IIT Kharagpur, as the name suggests is located in the sleepy town of Kharagpur, around 110 kilometers from Calcutta. Established in 1951, it’s the oldest IIT in the country, and with the largest of campuses amongst the IITs, and untouched by the vagaries of materialistic existence, provides a beautiful and idyllic setting for undergraduate studies. The institute has an expansive campus, dotted with unkempt green parks, old and new hostels, some crumbling, some garish by their opulence. The departments are laid out in the academic campus, not too far from the main entrance of the institute, which houses all the academic complexes, and a few large auditoriums. The old institute building is a little further down the road and is now a tech museum with a few administrative offices. Originally the site of the Hijli Detention camp for prisoners of the British era, it also has a badly maintained Hunter and an extinct Railway Engine on display. The Hostels are all laid out along the arterial road of the campus, justifiably called Scholar’s Avenue. Close to eight undergraduate hostels and a few postgraduate hostels are located in two distinct areas – the old and new campus. The institute police station is a ramshackle establishment bang opposite the main gate of the academic complex. Cycling is the predominant mode of transport for most students, with most of the cycles being donated to the juniors as the elders mature and stop attending classes. The Scholar’s Avenue is lined with a generous green cover which stays green mostly all through the year, the campus being mostly untouched by the cancerous growth of civilization and the plague of construction.
The institute, just like any other institute with a long history, has its share of traditions and events. Some notable events which have assumed some popularity after the Telegraph made forays into the campus are the Illumination and Rangoli events of Diwali, which are great examples of the dedication which entire hostels put in to create a riot of colors and lights on the auspicious day. Students here have a tendency to abbreviate everything. So, anything meaningless, vague or random becomes arbit. It’s a technique often employed by professors to ensure that the class assimilates the most crucial points of the discussion. Nonchalance, brevity, machismo, sexiness, beauty, and excellence are all classified by the one word – cool; the director becomes the diro, your rank becomes your hawa, the vice-president of the Gymkhana becomes the ubiquitous VP, and the head of the department becomes the hod. Most KGPians tend to use the word maaro extensively, which simply means action. So you don’t smoke a cigarette, but maaro a fag; you don’t drink but maaro booze, and most importantly, you maaro mugga (study). Maaro over the years, has been universally accepted by all residents as a fully flexible verb. Girls are conspicuous by their scarcity here, with a lot of girls in the campus harboring a false sense of self-importance in turn leading to a sense of look-down-upon in the boys. Beautiful girls (and boys) are all referred to by the all-inclusive word juice. PJs (poor jokes) are an essential ingredient of life in KGP, and a lot of the poor jokes are born in dimly lit classrooms with disinterested professors trying to drill sense into severely disinterested students. Funda is the all-encompassing word for knowledge and fundoo in direct consonance translates to excellent, great, intelligent, and the likes. Water fights are a big part of KGP tradition with the upper hand generally held by the residents in the top floors of the hostels. TFS (Technology Film Society; everything in KGP is prefixed by the mandatory Technology) movies are another big tradition in the campus, especially for the distressed male populace. Watching a movie at one of the TFS screenings is unique, enervating experience. The crowd is in a perennially boisterous mood, and choice comments on the scene on display are common. A lot of slogans get shouted, with people clarifying their affiliation to a particular group or hostel in no small way. Tarapodo is the mysterious man who handles the projector, and is a cult figure all over the institute. However, NO constructive evidence has ever corroborated the existence of this mysterious person.
Events in the campus are multifarious and numerous, and are classified into several kinds – Open-IIT, where all kinds of people participate; Inter-halls, where the inter-hostel-rivalry is something to be watched and cherished. The TSG (The Gymkhana) is responsible for conducting all events and also the annual fest of the institute (The Spring Fest) which is held in January. In addition to this, the institute has a lot of student-controlled societies, most popular amongst which are the dramatics (ETDS, HTDS and BTDS, referring to English, Hindi and Bengali drama respectively); the music societies (WTMS and ETMS, referring the Western and Eastern music societies); and the TDS (the dance society). The institute has its problems too. The professors are good, and they are regular, but they are inadvertently sadistic and love to trouble the students to no end. There is a total absence of a city anywhere close (other than Calcutta, which is over a hundred kilometers away), and the sudden transition can be a trying phase for several students. Over the years, through consistent measures and strong patrolling, ragging has become practically non-existent, which though in some ways is laudable has resulted in lesser interaction between the juniors and the seniors. As a result, the bond which developed between the different batches is not as strong as in previous years. The administrative officials in the institute are frequently non-accommodating and can turn a deaf ear to several complaints which can get a little frustrating. Most of all, the spartan existence can seem like a nightmare to some.
However, in spite of all the problems and the rather hermit-like existence which is the norm rather than the exception here, KGP is a wonderful place to spend four years of one’s life. It instills a faith in relationships, fosters the strongest bonds of a lifetime, and makes one capable of facing hardships with an equal eye. The absence of city life nurtures talents and creates superstars; in short, it goes a long way in developing a personality, albeit in a very different way. The numerous events, technical and non-technical keep students busy all through the year, and the rigorous academic schedule keeps one on the tiptoe at all times. Rarely will you find a KGPian who doesn’t speak gloriously of his alma-mater; years after he has left KGP, he will connect instantly with a junior and ask him, “What’s Chhedis like nowadays?” [Chhedis is the 24-hour tea-stall just outside the campus, a meeting-place for the junta (junta=people)]