The activity calendar in colleges today is packed with events, much in contrast to the scenario years ago when we used have just three mega events – Prizes Distribution, Convocation and Sports Day. While the first two functions were solemn, academic in nature, the annual sports function in the Chandigarh College where I taught used to be a two-day extravaganza celebrated with much fanfare and zest. The opening day ceremony began with the march past by smartly turned out contingents of different classes to the tune of military band followed by various track and athletic events. The end of the first day of the event was reserved for the much applauded staff race, normally a musical chair race. As a member of the faculty, though I never won the coveted top position, I had the privilege of standing on the victory stand at the third place quite a few times.
The second and the final day of the Annual Sports event used to be a formal affair when guests and dignitaries were invited. Besides other celebrities from various walks of life, eminent sports personalities like legendary Milkha Singh, superstar Kapil Dev, cricketer Dinesh Mongia graced the occasion from time to time.
However, two events, exceptional and special, remain etched in my memory. Having led the Indian team to victory in the World Cup final in 1983, Kapil Dev was already a legend, a sports-star when he was invited to preside over the Sports Day function. He was hesitant to be the chief guest, however, after much persuasion agreed on the condition that he would be able to spare just two hours. Keeping in mind his tight schedule, the event was planned accordingly. Kapil Dev was expected to leave immediately after the function, but to our utter surprise he lingered on. After the kind of attention that he got in an exclusive girls’ college from the adoring students, he seemed to be in no hurry to leave. The way the girls swooned over him, mobbed him, it was a challenge for the college authorities to contain the girls. I can’t forget how we, the staff members, had to act as his security, cordon off the area to give him a safe passage. I remember our principal Mrs. Mahajan heaving a sigh of relief when he left.
Equally memorable is yet another Sports Day when Jaspal Bhatti, cartoonist, humorist and comedian was the guest of honour. True to his television show ‘Ulta Ulta’, all arrangements went topsy-turvy when a night before the final function, it rained heavily leaving the the grounds flooded. However, our energetic and dynamic principal decided to go ahead with the function. It was a unique, unforgettable sports day with the march-past and the guard of honor taking place not at the sports ground, but in the corridors of the college building.
The lesson: ‘Come what may, the show must go on.’ Life doesn’t always go as per our plan. We must adapt to every situation and try to do our best. Coming to the present day scenario, the pandemic has brought upheaval in our lives, however, we need to re-invent, re-learn and re-adjust to the new way of working. We must follow the new norms- maintain social distance, wear masks and ensure hand hygiene, but life must go on.
(published in Hindustan Times.com on 11 July 2020, Sunday Read Guest Column)