Colourful festoons, huge sponsor banners and flags decked up the entire campus last weekend. Makeshift ‘pandals’ popped up and an air of festivity hung around. Students scurried across different venues. They had spent sleepless nights for weeks. It was that time of the year when students from all over India flocked to the campus for one of the most outstanding college fests in south Asia – the Spring Fest.
This year, Spring Fest saw a mini galaxy descend on campus. Around 150 alumni from the Batch of 1970 came back to their alma mater to celebrate their 50th graduation anniversary. They also inaugurated the ‘ADDA’ and which is one among their many gifts to the Institute. The campus, departments, Halls, and most importantly, the Spring Fest brought back a flood of memories to this ‘young’ bunch of graduates who were more than happy to be back and share their memories of Spring Fests they were a part of, more than half a decade back.
“Our times were very different and so were our celebrations, you know. There was no such thing as corporate sponsorships way back in 1965-‘66-‘67. It was more of an Inter-Hall competition,” said Ms. Jayashree Singh, a 1970 graduate from the Department of Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering. She currently works with inhabitants of the Sunderbans, helping them fight economic challenges and lead a decent life.
“We had several events even during our time. There were dramatics, music competitions – both solo and in groups – and there were debates. Among all those 4-5 days of competitions, one evening was reserved only for classical vocal recital. The event you call ‘Pal’ now, existed in a different form in our times. Stalwarts like Pt Ravi Shankar, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, Md Rafi and Mukesh, all came here and performed throughout the night! All of us would eagerly wait for this particular evening,” continued Ms Singh. Her eyes lit up with pride as she remembered Lata Mangeshkar housed in her Hall – SN/IG Hall of Residence.
Mr Sukhminder Singh Grewal, a resident of Connecticut and a former leading man in GE, USA, recalled his own fun moment. “There was a dramatics competition during one of the Spring Fests during my time. One participating college put up a play which went completely tangential for all of us! One of our batchmates mimicked a scene from the same play and screamed, ‘Turn off the lights; we all want to sleep,” he narrated. Grewal broke into a fit of laughter relating the sorts of mischiefs students were up to during Spring Fest.
Notable alumni and pioneer of the Indian IT industry, Mr Arjun Malhotra, remembers Spring Fest being celebrated in a much smaller dimension. He recalls that the event was very culturally rooted and was not as global as it is today. There was just one venue – the Jnan Ghosh Stadium. “We could attend all the events as the venues were not scattered like now. The Spring Fest, back then, was a very low-key event and there were just a few colleges from Kolkata and neighbouring districts which would participate,” said Mr Malhotra.
Amidst the hustle-bustle at the Tikka Circle for the Alumni Clock Tower inauguration, The KGP Chronicle caught up with the then Secretary for SoCult (read Socio-Cultural), Mr Dipak Basak. “Fifty years back, the expectations were quite different. We did everything – from constructing the stage by stealing dining tables from the mess, to setting up the sound system and changing backdrops within a few seconds! When you are in charge of something like this, you need to organize all the required materials all by yourself, and so we stuck to our age-old theme – beg, borrow or steal. There was no concept of outsourcing like today. We enjoyed the simplest pleasures of life like rejoicing if girls from Loreto College participated,” he said with a smile and a wink.
His friend, Mr Ravi Raj Bhatia, added, “We made huge stage backdrops by sticking drawing sheets together and painting them. They had to be 26’X 6’ in size, and mind you, there would be separate banners for every event. We attended all our classes in the mornings and only after dinner did we get time to paint these. There was a target fixed for us – one backdrop every night. So you understand the amount of effort that went in?”
As the crowd started dispersing from the Tikka Circle after the Alumni Clock Tower inauguration, this incredible batch of 1970 were seen taking selfies, laughing away to silly jokes, hugging each other, calling each other names they gave while in college, planning which event of Spring Fest to gatecrash into and so on. Repeated announcements for different events floated in the air as the forever young and Forever KGPians from the Batch of ’70 melted into the crowd.