The first relief and rehabilitation work by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) can be traced back to 1948 when, after Partition, a batch of students worked in the refugee camps in Kurukshetra.
Excerpts from the interview of a former student, who was part of the second batch on the Deonar campus and later went on to head the institute, reveal that back then students took a "rattle truck bus", run by a private individual, to go to Sion. "The footboard was so weak that we afraid we would fall. We had to climb in somehow and get to Sion if we couldn't catch the institute bus, says professor Armaity Desai as she reminiscences about her student days.
Started from Nagpada Neighbourhood House in Byculla, the institute was later shifted to Andheri, and then to its current location in Deonar.
The earliest field action project ofTISS was the first child guidance clinic in India started in 1937 and now called;Muskaan'.
Some of these rare and fun memories will be archived as TISS turns 75 this year. "From oral histories, short films and interviews tracing its journey since its inception in 1936, to multimedia exhibition, and a kind of 'coffee table book' that documents narratives of people's experiences, the aim is to capture every detail that has helped shape the institute over the years," said Anjali Monteiro, professor and chair, Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, TISS.
Currently, a team is in the process of interviewing some of the oldest alumni. The team also interviewed professor M S Gore, the institute's director in its formative years, who passed away in November last year.
"In his interview, Gore mentioned how he used to live in the institute and sleep on the library tables. Such oral histories capture the informal atmosphere and the tentativeness of the institute when it was started by Clifford Manshardt, an American missionary who felt the need to start social work education in India," she said.
From a single masters programme in social work, TISS now runs 17 masters programmes and the team is attempting to map this growth spanned over 75 years.
A series of short films will be developed covering aspects like human service professional education, research and development and relief and rehabilitation work, field action projects and student life.
"We were 80 students and a lot of interaction (went on) between first-year and second-year students. A lot of romancing going on between the students. There were quite a few couples as a result of all that. The atmosphere was such it was hard to not be romantic on the campus. It was so rustic that even our hot water was made in a boiler," says Desai in her interview that captures a glimpse of student life on campus in the 1950s.
The short films will be made available on DVDs and on the TISS website. "We are planning a portable, travelling exhibition so that our campus in Tuljapur and new campuses at Guwahati and Hyderabad can be part of the platinum jubilee celebrations. There will also be a big exhibition of photographs which will include interesting archival documents including the first newspaper advertisement announcing admissions in 1936," said Shilpi Gulati, project coordinator.
While the celebrations will start from May, they will continue for a year.