mahavir chic


Editor’s Note

Mahavir was born on 18 Sep 1955, and was amongst the youngest students, when he joined IIT Kharagpur in 1971. As he entered the portals of this great institute of technology, the cult of the awesome campus entered into his psyche, and became an integral part of his personality. He is also a prolific writer, and has sent a couple of pieces to us. It gives me great pleasure to share one anecdote with my friends. He has summed up his tryst with IIT Kgp, very aptly in the following one-liner,

“You can take a man out of IIT Kgp; but you cannot take IIT Kgp out of him!” 






During my days at IIT Kharagpur, I had a wing mate, very handsome, fair and tall, a good left handed stylish cricketer, hence “BATS”.


BATS was from Calcutta, he came of a mixed parentage, a Sikh mother and a Punjabi Hindu father. We knew BATS was from a very well off family, one could make out from his living style, how so ever hard he tried to underplay it, he was never an exhibitionist.

There were no calculators those days and the complex engineering calculations were done using a slide rule. I had a German one, a FABER CASTELL, still  have it, as a  memento to the hard work put during the long sleepless nights, working out the numerical calculations at IIT, maybe these small things which I tend to cling on to, are my pearls of memories, which I keep on  trying to string.

BATS lost his slide rule in the second semester, but never asked for money from his parents for a new one, which cost Rs.75, a princely sum those days. Instead he stopped smoking and eating out for three months, to save money to buy a new one. During those three months he shared my slide rule, we became good friends thereafter.

All us wing mates were hard working and studious. When we graduated from IIT, we had scholarships to universities in USA and our parting handshakes, “Till we meet up again in the US, back home”.

I was to take the Kalka Mail to Chandigarh from Howrah station at 8pm for the final goodbye journey from Kharagpur. BATS called me over for lunch to his house, for the first  time.

We took the Steel Express from Kharagpur to Howrah in the morning and reached Calcutta around mid-day, took a taxi to his house, as we neared a big mansion in the New Alipore area (a posh locality in Calcutta)  BATS asked the cabbie to stop. A gurkha came up and saluted “Salaam Saab“, he opened the fortress like gate and what do I see, a row of Mercedes, BMW’s, Chevrolet’s, Fords in the foyer. There was a pretty looking lady swimming in the pool in the house. On seeing us she came out of the pool, wrapped a robe around herself and walked straight towards me and pointing a finger at me said very assertively … “Chick Surd”… it was BATS’ mother, she knew my life story till then, BATS must have kept on filling her with the details.

At the lunch table I asked auntie “We knew you were rich, but stinking rich, just couldn’t imagine” …. they had a private air plane for joy rides.

What she told me was equally fascinating … ”We were originally from Burma, Uncle had a roaring business there, when the Burmese threw out the Indians, we moved to Calcutta. We lived in shanties, uncle worked as a manual labourer to make both ends meet; we could not afford to pay him the bus fare to the school. He would walk or hitch hike behind the trams and buses to get to and back from the school, but he never complained. Uncle again started his business and re-established himself in Calcutta, but the childhood impressions stayed on his mind”.

When the time came for me to leave their house, auntie called for a driver and a Mercedes to drop me to the station (dunia alag hee nazar aa rahi thi Merc kay andar say). As I was about to leave, she held my hand and said these words, which are ingrained in my mind till date …

Beta, tu sari zindagi yahin par tou nahin khara rahega, aage zaroor badhega. Aur jis din  tu aage barh gaya, kabhi peechay murh kar naa dekhna, peechay murega tou apni parchayee hee nazar aayegi, aur yeh parchayeeyan tujhe hamesha peeche hee kheechaingi. Zindagi mein apna sar jitna upar chahay kar lena, par apne paer hamesha zameen par hee rakhna, aur chor jana apne kadmon ke nishan, yeh duniya tujhe tere kadmon ke nishanon se hee pehchanegi“ ….. and I left for my journey, back home, it was to be Chandigarh only and not beyond.

BATS and my other batchmates went off to USA for their Masters, I somehow could not make it. We lost contact as I went into hibernation and stopped communicating with my batchmates in USA. Till the internet happened and one day I got a message in my in-box “Hi Chick Surd, what are you doing in India? You were supposed to be at Caltech?”  …. it was from BATS. I wrote back, explaining what my compulsions were and why I could not make it to USA, he was more angry than shocked.

He wrote back … “Chick  Surd, kabhi is yaar ko apni majboorian bataa deta, akhir tera slide rule use kiya thaa teen mahinay, airfare ke paise udhaar par le leta, aur mein tera woh slide rule ka karz adaa kar deta… But, knowing you, I know you would have never spelt out your compulsions, you were too upright, Mahavir”.

Hazaron khawahishein aiysee,

Ki har khawish pe gum niklay. 

Bahut niklay meray armaan,

Lekin phir bhi kam niklay.

Nikalna khuld se Aadam ka, 

Tou suntay aaye hein lekin, 

Bahut bay aabru ho kar,

Teray kuche se hum nikalay ……. 

Yes, that is how I felt ”Bay Aabru” on leaving the portals of IIT-KGP, a great institution indeed. All the efforts and hard work to get the high scores in GRE & TOEFL for the scholarship to Caltech came to naught and for how much? just Rs.18,000, far less than the amount I may now spend entertaining my clients in a single evening.

During one of my visits to USA, I met up with BATS at his house in Atlanta. He was the Vice-President of a company, must have been drawing over a million dollars, could make out from his huge mansion with tennis courts, swimming pool and the swanky cars. He was always articulate and class personified since the time I knew him, but with a subtle sense of subdued polish in his mannerisms and living style.

Over drinks in the evening BATS told me his life story …..

His father wanted him to finish his Masters and MBA from USA and join him in business at Calcutta, BATS never came back. His relationship with his father became sour to the extent that he stopped communicating with him all together, so much so, that he started hating India. He had not watched a Hindi movie for the past 25 years in States and never even visited India ……. ”He was truly back home” …. BATS never married, just kept himself engrossed in work.

I got back to India and went to Calcutta to meet his parents. The fortress at New Alipore was still there, so was the gurkha, though aged now. The swimming pool was dry and the swanky cars seemed to have been lying idle since eternity. Time seemed to have come to a stand still in their house since my departure in the 70′s. I went inside, the graceful lady was there, she had greyed, his parents were alive, par zinda laashon ki tarha, their only child and they had lost him. They seemed to have lost their very purpose of life.

As I went up to auntie and touched her feet she said ”Chick Surd, kahaan tak pahuncha zindagi mein? …. I told her my life story, she was pleased, but on my not having made it to USA she said something very touchy … ”Puttar, mainu ik waar keh denda, ki majburi si teri, shayaad meinu apna dusra munda wi mil janda”  …. how nice it felt, par kuch zyaada der ho gayee …..

Zindagi kay asli mahinay samajh mein aanay lagte hein jab tak,

Aadhi guzar gayee hoti hai zindagi tab tak.

On my next visit to USA, I asked him to pick me up at Dallas airport. I had brought his parents along, but had not informed him. He was at the arrival lounge, I stepped aside and asked his parents to move forward, what an emotional moment it was, the parents meeting their only child after 25 years, but the time gap seemed to have been filled in a single moment of re-union.

Bahar se dekhtay hein jo, samjhe ge woh kis tarha.

Kitnay  gamon ki bhir hai, is aadmi ke paas.

BATS wanted my elder daughter Simrit to come to USA for her MBA and said “Chick Surd, you gave my parents back to me, now give me a daughter too. Give me a chance to return your favours”. I told him  ”BATS, Life is an Ein Bahn Strasse” …. (a one way street) …. never return a favour with the sheer purpose of squaring up, instead pass it on to someone else, whenever you can, need not be to the same person. Your mother wanted another son and you want a daughter, yet want to return a favour”

Aayeena  mujhse  meri  pehli  si surat mangay, 

Meray apne hi meray honay ki nishani mangay.

That is why I sent my younger daughter Simran to NottinghamUniversity for her Master’s Degree …. to get My Master’s from Caltech with Honours, she did not let me down.

You might be wondering why “Chick Surd” … before I entered IIT, Kharagpur, there had never been a Sikh boy without a beard, at fifteen years of age, hence “Chick Surd” … the name has stuck on, till date, called so very affectionately by my R.K.Hall mates even now.

A diligent student

The “Chick Surd” was a diligent student. This is what his room looked like



Four young IITians

By the end of his days in IIT Kgp, he had grown up. Notice the baggy trousers of those days.



MS Jagdev, B Tech(Hons)

Mahavir S Jagdev, in the IIK Kharagpur blazer

Tailpiece (by the editor)

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are the dream destination of millions of young men and women. More than 13 lakh students compete for about 9000 seats in the twenty odd IITs each year. And those who manage to enter the portals of an IIT add to the growing number of proud IITians, who have made India proud by their achievements all over the world. Recently, I was discussing the special features of IITs with my elder brother, AVM Manjit Singh, who is a graduate of the third batch of IIT Kgp (1953-57), and also my younger brother Brig Surinder Singh, who joined the first batch of IIT Delhi in 1961. What emerged as a result of these discussions is the theme of a full story. It must be remembered that when IIT Kharagpur was raised in 1951, India already had some old and well known Engineering Colleges (like the ones in Guindy, Roorkee, Bangalore and Delhi). But within three years of its existence, IIT Kgp had acquired an awesome name, and it attracted the absolute cream.  



  1. Mahavir Jagdev says:

    I come from a Defence family. My father retired as an Air Commodore and my mother was one of the first ladies to join the AMC after winning a Gold Medal from Lady Harding Medical College, New Delhi. My father was in London as an airforce cadet undergoing training in Aug 1947 when the cadets were called to the Indian High Commission for the flag hoisting ceremony. In my pre-final year I was selected for the army and airforce, but my father did not let me join the defence services. His reasoning – To be in the defence services one should be in the fighting arm to get promoted to the top rank.


    My book of short stories won the Chandigarh Sahitya Academy Award. It is available on – My Daughter’s Dad by Mahavir Jagdev

  3. Amrik Singh says:

    Dear Surjit ji,

    It is amazing how the culture and atmosphere in the universities that one attended leave an inedible mark in your

    psyche. You never are out of IIT through out the life.

    All IIT, BHU Varanasi (my Alma mater, pass out in 1958) are great source of knowledge, first class faculty who bonded with us at all times.

    I am a Ceramic graduate from IIT BHU and now let us compare a B.Tech from a private college.
    There are couple of things that I observed that makes IIT’s a stand out place from local engineering colleges :
    1. World class faculty – When I say world class, I mean that their research work/though processes matches their peers at any world class university outside India. Though this is not true of every professor at IIT (there are bad apples even here), its true on an average sense.

    2. World class faculty initiating world class knowledge exchange – This is the point where students at IIT’s start getting exposed to knowledge at its various forms/deeper levels by such accomplished faculties. Thus, instead of only solving numerical problems, they are exposed to use of computers/experiments to substantiate the practical application of the subject matter.

    3. Active student bodies – Many of such students get self motivated to engage in research work/product development/project. This is where active students bodies help them with further guidance. For example t STAB [2] – a forum that helps students build upon their electronic skills and do ‘cool’ stuff like building projects with Arduino, Raspberry Piher is, robotics, RC planes etc.

    4. Availability of funds for student activities – This is perhaps the most important difference. Most local private colleges focus on becoming a profit machine by ensuring that they establish an identity for themselves among the sea of other peer institutions. The managements in these institutions are generally not much concerned about quality of faculty researches or student projects [However, this trend is fast changing]. In IIT’s funds are abundant – either in form of alumni funding, company sponsorship or ministry funding. More funds mean more access to learning tools.
    In all of these, I see a common trend – that students in IIT’s learn engineering by doing it and not by reading about it. In most cases, the vice versa is true in local colleges.

    The bond between the students is very strong irrespective of the IIT they attended.


  4. Mahavir Jagdev says:

    Dave Sood,
    Thank you for your appreciation. I consider lucky to have BATS as a friend.

  5. satish kumar bhandari says:

    Thanks – excellent reading


  6. VS Chitrapu says:

    Dear Gen Surjit,
    Good morning,GENERAL it was a very nicearticle ofyours:Ireminisce veryfond memories of IITMADRAS; though I was in GR(1969-5/1975)I used to visit IIT,because:some nephew/niece-used to be there ;
    those days:the big draw was the ‘mardigra’(sarang later)like’mood indigo’elsewhere:the awesome libraries/swimming pools/food in hostel-were top class:in the past 50+ yrs:there were at least 12 of blood line in IIT-C sometime or other-&triple that number-their cousins etc:my wife,an artteacher in KFI decadesback,gavelecdems an uncle(alumni ofC’bridge/ then Ann Abor Michigan),Henry Ford scholar-was anAdvsr to GOI on def committees:incl:IITs/IIMs governing council in his prime-70s:
    he had this to say in his speeches ‘IIT/IIM students are fortunate to
    learn mgt/Engg skills here,we had only to pick up hands on”..he had
    turned around several GOI-UTGs MNCs/incl HPF which he headed:
    he was a contemporary of SAM, GENsKumarMangalam,SNMubai,
    Now,sudeshDeshpande-analumni IIT(1980s)contributed to IIT-C abt
    few crores along with his buddies along with my niece:
    Now what’s heartening is a good number of Defence officers are
    joining for Degree/PG,in IITs/IIMs these gentlemen with their def
    bkgrnd excel in any field,once they superannuate:Sorry,I took ur
    time pouring out reminiscences; ThanQ general:will catch up;
    Rgrds:MAJ VS.Chitrapu

  7. Harikumar Krishnannair says:

    Thank you sir.


  8. Kishan Bhatia says:

    Thx for sharing.
    What does MJ do after he failed to join Cal Tech?

  9. Ajit Nair says:

    Gen Surjit,

    Have a look at this video. A great advertisement for the IITs. And what the West thinks of gains from IIT graduates.

    Regards Brig Ajit Nair

  10. Anil Sunita says:

    IITs though initially were very few & very prestigious but now they have swelled into a large number though their aura still persist.

  11. ernest rozario says:

    Surjit, it’s a lovely (TRUE) story. It only goes 2 show that TRUE friendships R lasting, thru’ thick N thin. Bless them both, N their families. In an aside, I’m 20th Regular, 15 Dec ’57. I had a course-mate with a surname Amolak, could U…
    The very best,

  12. Rakesh Prasad Chaturvedi says:

    I REALLY Enjoyed the narration.
    Am sharing it on FB without asking you as it has a FB Button below the text.
    Thank You very much for sharing. Really enjoyable.

    With Warm Regards,
    Col RP Chaturvedi,

  13. sundara rao says:

    Dear Surjit,

    I am fascinated by reading the narrative.

    Sundara Rao

  14. Gulu Hora says:

    As always great reading and like me must have made a lot of guys nostalgic.Keep sending sir more often. Cheers !!

    • Mahavir Jagdev says:

      Gulu Hora,
      Thank you for your appreciation. Every time I read this story I too have moist eyes.

  15. Prem Hejmadi says:

    Dear Bro,
    It was great reading the article sent by you. I retired in 1993 and entered the semiconductor field in the design and manufacture of integrated circuits in the silicon valley USA. In the 18 years that i worked there, i came across many techies and i found that those from the IITs were among the very best in the field. I recall meeting one who “appeared” to be a dummy, as he was mostly on listening watch, as it were. But when he got into action, i found that his fundamentals were really solid and he was able to guide his team out of a situation. I worked with guys from IIT Kharagpur, Delhi, Bombay and Madras, as also from Indian Institute of Science. There were only two guys who i thought were shaky initially, but later they too turned out to be better than most. These individuals were in the fields of IC Design, Financial Management, Venture Capitals, Manufacture of ASICs, Cinematography to name a few.

    I am totally in agreement with your observations, and i do hope that the winds of change do not cause them to dilute their technical standards as their flags are flying high presently. I have great respect for the graduates from the IITs.

    Thank you.

    Love and light

    “Love All, Serve All ” _
    “Help Ever, Hurt Never”. __Sri Satya Sai Baba

    • Mahavir Jagdev says:

      Which company did you work for in the semi-conductor field. I have a batch-mate who worked for Intel in USA. Even my first job was witha semi-conductor unit in Chandigarh.

  16. Veerendra Jaitly says:

    Thanks Sir,
    I am happy to note that you are in touch with Mahavir, a nice gentleman.
    We are from the same hall (hostel) at KGP. He is two years senior to me and a good friend.
    Where is AVM Manjit Singh settled now? I wish to know his contact details as I am presently the President of IIT Kharagpur Alumni Foundation (India).

    With Warm Regards,

    Commander ​
    VK Jaitly​

  17. Niloufer Bilimoria says:

    Super! Was Anil Malhotra there your time

  18. col manmohan singh Jassal says:

    Beautiful one.
    Keep sending more.

  19. Yvr Vijay says:

    Lovely article Sir

  20. Lt Gen YK Mehta says:

    Hi, Surjit
    Was most touched by the short story of BATS.
    Actually brought tears to my eyes.
    Loved it.

    Surjit , thats what life is about.


    Chalo. Chalta hoon .
    Lets keep in touch.

    Give R love to dearest sister.

    Take care.


    • Mahavir Jagdev says:

      General YK Mehta Sir,
      Thank you for appreciating my story. I still bring tears in my eyes, every time I read it. Yes, Life is an Ein Bahn Strasse and one can only remember the road one could not take.

  21. Maj Gen Ashok Coomar says:

    A well written beautiful story which has a memorable message “Ein bahn strasse”. Author is not just an engineer but also litterateur.
    Thanks for posting it on your website.

    • Mahavir Jagdev says:

      Gen Coomar,
      Thank you for your comments. I am not a litterateur, but have evolved my own style of writing in Hinglish.

  22. J Thomas says:

    Thanks. Have shared on Facebook.

  23. MAJOR RAVI JOSHI ,( Retd ),MUMBAI says:

    Awesome article !
    i simply can not forget those words of that MOST REVERED MOTHERLY LADY….apne paav zamin par rakhna mat bhul jana ! chic surd !
    Mahavir ,tussi great ho,jo aapko devta jaisee maa mili ! I too can not forget ditto words of my GREAT MOTHER !
    Does any one IITIAN from Kharagpur,know about …how LATE RESPECTED PROF HIREBET SUNDAR RAO, Dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering ( 1956—60s) was ? My both the nieces are his Grn8daughters !They would be happy to learn about their Grandpa !
    major ravi joshi in mumbai.

    • Mahavir Jagdev says:

      Major Ravi Joshi,
      Thank you for you comments. IIT-KGP is indeed a great institution, and it left an indelible impression on me. I am indebted to my Alma mater.

  24. colls says:


    coming from


    OUR General


  25. K.P.Deswal says:

    A beautiful and touching story. Though we have sent some very good brains to various countries but a number could not go for want of financial constraints and family commitments . The bonds of the institutions you have studied always remain.

  26. Lt Col A P Pande says:

    Wow, Surjit Sir, what a touching story ! Having my son in USA, I could feel the emotions Mahabir has described. Fortunately, my son keeps in touch and rushes home in an emergency, besides his biannual visits. we visit US every alternate year. I wish BATS was like him !

  27. Dave Sood says:

    A beautiful short story. Could be a Karan Johar movie.

    Life was so simple then. Travelling out had become a fashion and India lost some very good brains to the west.

    This all created the Empty Nest syndrome which is so prevalent among Army friends. They are in depression. In Poona they have made an Empty Nest Club to console each other.

    Mahavir is an exceptionally kind human being. Bats was lucky to have him as a friend.

Leave a Reply to Mahavir Jagdev