Monday, Dec 25, 2023

IIT Roorkee Batch of 1968: ‘Those were the best days of my life’

Strict dress code, mild ragging and friends for life, alumni from the first batch of University of Roorkee recall their days at the institute.

jee main iit roorkeeMeet the IIT-Roorkee's 60s batch alumnus (Graphic by Dinkar Sasi)

(In this seven-part series, talks to alumni from the first batch/ 60s batch of first-generation Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). They tell us about the admission process back then, academic pressure, campus life, and how they bonded with their fellow students and faculty.)

IIT Roorkee is the country’s first engineering college. However, it got an IIT status only in 2001. Till then, it was called the University of Roorkee and the admission was done based on competitive exam.

Gautam Sanyal, BE (Civil) 1968 batch, was just over 17 when he joined IIT Roorkee. While he had heard about other engineering institutes as well, he picked the institute due to its reputation and proximity to his hometown.


“My father was a doctor and posted at Jim Corbett when I was in Class 6. As his timing was odd, I decided not to pursue medicine. While my desire to serve the country made me join the Indian Army, I got admitted to IIT Roorkee after a few months. The officials were unhappy, but I had to convince them in writing that I would join the Army once I graduated. That way, I got placement before even joining the institute,” said Sanyal.

First batches of IIT:  IIT Delhi | IIT Kanpur | IIT Madras | IIT Bombay | IIT Guwahati | IIT Kharagpur 

Festive offer

His batchmate Dinesh Pradhan also got admission in the same year and chose mechanical engineering. During those days, too, aspirants had to crack a written test in maths, physics, chemistry, drawing and general knowledge. He completed his BSc first and then later joined IIT Roorkee.

Life on the IIT-Roorkee campus

The main building (James Thomason Building) has retained its old charm. During the 1960s, students were taught physics and surveying in that building. The institute had an ES Mess which could accommodate about 1500 students at one time.


As per both Pradhan and Sanyal, it provided one of the best entertainment facilities like billiards tables, table tennis tables, chess, newspapers, and discussion rooms. Strict discipline and dress code were to be maintained while entering the ES Club or mess.

“We remember our legendary mess caretaker, the late Mangal Singh, and the head butler who would stop us from entering if we weren’t properly dressed. Singh taught us table manners and was strict with the rules,” said Pradhan.

“We were made to dress up properly, even during dinner time. It has to be a clean white full-sleeve shirt, pants, belt, a tie and black shoes. This was meant for the first-year student only. Later, we were allowed to wear coloured clothes,” remembers Sanyal.


If the rules were different for the first-year students, then ragging must also be common.

“The seniors used to call us at night and make us run on the banks of the Solani River that flows near the campus. Then we had to stand in a queue and wish them well. I remember once, while in a corridor, in nervousness, I wished a senior good luck. He laughed at me and corrected it, saying ‘good morning’,” said Sanyal, adding that ragging was not an unpleasant experience as seniors used to treat them with samosa and tea.

Pradhan remembers that more than ragging it was more of “on-the-job coaching” by senior students. “We used to have a 15-day introduction period at the beginning of the first year where we were trained/guided by seniors in etiquette, communication skills, self-confidence and other life skills to develop our personality and remove inhibitions,” he said.

After those 15 days, an introductory function in the SWP Hangar was held, attended by the Vice Chancellor, staff members, and students.

Moments to remember

In institutes, students not only discover their excellence in academics and co-curricular activities but also learn to handle real-life challenges. One such incident happened with Sanyal, whose best friend once fell sick on the day of the exam.


“It was 1966 and on the same day, we had our examination of Irrigation engineering. As everybody was rushing to the exam hall, I took him to the hospital located on the campus on my cycle and he was admitted there. Upon seeing his bad health, the medical officer, Bisht, allowed him to appear for the test in the hospital itself; however, I was told to return to the main exam hall,” said Sanyal

“I had to rush on my cycle to my allotted seat but couldn’t reach it on time. When I explained why I was late, the professor on duty verified the same from the hospital. Finally, I was allowed to sit for the examination and was given extra time as I helped my peer,” he added.


His friend later moved to the USA and was head of the Civil Engineering department at the University of Colorado. Both friends still stay in touch. While Sanyal joined the Army with a salary of Rs 400, Pradhan completed his Masters in Production Engineering and joined Bata Shoes as a management trainee on a stipend of Rs 600.

A lesson from IIT

One lesson that Sanyal believes every IIT aspirant needs to learn is to participate and be proactive: “Don’t be alone. Make friends and bond with other students. IITs have enough activities/ events and the right faculty to groom your overall personality. The institute has maintained its standards and as its alumni, we have seen how our juniors and batchmates have performed well in various fields.”


Pradhan considers his stay at IIT Roorkee the best days of his life. “We made lifelong friends and the camaraderie is continuing. We met in 2018 during our Golden Jubilee and in 2023 for our Emerald Jubilee. Now, we are looking forward to our Diamond Jubilee in 2028. We are in touch through different WhatsApp groups,” he said.


First published on: 24-12-2023 at 10:10 IST
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