Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Alibaba: A Global Business to Business (B2B) Facilitator!

I am an admirer of Jack Ma and his Chinese company Alibaba-the Alibaba Group Holding Limited, to be precise. If you have not known about this man and his company, you missed some thing. Better click the hyperlinks to read and know more!

From what I have known, in just about two decades, Jack Ma a relatively unsuccessful ordinary man in China played the role in building up this global giant of a company making the company and himself both successful and world renowned.

What is remarkable is that this business model was initiated by some one in China and the founder of the company used the name of a legendary hero of an Arabian folklore as his company name!

Alibaba surely have been opening up the gates of fortune for thousands of business men and traders across the globe ever since its inception. It has made global sourcing and procurement very easy. The company uses the potential of internet and e-commerce to its full advantage making it a win-win situation for itself and its clients!

All kinds of machinery, raw materials and bulk products can be searched, sourced and procured internationally using Alibaba's internet platform in a competitive manner. This is much beneficial for retailers, business men and industries in every nook and corner of the world today. Alibaba has made the world looks smaller, taking advantage of the internet to it maximum. This company has been helping the products of Chinese mainland to reach the nook and corners of the rest of the world with comparative easiness!

Alibaba is perhaps the pioneering company in the world that utilized the new world order of opened up international trade to its highest potential.

Business men and local traders around the world should explore the international online market place as provided by Alibaba for their growth and success!

Friday, November 15, 2019

What Would You Gain by Knowing About My Engineering College Life at Trichur?

In this blog I would be trying to outline the second part of my life story covering some of the salient episodes including certain mentions about the people I happen to meet during my four year stay in the so-called cultural capital of Kerala, the Trichur city during 1973-77 period.

Earlier I had published the first part of my life story titled: Why should anyone be interested to know about my childhood?

This too was written and published a few years ago in my personal website, www.rajan-c-mathew.htmlplanet.com and hence it is just being reproduced below:

Life at Trichur Govt Engineering College [1973-77]

Considering the fact that I hailed from a rural background with no great concepts or ideas of life in the urban centres, Trichur was really a big city for me to start my educational career there to become a Chemical Engineer. Trichur is considered as the cultural centre of Kerala- I don't know why- and its name written in the Railway station there was Thrishivaperoor and also as Trissur in some places.

My father took me to Trichur  first ever in my life to get me admitted in the Government Engineering College for studying for the bachelor's degree in  chemical engineering. A month ago he had taken me to Trivandrum [now Thiruvananthapuram] and had got me admitted there for the Mechanical Engineering branch! After taking that admission there, the offer for ChE from Trichur came by post, for which I had a secret desire or preference which I had been keeping in my mind ever since some school friends boasted much about the superiority of chemical engineering. So, I insisted of changing my career from mechanical engineering to chemical engineering and got my poor father to agree to my ignorant wish and take the troubles in getting this change effected!

We reached Trichur a day earlier and stayed in a lodge located in the ' Trichur Round' [the central ring road around the ' Vadakum Nath Temple' ground.] On the next working day we reached the College gate at a location called Cherur and completed the college and hostel admission formalities. As the college was opening in a day or two, I had to move to the hostel immediately. My father left me there in the hostel and returned back to our village, Elanthoor that day itself.

Immediately after that the worst nightmare in my life began.

Though I had heard about 'ragging' in professional colleges, I did not have any imagination about it earlier. It could be some kind of teasing by seniors within some limits- that was fine- and that was my idea about it. I never imagined that it could go beyond the imaginable limits of personal liberties and freedom crossing over to sadism and vulgarity and to extreme cruelty.

The hostel presented that from the first day. I could not go to my hostel room. In the night, a goodhearted final year student secretly gave me some protection on the condition that I do him the work of preparing and copying his study assignment notes! He was being kindhearted to me possibly because he used to be a student of my father in his high school days! Almost for 2-3 days he made me hide in his room, but continuously doing the writing work for him and some of his final year friends who happened to know about my hiding there. They were telling me the worst ragging that was being meted out to my 'not-so-lucky' fresher friends elsewhere in the hostel. Yes, their cries were occasionally reaching my ears!

I desperately wanted to escape from this hell.

So I told my sympathetic senior host and requested his help for me to escape from the hostel. The plan as advised by him was that I run away to the city, about 6 miles away, after mid-night. Some of the senior youths used to be extremely sadistic and any kind of physical assault could have been possible if I ever got caught by them alone while getting escaped from the hostel premises. After midnight was planned due to that!

I did exactly as planned and luckily escaped unnoticed the ragging masters of the hostel. As the highway on the west side had bus services even in the night occasionally, I could reach the town safely after midnight. There I took shelter in the same lodge where I stayed earlier with my father.

I had little money and my bag and luggage were not with me. That remained in my hostel room where I kept it on the first day.

I had no idea who would be my hostel room mate. Neither did I know whether the college opened or whether the classes were being held!

Those were the days in the latter half of 1973. December month to be precise. New year 1974 was only days ahead!

Trichur town in those days was magnificent and attractive. The centre of the town was a Hindu Temple called the 'Vadakkum Nath Temple' with an idol of the Hindu god Shiva as the deity. The word ' vadakumnath' meant the lord of the north, most appropriate since Shiva's real abode as per Hindu belief is  Mt.Kailash in the Himalayas in the North of India.

There was a large circular ground around the temple bound by a circular road of 3-4 km at its circular boundary. Commercial establishments and buildings were on the outer side of this ring road facing the temple at the center. Highways in and out of Trichur joined this ring road radially at various locations with the city expanding on the sides of those radial roads. Numerous lanes and by-roads connected those radially expanding main roads.

The lodge I took shelter was on the side of this ring road. I do not now remember its name, probably it was some thing called 'Ramdas lodge' or so.

With little money with me, I could not have stayed there for more. So out of compulsion I was deeply thinking of a way and roaming aimlessly on the foot path of the ring road the next day that this old man approached me and began to talk with me.

He looked a little better than a beggar. He had all white and trimmed beard with long uncombed hairs more towards the grey side. But at that time he was to me like an angel. He walked along with me and talked with me and learned much about me and my predicament.

Then he offered me a help.

He told that he could go all the way to my hostel and fetch me those personal belongings of mine back to me to the town.

On a normal occasion, I could not have accepted that offer from a strange man like him! But that day things were totally different. I had few options.

So I decided to try him. I gave the contact details of my sympathetic super final senior in the hostel with a small note addressed to him requesting him to help in fetching my belongings from my hostel room and hand over the same to this 'beggar-like-man'.

Then I waited for him in the lodge. I had money and clothes in my bag that the man was to bring back from the hostel 7-8 km away. He could very well vanish with that. Yet my mind said that he would be back!

Yes ! The man returned with my belongings by around 8 PM and handed over those to me. I had a great sigh of relief. Now at least I have the money to survive a month and also a few sets of the clothes!

I remember paying him some tip for his service. More than that I developed a kind of admiration to that man.

For another couple of days I really didn't know what to do. I simply stayed in the lodge room and ate in the Udippi restaurant and the Vinayaka restaurant of the Trichur 'Round'.

The old man used to come to chat with me in the evening hours. I had no one to talk. So his presence was a great relief. With him I used to move out in the evening exploring the city. He had great knowledge on many things which I never knew.

Then on an evening errand, while we were in some dark narrow lanes, he asked me some thing which immediately repelled me from him not to be seen any further. He had asked me whether I was in need of any pleasurable company to offset my boredom. Then described the details and offered to take me to the places where those companions are available. It took a few minutes for me to realize what he was proposing. When it clicked my mind, I turned back and ran with all speed back to my lodge. While running away from him I cautioned him not to come back to me any more.

That was the incident which revealed the existence of hidden facts in the cities and that for the first time ignited a type of scare in my mind.

The next day morning I gathered all my courage to make an attempt to go to the college to attend the classes- if at all it had started.

So at about 8-30 AM I got into a bus that went to Cherur, where the Govt. Engg College situated. Thus much ahead of the time I reached the college main gate.

I was relieved to find many day-scholar freshers at the gate like me. In no time we were friends. I now knew where I had to go.

Though there were attempts of ragging from some senior students, they were not anything serious. So finally I could join the first year engineering class. The classes were interesting in general. Mostly senior faculty members were engaged to take classes for we freshers. The first year class was common to all disciplines. There were two sections. I remember being in section-B. As of now I do not remember much of the material taught then. But I do remember the general mechanical engineering class taken by Prof Jishnu, who had a special knack of creating interest in the students. In fact this was the the real engineering introduction as far as I viewed it because he dealt with the fundamentals of automobiles and their working principles. Prof Jishnu also appealed to us in another manner. He was one senior faculty who supported openly the freshers  encouraging us to fight those engaged in vulgar and cruel ragging.

In the class there were those poor hostelers who had been facing the ragging for many days and nights and were still at the mercy of some derailed seniors. Then there were a few day-scholars who were lucky enough to be away from the clutches of those seniors, at least in the evenings and in the nights.

Though I did not come from my home to attend the college, I was a lucky day-scholar- I came from the city, not from the hostel!

Within days two important things happened.

First I got a place to stay in the city, other than the lodge I had been staying.

When I got a little comfort by getting new friends in the college, I became bold enough to act and think. I then remembered a word of help told to me by my village mentor, late Shri Elanthur C T Mathai, when we were planning to go to Trichur. He had been a regular columnist and writer contributor to the Malayalam Newspaper 'Deepika' which used to be published from Kottayam during those days. This paper was managed by an order of the Catholic priests and he was personally known to the Chief Editor of the daily who was a priest. C T Mathai was too concerned with my welfare at Trichur, that he managed a personal introduction letter from the Chief Editor written to one Mr Thomas and had given that letter to me. Mr Thomas was the bureau chief of Deepika at Trichur and also an influential personality there.  The letter urged  him to consider me as a very near person to Deepika and provide all help and support at Trichur if needed.

I remembered about this introduction letter and searched it in my baggage and found it. With that letter one evening I went to the Deepika Trichur Bureau office, which was not very far from my lodge.

Mr Thomas was a hefty big man, who spoke typical Trichur style Malayalam characteristic to traditional old time Christians engaged in trade related business. He was a matter-of-fact man. I told him about my difficulties so far and my immediate problem of ragging and self exile from the hostel on account of that.

Mr Thomas immediately came up with a suggestion. He told me that there was a solution to my problem.

The newspaper 'Deepika' had taken up an ambitious project of expanding their circulation and reach to the people of Kerala. So they were planning to have a new edition printed from Trichur [Trisshur] itself. For that purpose they had purchased old double-storied house in the midst of the city contained in a large plot, well secured by boundary walls on all sides and with a big steel gate. They would probably have the rotary press installed for the newspaper printing there after some time after due renovation, but that would at least take over an year. So Mr Thomas suggested that I might well use the said building as my residence for the time being, instead of the hostel or the lodge. If staying there alone is a problem, I might as well include some of my willing and needy friends. 

I decided to have a look at this building. So Mr Thomas arranged a visit to the said building.

The building was an impressive double storied bungalow standing alone at the center of a plot of size at least an acre. The locality was called 'veliyannore' near to the railway station and the bus station of Trichur. As informed, the property was well secured by boundary wall and strong cast iron gates. The bungalow stood at a T-junction of a lane in the middle of average city dwellings and an improvised slum type human habitat.

Though the building was an impressive one, to me it looked like a haunted lonely palace of the 19th century vintage, belonging to some ruined local royals. To add to its haunted look it had a masonry structure, resembling a tomb, at the centre of the pathway leading to the front verandah from the gate.

There were many rooms in the ground floor and on the first floor. The first floor and the external staircase were made of polished hard wood. There were no signs of dilapidation anywhere, except its haunted bungalow look! There was an external toilet cum bath room with piped water at the rear end adjacent to the boundary wall. There were also a few large mango trees at the rear side. The bungalow had electric lights as well, though sparingly. But there were no fans.

I did not fear ghosts. Even then, the idea of living in that bungalow alone was unimaginable! But I had few options left. So, returning back from the bungalow inspection, I accepted the offer of Mr Thomas and immediately took possession of this bungalow by accepting its vintage keys from him.

Next day I got the opportunity of discussing this development with a few of my class mates, who were also living in the town in dingy rooms, for the same reasons. A few of them readily agreed to shift to the new bungalow accommodation now in my possession. These boys were Rajeevan from the ancient port town of Kerala, Kodungallore and Nandakumar from Mavelikkara, a well known place of central travancore area of Kerala. 

So, within a few days time I shifted to this bungalow with these willing and needy friends and made it our spacious residence in the midst of the city of Trichur and the arrangement costed us almost nothing. We had a huge high walled property with an impressive palatial double-storied building at our command in the city, which was otherwise crowded and costly for outsiders like us.

So finally, after about a month's struggle, I could more-or-less settle down to the new surroundings in the city of Trichur as well as at the Engineering College campus, though at the latter place things were not all that good. Threats from seniors still continued, though we were not disturbed much in the class room. The support to us freshers from matured faculty members like Prof.Jishnu was reassuring.

But, some of the ruffian seniors were not going to leave things to go peacefully. They took note of some of us, including me, who slipped out of their hands and escaped to the city. They were making plans to get us and assault us physically, in the name of ragging.

That made some of us to work on some action plans to save and defend ourselves. During the lunch-hour recess, this small group of 'threatened freshers' -mostly those staying out side the hostels- began to assemble secretly in a well secluded place a bit away from the college boundary to discuss and work out defense strategies. Besides me, the prominent among this group were, Antony, Ranjitmon, Nandakumar, Sasi Pulickal etc. We had decided to move in groups only and defend any attempts of physical assaults in the same manner.

The senior groups on learning about this could not tolerate this 'insubordination' by this small group of freshers. So, they too made plans.

So, one day they brought in Mr.C C Joy, a third year student and also a well known body-builder who held the body building competition title ' Mister Dakshin Bharat Shree' to threaten our group member Antony. Mr Joy, though physically strong and a well built man never had any inclination to assault Antony. He came due to compulsion from his colleagues. So, he made some verbal threats to Antony and left the scene.

We thought that the hot situation is getting cooled down and we would be allowed to go to classes without much group preparation. So the group vigil slowly eased out. That caused our group member, Mr Ranjitmon, to move in the campus alone and straight away landing into the midst of a large group of hooliganistic seniors.

They pounced on him and severely thrashed him and left him bleeding profusely from some deep wounds on his head.

It was evening and we were waiting to get bus to go to the city. The news reached us. Immediately we rushed to him and got him admitted in the district hospital.

In the evening in the city there were hectic activities. Our group members learned that the Kerala Chief Minister Mr C. Achutha Menon is camping at the Government Guest House-Rama Nilayam- at Trichur. Some of us pulled the strings and we could get an appointment with him late in the evening.

Achutha Menon was the most efficient administrator politician and Chief Minister Kerala State ever had. He had a personal dislike to ragging in professional colleges. That was because of his son who got severely ragged up in an year ago in the Trivandrum Medical College right under the nose of his powerful chief minister father. This powerful chief minister could not do much to save his son due to non-cooperation from the students and the faculty of the college.
In our case he got an opportunity. He got the support of a determined group of freshers opposing ragging. He listened to us and learned about the incident that had happened earlier in the college. Right away he called the college principal.

Prof.Subramaniam was instructed by the Chief Minister to act tough on those seniors involved in the ragging violence on that day. The CM also instructed the Police Administration to be on high alert to thwart any violent senior student protests.

That strategy worked. Next day, the college administration suspended 8 senior students for ragging related violence. Probably, this was the first time in the history of India that senior students from a professional college are suspended for ragging. The incident got wide news publicity because at that time ragging was not yet banned in the country.

The seniors did make attempts to protest, which was ably suppressed by the police force under the leadership of the young and dynamic Indian Police Service officer from Uttar Pradesh working in Kerala cadre, Mr Raman Shrivastava, the Assistant Superindentant of Police of Trichur at that time. I remember he being very friendly with us freshers and supporting our cause. The college had to be closed indefinitely for some time following all these. But the suspended students were not taken back at that time.

Mr Thomas, the Deepika Newspaper bureau chief at Trichur and my mentor, helped us in this in all manner as he could. The wide news publicity which these incident got, in support of the freshers, was due to him and I acted as the main link for this. Another support offered by him was the physical muscle-power in our support from a group of 'porters', in case such a situation ever arose. All these, immensely helped me to gain experience and exposure to the world of affairs that is normally not known to the average citizen.

This incident proved that violent and unethical ragging can be controlled, if there is a will from the authorities concerned.

The college atmosphere slowly came back to normalcy and the fresher group members responsible for all these became well known in the campus.

But I did not shift to hostel. That was not safe yet. I stayed at my 'haunted bungalow' of Deepika Newspaper group. There was threat to some of us from some senior fellows, though most seniors by that time became silent and open admirers of us.

Things went on smoothly and I passed my first semester engineering examinations. In the second semester came the elections for the college students' union.

Till that time no first year students had the guts to contest the elections to any of the posts. The union office posts of Chairman, Vice-Chairman, General Secretary, etc had been all held and contested by senior students only.

But this time, things at Government Engineering College, Trichur was going to be different. Having been instrumental to cause some traditional 'shocks' to the senior students, our group of freshers were in a position to do further such shocks to them. Yes, we had decided to contest in the elections, at least for one post, to show that we could do it.

We had decided to field our candidate, the first year group's candidate, for the post of vice-chairman of the college union of students. Then we decided the candidate to be fielded. That candidate was me.

After the nominations were accepted, hectic work was done in the campaigning all throughout the campus. There were also part-time students, those old people working in most government departments, who also were eligible to vote. As the time passed, I had a clear edge over the senior student candidates. So, the seniors decided to withdraw all of their candidates except one to make the contest a straight one-to-one to enhance their chance of winning.

Besides this, I also faced threats of physical assault forcing me to move armed with a knife for self defense at that time. Some of the more rude elements from the senior groups even threatened to kill me, forcing me to go underground in my hideout in the city.

Towards the election date, our group had to re-evaluate the situation. It occurred to us that due to the wide support I had from some of the silent seniors and the part-time students, I would be winning with a good majority. If that happens, situation would go worse as the seniors would not allow me to function in the union.

Our wisdom made us to think and act in a practical manner now. We had decided that my winning should now be thwarted somehow. We made hectic ear-to-ear campaign among the first year students not to vote for me.

That strategy worked and I lost for four votes.

Finally things went to peace and I could give more attention to studies. The common engineering studies soon ended as I passed second semester and migrated to third semester.

From third semester onwards, we were segregated discipline-wise. I being a a Chemical engineering student, the third semester classes started in the ChE Block at a far end of the campus but near to the men's hostels.

I left the city bungalow of Deepika and moved to the hostel.

There were some young teachers and old part-time students (mostly technical staff from state government departments) staying in the hostel besides the regular students like us. Due to the heroism of the first year, some of these old fellows became my companions very shortly after I moved in there.

Of special mention is one Mr Safarullah Khan. He was a hefty man and our lone Humanities lecturer of the engineering college. I had got befriended with him some months back in a bus journey and he did not tell me that he was to be my lecturer later. Any way he was in the hostel as a resident warden and the previous acquaintance together with my heroism helped us to have a good friendship while in the hostel. He was a talented stage actor as well. He introduced me to his friends and I remember going on evening walks and evening badminton playing together.

Another person who volunteered to get in friendship with me was Mr Leslie Paul. He was the young electronics lecturer. He told me that he was impressed with my courage of participating in all those activities of the first year because he lacked such courage being a studious fellow during his student life at Trivandrum Engg College, earlier. We two  developed a good bond within a short period, but one fine morning after I came back from a short vacation from home I learnt that he had left the college to join the Kerala Police Service as a Dy SP. I had never met him afterwards. A few years ago while in Kerala, I happened to meet a senior Police officer who was a relative of mine with whom I casually inquired about the whereabouts of  Leslie Paul in Kerala Police. I remember him telling me that he was then the Inspector General (Administration) of Kerala police at Trivandrum. I never tried to contact him. He might be retired from service by now.

1975 was the time when the late Indian Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandhi imposed the now infamous 'Emergency Rule' in India. As a result, the government machinery got immense powers and most of the democratic practices were summarily curtailed.

Mr C Achutha Menon was the Chief Minister of Kerala and Mr K Karunakaran the Home Minister in-charge of the Police Administration. The uncontrolled powers to Police during this period caused the infamous 'Rajan Case' at the Regional Engineering College (REC), Calicut (now NIT Kozhikode) later causing Mr Karunakaran and many Police officers to lose their jobs at least temporarily, post emergency era.

I think I should briefly touch upon this Rajan Case, to the extent I know about this case which otherwise would be an injustice to this poor fellow Rajan, who is no more now. I am also Rajan and we all were in the same batch of Kerala engineering students. I didn't know Rajan personally, but some of his close friends were my school friends, especially Mr Jacob George (Achukkutty-now settled in the USA) and a few from Kozhencherry. In fact I too had received the admission offer letter from the REC. But at the last moment I changed decision. But I had contacts with these friends at REC and were exchanging developments at both campuses whenever we met.

Remember, the time was emergency period and there was government censoring on newspapers and Radio.There was no TV or mobile phones. Even telephones were a luxury affordable to a very few. The risk of government agencies always sneaking in to the citizens' communications and unwanted police actions existed.

This was the time when police raided REC campus in the pretext of curbing hardcore communist ideology, known as the Naxallite thoughts, spreading in the minds of engineering students. The over enthusiasm of some of those police officers caused the death of this poor first year completed student of REC, Mr Rajan. I remember Achukkutty telling me the whole story when we met some time immediately after this boy was killed by the Kerala police and the time when none outside actually knew this. Achukkutty was a good guitarist and this Rajan a good vocalist and they were both members of the REC Arts Club. This Arts Club group used to practice and perform here and there including some places outside the college campus. Perhaps such things made some of these club members getting in contact with local artists who were not necessarily engineering students. A few fellows of this latter group were inclined to Communist ideologies who occasionally attended 'Study Circles' of Naxallite contact groups in nearby areas of the regional engineering college, Calicut.

Some of these groups got involved in some minor acts of violence in those areas adjoining the REC, that the Kerala government set up a Police Camp at Kakkayam near the REC to curb Naxallite menace from spreading. During this time a group of naxallite study groups attacked a police party in the night. It was a small hit and run case. While running away the Police men heard some one calling out, " Hey! Rajan! Run fast!"

So, the Police began the hunt for youths named Rajan in the vicinity of the REC. They took many into custody without actually registering any arrest warrant. The Police were over ambitious under an young IPS officer named Jayaram Padickal, a direct confidant of the Home Minister.

Achukkutty told me that the Police were after all those youngsters who were named Rajan. He told me that I too would have been caught, had I been in REC that time instead of GEC, Trichur! It was late in an evening when these Arts Club friends were returning that the Police raided the campus and caught Rajan from their group for questioning. According to Achukkutty, the police did some thing on the frail body of Rajan in the Police van itself, the poor fellow was half dead as the rest of his friends could see in a glance including Achukkutty.

Not having the ability to withstand the 'questioning' of enthusiastic kerala police, this boy, Rajan might have collapsed that night itself and the Police not knowing what to do, safely disposed his body some where in the jungles adjoining the Kakkayam Police Camp. The news of this happening shortly reached Professor Eachera Warrier, the unfortunate father of Rajan. This college professor was from the Home Minister's locality and so the panic stricken father approached the Home Minister for help. But the power corrupt Home Minister Karunakaran did not feel it as an important thing to heed to the cries of the poor father. That eventually led to the Professor filing a Habeus Corpus petition later in the High Court after the emergency period leading to the now famous 'Rajan Case'.

Had I joined the REC, I could have been that 'Poor Rajan'! God saved me!

In the second year beginning, the Principal of our college, Prof.Dr.P.J.George probably due to the recommendations of the resident wardens of the hostel, called me and entrusted the task of running the hostel Mess which was in a real mess already due to various factors. This story I have covered in the page ' Mgt & Me'.

The first year and the next three years passed very quickly.

In all these extra-curricular activities that I described, studies also went on. I did not fail in any subjects of studies in the first and second semester exams of the first year, even with all the disturbances. In the first year, the classes were common for all the disciplines.

The first year provided an opportunity for all of us to understand an overall introduction to engineering in general. Besides having mathematics, physics and chemistry as subjects of studies, with some advanced inputs with a tilt towards the application areas, we had introductions to applied mechanics, strength of materials, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering , electronics and a non-engineering mixture of subjects comprehensively titled humanities. Some of these topics continued to the later semesters as well.

The faculty who introduced these topics to us the fresh entrants, were mostly senior professors, excepting one or two new comers. [ One of them was a very beautiful unmarried lady teaching chemistry and perhaps that was the subject the boys understood the least.] Besides, there were practicals in the various laboratories as well as in the mechanical and electrical workshops. In the latter, for the first time we got an opportunity to create certain objects by our own hands through black smithy, carpentry, machining, casting, etc.

We also got a chance to be near to big electrical machines and other electrical equipment and learnt to operate and know more about their properties and performances. In a similar way we got introduced to various kinds of mechanical engines and hydraulic equipment.

Some faculty members were very good in making us understand the topic well. In this regard, perhaps all in our batch might agree with the me on our mechanical engineering professor, Dr.Jishnu. He was the undergraduate professor and head of the department. A really good teacher who used to be very friendly with us as well. In fact, he was one of our supporters in our fight against ragging. What he taught in those days still remains in my mind! He presented the concepts so vividly using such a communication that we never used to be bored.

Some other teachers were not so. Our chemistry teacher of course taught the topic well perhaps with an artificially made complexity, obviously because she was quite conscious of her beauty and its impact on the majority youngsters in the class. I won't rate her as a bad teacher, but at that point of time for the boys the presenter was more desirable than the topic of presentation!

Then there was this lecturer named Mr Shah, who taught us applied mechanics and strength of materials. He represented the civil engineering department. A lean tall man with a high pitch voice, who presented his topic the most matter-of-fact manner, that soon, most of us felt this as the most difficult subject to learn in engineering. The scare of the topic was further enhanced by the seniors who presented fearful stories of our predecessors leaving engineering studies on account of their not clearing this 'extremely difficult' subject, called Applied Mechanics!

Mr Shaw had certain peculiarities that made him stand out in the crowd. The most remarkable was the mode in which he preferred for his travel in the Trichur town. Kerala state, in India, maintained its lead even in those days with regard to literacy, health care and public transport. Though, cycle-rikshaws and hand pulled rikshaws are common sights even at this time [ie.,AD 2010] in many cities and towns of India, in Kerala even in those days hardly any one preferred or used this mode of transport. But this not so old engineer and faculty of the prestigious government engineering college, traveled everywhere in Trichur town on a hand-pulled rikshaw- a strange sight that raised eyebrows and silent admiration (for his courage for not feeling embarrassed or 'cool attitude' which none other dared!)

He was cool and cold in his lectures too! That coldness pervaded his class and affected most of us, making us deadly scared of the subject! Nevertheless, a few of our classmates were real adventurers, especially those who were going to be future civil engineers. They simply could not leave this topic un-mastered, as it formed the basics of civil engineering! Such of those, especially took additional interest outside the class to understand the subject and master it and they were, no doubt, successful. Sooner or later, Mr Shaw only bothered of those few of his pet students, as it was for them he was teaching the subject and the rest were, for all practical purposes for him, non-existent!

But when the exams came nearer, the rest of us could not leave this 'extreme tough' subject as something of no consequence! It now appeared a do-or-die situation. Then some wise elders advised the existence of some good books, like 'Khurmi' [ the name of the text book's north Indian author! The common practice among us was to denote the text book by its author's name! So, we had Perry, Theraja, Khurmi and the like!) As I went through the book just a few days ahead, I realized how simple the topic in fact was! But then, there was not much time left to practice the numerical problems of this subject paper and master it. Anyway, I did not fail in this.

A few other teachers also made their impact strongly by creating an impression of toughness of the subject they taught. Another instance of this kind was the topical subject named the fluid and particle mechanics, known in the chemical engineering students' parlor as FPM. In the third semester, we got migrated to our 'own' departments, as per our discipline-wise admission criteria. For me it was the chemical engineering- the branch opted by the high scorers in the qualifying exam at that time. Chemical Engineering got introduced in India a couple of years earlier with much fanfare as the engineering of modern world, to prepare academically brilliant youngsters to get trained in modern technology and make India self reliant in high technology areas! From that position, chemical engineering has slipped to such a position after over three decades, thanks to the 'brilliant' planning that was done by the top decision makers of this country. That is another subject for discussion altogether!

Prof. Govindan Aniyath Parole (a serious looking man with a soft muffled voice, in his late thirties occupying the second seniority position in the chemical engineering department then) was our teacher of FPM. Our class of chemical engineering freshers comprised of 42 men and two ladies, the latter two permanently occupying the left end of the first row. Prof. Govindan hardly smiled or laughed, at least I had not seen that. Right after entry in the class to teach his subject, he mostly faced the blackboard and began lecturing to the board simultaneously drawing some sketches with the chalk. I still remember the two circles he used to draw on the board with two bent lines connecting those circles and the numerous mathematical formulas he used to write on the board on all free areas, continuously writing, wiping and talking monotonously, all at the same time till the period ended. I kept wondering all through out the end of the semester to decipher what was being taught with practically no success, till I got the american textbook, ordered with the bookstore reached me towards the end of the semester. Here too, just like the topic taught by Mr Shaw in the first year, I realized the comparative easiness of the topic to understand and study, had my learned professor a bit better in his communication!

I remember meeting Professor Govindan a few years after I left the college, accidentally at the Trichur railway station and at that time he was the number one and head of the ChE department. He was very soft and friendly and we had a pleasant conversation till the trains came for us to take leave. Sometime later, I came to know about the sad demise of this pioneering Ch Engg professor of Kerala due to a fatal heart-attack! May his soul rest in peace!


Another personality was the PG professor and head of our department, Prof.Dr. Raghavacharya, a lean thin old man with a frail voice having a stong but undeclared leniency towards the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, commonly known as the RSS. The RSS at that time was trying to establish its roots in the kerala youths, especially the professional college students, with the guise as a social service organisation believing in the spread of the Indian culture and ideology. They believed in the set up of their organization with a strong inclination towards cadre and a disciplined hierarchy. Though it was known for its Hindu fundamentalism coupled with fascist ideology, at least in Kerala, the efforts made was to spread its reach as a true cadre based voluntary service organisation with a mass appeal. They believed in discipline and physical wellness of its members and hence, martial training and drills were part of their routines. One of my close friends, Mr Ranjitmon, was a senior member of this organisation and with his compulsion, I remember knowing and attending the RSS meetings for a couple of occasions. However, some time during the emergency rule of India during our second year, RSS got banned as a religious fascist organization. Prof. Raghavacharya's association with this organization came to our notice when the rumor spread in the college regarding the police questioning his links with the banned RSS. Raghavacharya was not a Keralite, he was brought in to Kerala from Andhra State due to the non availability of any chemical engg teachers in Kerala to start and lead the Chemical Engg department first time in the state. He had a doctorate degree from the erstwhile USSR and was considered as an authority in process instrumentation and automation.

Sometime by the end of 1977 my engineering studies at the Government Engineering College [GEC] Trichur came to a halt. The Eighth Semester examinations , the Project Work and the Viva Voce were all over. The time came at last to move out of the GEC college hostel and go home after some four years of adolescent adventure away from home for the first time. 

These last days were painful. Towards the end, my connections were limited to a few classmates in our Chemical Engineering batch. All were realizing the great responsibility that was ahead of them. We were all going to be fresh engineers with out any jobs. Finding jobs that were of status was a cause of anxiety. None were sure of the future . The final academic results were important. Many of those studious bookworms maintaining obedience to the faculty members had already secured a good percentage marks in the previous semesters that we intuitively knew they were going to come out in 'flying colours'.

Though the first year incidences and the hangover of that during the third semester had some impact on my studies, I could make up those subsequently and my performance in the examinations  were not so bad. Our batch of chemical engineers had a strenth of 44, in which 2 were ladies. That was a period when ladies hardly opted to become engineers in India, a situation much changed in later years.

Our two lady class mates need a bit introduction here. One was named Jolly and the other was Latha. The latter was a bit talented in singing and used to participate in the cultural events of the college and also in intercollegiate meets. Both were average good looking girls, very reserved and hardly ever moving around with boys. In those days, boys and girls freely mingling in student life in a state like Kerala happened only in a few elite public schools. Incidentally I had another classmate friend named Jollykutty who was a male with a feminine name. Both Jollykutty and Jolly hailed from the central travancore's cultural and trade town, namely, Changanasserry.

I do not have any contact or knowledge about the later lives of most of my Trichur classmates and that is true for these two ladies as well. But I remember someone telling about the marriage of Jolly and her migration to the gulf countries where her husband worked. In the case of Latha, the situation was a little bit different. She fell in love with one of our young and controversial faculty member and got married to him in a non-conventional manner while we were still in our final year. Later it was learnt that both together moved to the IIT Madras for higher studies and returned back to GEC where Latha also became a faculty in chemical engineering. Years later an young engineer from GEC who joined in my organization told me the demise of Latha, who was his teacher, due to some illness. God bless her!

During the final year of my studies at GEC Trichur,  I was  staying in a room of Hostel-B (now its name is something different) facing the road and the Viyyur Central jail farm. My room was an end room by the side of Hostel-C. Mr Jayan Kamicherril , my class mate in chemical engineering, was my room mate. Jayan, I remember, as a polished high society inclined youth with a very matured outlook and behavior. He was lean and tall and probably had a physical feature that gave him a matured look. He hailed from a 'Knanaya Christian' family from the now famous backwater hamlet of Kumarakom- the same place of  international tourist attraction in Kerala from where the famous writer of the international bestseller- God of small things- Ms. Arundhati Roy also hails. My room partner preferred to be called J K J Kamicherril. After we left the college, I have not met him, though I was keeping track of him for some years. He did his MTech from IIT Madras and joined FEDO, the design and engineering wing of the then famous PSU chemical fertilizer company in Alwaye, Kerala, the Fertilizers and Chemicals of Travancore Limited, best known as FACT. I remember visiting Kumarakom in those days and staying with him in his house for a night. Very recently while browsing the internet I happened to read an article and some other information on this special friend of mine and the tragedy that had happened with him. I have no specific knowledge of him, yet I presume it is he, from the style of writing, as he was a man of English literary skills, a thing in which he was better than most of us due to his upbringing in foreign lands on account of his dad's job. He probably had left FACT and migrated to the USA and had a prosperous life there doing marketing of spices (What a transformation from Chemical Engineering!) From the writings that was on the internet, I presume that he met with a tragedy of losing his only son by a freak slip accident at his US home. May God Bless him!

Now I fail to recollect any one of my hostel mates except a few. One of these exceptions is Mr.George Elias, who joined the college a year later when we were in the second year. He was a student of Naval Architecture and a first batch student of that discipline commenced at GEC Trichur by the Cochin Technical University at that time. This new University of Cochin had no worthwhile campus at that time and the Kerala Goverment was probably thinking over the options of making the GEC Trichur campus as the campus for this new technical university which a few years later they did and reverted. Mr Elias' father, as I learnt from others, belonged to the elite administrative services, and that prompted him to follow his father's footsteps after taking his degree in naval architecture. He probably wrote the Indian Civil Services examination by selecting some other humanities subjects and got entered into the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS)-those ruling class that makes the rules and laws for India and rule the country on behalf of their political masters! Incidentally he is one of the Jt Secretaries of Govt of India in the steel ministry which is administratively responsible for the PSU steel company where I work as an engineer and also one of its Directors. Elias was not my friend or perhaps not even my casual acquaintance. His name came to my mind while I was typing this.

Yet, I make an effort now to recall the memories of a few of my hostel mates and classmates who had made some imprint of them in my mind, still not vanished.

There was this man who bore my name, Rajan. He was my classmate and at least three years elder to me, as he came to study engineering after obtaining a degree in Science. He was a man of short height, not very much interested in studies. He was known for some other peculiar characteristic which was quite uncommon in other students of that time. For a purpose of his liking he was prepared to go to any extent and he had the guts! I do not know what he did later in his life. (A couple of years ago, I made contact with him over the phone and at that time he was working as a private engineering consultant. Few months later I learnt about his untimely demise. May him rest in peace!

Then, was this Jollykutty Zachariahs whose name I mentioned earlier. He too was short heighted and a graduate in Science. He was the eldest son of a famous academician who was a sort of permanent syndicate member of the Kerala University. His family backgrounds were that so-called 'hi-fi' which had created a complex personality in him, antagonistic to his ambitious parents. He probably might have spent hours with me during the final years in the guise of combined studies, and spending time in explaining his mental state and the family experiences rather than doing the studies! Later, he had to marry a girl settled in Canada. I have no contact with him after that, though he attended my marriage in 1981. (In recent years I learnt that he retired from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and settled in Bangalore)

An incident of bitterness happened in the hostel just before we were leaving, making our memories of GEC something of everlasting shame. As I have mentioned earlier, a group of our batch of students including me, had tried to make an end to the dirty ragging that had been happening in the professional colleges. Later, when we became seniors, we have made it a point that our juniors are not ragged in the college or in the hostels. Yet, there could have happened some exceptions here and there, by those who did not share our views. When we became pre-final students and the final year students, it was a task for some of us to keep some of the boys from our junior batches from not attempting ragging on the freshers. This probably might have created some ego clashes in some.

Due to the semester pattern academics in our college and also due to the inferior management by the Calicut University to which our college was affiliated, our semester course used to take a few months more to complete, as compared to our fellow students studying in other engineering colleges attached to the University of Kerala- the first and oldest varsity in the state. In fact, the academic planners in our Calicut University had made an engineering syllabus almost double in content due to the semester pattern, than that was of the Kerala University with the yearly pattern of examinations. Yet, they have left out certain useful preliminary engineering tools to be taught to all engineers! (That is another issue, which I would try to cover in some other discussions, on my opinion on engineering education as a whole). Due to this the engineering colleges affiliated to Calicut University had a peculiar situation at that time. That is, having two final year batches in the college simultaneously for a couple of months, called the 'super finals' and the 'finals'.

So we became 'super-finals' and our immediate juniors became 'finals' in the college and the hostels. Sometime towards the end of 1977 we were still in the college after completing our final examinations and waiting for completion of our project works and final viva-voce examinations by external faculties. As such the period was boring and tense with our college days almost ended with anxieties running high in each and every one about the uncertain future. We had little contact with each other as there were no classes.

I still remember that evening, when one of the junior boys-some one from the second year classes residing in my hostel-requested me to vacate immediately to the town as something worse was likely to happen that night. On further inquiry, I came to know about a secret plan of some group of young men of the final year classes in our hostel were planning to physically assault a few select fellows of the super-final group residing in the hostels, just to settle some old scores. This kind of a thing is not an uncommon thing. It happens all over the world where young males transform to full grown adults in their own groups!

Anyway, I took the information lightly initially, as I had transformed myself as a matured young person with no known enmity with anyone. Most of the juniors in the hostel those who knew me regarded me as a friend or an elder brother. So why I should be afraid of any one to do some harm to me without any valid reason? I was to learn more about mob psychology and mass hysteria that cause wide spread loot and arson in many parts of India as a consequence of communal or political hatreds in groups, that keep occurring from time to time where innocent people get affected the most!

Later on the day, some of my friends convinced me or rather forced me to lock my hostel room and go out, lest I might get unnecessarily hurt or beaten up in the darkness of the night in the hostel, when those who plan the violence and hatred actually strike under instigated mob hysteria.

Yet, I never thought something of that could happen.

This way those handful of us, the super-final residents of the Government Engineering College, Trichur, were on the Viyyur-Cherur Road running in front of the hostels dividing the Central Jail farm and the engineering college campus, on that fateful night. We were only a few and a large group of final students were planning to take revenge on us, by physically assaulting the few of us representing the super-final group, even though we were not individually done anything wrong to anyone of them! Since, we were only a handful, the other group was certain of accomplishing their task easily.

Still, they were afraid of some of us. They lacked the strength to fight us face-to-face. They were inside the hostels calculating and planning. Then they decided to lock the collapsible gates of the hostels preventing us to get in to our rooms.

Slowly tensions began to rise. War zones were getting defined. I was just an observer belonging to the group outside the 'fortress'.

There were impatient warriors on both sides. Those wanted to fight and win. I think their numbers on our side was much less.

At last in the dark night the fight began. Initially it was war cries and shouts and abuses! Finally the warriors in the fortress opened the shutters and chased the poor super finals on the street. In the pitch dark midnight we ran for our lives. A helpless witness of the events, I too had to run for my life!

I remember having rescued myself by hiding in some temporary shed in the staff quarters area of the campus. Early morning we were saved by some lower level employees of the college. They gave us shelter in their homes.

Things became normalized in the few days that went by till we all left the campus. But it was something I can never forget and remained as something I wanted not to remember.

Those vigourous boys of those years might all be fathers of boys like them. Many may be even grandparents. Some of their children might engage in clashes and fights arising out of egos. History would repeat!

With the end of 1977 and perhaps by the beginning of 1978, my innings with the Government Engineering College, Trichur came to an end.

It was time to move out to larger realities of life!