Suri: It was a trip down memory lane for President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday when he stepped into the portals of Suri Vidhyasagar College, his alma mater from where he finished his graduation. Known for his eidetic memory, 77-year-old Mukherjee was received with much fanfare at his alma mater where the President made a nostalgic speech recalling his days at the college and the moments spent under the banyan tree.
He expressed the hope that someday a student from this college in Birbhum district in West Bengal becomes Prime Minister of the country and said nothing "is impossible, if a person wishes so". Nostalgia filled the air as Student number 5057 of Suri Vidyasagar College in this non-descript town arrived for the first time after assuming the Presidency on July 25, 2012.
Dressed in traditional Bengali attire, Mukherjee, who studied in this college between 1952 and 1956, said he was not a good student at the beginning but had improved during the course of his graduation.
The President reminisced his days at college and said he used to walk for 10 km, crossing two canals. "I used to carry two towels while going to school which were used while crossing canals as each one would get wet while swimming," he said.
The classroom where the President studied has been preserved by the college authorities though the building, adjoining the banyan tree, is not being used because of its dilapidated condition.
"It seems like yesterday that I was admitted for the I Sc course in 1952. My registration number was 5057. The registration fee at that time was Rs 2," Mukherjee recalled at the function which was also attended by his brother Pijush Mukherjee and friends from the college days.
He took time off his tight schedule to have tea with his school friends, Sasthi Kinkar Das, Amal Mukhopadhyay and Professor Dwipendu Banerjee, and recall the bygone days. The President used the opportunity to highlight the gap between research work in India and developed countries.
"Research is a key requirement where there is a potential and a need for a concerted drive. Last year, for an estimated 260 lakh students at the under-graduate level and above, there were only one lakh PhD students," he said while underlined the need for paying more attention on research and innovation.
He said society invests so much on education that students have a duty to pay back to society. The President said challenges remained in the education area which included maintaining and upgrading the standard of education imparted in institutions. "The other urgent need is to train and motivate their teaching staff," he said.
Universities need to develop in their students a scientific temper and a curriculum that will encourage the growth of research and innovation.