Nearly 2 decades ago I joined Fergusson College in Pune, India to pursue my Bachelors degree in Science. My results in CBSE Board Exams had been a disappointment, more for my family than even for me. And rather disillusioned, I opted out from studying Maths or Physics any further choosing to major in Chemistry along with Botany, Zoology and the esoteric option Geology.
But my college stint was extremely rewarding as the syllabus was not all that taxing and the college provided great freedom to study at your own pace. On a rebound I topped my FY Group in college and have fond memories of spending hours at the Library and in my friend’s hostel room on the campus.
The course structure of B.Sc. was more appealing than that of the Engineering colleges. While a lot of my school friends slogged it out in college particularly in their practicals and projects, we had a fairly chilled out time. They were loaded with the Semester system while we had annual exams. The ‘ATKT’ (Allowed To Keep Term) was a disaster most of them faced and it was a drag in their future semesters as well.
My B.Sc. batch definitely spent more energies in socializing and partying and studies seem to come in focus only about a month before Exams. Am not sure if things have changed now but in our times, the Professors too would have enough time to mentor students whom they assessed to have good potential and they would give us a free run of the lab and other facilities.
I had a friend named Lalit who came from one of the smaller towns to study further and so stayed in the college hostel. We all saw a future Professor and Scientist in him as he was dead serious about studies from the word go. He was focussed on making his career in bio-chemistry and the road map was clear to him as well – complete B.Sc. (Chem), follow it up with M.Sc. (BioChem) from Pune University and then pursue his Ph.D. He was one of the favourite students for our Profs and always keenly participated in class discussions and activities.
While I was doing well with my studies, I was quite fuzzy about what I would do after my B.Sc. I did not quite see myself getting involved in pursuing Pure Science and academics, instead was more keen on figuring out options that would help me secure a good job in the private sector. Coming from a middle class family with my father about to retire from his Government job, I guess the intensity of securing ones future was a top priority in my mind.
Lalit never did appreciate my lack of passion for research and always felt that I had a latent potential that I could develop if only I took some interest. This was a ‘running battle’ between us for 3 years and we never could convince each other about our viewpoints. By the time I entered my third year, I had made up my mind to pursue an MBA degree and chase a Corporate career.
All the same we spent a lot of time together and I would enjoy being with him at his hostel room. The hostel was a den of youngsters enjoying the freedom of managing their affairs but Lalit was known to be a studious loner and so was left alone to his own devices. It made it easy for both us to study and enjoy the free time that we could spare from our schedules.
We had some good options to explore in the vicinity – IMDR canteen where many of our seniors would hang out and I would try to get tips about getting into a B school while Hotel Savera, Vaishali and Rupali were favourite haunts for udupi food.
We both had membership of the British Library and would drop in there as well. Lalit would be referring Lehninger’s ‘Principles of Biochemistry’ while I did mind enjoying an occasional Graham Greene or Somerset Maugham novel.We would go for movies with our larger group of friends or on our own as well with Alka and Rahul being the most popular options.
Lalit was meticulous in making notes and preparing for the exams and I would find it very easy to study with him. He could do intense sessions and study without taking a break for hours while I would get restless even after couple of hours. He found Maths taxing and I would point at the folly of pursuing ‘Pure Science’ if Maths was not his favourite. But he had an air of doggedness and determination about him which seemed to say that he would overcome all his troubles.
He convinced me to at least write my M.Sc. entrance while I was keen on writing entrance exams for B Schools. Eventually we both got what we wanted – he joined Pune University to pursue his M.Sc. while I moved to NMIMS in Mumbai to do my PG in Management. I had the option to pursue M.Sc. as well but it was never a real option to me. Lalit was a bit upset about that and I was surprised that he did not quite understand me after being great friends for 3 years.
We parted and became preoccupied with our courses. And I did not find him after that – the few college friends I know don’t have a clue – being a loner, I guess he never latched on the social media bandwagon including Facebook. I visit Fergusson College invariably once in a year when I am in Pune and often remember those old days and happy memories of youth. Lalit comes to my mind very vividly then and I do wonder what he is doing now…