The small town of Pilani falls in the Junjhunu district of Rajasthan. To reach Pilani, one must first reach either Delhi or Jaipur and then travel the further 200km journey, by state transport corporation buses, through the heart of rural north India. Another alternative is by train. One needs to get on the metre gauge train from Delhi’s Sarai Rohilla station. This train deposits the passenger at the Loharu junction. From Loharu it is a further one hour journey by road either by bus or jeep. Either way, your journey ends at the Nutan market bus stand right in front of the gates of Vidya Vihar, the formal name of the BITS Pilani campus.
Vidya Vihar, or the home of knowledge, is a sprawling 328-acre oasis, with Insti on one end and Sharda Peeth opposite it. Flanking the avenues between Insti and the temples were the boys’ hostels. Set just behind the lane of Saraswati Mandir was the Meera Bhawan and then accommodation for faculty and staff. Apart from the hostels, faculty/staff accommodations, and academic blocks, there was also a sports complex including a swimming pool, Birla museum, a gliding club and even a dairy farm, all within the Vidya Vihar campus.
Even though Vidya Vihar was in the middle of rural India, the security used to be pretty tight. Not many locals ventured inside the campus. The campus was safe enough for us girls to travel to and fro from Insti alone, even at 11 pm. During Oasis, when hordes of outstation students would be on campus, I never felt unsafe within Vidya Vihar.
On the left side of Insti, between the boy’s hostel and Meera Bhawan, was another icon of Pilani, Birla Balika Vidya Peeth or BBVP. BBVP is a residential/day all-girls school.
The BBVP and Meera Bhawan shared a wall, with the back wing of Meera Bhawan’s old block overlooking the playground of BBVP. My friends who had rooms in that wing would complain about the incessant noise or music from the playfield, especially when there would be sports day or annual day practice in BBVP. Sometimes, a boarder from BBVP suffering from homesickness, who had a cousin living in Meera Bhawan would call out from the wall, adding to the irritation of BITSians trying to study.
The girl day-scholar students in BITS Pilani were ex-BBVP students. Another fun fact, the famous singer Neeti Mohan and her sisters are also ex-BBVP students. On Sunday afternoons, c’not used to be filled with the residential BBVP students who would be on a day out. Proving that whether you were a school student or an engineering student, c’not was the only place to hang out in Pilani. The residential BBVP students were only allowed to go to c’not and Saraswati Mandir, and that too with a chaperone.
BBVP also occupies a place of pride in India’s history. BBVP NCC girls band has been a regular participant in India’s Republic Day parade. While I was unaware of this fact in BITS Pilani, the first time I saw the girls’ band marching was on TV while watching the parade in Dubai. Even though I had not had any direct interaction with BBVP while in BITS Pilani, I couldn’t help but feel emotional at the Pilani connection. You can watch a clip of them playing in the 2020 Republic Day parade here.
It would be remiss if I did not mention the word vela, an integral part of BITSian lingo. Vela, derived from Hindi, in BITSian slang, meant being totally free. Velapanti meant timepass to occupy free time. For instance, the reader must have been really vela to read all my BlogchatterA2Z posts!
This post has been written as part of #BlogchatterA2Z where all through the month of April I will be writing about BITS Pilani.
I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z.
Psst. My book “Xanadu: Three Souls Searching For Their Paradise” is now available on Amazon, do check it out!