How many of us remember our student registration number in college? Or, the date when we collected our graduation marksheet? On Wednesday, a 75-year diminutive student went back to his college, Vidyasagar College in Suri of south Bengal’s Birbhum district, and reeled off his registration number of as well as the date when he collected his marksheet. The years were 1952 and 1956 respectively. The student: Pranab Mukherjee.
The First Citizen of India took a trip down memory lane on Wednesday; the most famous alumnus kept recalling teachers, numbers, dates, moments, emotions and even a banyan tree that stood on his old familiar campus.
“It is indeed a moment of joy and nostalgia to be back at the college where I spent four of the best years of my youth. It seems like yesterday that I was admitted for the I Sc course in 1952. My registration number was 5057, the registration fee at the time was Rs. 2. I went on to do the BA course from 195353 and I distinctly remember collecting my graduation mark sheet on August 13, 1956, from his college,” said Mukherjee, who is also a resident of this arid district in south Bengal.
“I used to stay at a hostel situation north of Nilakshi (another hostel). There were eight boys in the college. My batch mates included Gopal Sarkar, Amal Mukhopadhyay, Dwipendu Banerjee, Angshu Bhusan Bhattacharya. I remember them and their families vividly. I am very happy to see some of them here today,” he said.
Reliving the moments, Mukherjee remembered his teachers. “It is with great respect and reverence that I remember the principal, professor Arun Sen. He had a very good voice – I have never seen such a great speaker ever,” said Mukherjee, who has met nearly all the heads of state of big, powerful nations of his generation and heard them speak.
“It was a privilege to have studied under the teachers who guided my efforts as a young student more than half a century ago. The motto of the Suri Vidyasagar College, Gyan, Tyag and Seva, embedded in the college emblem, inspired my thoughts and actions. They remained in my heart all these years. It had, since, been an eventful journey for me, full of challenge, but I have been fortunate as there have also been so many rewards along the way,” said the President.
He received a very memorable gift on behalf of the college , a photo album with pictures of him during his college days. The album also has pictures of his writings from the college magazine.
Pointing out a banyan tree, Mukherjee said with a smile, “This banyan tree remembers the romantic moments of those days.”
Later in his speech, the President of India called upon educational institutes to maintain and improve the quality of education imparted.
He also asked universities to develop in their students a scientific temper and a curriculum that with encourage the grow th of research and innovation.
The finance minister in him made an appearance when he said, “This is an important moment in the evolution of the higher education framework in our country. We have reason to be optimistic. At the end of the financial year 2011-12, the overall figures revealed a total of 659 degree awarding institutions and 33,023 colleges.
This indicated that enrolment to higher education institutions in the country has increased from 1.39 crore in 2006-7 to 2.18 crore in 2011-12. Research is a key requirement with potential with the need for a concerted drive. Last year, for an estimated 260 lakh students at the under graduate level and above, there were only one lakh PhD students. This needs to be given a boost.”
“To provide greater access to quality higher education to more students financial assistance must increasingly offer a mix of scholarships, education loans and self-help plans such as ‘earn while your learn’ schemes,” he said.
“Increasing the reach of education in the country, flexible models such as open and distance learning, are far-reaching initiatives and should be encouraged. I am told that the response to such initiatives has increased – from about 27 lakh in 20067 to 42 lakh in 2011-12. This is a positive development,” the President added. “He has not changed. He speaks as he used to do earlier. We exchanged old memories and shared light moments with our old friend,” said professor Amal Mukherjee, the president’s classmate.