In true spirit of selfless service and the practical manifestation of the Vedic principles of education, DAV College (Lahore), Ambala City, doubled up as shelter for people fleeing from floods due to the overflowing Ghaggar in the 1960s, old-timers recall. “Students and teachers chipped in to arrange food, water and other logistics,” recalls professor SK Khanna, 78, a former student and teacher at the college. He graduated with a BSc (non-medical) degree in 1960. Today, the country’s oldest college under the fold of the Dayanand Anglo Vedic (DAV) institutions lies nestled on a road that suddenly forks right near the Jagadhri Gate on the usually bustling Ambala-Hisar road. Roots in Pakistan; heritage building awes Started as a school in 1886, it was upgraded as DAV College, Lahore, then a part of the erstwhile undivided Punjab in British India, within a year. Renowned educationist Mahatma Hansraj, a prominent follower of the Arya Samaj movement, was the honorary principal till 1912. He and Gurudatta Vidhyarthi founded this school and also the DAV Anglo Vedic school education system in the country.Wanting to impart modern education with the essence being Indian (Vedic) values, the college relocated after partition to Ambala city in 1948. With the well-maintained old campus and the majestic building, the college is considered to be the ‘Heritage College’ among all DAV educational institutes. Teachers’ Colony “Started as an all-boy institution on 15.6 acre, we went co-educational in the 1970s. The faculty strength is 80-odd and we admit around 2,000 students,” says officiating principal KK Khurana. The college also has a Teachers’ Colony comprising 14 flats. A newly-built housing complex is there for the non-teaching faculty. The library has some rare books brought from Lahore. A gymnasium, weightlifting centre and badminton court complete the array of facilities. Khurana says that the college also runs free classes for students to prepare them for competitive exams. Remedial classes are also held for weak students. Nobel laureate among alumni Nobel laureate Har Gobind Khorana is an alumni, as is the former vice-president of India, late Krishan Kant, and ex-prime minister late Inder Kumar Gujral. Chief justice of Punjab and Haryana high court justice (retd) RN Mittal, Ambala-based eye surgeon Dr Mahesh Manocha, physician Dr Ashok Baweja and local MLA Aseem Goel are other prominent citizens to have studied here. Still others are cricketer Chetan Sharma, former Punjab minister Jagmohan Singh Kang and Haryana bureaucrat Sameer Pal Srow. The alumni association remained active for long, but has failed to hold annual meetings for the past three years.‘Teachers helped in construction’ Professor Khanna recalls that the then principal Bhagwan Das and other teachers including Vidya Sagar, LC Dhawan and Triloki Nath encouraged students to undertake construction work required as the college grew. “During my graduation, our hostel, at 250 rooms, was the biggest in the region. We used to take pride in telling people that a large number of students (including me), the principal and teachers had worked for the college, carrying construction tools to build the college,” he adds. He remembers with fondness the habit of their physical training instructor Balraj to order them (the students) to level parts of the college, if he found them idling. “He (Balraj ji) would never punish us, but his one stern look ensured that discipline prevailed,” he says, with emotion. Sushma Swaraj competed in debate Even as practicality was encouraged, the college has also had the tradition of encouraging healthy debates through a Young Speakers’ Club. “I fondly remember how I and now the Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who was a year junior to me and was from SD College, vied for the first position in inter-college debates,” says professor Mohinder Paul Gupta, 75, a graduate of 1965. He adds teachers were revered those days.“Such was the respect in our mind for our teacher that we would climb down from our bicycle at their sight (who too rode bicycles in those days) to wish them and waited till they crossed us,” says Gupta, who taught chemistry at the college from 1967 onwards. Proxy call and pin-drop silence “Our mathematics teacher, Vidya Sagar, once noticed a proxy call during roll-call. He stopped and sought voluntary confession from the guilty; no one did. He then announced that he would not speak with anyone in the class till the guilty stood up. For the next two days, the class just sat through pin-drop silence,” Gupta remembers. He added that it was only when, on the third day, he and others met him separately and told him that the guilty wanted to apologise did studies resume. Extra classes for ‘good boys’ Ashok Baweja, 63, who did his graduation in medical sciences at this college till 1974, has a viewpoint tinged with nostalgia. “Most of us came from humble backgrounds, and our teachers knew it well, especially, college principal Bhagwan Das, vice-principal Vidya Sagar, professor Khurana and professor Goomber. I feel proud when I tell people (including my own grand children) how teachers helped us financially throughout our studies, even after college days,” he says.“Our teachers ran one-hour special ‘Good Boy Classes’ after school hours — free. There was no concept of tuitions in those days,” he adds. Ambala City MLA Aseem Goel, 38, who studied here for two years from 1994, recalls how the college maintained remarkable discipline during student body polls. “In my science stream, there were 12 boys and 27 girls. I was the election in-charge and it was heartening to note that a boy got elected as class representative because of his qualities and not, the number, despite the efforts of rival group who sought to get a girl elected,” he says.More courses planned On future plans, principal Khurana says efforts are afoot to run more job-oriented courses and free coaching for students in subjects like M Sc (chemistry) and bachelor of physical education. Free coaching could also be offered for the UGC-NET exam. In terms of infrastructure, he claims that soon the institute would have a solar power plant of its own. “Science and maths labs will be upgraded. Common rooms and washrooms are being renovated for both boys and girls,” he adds.