The car was now zipping. The roads were smooth. But all seemed new. Had never traveled on this route before. And I started feeling good, discovering the new. The destination though, very old. So old yet every day that we think about or see this place, we discover something new. I was on my way from Jaipur International Airport to the destination of our hearts, Pilani.
This trip was different. It had to do something with my profession. But that was for later, and so it was completely out of my mind. What was there though were my eager eyes, trying to soak in the surroundings and feel of this historic land, Rajasthan. The land of Kings. The land of colors and the land of camels. The land of palaces, lakes, desert, culture, handicrafts and history.
It was quite early. Had taken a very early morning flight from Kolkata, so that I could make the best of the day. Less sleep in the night, those irritating small naps with the flight attendants frequently nudging while going past with their carts and waking me up, it now required a Chai (tea) to get me energized.
After a little while, without having to wait long, we found this road side shop. A roadside Chai shop is any day more preferable to me, even now. And when you want to really relax and have one of your favorite drinks, what could be better than sitting on our all time favorite “Muda”. They are now a rarity and almost extinct, I had noticed. Plastics had taken over. Relish the opportunity, I told myself. And called for a second round of Chai for me and my driver. He looked at me and smiled. Purani yaden Saab (Old memories Sir), he said and I nodded back.
Back in the car, we were now ready to move. It was still quite a distance that we had to travel. The journey continued and we started getting closer. And then it was time for another stop over, for another chai. And some prayers from far, at this temple.
Pilani is a small town situated in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, India and administratively a part of Jhunjhunu district. Thakur Nawal Singh founded the city of Nawalgarh in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan at a place called Rohili. His fourth son was Dalel Singh who was given the right of 12 villages after constructing a fort at present Pilani town. The fort was named Dalelgarh after Dalel Singh. When Dalel Singh was expanding his strength Rao Raja Laxman Singh of Sikar attacked him. At that time Dalel Singh’s brother and ruler of Nawalgarh came to his rescue. In the war, a brave Pilania Jat with his bravery saved the fort of Dalelgarh. After this the name Dalelgarh was changed to Pilani in the memory of Pilania Jat.
This is what Pilani was like, around 200 years back.
Initially Pilani was a village of about 1500 people. Out of these 100 families were of Vaishyas, mainly of Agarwals. There were about 15 families of Maheshwaris. And there was only one family of Birlas.
The town is birthplace of India’s leading industrialist, Ghanshyam Das Birla. He decided to establish world-class institutions in that remote desert village because it was his hometown. In its formative years lasting a many decades, Pilani was sustained by the Birlas who had deep pockets and deeper sentiments for the village. People of Pilani are thankful to Birlas because only few entrepreneurs would be prepared to emulate them, and nurture a village for long years. That is why the Pilani experiment has perhaps not been repeated, although quite a few other rich business families originate from remote villages. A salute to this great man.
Pilani has now become a prosperous town, which is a great achievement because Pilani has no natural advantages. If Pilani could be transformed the way it has been, any other village can be. All that is required is a seed in the form of a world-class institution. Pilani is acknowledged worldwide as the ‘City of Education and a Center of excellence’ in the field of education. And Pilani, the home of the prestigious Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani.
We crossed Chirawa and I knew it would not be too long before we reached. And then after some time I started noticing a lots of new structures, new buildings, new institutions all looking very nice. Nicely painted and well maintained. And it made me feel proud. We had arrived.
As we crossed Nutan Market and the Bus Stand it brought back all old memories once again. My application for admission, the selection letter and call, those happy and exciting few days in between anticipating a new life ahead, taking the early morning Kalka mail with my father from Gaya, my hometown to Delhi . The overnight stay in Rajasthan Dharamshala near Old Delhi station and the early morning bus from ISBT, Delhi to reach this landmark destination, Pilani. The green wooden gate to enter our campus, the registration at Ashoka Bhawan, the room allotment and dumping our luggage in my room in Vishwakarma Bhawan and immediately rushing out to get a first glimpse of the institute, our campus and our first dinner at VKB Mess. Magical moments of my life. The year 1977.
We were now near the gate. And this gate, for all of us who have studied here, the gateway to our heaven. BITS, Pilani.
Lost in thoughts, I realized we had entered the Vidya Vihar campus and reached V-FAST. This is where I had been put up for the next three days.
This trip of mine was one of the many trips that I have made to our campus after passing out. But this time the homecoming was for a very special reason. It was coming back to BITS, to give back a bit. To this wonderful institution, which has shaped us into what we are today. I was here on an invitation from Alumni Relations Cell, Department of Management for a 2 day workshop on “Interview Facing Skills & Mock Interviews” with the 2016-2018 MBA batch. And I hoped that I would have a rocking time with the kids.
Soon the two sweet kids Nikita and Swati, who were instrumental in getting me here, came over. And as we walked towards Connaught (the Campus Market) chatting about the campus, it was also so very refreshing learning from the present generation who are so focused and with such a clear vision of what they want in life.
The first change that catches your attention as you come out of V-FAST are the new buildings, which used to be vacant land during our time. The campus interviews take place now in these classy looking buildings.
As we reached Connaught it looked so deserted, which during our time used to be packed with students and with many waiting to latch on to the first available Muda. Muda’s are history, now replaced with not so comfortable plastic chairs. This was perhaps one of the few experiences that made me feel sad.
As we were walking back I noticed the new Departmental Store next to the Student’s Union Building and Medical Center during our time. The memories of Dr.Bhist came back and so did those of my numerous visits to him, without even being sick, to get a medical certificate for applying for a Make-up test. I went in to have a look as the kids waited outside.
The other noted addition is the new Laundry Center. Gone are all the trusted dhobi (washerman) of our time.
The new Warden quarters also have come up demolishing the old ones. These look nice and a little different from the earlier ones.
Back to my room which was nice and cozy, it was soon time to have my dinner. The food at V-fast is awesome vegetarian food and it reminded me of our golden olden days in the seventies and eighties, when our mess food used to so good. And of course we had the non veg option too on most days. And then the Sunday lunch with Pulao, Alu Mutar, Puri, Finger chips and rounding it off with Kasata Ice cream. No other food has perhaps touched us the way our Sunday lunch did of those days. Awesome memories.
The next two days was busy with an interactive session with the future leaders, mock interviews and also the opportunity to be a part of Teacher’s day celebrations. It was also so heartening, humbling and a proud moment to address the faculty members and students of both batches of the Department of Management. The department from which I had passed out many a summers back.
Evenings were for going around the campus with my first stop, VK Bhawan. This is where I stayed for five years and is always special. This was followed by a visit to Nagar’s. Nagar and Mahavir’s redhi (cart) was the one, I have lived on during my BITS days. The samosas, shikanjis, alu chat, lassi and more. These removable carts are now replaced by permanent stalls for all the redhiwalla’s spread around the campus on the initiative of the institute authorities.
For all my readers who have never been to Pilani, let me introduce you to these two brothers. They have fans all across the world and are our all expenses paid guests at BITSian Global Meets held in different cities of the world at regular intervals. During our days in campus we used to eat their offerings throughout the month, or sometimes even for longer periods, and pay them only when we had money. Never did they ever pester us for money. It was their love and care which places these two brothers in the hearts of thousands of BITSians scattered all over the world. And when you look at the stall behind us you can see the published articles, cards, photographs, old pictures, poems, write up’s and more. All gestures of love and appreciation for them. What can be more rewarding in life?
The other is the little Pappu of our time and now the grown up man. Kapoorji’s son and now the owner of Skylab, which used to be another of our favorite joints and is still going strong.
Whenever we visit Pilani, whether it is Nagar, Mahavir, Pappu or any of our messes, they would refuse to accept any money from us for our food and drinks. For the entire old generation. Where do you find such people? BITS, Pilani. They were our elder and younger friends and they still are.
Our campus was beautiful, peaceful and yet full of life. And it is the same even today. For my BITSian friends it would be a trip down memory lane and for all my other readers, followers and friends, let me take you around this lovely place.
Birlas, decided to establish the first museum which would showcase the scientific and technological progress of the Indian human race. Till then museums were only restricted to art, culture, archaeology and tradition. The Birlas decided to showcase to the world how science and technology had developed in India over the years and how industries have led to a rapid growth, which is parallel to the development in other countries all over the world. This was in the latter part of the 19th century.
The museum is demarcated into 17 respective galleries, each one of them with specific scientific purpose and technology. These galleries allow people to have an hand-on experience and practical demonstration of all the discoveries made in science as well as in the field of industrial technology.
Some of these prominent galleries are Human Biology Gallery which depicts the scientific evolution of man based on Darwin’s theory. It has sculptures, illustrations and also murals done on the wall which would make people understand the gradual evolution of man, better.
Electronics Gallery which proudly houses the first ever robot based on micro-processing technology and the musical fountain which is controlled simply through a keyboard.
Mining Gallery which has a life-size coal mine, demonstrations of minerals, information about various geological materials and also maps showing places where minerals are available in India and the world.
Arms and Weapon Gallery which houses the variety of indigenous and impressive collection of the arms and weapons of historic value that were mainly used by the Rajputs during their rule. An exhibit has been especially dedicated to the Rajput king Maharana Pratap which makes it a visual treat for people to watch him fight with Chetak at Haldi-Ghati with special audio and visual effects.
Space Gallery which depicts the whole of space with models and sculptures which give people the illusion of a real space. The ceiling of the room has been transformed into sky with stars, satellites and planets moving all around replicating their exact position in the real sky. It gives information about the space with the help of posters and the gallery also has a special demonstration of Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian astronaut, going to space.
Science Gallery which has been dedicated to exhibit general scientific and technological ideas which would help children to grow interest in science and development with the help of these lifelike demonstrations. It showcases technological models on heat, sound, light, metals and many other scientific aspects.
The new Library Building is an architectural masterpiece. Let’s go in and have a look.
As I walked around the campus, something that I missed very much was the Bank Canteen and the Post Office Canteen which used be crowded all the time till late evenings during our time. The relaxing chats with friends and the Samosas, Chai, Shikanji, Kalakand and Pedas which used to be our favorites. Also the Mess Night Canteens are gone.
There are the other new entrants which have taken their place. Food King, the chain started by an ex-BITSian, Sarath Babu next to Malviya Bhawan and ANC (All Night canteen) next to the old Gymnasium have some real good range of food on offer. ANC draws large crowds for long hours. I had my dinner one night there and it was quite good. So was Food King’s Dosa which I had tried on an earlier occasion.
The sports facilities have improved quite a lot with a new gymnasium, a new basketball arena and more. On the cultural front, there is a separate complex housing all clubs. Let’s explore more of this wonderful Institution which is a deemed University.
Let’s now head towards our in-campus Dairy Farm.
And as we came out of the Dairy, we got a glimpse of this beautiful peacock. During our days they used to be all around and we could hear them sing all the time. But now as I was told, they are seen very rarely. So sad, I thought. Attempts though are being made to have them back.
The Gliding Club during our time is present but not operational. It still retains it’s old look.
And now let’s move towards the new Academic building which used to be open lawns during our time and where we have played a lot of BITS style cricket with tennis balls and wooden chairs as wickets. It’s now an architectural delight. created by renowned architect, Hafiz Contractor. The entire building complex is below ground level. Come let’s go and have a look.
Pilani is considered as an important education town. Apart from BITS, the town also has one of the major CSIR labs for advanced research in electronics, the Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI), which is located next to the BITS campus. The GD Birla Memorial Polytechnic Institute, established in 1988 in Pilani, is one of the top ranked diploma colleges in Rajasthan. Other colleges include the B.K.Birla Institute of Engineering & Technology, an engineering college formed in 2007, the Indermani Mandelia college for girls and the ShaadiLal Kataria Teacher Training college. In 2009, Shridhar University was established under the State Government Act as a private university. The University provides various higher education programs up to doctoral level. Schools include Birla Shishu Vihar, Birla High School, Birla Public School and Birla Balika Vidyapeeth, famous for it’s band which has been playing for the last 59 years in the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.
There is more to see in Pilani. Let’s visit some of the other spots of interest for tourists.
L.N.Birla Naturopathy & Yoga Kendra was established to help those who are suffering from various chronic diseases. It is spread over 300 bighas of land consisting of yogasan flats, walking tracks, large size parks, flowers, apart from herbal trees like Amala, Amaltas, Ashok, Anar, Tulsi, Beel, Ashwagandha, Arjun, Mausami, Anjeer, Harad, bahera, Gwarpatha, Neem, Wheet-grass etc. There are Separate buildings for treatment of ladies and gents, with modern equipment. The treatments offered are Yoga, Steam Bath, Mud Bath, Physiotherapy and other Ayurvedic treatments. They also have decent AC rooms at a nominal price which can be booked in advance. Information on packages are available on the internet.
Panchwati is a nice small nature park where you would love spending some time relaxing and enjoying the calm atmosphere.
The Ram & Shiv Mandir complex is another place near the BITS campus which you could visit while you are in Pilani.
A must visit temple is the Bhootnath temple, very close to the bus stand. This place has a special charm of it’s own. For some calm, quiet and unhindered connection with the supreme Lord Shiva, you must spend some time here. In our days it used to be white in color. Over the years it has changed into this very striking combination of colors. I realized time has changed.
The Nutan market opposite the bus stand was a place we used to frequent till late in the night during our time for tea, snacks, milk shake, lassi and Bikaneri Bhujiya, which was the most hot selling snack. But as now no students visit this place with many options available inside the campus, it wears a deserted look.
Back to the campus even after two hectic days of work and fun, it was time after some lovely dinner at V-Fast hostel to go for an undisturbed walk down memory lane. It was just peace, peace and peace.
The next day it was time to move back, which I did, after a memorable trip. This visit of mine was last year in September. But I was happy that I would be back there just after few months.
Pilani is not accessible directly by rail. The nearest stations in Rajasthan are Chirawa which is 16 kms away, Sadulpur which is 40 kms away and Loharu in Haryana which is 24 kms away. Pilani is 208 kms from Jaipur and 193 kms from Delhi and has a good bus transport system. During our college days many of us used to either come by bus from Delhi or use the train passing through Loharu. Hence this station has a very special place in our memories.
I was back again in November after two months.The occasion was our batch reunion. And what a wonderful time we all friends had together.
BITS, Pilani today has three more campuses in Goa, Hyderabad and Dubai. It hosts OASIS, one of the most popular and sought after cultural festival for colleges in the country comprising of dance, drama, fine arts, music, photography, fashion, oratory, quizzing, humor, film festival and miscellaneous events. BITSMUN, a platform for international delegates debating on issues affecting the world, BOSM, an open sports meet and APOGEE, the largest tech. festival.
BITS, Pilani is about togetherness and about great friends. And we are proud to have the largest active alumni network in the world, BITSAA.
Want some more insights into this wonderful place and a world class institution. Have a look. Thanks to the creators, the Director’s Cut.
Pilani, the Education town. Producing world class Leaders. And proud BITSians.
Come to Pilani. Experience learning. Experience, India Beautiful 🇮🇳