Well, on the day of Civic Polls it turned out to be a difficult choice to devote almost 3 hrs to an University’s 15th Convocation or to concentrate on the 2nd Municipal Elections, an activity that was going to be keenly contested as opposed to its 1st edition in 2010, in which a sizable number of candidates were elected unopposed in a peaceful setting.
While keeping a track of events from previous evening and early morning, I succumbed to the friendly pressure of Brig. Misra V.C. and Dr. P.D Senoy, Advisor to the Group. Upon casting my vote and boosting the morale of Polling personnel, I landed up at the University, rather ahead of time. My election responsibility was taken care of later between 2 to 6 PM when I could see 17 booths between Gangtok & Rangpo and to my utter relief, except for one booth at 7th Mile, things were fine and under control.
I recalled, I was attending their Convocation for the third time. It was joy, smile, bonhomie, brightness, all over, on a bright sunny day. More buildings, more Faculty and staff and off course, plenty of courses and students from all parts of country, spoke of size and dimension of the University that began as late as 1999.
We were escorted in with courtesy & style to the waiting hall on level 3, were offered tea, snacks etc, something that was not needed so early. However, soon number of we ‘dignitories’ registered a rise. Finally, round one ended with the arrival of the Governor. More pleasantries than something light or profound, that mattered now. With clock wise precision, Gowns were put over each one of us (15). I had a different feel, something, one was deprived of after I Graduated in 1977, as the system of Convocation in my Ranchi University had virtually come to an end. Also it was a fact that none of us bothered to check even whether degrees were being awarded in this old British style. If I recall, every house having a Graduate in early Sixties or Seventies would proudly display the photo of their off-springs donning a black gown with an unusual headgear and holding the rolled up degree between two hands.
Anyway, to continue further, stress was on career building at Delhi, so one rushed, got into JNU and finished two more degrees – MA & M.Phil. At the end of the process, was eager if one could have a feel of the Convocation. Soon, we coming from lower middle class got upset, if not dejected, as probably due to its Left domination, the University never encouraged such functions. So sooner than later, both the Provisional Degrees were collected from the clerks of the ‘Centre’ and only after some gap, the originals were received, one of them by post.
Back to SMU, all of us were made ready for the ‘procession’ on the 6th Level and stood in a Q as per indications of the VC and then began the cool, calculated movement led by a Piped band of the Army. It was a different, rather exhilarating feeling. Hundred of talented young boys & girls who had burnt the midnight oil were eagerly waiting upon cut-throat competition, coupled with investment of their hard earned family income. Many of them with their near and dear ones and a few of us starting with the Chief Guest, was going to hand over Degrees, Certificates & Medals. So what it one was never on receiving end, the opportunity to give should suffice now with a certain element of self satisfaction.
Assembled students, Faculty, Guests, all clapped and cheered. Slowly, entry into the 750 capacity hall took place. Clicking of mobile cameras was a foregone conclusion. Lighting of traditional Diya, Goddess Saraswati Vandana, Welcome addresses, Annual Reports administering of oath, etc, all followed with good time management. And then came the turn of distribution of Medals. In good old days, most of the recipients would be from outside the State. But it was pleasing and highly satisfying to see that this year more than half were from this very soil and that too some from dwindling if not vanishing Lepcha tribe. They had guts, courage and confidence when they walked to the dias (inspired by T.V. culture I suppose). Some nevertheless, looked shy, would walk away without looking at the photographer, unless told or reminded by me. After all, why should not one make best use of this once in a while occasion ?
At the end, what mattered or left an imprint was straight from heart and an absorving speech by the Chief Guest, Shri. Chandan Bagchi, Head of Mind Tree, an MNC at Banglore. It was good to note that he had links with South Bihar (Singhbhum) and Odisha and that he too like me came from a lower middle class background. His speech was a class apart. The Governor & Chancellor of the University summed up very well when he stated that his father was educated in an ordinary way but his mother was not even literate, yet he could make it to IAS in 1965, then became Lok Sabha, M.P and today he could proudly say that he was speaking in the capacity of a Chancellor of an University.
So much so for boosting the morale of the students who, were now on the cross-roads. Unlike our days, they did not have to keep their fingers crossed but had to make correct choices even on the campus in view of multiplicity of opportunities both within the country as also abroad, so well facilited by the rapid strides in the field of computer, Internet, mobile telephony, etc.
As it happens on such occasions, grand finale was musical, with a bang. One was busy even while being inclined. Dr. D’souza made it happen, thanks to his persuasive acumen. Soothing Kathak performance by a group of teenaged girls, choreographed by a music society of Singtam, followed by short and sweet dance by two cute little children set the ball rolling. It was followed by a mesmerizing one hour Sarod recital by Pandit Bhawani Shakar Dasgupta of Kolkata, who made it despite his father being on sick bed. From him, one gathered that Sarod owes its origin to Afghanistan.
However, what turned out to be icing in the cake was spell- binding and simply amazing solo Kathak performance by Mrs. Namrata Mali. While I could capture Pandit Dasgupta rather while in my cell camera, I failed in doing so in case of latter. She was too dynamic both in movement and expressions. Nonetheless, I captured her in my mind. It may remain for a long time, in the same way like the reminiscences of performances in this very campus by Mrs. Sonal Mansingh, Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt (Grammy Award Winner) and never to be forgotten Soitra(?) dancer from Majhuli, the largest river Island in world located in Assam.
Thank you Sikkim Manipal University.