Oasis-e-Kanpur

Truly, a sight for sore eyes that are tired of the journey from Kanpur Central to the campus of IITK. A place where dreams are realized and made, characters are built and lessons are learnt.

 

I hadn’t dreamed of ending up here, (or even wanted to, to be earnest!) , but now that I am, it does seem a wonderful place. I get a feeling of deja-vu on looking at the nitty-gritties of its operation and history – an institute of excellence in the unlikeliest of atmospheres, with a history of the unlikeliest of alliances with benefactors and the most unexpected areas of excellence; losing a bit of its shine in recent years due, in no small part, to its inhabitants and administrators.

 

But why the deja-vu?

 

Well, it seems a lot like Calcutta doesn’t it?

 

A quiet village in rural UP bordering a dilapidated city and a mosquito-infested jungle in the dying banks of the Ganga – excellence in the unlikeliest of places.

 

Patronage by the US group of Ivy League universities and patronage by the people of Britain as well as of Marwar – unlikeliest of alliances.

 

The most unexpected areas of excellence – the natural sciences – physics and chemistry (rather than the technical and engineering sciences) in case of IITK and the various areas of culture as well as academics (rather than business) in Calcutta.

 

The fourth is of course self evident.

 

But then again it is a treasure trove with unexplored trinkets hidden at the remotest places – an archive building near NCL, a rust-adorned piece of art in the shadows of the mighty Lib, a herd of nilgai crossing the bridge of modernity, a shrill call from an enchantingly beautiful campus bird, a mystical walk behind the academic area walls (recently declared to be hyena-invested!) and what not. The beautiful main road with the canopy overhead has a charm of of its own, accentuated by the lack of green in the heart and heat of the city. The lecture halls are a fusion of the old and the new and have rich histories associated with them, as do the lab buildings and of course, FB. But what constitutes the brickwork of the institute is obviously not the green cover, or the traditional red-brick style buildings;not the Olympic sized pools or the OAT; not the Laser Lab or the Nanosciences Lab; not the Media Centre or the Time Capsule; but us and them, them and us, the architects from within and without.

 

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