The many ways of ‘giving’

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A warm smile playing on her lips, Sushmita Sur of the 1980 batch made an unusual disclosure at the interactive session, “Be the change-maker”, at the 17th Annual Alumni Meet. Her daughter had just joined the faculty at the Institute’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “There are different ways of giving back and having your children continue your legacy and contribute to the Institute is just another way,” said the proud mother. Her statement was greeted with thunderous applause and outside the Bhatnagar auditorium, she was thronged by her batchmates who took their turns to congratulate her.

Mr. Mihir Biswas from the 1955 batch at the 17th AAM

Some hours before this session at Bhatnagar, Mihir Biswas, the seniormost alumni member – from the 1955 batch – could be found enjoying the sun at the arena after a scrumptious breakfast. “I am here because the nostalgic value of this place is immense. I always love to come here…But it is special to come during the Annual Alumni Meet when you can meet a lot of people.” Since 1962, Biswas and his friends have been meeting at an informal ‘adda’ every Sunday at the Kwality restaurant in Kolkata. The numbers have dwindled, but Biswas is unwilling to let go. “I have tried my best to revive it, but it hasn’t helped. The Kwality has become an address for us and we need to revive it. But you must understand, old men like us can hardly do much.”

This is his own way of ‘giving back’ to his alma mater – seeing to it that the alumni keep in touch and that the old mingle with the young.

During the session, Prof. Cheruvu Siva Kumar, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and part of the 1995 batch, talked about two more unusual ways of ‘giving back’ that he said is not much talked about. Dr Suhas Patil (1965 batch) and Arjun Malhotra (1970 batch) were part of the group of alumni who conceptualized and then funded the project of bringing network connectivity to the entire campus. “Thanks to them, we have wifi connectivity in every hostel room,” said Prof. Kumar who was part of the design and implementation team.

‘Be the Change-maker’ session at Bhatnagar auditorium

Prof. Kumar also drew attention to a more recent intervention by the alumni – the donation of the customized ambulance last year by several alumni from the IITKGP Foundation of USA. “The ambulance was designed by our alumni and they retrofitted it with features that did not exist in any ambulance. And now, one hears, this has become a standard for other ambulances,” pointed out Prof. Kumar.

Indeed. The Rs 40-lakh ambulance is equipped with transport ventilator, defibrillator, syringe pump, suction pump, fully-regulated oxygen supply system, ECG monitor, and gadgets to monitor blood pressure, oxygen saturation in blood and respiratory and rates. It also has a foldable stretcher trolley, dedicated batteries and alternators for uninterrupted power supply and air-conditioning. Delhi-based alumnus Achin Juneja, engaged by the IIT Kharagpur Foundation, installed the gadgets in the ambulance.

Ms. Sushmita Sur (extreme right)

Prof. Kumar had another idea of how the alumni can give back. “The alumni should become part of the Alumni Affairs Office. Can we not use our professional and social connections to organize a state-of-the-art conclave?” he asked. His question was greeted with polite murmur throughout the auditorium that showed that it had hit its mark and set minds ticking.

“I come from an agricultural family that believes that it takes seven generations to repay a favour or debt,” said M. Chandra Sekhar, from the batch of 1995. This senior IPS officer who heads the anti-corruption bureau of Bengaluru said that he is immensely grateful to IIT Kharagpur that had given him the confidence and never-say-die attitude that is valued in his line of duty. “Whatever little way I can help, I will certainly try to do my best. I would like to improve the living conditions of students. They should feel comfortable and gain in confidence,” said Mr. Chandra Sekhar, who had donated substantially prior to the meet.

‘Be the Change-maker’ session in progress

Echoing his thoughts were his batchmates. Mr. Subhendu Mondal was one of them. As a Hall and Department topper in sports, Mr. Mondal wanted to drastically improve the sporting facilities in the Azad Hall. He promised to rally his batchmates to do something about it. Many others from the batch of 1995 promised to either strengthen the industry connect of the Institute or mentor students through brainstorming sessions.

But while the much younger batches were still mulling over ways to ‘give back’, alumnus and former Director of the Institute, Prof. Damodar Acharya, had already made his commitment. An invitee of the Director of IIT Kharagpur, Prof. V.K. Tewari, for the Institute function and the brainstorming session on the Institute’s future growth, Prof. Acharya pledged to renovate the two rooms he had occupied during two separate stints at the Institute as a student – at Jagadish Chandra Bose Hall of Residence between 1970-72 and at the BC Roy Hall of Residence from 1972-75.

Prof. Damodar Acharya (left) talking to the Dean, Alumni Affairs, Prof. Subrata Chattopadhyay

“Only small donations are required to make the rooms attractive. I am following the Obama principle – to make small contributions count big,” he stated amidst the sound and laughter that encompassed the arena during the gala dinner of the 17th AAM.

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