You walk in through the gate, past the cobbled walkway, past the stone slab, and then bang, you locate it quite accidentally. This is the Fountain, tucked away to the side.
The dribble of water, iridescent in the sun’s rays catch your attention, and the old stone bench beckons you to take a seat, to rest, to savor the pleasure of the fountain.
The Fountain has been standing here for a long time, since 1962. Designed and constructed by F.V Foit, it was dedicated to the memory of Prof. Yajnik, Executive Officer of the Gandhi Society, a man who had been instrumental in raising funds to build the University. The Fountain was unveiled at a colourful ceremony and was intended to be a reminder of the values that the University espoused, representing academic achievement.
The Fountain is a treat for many of us. It is a pleasant spot from which we can listen to the dribble of water on stone, and watch our colleagues as they scurry away like ants; generations have sat here at rest. Heartening, refreshing and glamorizing, our fountain is a sight to behold. The fountain head with its primordial figures, Stone Age, reflects the transition from old lore to new knowledge, the past and the future. The two pools, pouring water from one to the other maybe reflection that knowledge must be shared out; it must flow and should never be stamped out.
The three stone figures, (are they giraffes?) may very well represent Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, but wait a minute, the figures do not drink from the pool at once, this is a message for the don...be watchful... read, listen and talk but not at the same time.
The Fountain is part of the tradition of Rag Week. In the 1960s, students concern for the less fortunate in society was such that they used to organize what was known as the Rag Week. During this week, the students would dress up in their most homey clothes and armed with bowls, would beg from the community. At the end of the week, the money was counted up and a charity decided upon to receive the proceeds.
One other event of the Rag Week was the crowning of Mr. and Mrs. Rag week. These were the students who had raised the most, and guess what their reward was, they would be immersed, fully dressed into the fountain, almost like a baptismal. This baptismal marked the end of the revelry
Rag Week was discontinued in the late 60s, some lecturers observe that it was a demeaning affair, but one should not forget that during that week, no member of staff was immune from being chucked into the “cleaning” waters of the Fountain.
It is not clear at what point the University community decided that the Fountain was a symbol of knowledge, but it is critical that the Fountain is a drawing in, a place where all our photographs, representing academic achievement must be taken. For many, this is the real graduation, no ceremony is complete without a picture taken here.
Our icon, our heritage, our testament of courage
The Fountain, after a graduation ceremony, resembles a train station; all the flowers trampled underfoot, the reeds plucked out, the water drained and soaking into the graduands gowns.
Yes, we students of the University have loved our icon, the Fountain, we have regarded it as our friend, left to us to enjoy. Perhaps we would do well to remember that the Fountain symbolizes Yajnik, maybe we can put a little plaque that will, as we sit around, remind us of this.
Many years ago, there was some dismay when a contractor arrived at the Fountain, for a time it looked as if he was trying to pull down the fountain, but once the back cloth had been removed, dismay turned to joy, the Gandhi Society had organized a face lift for the fountain, restoring it to its former glory.
This Fountain is our heritage, our testament of courage and the expertise and knowledge within, but it also allows us to share memories. You never know whose memories you are sharing even as we celebrate 50 years of academic excellence.
This article first appeared in the Varsity Focus December 2006 edition