Walk commuting to the college was not uncommon to the college-going class of our H/L government-servant colony locality in those days, since most of the colleges like St. Xaviers and MG Science Colleges or Gujarat College; LD Arts or H L commerce College or even HA Commerce college were within a distance where travel by AMTS bus or walking probably would take the same time. Those who could afford a bicycle did opt for that mode.
When I joined LD Engineering (1966), my close childhood friend, Kusumakar Dholakia, three years senior to me, had already entered SE (the second year of 3-year degree course). And of course, our other close friend, Mahesh Mankad too was pursuing his Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, So, he too was a natural member of the walk-group. Since they walked to the college, it was natural that I join them too. I think we had couple of more friends from our area who also used to join the walk-group commuters to LD Engg.
In those days, LD Engineering was almost a crow’s flight path-like walk form our homes at H/L Colony. What is today a densely packed residential area was a barren ground those days. As such, once we crossed the first man-made modern landmark, a main road connecting (the then) Sachivalaya – The Secretariat – presently the Government Polytechnic – with ATIRA, then a bloc of Senior Government Officer’s flats would come into the sight. Our L D college was just behind these flats. As result, our walk would traverse the shortest possible straight line thereafter.
The walks used to be so casual to us that I do not even remember whether it took us half an hour or even some more, nor do I remember what topics we had had every day to keep us so mentally occupied during that walk that we did not feel the distance. When I reflect over it now, I realize it was that strong, informal, bond of (real) friendly comradery among the same-age group persons of those times that bonded us so cohesively during our walk to the college. I would positively recollect that the topics never touched shoptalk of either our studies or our residential area issues. Even though we hardly could have major other- extracurricular – interests in common, our small talks would keep us so occupied that before we would realize, we would be entering the LD Engg campus from the rear side.
Another very striking feature of the bond among our walk-commuter group was the sense of timing, In the days when even now the almost the relic of the bygone area, landline phones, was a rarity, beyond most of us, each one would invariably reach the usual meeting point simultaneously, with a clockwork precision a minute or two gap. If someone had not made it till that time, it was simply presumed that he would have some other plans for the day. So, the group would never wait for that person, or even would not casually inquire the reason thereof the next day. It was ‘time and tide do not wait for anyone’ in real practice.
The current oft-heard phrase – water-logging – was almost unheard of in those days. Wherever the human intervention of planned town planning had not spread its shadow, most of the rainwater would easily flow away through the natural waterways. The open ground between end of L Colony and Sachivalay-Atira main road did become too muddy sometimes. When that would happen, we so easily ‘suffered (😐)’the inconvenience of taking up the ‘little longer’ route of Sachivalay- L Colony caol-tar-paved road !
Most of the walk-rides back home in the evening would be solitary. If there would a couple of others in the company, it was more a matter of chance than that of design. I now wonder, why the members who would so automatically get together at one informally appointed time would never have attempted to ascertain who would be leaving when in the evening so that there would be some company in the back-home journey. I think the real answer lies in the strength of that informal bonding of those friends.
These small pleasures of life then that had made our lives so wonderful to live!
If my recollection is right, it was from second year that on some random occasions I would get to coast along anyone of our professors S/Shri N V Vasani, P K Patel or N R Dave who also used to live in our area. Of course, the chance meeting would hardly last more than a few minutes of formal expression of our respect and then a deliberate increase in speed of our walk so that we would drift away as naturally as we had coasted along. To the best of my memory, ono one our daily-walk-commute group had ever tried to reach these professors at their home for seeking any help or favour or even for a social call on the traditional festival days of New Year. Neither these professors had expected that of us.
That was the level of respect we the students would have had for our teachers and that was the level of decorum befitting their status that the teachers those days would so easily maintain!
Even after I was bestowed with a bicycle in second year, I used to walk with our group. If I had some planned need for the bicycle in the day at the college – which I plan to take up separately a little later – I would walk with group with my cycle too ‘walking (!)’ alongside!