Diwali was just round the corner when a galaxy of stars descended on the Structural Reliability and Research Facility (SRRF) Lab last Tuesday evening over mouth-watering snacks and a tête-à-tête with the International Relations Office of IIT Kharagpur. These students, enrolled for various postgraduate courses and programs at IIT Kharagpur, and hailing from Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Nigeria, Russia, Syria and France, participated in an engaging session that continued for over a couple of hours.
“What is this Illu thing we are hearing in our halls? Is it something big here?” asked one student. He was visiting the campus for the first time and was highly curious about the upcoming Diwali celebration on campus.
After a formal introduction by the Dean and Associate Dean, IR, the students were asked about the issues they would like to address and the things they liked about IIT Kharagpur.
“The Lake!” came the unanimous answer. On being asked the reason behind their fondness for the water body, they replied that the lake reminded many of them of their hometown. The other places most of them loved to hang around were ‘Vegies’ and the Tech Market. Quite a number of them found the campus expansive and interesting and their hallmates “wonderful” and “helpful”. A few also wanted to explore the campus in a group of their own.
“I like Bollywood films and Taare Zameen Par tugged at my heartstrings. I want to learn Hindi to understand these films better,” said Charith Rajapaksha from Sri Lanka, an MTech student of Chemical Engineering. “If you come to Sri Lanka, I would show you whales,” he said, his face lit up with pride. Charith, who has been snorkeling for quite a while now, also added, “Dolphins are common in the area where we go swimming, but it takes real luck to spot a whale. That way, I have been lucky as I have seen whales quite a few times.” As he looked around, he could see appreciation in many eyes.
Apart from studies, grades and late night labs, the students showed a keen interest in sports. “Archery is the national sport of my country and I would love to learn that. Do you have any opportunity here?” asked Karma, a student from Bhutan, pursuing postgraduate studies in Physics. Like Charith, Karma dropped an open invitation. “Visit Bhutan either in autumn or spring,” said he, “It is then that the real beauty of the place unfolds. And don’t miss Tiger Nest Monastery in Paro. You know, the Duke and Duchess of England had hiked three hours to get to that place!” Boundless emotions flowed out as Karma framed a picture of his beautiful country for the assembled audience in front of him.
“We would love it if the Institute could organize a trip or two to Kolkata. That is the nearest metropolis and we have even charted out places to visit in that city. Victoria Memorial tops the chart”, was an appeal that went out in unison to the Dean. A few had already visited Kolkata on the occasion of Durga Puja and were fascinated by the enormous scale on which the festival is celebrated across the length and breadth of the city. They wanted to know if Diwali was also celebrated in the same manner.
“Even better,” informed Prof. Anandaroop Bhattacharya, Associate Dean, IR. “You will witness a spectacle that is unique to IIT Kharagpur fraternity. Illumination, or Illu, as we call it here, is a show of barely 15-20 minutes, but it is an experience in itself. Over two months of intense, sleepless labour delivers something you would never want to miss,” said Prof. Bhattacharya, himself an alumnus of RK Hall, which is famous for putting up an elaborate illumination every year.
Some wanted to know if there was any opportunity to learn the local language. “Sounds interesting! We will look into the matter,” promised Prof. Baidurya Bhattacharya, Dean, IR.
One of students wished there were a wing in the hostel exclusively for international students. The logic? Given that they came from different cultures, international students took a little time to assimilate into the KGPian diaspora.
Others, however, seemed to be enjoying IIT Kharagpur’s free-spirited melding of diverse cultures. In fact, while gorging on the varied spread of paneer and chicken tikka, and vegetable pakodas, Manish and Santosh, both students from Nepal, chipped in, “Hum sab jab ek jagah hote hain, toh ek guldasta jaisa ban jate hain (When we all come together, we make a lovely bouquet).”
We couldn’t have put it more beautifully.
Graphics : Suman Sutradhar