Make Room For The Girls, Please!

It was June 1947. I had just passed my matriculation examination conducted by the Bombay University and joined Siddharth College, to study the sciences. In those days matriculation was the equivalent of today’s Class XI. The results would invariably be out on 5th June – published in almost all the newspapers and the new college year would also start on 20th June, unless it happened to be a Sunday.

Our college building was nothing else but converted old military barracks, consisting of brick walls and corrugated cement sheets serving as roofs. Today, the Income Tax Office Building stands where once my college was.

Came June 20th and I left for college, naturally excited. Indian Independence was hardly two months away, adding to the fervour. My class had two divisions, each consisting of over 150 boys and girls.

On that day, because of some goof-up, the boys and girls from both the divisions landed up in the same lecture hall for a Biology lecture to be delivered by Miss Gupte. Miss Gupte was a demure, young lady with a very soft voice. As was the custom then, the boys squeezed themselves in the rear rows, leaving the front benches for the girls. It was but obvious that the hall meant to accommodate perhaps 170 to 180 students could not accommodate everyone and as a result, about a dozen odd girls were left standing near the entrance door. Upon noticing their plight, Miss Gupte requested in her soft voice, “Make room for the girls, please!” Well, there hardly was any standing space, leave alone a seat! At that point, a very naughty and mischievous boy, Matkar, slapped his thigh and looking at the girls asked them to occupy the seat. While all the boys burst out in laughter Miss Gupte and the girls could hardly hide their embarrassment. There was some commotion for a while and then a stern face appeared. It was Dr.Gajendra Gadkar, our Principal, a great scholar and a strict disciplinarian. Upon seeing him, some boys quickly vacated their seats and stood in the passage available between the rows of benches.

The girls occupied the vacated seats and peace prevailed.

But there was still one seat unoccupied! Matkar’s thigh!!!




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