Hostel life in the 50s: A Memoir

It was in April 1956, over fifty years ago, that I bade adieu to my old college, BENCO. It transformed me from a 17-year-old boy to a graduate engineer under the umbrella of Rajputana Hostel, a home away from home for four years.

My association with BENCO began with the receipt of a telegram in the summer of 1952 from the college informing me that I had been selected for admission. Seventeen years old then, for me, it was a moment of joyous elation; I was filled with a sense of pride and self-esteem. It still remains one of the defining moments of my life.

Being allotted a room in the Rajputana Hostel, one of the only three white-washed buildings on the campus at that time, the other two being the Limdi Hostel and Charles King Memorial Pavilion, which had, for some unknown reason, only walls, no roof, made us, the occupants of Rajputana feel, quite irrationally somewhat distinct from others. To live and study with students from all over Kashmir to Travancore-Cochin, from Burma to East Africa, was in itself a most rewarding experience. Not only our class fellows were from all over India, but they were also from a broad spectrum of social and economic strata. Very soon, all of us learned that cerebral prowess has no social and economic exclusivity. There were many from remote backward areas, from homes without electricity, who passed out with flying colors.

Everyone on the teaching staff was always accommodating and approachable, even though each one of our teachers had a different personality and their ability to hold our attention in the classroom widely varied. A few of them had endearing eccentricities that were a source of mirth and amusement. But no disrespect was ever shown by any one of us to any faculty. Not one single day’s strike, unfortunately so common these days, was observed during my four years at the college, even though other colleges went on strike on several occasions. Our mess for us was culinary nirvana, and we rated our Maharaj at par with a cordon bleu chef, never failing to produce gourmet meals. 

The annual Sharad Purnima excursion on Ganga, placid, flowing quietly after the monsoons, shimmering in the heavenly moonlight, was an event we eagerly looked forward to. No luxury cruise can beat the joy, tinged with a touch of spirituality, experienced on the bajra floating down the river alongside the famous ghats of Benaras in the quiet night of early winter. Before the short winter vacations, College Day was observed with great gusto and grand style.

Final examinations over, the four golden years came to a close. The evening before the day of our departure, it was we who, for some inexplicable reason, got farewell from our teachers rather than vice versa. The emotional gathering of the teachers and the taught, a few words spoken in hushed tones on that moonlit night in April 1956 as we left our college behind and stepped into an uncertain future to face complex realities and challenges of life.

This article has been written by Sh. K. N. Chaurasia (MEC ‘56), and edited by the Content Team, SAIC, IIT (BHU), Varanasi.