‘A dimunitive cutie with several teDious affairs’. That is how his classmates described Arvind Kejriwal under the column ‘Tongue in Cheek’ in the 1989 yearbook for IIT Kharagpur’s Nehru Hall, Udyoga.
A mechanical engineering student, Kejriwal stayed in D Block, Top West (The West Wing, Third Floor), of IIT Kharagpur’s Nehru Hall from 1985-89. More than two decades later, hostellers refer to him as “our man”. “He fought for an ideal braving odds, and ultimately won. Saturday was one of our happiest days,” says Nitesh Khandelwal, who studies Economics and stays at Nehru Hall.
Inspired by Kejriwal in his fight against corruption, a large number of IIT students raised money and contributed to Aam Aadmi Party funds during the Delhi elections. “It was us who took the initiative and later inmates of other halls chipped in,” says Shailendra Singh, a student of Physics who lives in Nehru Hall.
Ritesh Singh, a student of Computer Science who is originally from Rae Bareli, says they helped in other ways. “We gave him technical support like website hosting, designing etc. Before the elections he also asked me whether I could provide him some students from Delhi IIT who could render volunteer service, and I helped him,” he says.
Atal Ashutosh Agarwal, a student of Mining Engineering and a resident of Delhi, took active part in the AAP Delhi campaign. He says IITans take pride in what Kejriwal has achieved. “It is not Kejriwal who won, but it is actually the triumph of IITians in general, those of us who root for clean politics.”
A few professors and employees of Nehru Hall remember Kejriwal as a quiet, laid-back fellow, who took part in debates and dramatics. Shankar Som, the seniormost professor at IIT Kharagpur now, who taught Kejriwal, remembers him as a nice, well-behaved person who kept a low profile.
“What pleased me a lot was that in December last year, when he was already a celebrity, he came to the PanIIT Conference in Kolkata. He visited the Kharagpur Pavilion and spent quite some time with me, recollecting his days at Kharagpur. I wish him the best,” says Som.
Pradip Gupta, who runs the canteen at Nehru Hall, recalls that he referred to Kejriwal as ‘bachcha’ because of his slight frame, and remembers the time he became the mess secretary. “One thing I noticed was that he never had a free meal, which he could have had as in-charge of