Grandeur and glamour of LIT hill

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 19 Oct 2017 09:24:57

Vijay Phanshikar,

From the roads and lanes and playgrounds in Ram Nagar and Gokulpeth where we grew up askids 58-plus years ago, the clock-tower of the Laxminarayan Institute of Technology (LIT) looked very tall and high -- physically and metaphysically. Each time we came out of the house, we looked at the clock-tower to know what time it was. Our childhood time-tables were set by that clock presiding over not just the area but also our mindsets. 

We, not just the kids like us but others as well, had a sense of awe about the boys residing in LIT hostels on the hill, moving about in the locality visiting shops and restaurants and temples. For, getting admission in LIT meant somethingreally big. Only the best got into that place. Only the most brilliant attended the classes in that haloed institution that bore the name of the donor of huge property to the Nagpur University -- Raibahadur D. Laxminarayan. The LIT hill, thus, had a towering presence in our minds, literally and literarily. For, it represented educational excellence and infrastructural grandeur.

In evenings, many people would be walking on its hill-tracks, sitting on the boulders there, climbing to the top to sit on the steps, on the northern climb, to the college building, or occupying those couple of wrought iron benches in the tiny garden just outside the porch. Many found charm in walking on the roads that looked like arms of the property. Those who learned car driving often took the vehicles to those roads for experience in driving up the road on one side and down the one on the other side.

What attracted guys like me was the atmosphere of learning in the LIT. I never felt like becoming a chemical engineer, of course. Yet, I loved to steal an entry into the college building and peep into the class-rooms where celebrated teachers taught the students various aspects of
chemical and allied engineering subjects that helped the youngsters to acquire great jobs the world over. Yes, Laxminarayan Institute of Technology of Nagpur University was a globally recognised institution of higher learning in those days. The LIT library, too, was a place I loved to frequent in the quest of some books on science and technology.

Though I was not an LIT student, I made many friends on the hill and joined them in their discussions etc hoping to gain some knowledge, if not wisdom.
There is no doubt that the LIT is even today one of the premier national institutions in chemical engineering and technology. Its students are still being considered as part of educational cream.

In my college days, the LIT hill had another attraction for us -- the swimming pool in the north-western corner a little away from the college premises. There we went for practice sessions and then participated in competitions. Then, it used to be a truly good pool swimming in whose waters was a matter of prestige, pride and privilege. In inter-collegiate and other swimming meets, we got to see some of the region’s best swimmers make their mark.

There used to be a few Kashmiri youths, too, in the LIT hostels studying in different classes. They formed a close-knit group but did not sport a clannish tendency. They
welcomed others to join them. In those discussions, I could learn a great deal of the early years of Kashmir problem as we see it today. Though we often considered Kashmir as jewel in India’s crown, we had begun sensing certain unease brewing up silently in Jammu and Kashmir in the mid-1960s.

A few days ago, I had had a chance to visit the LIT as a keynote speaker at a students’ career-orientation seminar. That visit brought back a lot of old memories of the place. The campus still continues to enjoy today certain serenity that was its hallmark then as well. The campus is small, but has a psychological vastness that the students can breathe in and nurse their educational ambitions. From the LIT hill, one can still get the feeling of certain elevation in mind. As school-going kids, we often felt that the LIT hill was almost as tall as the Himalayas. Later, we realised that it was just a little hillock. Yet, in my mind, its spiritual height still surpasses many other elevations.

Of course, the hill also has some strange memories associated with our evening outings on its slopes. One dark evening, as a friend and I were rushing back home, we heard footsteps behind us. We turned to see who was around, but could see no one. As we continued our descent, we heard the steps again, stopped, and turned around to see who it was. Again, there was no one. At that point, we panicked, and started running. Those invisible steps seemed to follow us. We again stopped, only to find no one. However, by that time, we had come to the foot of the hillock, and just managed a hard sprint straight into the kitchen and into mother’s arms.

We do not know who that was, following us. But that evening, Grandmother pacified us saying, in effect, ‘Look Viju, when you are alone, God follows you and protects you.’ Honestly, I never tried to test or assess the truth in her words. Even today, I believe, Grandmother was absolutely right.

Now also, as I look at the LIT hill, I hear in my head those strange footsteps that I have learned to enjoy. n