Monday, November 2, 2015

Lotus Eater of BC Roy Hall - Repeat Teelcast


CLAIMER: Some of this is hearsay, some hyperbole, and the rest good old Gul.

For most research scholars, BC ROY Hall is a caravansary in their lives....halting place for 3 years or so.

For AC it turned out to be his Permanent Address. 

AC took his Doctorate in Mathematics. This profession demands madness (inborn, acquired or plain posed). A 'worldly' mathematician is a blot on its loonscape.

Theoretical physicists are equally mad. But their profession demands an added aura of arrogance.

I earned my M Sc Degree in Physics from AU at the tender age of 19. That is why I learned no Physics there. I was too young and my teachers too old. I joined as a Research Scholar in Experimental Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance. My Guide and I were competing 'Escape Artists', to borrow from Aniket. We met only six times, including when he signed my (1) JRF Application, (2) No-Objection Certificate, (3) Release Order. The other 3 were in the narrow corridor with space only for two.

Nothing came of it in 2 years except 2 Letters in Current Science and 1 Paper in the Indian Journal Of Physics, all in Theoretical NQR!

But it laid the Foundation for 2 things in my Life. (1) 2 years of 'Research Experience' that were needed for the august Post of Associate Lecturer at IIT KGP (Lecturers were dubbed 'asses' so what were their 'Associates'? Answer: 'Assoasses') (2) I read all English Novels that I could lay my hands on, which helped me become the Master Blogger (like the Master Blaster) in retired life.

Conjugation: Blog, Blogger, Bloggest; Like go, went, GONE!

I was there in BC Roy Hall for 3 days, Gokahle Hall for 6 months, Faculty Hostel for 7 years, C1 Qrs for 20 years and the rest in the Heavenly Qrs B-140 till I retired after 40 years of 'service'.

AC joined BC Roy Hall almost at the same time as an RS in Math Dept. 1965. He never quit.

He won a good Ph D. All Doctorate Degrees had to be good then. At least one of the 2 external examiners had to be from a reputed foreign country; in rare cases like mine both...SDM never trusted Indian Theoretical Physicists (once bitten twice shy).

After earning Ph D, AC stuck on for a couple of Post Docs in the Math Dept, staying in BC Roy. He so liked KGP that he hoped to be absorbed there as faculty. There were many slips between that Holy Grail and his lip. He stayed on at BC Roy on his own funds till they dried up. He never applied anywhere else. Duly he became the non-paying guest. The Hall Tempo then was such that he was pardoned for a while.

In 1975 while I was staying and getting my thesis typed in the Banerjee Typing Center, I found AC one evening handing over a roll of about 50 hand-written illegible foolscap pages to our ever-smiling Shankarda. AC mumbled that it was urgent and he wanted it typed by tomorrow. Shankarda took those papers and said: "Theek Aachey". AC turned up after a fortnight with another such roll and got another "Theek Aachey!". I was curious and looked at Shankarda. He replied respectfully: "bhadralok ektu sick". I asked him: "Did you type his earlier roll?". He smiled: "ami ki pagol!"

By and by BC Roy downsized its hospitality. The resident boarders were newer and newer and declined to pay for this Ancient Mariner. Some old-timers footed his food-bill for a while, but the Management turned him out of his room. He took to its broad and breezy corridors as his nightly nest. His favorite haunt (like the rest of ours) was the Co-Op Canteen. By the time DB joined me in my canteen trips in 1975, AC was poorly clad, ill-fed, highly vocal mumbling something math and something poetry at a fantastic WPM (Words Per Minute). We could never get what he was saying. He smoked and lived on Tea and samose for which his erstwhile colleagues at BC Roy who were absorbed in their parent depts used to foot the bill for a while.

I told his story to DB, who joined KGP in 1970 as an Assoass with a Ph D in Particle Physics from Delhi:

"There goes but for a hairbreadth of luck: gps", to which he added: "+ DB".

By then AC took to plain begging with stretched palms but screaming weird mathematical jargon. DB and I decided for a while to pool and deposit Rs 30 with the Co-op Canteen with instructions to its manager to use it for AC's tea and sweets. But it didn't work out. Whenever he saw us he would give a sweet smile and stop mumbling and stretch his beseeching hands. DB and myself decided to give him a rupee on alternate days. That too didn't work. We were not alone; there were many. AC kept fairly good physical health but didn't care to dress by and by. Within a few years, he stopped footwear, shirt or pant, and was clad only in torn half-pants (long before they became fashionable 'bermudas').

His friends took him to the Railway Psychiatrist who pronounced it a bad case of schizophrenia and prescribed drugs. They were purchased, but: "one can take the horse to water...". Apparently he had a brother in Cal and he used to whisk AC away. But within a week he was back at the Canteen and BC Roy corridors.

I guess he was also committed to an Institution (other than IIT KGP), but he was back again within weeks.

This went on for 25 long years, by the end of which he was nothing but BURNING EYES.

Many (including me and DB) would try to give him satchels full of pants, shirts, and footwear; but he would decline and ask for: "cash".

A few years before I left KGP in 2005, AC disappeared from KGP.

Rumors were many.

But the one that comforted us most was that he got his Requiem at the Missionaries of Charity.



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