"Sir, Jamalpur Newsletter," he approached me with a sheepish grin.

"What of it?" I asked rather uncomprehendingly.

"Sir, I request you to kindly pen it for the next issue of SAM," his grin was broader.

"I am sure other SAMs can do justice to it," I tried to wriggle out of it.

"Sir, traditionally, Professor (PT) writes it." He was not going to let it go so easily.

Now, I can do anything to keep up a tradition. Only, I forgot to verify if his statement was indeed true. But, Ed. SAM is an honourable person. So here I go...

For me, the most important event of the last six months was my own arrival at the scene, though it hardly caused any ripples or raised eyebrows in the town (?). It was heartening to see the same old Gymkhana, same old IRIMEE, same old traditions and same old excuses by the all-new SCAs for becoming late at school. That I was out of sync with the times was clear to me quite soon. G. Sec. approached me for fixing up a convenient date for my ‘welcome effelless’. "Welcome what?" I was puzzled. "Welcome F.L.S. ... Formal Lounge Session, sir." I think it will take quite some time before I become used to the current formal (and not so formal) lingo.

Afraid of a posting in any metro? Because you wouldn't get a house to stay? Well, Jamalpur has joined the ranks of metros in this respect. There is an acute shortage of housing, and posted officers are forced to cool their heels in rest house, Yantrik Niwas, and even in Gymkhana. I have been enjoying the hospitality of the four-legged and six-legged inmates of YN since February. The population of latter has boomed since the rains. Listening any budding entomologist?

The hottest news of Jamalpur was clearly the visit of Hon’ble Minister for Railways, Sri Nitish Kumar. At 2330 hours I got a phone call from the director that the MR would be staying in the suite at YN. A host of officers including the elusive Civil Engineering ones descended on YN and hectic activities started. It appeared to be the busiest day (?) at YN with a fine example of parallel processing -- everybody was doing his own work without getting in the way of another person. I had had to constantly chase for 3 months before I got a Railway telephone connection in my room, and that too after IRIMEE bought about 100 meters of wire (telephone wire was out of stock with the telecom people). It was sweet to see the same people fish out a coil of multi-core cable and provide a railway as well as a DoT connection in the suite by 0430 hours the next day - in just 5 hours from the warning call. By 0530, the place was shining and ready for the MR. Probationers doing their phase-I had been warned to have their breakfast by 0730. Those who did not heed lost theirs to the large crowd only to be expected to tag along a VVIP. The crowd thought that it was free, for all. Fortunately there wasn’t a free-for-all. Lunch for the probationers was arranged at Gymkhana or they would have gone without lunch as well. E. Rly’s special catering service was conspicuous by its absence. It did materialise, however, as the crowd dispersed – much like police in a Bollywood movie. As compared to the crowd that can be expected in such situations, they were well behaved. They waited patiently for the MR to return to YN from his visit, and went back when the news came that he had gone straight from the workshop to the station.

The MR, an engineer himself, keenly inspected the workshop, IRIMEE, and the Diesel Shed. Know what? He felt that IRIMEE should get the status of a Deemed-University. Now that should be sweet music to the fraternity.

The MBA bug bit another SAM. Manas K. Poddar ’84 all but left Jamalpur to take admission in IIM/Cal. He also got study leave sanctioned. His daughter had other plans though. She arrived in the world before the session could start, and Poddy decided that he wouldn't be able to manage his house if he joins IIM. He had gone to get a management degree, and managed to come back with a daughter instead. You see … his plans had got ‘miss’-managed.

Amit Gupta ’86 has managed better. He is off to Gurgaon to get his MBA (bless him, for MKS ’88 would have had to continue without a house, had he not gone). Jamalpur would be missing the loveable couple for quite a while ... particularly Anju’s infectious laughter.

The latest addition to the clan is Akhilesh Misra ’91. He has joined the workshop as AWM/ Crane Design. With his skills with the silicon chip, he is expected to process a fillip to the technology absorption.

YN has woefully inadequate recreational facilities. Lack of desert cooler certainly disturbs the ‘deep concentration’ of a trainee officer in the afternoons, when he is mulling over what was taught during the morning session and what wasn’t. Well, now that Yantrik Niwas Club has been constituted, the recreational facilities can be augmented, and other facilities can be developed. SCAs ’93 and IRSME ’96 are the founding members of this club, with faculty of IRIMEE lending them a helping hand in managing the show. If the plans materialise, YNC could soon boast of a music system, a VCP, a library, and maybe some other things as well. You’ll hear more of it later.

The summer this year had its own woes. Old-timers were seen trying to recollect when they had had similar heat. The general opinion was that it probably WAS the hottest year. The SCAs wanted that they be permitted to use the mini-bus for going to Gym during lunch and back. The permission was promptly denied. We don’t want budding SAMs to be sissies that cannot take a little heat in their stride, El Nino not withstanding.

Fortunately the rains came in early. By the third week of May, the sweltering heat had given way to dark clouds and lashing rains. The relief was palpable. As rains came in full strength, the grand old houses of Jamalpur started weeping, drenching the inmates in the process (Director’s house being one of them).

Man is always complaining against nature. If it is hot, he wants it to cool down; if it is dry, he wants rains; if it is wet, he wants to see sunshine; if it is cold, he can always do with some warmth. I am sure there would be complaints even if the weather were pleasant all the year round. But can he help it if nature has made him that way?

Bye, till the next issue!

P.S.: In a corridor in Gymkhana, two SCAs were standing, facing and looking intently at each other. First SCA: ‘Club?’ The other shakes his head. First SCA again: ‘Mess?’ The second nods. They then go happily to … their rooms. No! They were not making plans where to go. They were practising telepathy. Soon they could be having moving thoughts. Move over, Uri Geller! SCAs are here.

Forewarned is forearmed. Be careful about what you are even thinking before the SCAs.

(This newsletter was written for the autumn issue of SAM, which could not come out for various reasons, none of them attributable to Ed. SAM. Now some more news:)

Much water has flown through river Kiul since the last Newsletter was penned. After Akhilesh Misra ’91 joined Jamalpur, Sunil Toppo ’81 too joined. He has been posted as WM/ Crane. With almost everybody making a beeline for cranes, it appears that Jamalpur workshop will produce the Gottwald crane after all.

Incidentally, AM ’91 is soon going to be put under lock – wedlock, that is. He is tying the knot on the 23rd of January 1999 in Delhi, i.e. before this issue reaches your hands. Keeping his soon-to-be-altered status in mind, he has been allotted a house (out-of-turn). Rumour has it that MKS ’88 is also hearing distant-ringing of wedding-bells. That sounds ominous for the Jamalpur Stag-club which has old stalwarts in PM ’80 and PS ’84 holding the fort.

One batch that has created history of sorts is none other than ’96 batch. The batch senior joined in September 1997 while the batch junior joined in January ’98 ... or so we thought. The fellow had other intentions though. He had his mind set for a career in Statistics, and left the clan after a lot of dilly-dallying: dillying by his father and dallying by himself (or would it be the other way round?). His Pa shot-off a letter to the Board, alleging ill treatment. It was only after the boy himself told the authorities in the Board that he left on his own volition that the matter was put to rest. So? Big deal! One may say. But the reason for the batch creating history follows.

A supplementary list was taken out by UPSC (probably because ’97 batch had not been recruited) and 4 names were given out. One girl joined in September ’98- a full year later than the batch senior, and was promptly accorded the status of 1996-B batch. Another fellow joined after being cajoled by his father, and left, and his PA too shot-off a letter to Board. The dust is yet to settle on this matter. A third one – a final-year student from IIT-BHU got the appointment letter. After a few exploratory visits, he decided to join, though to me he appeared to be having doubts. The same evening he decided to leave. Rumour has it that at least one more person has been given appointment letter following his successful re-medical. We may have to call him 1996-C batch. (STOP PRESS... Amit Saurastri has joined on 6th Jan '99). The trouble is that that may not be the end. After all there are still 23 alphabets left. One can only hope that they all join before 1998-batch does.

In any case the batch has broken the record of desertions (another person had almost joined the batch with the rest in Sept 1997 itself but finally decided against it).

Jamalpur appears to be hot on the agenda of VIPs of E. Rly. CME has been a familiar face around. It is learnt that his single-point agenda is the much-awaited Gottwald crane. GM/ E. Rly. with his wife also visited Jamalpur for a function hosted by the ERWWO. The evening was called ‘Adaab-arz’ and had the dress of Mughal era as the formal dress for the event. It was nice to see so many Nawabs and Begums descending on Jamalpur. The spirit-gum and crepe-beards had gone out of stock in the town. People were seen rubbing their chin for the next two days to get rid of the amateurishly applied gum.

Deepawali was fun as usual. It began with an evening at the Diro’s house on the previous day, followed by a dinner at the CWM’s. On the Deepawali day the SAMs and families got together in Gymkhana. The Lucky dip had Rs. 100 + a Maruti as the first prize, Rs. 50 + an onion as the second. An onion alone made up the third lucky prize.

A. Swami ’67 from Board visited Jamalpur with his family. Mrs. Swami had come to this place for the first time, and was all eyes and ears. An impromptu lounge-session was organised in Gymkhana. I am sure she carried fond memories of the place.

Another SAM on a nostalgia trip to place was S. M. Bhardwaj ’66. He came with his wife and daughter. They too had come for the first time to Jamalpur. They visited IRIMEE briefly, and Gymkhana at leisure because, as SMB ’66 put it, that is how his time was spent when he was an apprentice.

The IRSME batch this year is jumbo-sized (35 to be precise). Batches of this size have not been seen in the recent history. What the batch would do to the career prospects of their juniors is anybody’s guess. ’94 batch would be hoping that many of them succeed in their attempts at the CS. You shouldn’t be surprised to see some of them actually persuading the Probationers to appear for CS.

That’s all folks! Bye till we meet again.

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