Veteran cricket commentator Narottam Puri remembers how he found his voice in his 18 years at Maulana Azad Medical College, first as a student, and then as a teacher
I remember a lot of my college (Maulana Azad Medical College) days. It is 50 years now. Lot of recollections come flooding back from that kind of milestone. The initial jubilation of having got into such a prestigious medical college, the independence after school, this liberation and sense of achievement give me pleasant memories. I joined at the right time, the best time actually. Some of my teachers were full time and some part time (honorary). These honorary teachers were the crème-de-le-crème of Delhi’s medical circuit. My five years at the college coincided with their involvement in teaching because later the rules changed and only a full time faculty was retained.
I can’t really recall the first day except the fear of ragging which, in medical colleges, was pretty bad, and I was not disappointed. The first few days were tough. I used to live in Hailey Road and take a bus from Modern School to go to college. I would dread ragging, which was fearsome. Three weeks later the nightmare was gone as I made friends.
Ours was a batch of 120, a glorious batch, one of those quirks of fate that we were all good in many ways. We topped everything in the University. It was a unique batch where somebody or the other won something or the other, from academics to sports, from debates to theatre. It was a wonderful batch of talented people of which I was a minor part. They have all done exceptionally well and almost 60 per cent are settled overseas. I had opportunities too but my idealistic ideas held me back. I was keen to take up teaching at MAMC and that is what I did.
I spent 18 great years in MAMC, five in learning and the rest in teaching. It was my good luck. When I was teaching, the batch was 180-strong. It required me to use a mike in the class, so different from my days. The other change was we were all full time teachers. Of course, I was better off as a student because I had the best of teachers.
My mamaji (Dr. J. K. Chaudhary) — he worked at Irwin Hospital, attached to my college; Dr. K. C. Mahajan, I learnt a lot by observing him; Dr. Prem Kakkar, Dr. A. K. Lahiri, I can never forget them — four gentlemen who shaped my career. At college, we all wore pant-shirts. Girls would come in saris and salwar kameez. A couple of girls, exceptions really, wore long skirts, like some foreigners. When I was teaching, I noticed the students were more confident, more outgoing, wore multiple colours. Some of our teachers insisted on wearing a tie if you had full shirts. To avoid that, I started wearing bush shirts with open collar. At exams we wore ties. And of course, the white coat was part and parcel of our outfit.
Once, a viva clashed with a cricket match. There was a knock on the window. Two batsmen were down. I had to go. The examiner fortunately was a cricket lover. He noticed I was wearing cricket boots. He started asking me more about Vijay Merchant and Mushtaq Ali. I was on a sound ground there and quickly joined my team at the match.
I was not a prankster myself but I was not the most attentive either. I remember once lying, on the last bench, hidden from the class, with a small transistor glued to my ear. India was playing Brazil (Davis Cup). India came from behind with Ramanathan Krishnan pulling off a great contest. As soon as Krishnan won, I rose and banged the desk, informing the lecturer that we had won. The entire class exploded in laughter.
Eleven of us have formed an old students union and I am so glad it is doing well. I keep going back to the college, sometimes as a compere at events. I met Madhu (my wife) in college, so all the more reason to love MAMC. I, Madhu, my son (Ankur) and daughter-in-law (Sona), all went to the same college. I had barely shaved when I went to MAMC. It transformed a young boy into a man; I entered the college as a student and came out a teacher. I have some very fond memories of this great institution. In my lifetime I can’t repay the debt.
(As told to Vijay Lokapally)