Er Rajan C Mathew : Life Story-Part-3
3. Time of Leaving Government Engineering College-Trichur, 1977.
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 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 at 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 behaviour. 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 worthwile 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 hostelmates 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.
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.
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 that 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 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) So, 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 evaluators. 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 are 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 enemity 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 causes wide spread loot and arson in many parts of India as a consequence of communal or political hatreds in groups, that keep occuring 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 unnessarily 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 superfinal residents of the Government Engineering College, Trichur, were on the Viyyur-Cherur Road running infront of the hostels dividing the Central Jail farm, 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 superfinal group, eventhough 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 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 normalised 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 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 !
[To be continued]