in our hostel, they too graduated in 1966 and became the first two girls to receive an M.Tech. degree from IITB. And another girl Radha Natarajan, even though was not among the first 6 original residents of our hostel, also graduated in 1966 and became the first MSc. girl to graduate from IITB. She had joined the ladies hostel in 1964 one year after us the first 6. Devaki (last name not known) who joined the ladies hostel sometime in 1965 or early 1966 to complete her Ph.D. thesis was the first girl to graduate with a Ph.D. degree from IITB.) So the hostel was continuing. Our cook Janabai was getting old and left. She was replaced by a male cook. In 1967 Sheela and some other girls graduated and left. I believe in 1967 our hostel consisted of 3 or 4 apartments with a capacity of about 20 students. The Institute realized that the things were getting out of control and now was the time to construct a new building. The construction started in 1967 right behind our building. In 1968 the last three girls of the first six occupants of the original ladies hostel namely Kusum, Neela (myself), and Rekha graduated with a B.Tech. degree and left. The remaining girls from the original hostel were then transferred to the newly built Ladies’ Hostel.
Last but not the least, I want to mention here that all the six of us who were the first residents of the ladies hostel on this campus made full use of the knowledge gained at IITB after graduating from here. Most pursued graduate studies in their respective field of engineering either in India or abroad after B.Tech. Some first worked in reputable firms in India and then went abroad for graduate studies, some went immediately after B.Tech. After completing graduate degrees three of us stayed in the US and worked as professionals staying on our chosen career paths. The remaining two did the same in India and one went into teaching profession in her chosen engineering field in India. Some worked until full retirement, some retired early as needed.