Be on time, rain or shine

Mohan Singh

Khalsa College, Amritsar, was rightly called a nursery of the Army, Air Force and administrative or IPS officers. This status existed in the mid-20th century when I entered the portals of this august institution in 1952, as a first- year student, only to retire as a lecturer in 1995. After filling the free admission form, I presented myself before the suave principal, Bhai Jodh Singh. He did not ask me any question, but peered from above his pince-nez spectacles, scanned the form and signed it. I rushed to the fee clerk and joined the queue. I was asked to pay Rs 17 as against Rs 69 paid by other students. I was surprised and delighted at the favourable difference, which I discovered later because the principal had written ‘Full fee concession granted’ on my form. My provisional certificate carried remarks from the school headmaster that I had matriculated in the first division and was a ‘Burma evacuee (those who left on account of World War II in 1942) and throughout his stay in the school enjoyed full fee concession’.

Those days, there was no ragging, except a surreptitiously stuck paper label — ‘First-year fool’ — behind careless new arrivals. By the time the wearer found it, it had served its purpose to please onlookers for a moment.

The maze of a hundred-odd classrooms of this palace-like structure would confuse a new arrival, but who would suspect that the meticulously dressed Sikh ‘professor’ was actually a final-year impostor who enjoyed the joke on ignorant freshmen.

The timetable was displayed in the porch itself, but well framed and securely screwed at a height. It was not so student-friendly because every row indicated the subject, the class and the room number where the professor would meet, but strangely, the decades-old document was silent about the name of the teacher. Prof AN Sharma (English professor) was so punctual that he would start calling the rolls at the stroke of 9 am, when the college clock chimed. It could be heard a mile away. He wouldn’t allow anyone to enter after the roll call. Show-cause notice used to be displayed on the notice board. Anyone falling short of lectures was certain to be detained.

We were a group of 40-45 commuters coming by rail and the five-coach shuttle that served stations like Manawala, Jandiala Guru and Butari. The arrival time was 8:45 am, but usually it reached a few minutes behind time. ‘Rain or shine, you must be on time’ was his slogan. To escape detention, we were compelled to travel by a train which was too early. It reached at 4:45 am. Shivering, the boys spent the extra time either in the railway rest house or visited Harmandir Sahib.

Village elders thought of a plan. They met Karnail Singh Chhajjalwaddi, chairman of the Railway Board and an alumnus of the college. He obliged. A few years later, I joined the faculty of English lecturers. Prof Sharma was the HoD who never missed checking classes, especially the first period and the last, particularly on a rainy day.

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