The mention of IIT Kharagpur brings to mind the image of a first rate technical institute in a small dusty town not unlike the towns seen in old Westerns. Fixed in time, the peace and quiet of the Institute is in stark contrast to the dinghy surroundings. The tranquility of the campus is the key reason we keep ourselves more or less confined within its limits.
Bored? There happen to be places to be explored, places not very far from the campus that can provide reprieve from a long week of hard work. These places can be visited on a lazy winter afternoon and one would be pleasantly surprised!
The Rural Development Center in IIT, RDC in common parlance, offers a nice picnic environ in the winter and if you walk through the tree covered lanes beyond the apiary you can come to an open meadow _ in the distance you may see a train chugging along and if you walk past a canal of sorts you come to an old structure. Atop this you may see a water body in the distance. You can while away your time in the serene surroundings under the trees. You would not feel you are in IIT at all!
More time on your hands? Not a problem. Visiting Pathra will take you 250 years back in time to a regime of old temples. Barely 20 kms from campus, at the side of the river Kansabati, there is a small village, approachable only by motorbikes or cycles on a dusty road. On the way to Midnapore, after crossing Kansabati River one has to take a right turn after the bridge and enquire at the shops about the way to Pathra. About 8 kms on the road along the river, through the rural community you come across a unique village where you see ancient temples strewn everywhere. Rarely anywhere else in this district will you see a cluster of more beautiful temples. The temples date back from the days of Nawab Alibardi Khan in the early 19th century. Most are on the verge of collapse, but some work has started to bring them back to their original glory and the villagers are taking an active part in the restoration work.
More adventurous? You with a few of your buddies could make a trip to an Airstrip near Garbeta. Yes, Airstrip _ no mistake here. This is probably the most unusual place around. During the Second World War, a contingent of the American Army came to this part of West Bengal and set up few bases nearby. One such location is this place near Garbeta in West Midnapore. It is about 30 kms from the campus on the Raniganj Road. You have to go past Midnapore, then Chandrakona and towards Garbeta. The entry to the base is through an obscure village off the highway. Asking the local people (around here the place is called military ‘chatal’ – meaning courtyard) will lead you to the place. This is a huge facility, covering an area of about 25 sq km but now completely abandoned. It is a good idea to take one of the locals with you or be very careful about directions _ like your point of entry and which way you are going. The inside is a maze of interconnected runways and after a few turns you will have absolutely no inkling of where you are or which way you came from. In the horizon you will only see a cluster of trees that look identical in all directions. Identifying your point of entry is, therefore, a good idea. Not a soul in sight, your mobiles do not work and you feel cut off from the rest of civilization! It is very easy to get lost and lose your bearings if you are not careful. Winter afternoons are short and you must to be out of this crisscross of runways before sundown. On your way back you could stop at a dhaba (1 km from the crossing with the road to Midnapore, on your left) for the best pakoras around here and some piping hot tea. You come back from this unusual getaway completely rejuvenated – truly an experience to remember for a long time.
- Prof Sunando Dasgupta,
Department of Chemical Engineering,