Professor Deepti & Professor Subhash Bhatnagar FPM, PGP 1970
The beginning of our story as an alumni couple is a little different from the usual boy-meets-girl-on-the-campus narrative. Most of our acquaintances presume that my wife Deepti and I must have first met as students on campus. The reality is as follows. I had completed my PGP in 1970 and after working for two years as a systems analyst in the institute, decided to pursue an academic career. IIMA had just started the Fellow Program and I enrolled in the first batch in January 1972. At about this time Deepti and I got married and within a few months, Deepti also joined the Fellow Program. We might have been the only married couple, definitely the first one, to have been students at the Institute at the same time.
Life then was so different from these days. There was no accommodation for married students on the campus. So we rented a two bedroom tenement about a kilometre away from IIMA for a princely sum of Rs 225 a month, out of our combined scholarship of Rs 800.
Upon returning home after classes, we would often discuss the happenings of the day. Deepti once narrated how two professors took a jibe at each other in one of her classes. With my prior exposure to the Institute for two years as an employee, I was able to guess correctly the names of the faculty! I once recounted how I got an FPM class postponed when I was not prepared for the class, by using a heavily scented hair cream to which the prof was allergic!
There were ups and downs but life was a lot of fun too. We remember with nostalgia how occasional dinner meetings at our place with batch-mates used to serve as stress busters for us.
In a few years we became the second faculty couple on campus. I joined the institute as faculty in 1975 and Deepti joined in 1984 after working for five years in other organisations. Early years were a bit of a struggle, raising a child at home, and living up to the expectations of the students and colleagues at work. In a few years we settled in the groove and since then life has been like a dream fulfilled.
We lived on the campus for 35 years, and enjoyed many wonderful friendships. Once, when we still did not have a house on campus and both of us had meetings to attend at the same time, we decided to leave our six-month-old son and his new ayah in the house of Professor A K Jain who was single at that time. When I returned after the meeting, from a distance I could see five-six faculty wives trying to placate a howling baby in the lawn. The distressed ayah had forgotten whose baby she was minding, leading some campus ladies to conclude that somebody had abandoned an unwanted child on the campus!
Deepti had an interesting experience, when on way to the new campus for a class, one of her sandals gave way. Preferring to go barefoot to the class than to rush home to change shoes and risk being late for the class, she kept walking towards the IMDC. On way to the class, she peeped into the program office, saw a lady program secretary on her desk, borrowed her over-sized shoes, quickly stuffed some tissue paper to make the shoes comfortable and went to teach the class! Of course, it was left to me to go home and send another pair of shoes to the program office, so the borrowed pair could be returned right after the class.
One of our many well-wishers was Hansmukh bhai the carpenter- a genius in his craft. Together Hansmukh bhai and I figured out how the planks of a large wooden crate that we had shipped from the US could be reused to make a wardrobe and covers for open lofts in the bedrooms. He executed our jointly-conceived ideas to perfection in our home and later on in many other houses on the campus. All he needed was a friendly chat and a hot cup of coffee to bring out the best in him. I am sure that other alums who chose academic careers and lived on campuses would have similar fund of happy memories, associations and friendships.
Looking back, both of us feel deeply indebted to our colleagues in the administrative and academic wings for making our work and life on campus so easy and enjoyable. While many institutes in the country undoubtedly have illustrious faculty, and we were fortunate to work with some of them at IIMA, we feel that the exceptional dedication and sincerity of our staff would be tough for others to emulate. Their support enormously enriched our stay on the campus. Our lives were made completely carefree because of the team of dedicated service providers. Our friends outside the institute envied us for our hassle-free existence where any repair/maintenance work was just a phone call away. They would often mention how living on the campus had spoilt us and put us out of touch from the harsh realities of urban living.
Now that both Deepti and I have superannuated, we have settled down in Ahmedabad in an apartment complex not far from the institute. We do miss the green environs of the institute but most of all we miss the camaraderie and the affection we received from faculty and staff of the institute. When we learnt that one of the projects for which the Institute was seeking a donation was to upgrade the facilities of the Staff Recreation Club, we thought it was a great opportunity for us to give back a little to the institute community from which we had received so much.
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