Sunny Sebastian

JAIPUR: Alam Ali Khan went back to college after 30 years to procure an engineering degree at the age of 51. He was no ordinary college drop-out. He had left the prestigious BITS Pilani in the early 1980s, discontinuing his B.E. (Electronics and Electrical Engineering) after completing seven of the total of ten semesters in the course those days.

Now a father of four children, Alam Ali Khan was one of the proud recipients of an engineering degree at this past Tuesday’s Convocation at BITS (Birla Institute of Technology and Science), Pilani, in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. Rubbing shoulders with a generation of students who would form the peer group for his eldest daughter Salma who is in first year B.Sc., Mr. Khan said: “I was destined to complete my degree after 30 years.”

And what a destiny for this man from the tiny desert village of Ranasar in Churu district who had at one time tended buffaloes in Jammu after deserting his engineering studies! Mr. Khan talked about divine intervention in both his discontinuing of studies and his re-joining the alma mater.

“There was some divine design in my wanderings after leaving the college which took me to various parts of the country including the Himalayas,” Mr. Khan said talking to The Hindu.

“I had drifted but I came across the soul of India during my journeys. On my return to my native place after five years, I took up the job of a laboratory assistant,” said Mr. Khan, who was a topper in the Secondary and Higher Secondary examinations of the Rajasthan Board.

While on the job, Mr. Khan did his B.A. and later B.Ed. and procured a job as a senior teacher. Then he completed his M.A. in English Literature. “Though I taught English, my fascination for science and technology remained. At leisure time students in the school used to flock around me for clearing doubts in physics and mathematics,” he observed.

The turning point came for him two years ago when students of the 1977-82 batch got ready to celebrate the silver jubilee of their passing-out. The Alumni Association tracked him down.

“Nemi Chand, my former classmate, contacted me on behalf of the old students and asked me whether I would like to go back to BITS and I was thrilled at the prospects -- though not convinced about my chances,” Mr. Khan said.

“This was one of the rarest cases in which a student who had left the college three decades back joined again to complete his studies,” says Ishwara Bhat, Unit Chief, Publications and Media Relations, BITS Pilani.