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Ludhiana college named after alumnus strikes a nostalgic note

Region’s older schools of learning: From leading space scientist Satish Dhawan to lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, Satish Chander Dhawan Government College is replete with examples to emulate.

punjab Updated: Jun 04, 2018 11:02 IST
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
Ludhiana,Satish Chander Dhawan Government College,Satish Chander Dhawan
Noted lyricist and poet Sahir Ludhianvi began his affair with the pen at Satish Chander Dhawan Government College, Ludhiana. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)

In 1920, soon after World War I, a few deserted military barracks stood isolated on Ferozepur Road in Ludhiana. Once home to soldiers, the barracks sprung to life with a handful of eager students and six lecturers holding classes in what came to be known as Imperial College.

“Ludhiana’s population was a mere 50,000 at that time. In 1922, the barracks were dismantled. The college was shifted to the Industrial Training School building near Jagraon bridge before it was eventually shifted to its present campus as Government College on College Road in 1927. The total number of students was 268 and increased to 300 in 1929,” says Amarjit Hayer, 84, an alumnus who has since retired as professor, in the journalism, language and culture department of Punjab Agricultural University.

English, math, history and Persian were taught to start with and three years later, philosophy was introduced as an alternative to mathematics.

It was during the tenure of Englishman ACC Hervey as the third principal of the college from 1927-42 that the college saw development in all sectors.

After Partition, the college had a bigger responsibility to shoulder as it had to become an institution that could be a worthy substitute of some of the best institutions left in Lahore.

Two crates of soda bottles did the trick

Late Thaker Singh, a trusted lieutenant of Hervey, has been quoted in the golden jubilee edition of college magazine Satluj as sharing how and why Ludhiana was chosen as the venue for the government college. Thaker, who retired in 1954, says that after WW-I, the Punjab government was pleased with the military services rendered to the British government by the people of Malwa. It wanted to sanction a government college and proposed Ambala as the location.

Delegations of five members each were invited from various districts of the ‘ilaqa’ (region). The team from Ludhiana was led by Sardar Bahadur Gajjan Singh, a member of the viceroy’s council. Gajjan Singh carried two crates of soda water bottles with him and reached late for the meeting on purpose. He entered with the crates. The Ambala divisional commissioner asked why he had got the bottles. Gajjan Singh replied that he would give the reason “when the time comes”.

As the meeting started, the president announced that it had been decided to open the college in Ambala. Gajjan Singh got up and said that as there was scarcity of water in Ambala, so much so that taps go dry in summer so he had brought crates from Ludhiana for the members. There was a big laugh from all quarters but the message was clear that Ambala was not suited to open the college.

Finally, Ludhiana was selected and HY Leanghorne, who was transferred from Khalsa College, Amritsar, became its first principal.

Ex-students who did college proud

Hayer, who did his bachelors of science from the college in 1953, says that it was in 1976 that the Punjab government renamed the college after its alumnus and leading space scientist Satish Dhawan, who retired as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman in 1972. The institution came to be known as Satish Chander Dhawan (SCD) Government College.

Another illustrious student of the college was poet Abdul Hayee, popularly known as Sahir Ludhianvi, who studied there from 1938-41. The college has named its auditorium after Sahir and his pictures of the era when he was a student dot walls of the college. A section in the college library is also devoted to Sahir.

Artist Harkrishnan Lal, former army chief TN Raina, former CBI director Joginder Singh, former Punjab top cop KPS Gill, former Indian cricketers Yashpal Sharma and Chaman Lal Malhotra, former chief election commissioner and ex-sports minister Manohar Singh Gill, English poet and short story writer Keki N Daruwala have been students of the college.

In addition, the chairman of Bharti enterprises, Rakesh Bharti Mittal and his counterpart at Avon Cycles Onkar Singh Pahwa are among the college’s alumni.

A number of sportspersons of the college have made it to the national and international levels. Olympian athlete Jagdev Singh also studied from this college.

During the college golden jubilee celebrations in 1970, organised by then principal Pritam SIngh, poet Sahir Ludhianvi and artist Harkishan Lall were awarded gold medals.

The Sahir connection

A romantic revolutionary, Sahir, who was on the rolls for four years, was asked to leave by the college in 1941.

Urdu poet Kewal Dheer says that two incidents drove the college authorities to ask Sahir to leave. Sahir was the president of the students union in 1941 and his poems against the British rule irked the authorities. Another version is that Sahir was asked to withdraw from college for having an affair with a girl, Ishar Kaur, and sitting in the college lawns with her, much to the disagreement of principal Hervey.

Dheer says Sahir left Ludhiana and moved to Lahore. “He was again invited by the college twice – once in 1943 when he recited a poem, Nazr-e-College, in which he recalled his expulsion, while In 1970 at the golden jubilee celebrations of the college then principal Pritam Singh, Sahir was presented a gold medal and he recited a poem, Aye Nayee Nasal,” says Dheer.

The following is an extract from Sahir’s poem Nazr-e-College:

Is sar-zameen pe aaj ham ik baar hi sahi, duniya hamaare naam se be-zaar hi sahi. Lekin hum inn fizaayon ke paaley huyein to hain, gar yan nahi to yahan se nikaale huye to hain.

Years after Sahir’s death, PAU immortalised Sahir in a unique floral tribute by naming newly- developed chrysanthemum variety after him.

Centre of sport

Principal Dharam Singh Sandhu says the college has been the centre for sporting activities. The Punjab Silver Jubilee Hockey Championship was played here in 1950 in which 35 teams from across the country participated. A team -- from Pakistan for the first time ever after Partition -- took part in the tournament.

Before he became the first vice-president of India, S Radhakrishnan, was invited for the silver jubilee celebrations of the college in 1945. It was during his address that the college motto, ‘Dare to be true’ was selected.

Canteen to ‘mushaira’

“Spending my college days here was the best time of my life as not only did the college impart quality education but it also focused on the teacher student relationship and overall development of the child. Time spent with friends in the college canteen is something I will always miss,” says Onkar Singh Pahwa.

“There used to be a ‘mushaira’ organised by the Old Boys Association and I will always cherish its memories. The college used to regularly organise Shakespearean plays, too,” says Hayer.

Next: Government Mohindra College, Patiala

First Published: Jun 04, 2018 11:02 IST