Reverie ’96 : Old met new, and got impressed !


I was part of the class of 96 of TKM College of Engineering – one of 90+ newly minted Mechanical Engineers to walk out of the iconic red building . And in the next 20 years , I had not been back in college . That changed on Friday , August 22nd – when my parents dropped me back at the college , which looked a lot lighter in color but much improved . To say I was overpowered with Nostalgia would be an understatement . 

The first stop naturally was my most favorite spot there – the college canteen . It did not look anything like what we had in our days , but what the heck – I walked towards it . Next thing I know , a familiar figure started waving frantically at me from one of the tables to speed up . There he was – Prof Nasar – my favorite teacher . He taught us automobile engineering (One of the very few subjects I was passionate about) , and was my guide for the final year project (which was to design a machine part for Hindustan Latex LTD for rolling up condoms in their manufacturing line without causing tears – I still remember the embarrassment of explaining it to the panel of teachers , and prof Nasar coming to the rescue of Ajith , Anup Nair and me) . 


I asked him if he remembered me – of course he did , including my name , who my parents where , where I lived , my love for dogs and many other little things . He was very proud of me and introduced me to several of his younger colleagues . 

Next on the agenda – after a quick lunch at the Beach hotel with several friends – was a “meet the students” session . The idea was for 5 of us to be in a panel in front of a couple of hundred final year students and impart our wisdom(?) and answer a few questions . Ganesh , Sindhu, Boby and Rejin formed the panel , which I moderated . We had a dozen or more from our former class join in the audience to provide some moral support.


I was convinced – remembering the extreme reluctance I had in attending these kinds of events on a Friday afternoon when I was a student – that no one will show up. But boy was I wrong ! The room was standing room only by the time we started . 


We kept the tone informal , and switched between Malayalam and English . It’s probably the first time in my life that I had a chance to speak in Malayalam in front of a big audience and I loved it . The students gave us their full attention too – and asked some excellent questions on our perspectives on how to prepare for their careers. 

A word on the panelists – what an amazing bunch ! 


Ganesh did his Grad school in US, worked in US and Europe and then became CEO of his own company . Boby worked at BPL straight out of college (one of the very few who bagged that opportunity I might add) , went to US on a work assignment , did her masters there and is now an engineering leader at Motorola . Sindhu taught engineering , and now is a top researcher in Siemens . Rejin – not surprisingly – is an entrepreneur, and has a cool robotics company. I am clearly the under achiever in this group 🙂


A few questions from the students made us dog deep and search our souls for answers . Boby explained how she went through her own career progression , often as the “only woman in the room” . Sindhu explained how to focus on first principles to build a career in research . Ganesh explained the need to build a network  of contacts to get ahead in life . And Rejin brought forward the need to apply the theory we learn in class to make things – which fits his own fame as a master prototype builder in college ( ahem … Not always amusing some of  his teachers who wanted him to stay focused on winning the first rank ). 

When I studied in TKM , I had no such insights . I didn’t know who the alum were or how to find them . I saw first hand how much the students appreciated the candid answers from the panel . It also showed me first hand how important it is to give back to the next generation in a “pay it forward” fashion . 

Just as the day started , we finished off af the canteen . Every single one of us was full of enthusiasm and appreciation for our beloved college . Some even got invited to present again to the students during the week.

The man behind the new found focus on sustained alumni relations is Prof Sudhir, who was a year senior to me in college . He explained how it is now a well organized effort to establish a two way constant communication between the old students and us . 

Prof Ayub , who is now the principal of the college is a forward thinking academician . He is also a big fan of strong alumni relationships and frequently travels the world meeting alumni . It was a lot of fun being in the principal’s office after the panel to have a cup of tea and listening to his vision and plans . To say I was impressed will be an understatement .

Saturday , 23rd July, was the formal reunion day. Our chief guest was Shibu Baby John , who till recently was a state government minister . He is a fellow alum (10 years my senior) , and that too from Mechanical Engineering ! I never had a chance to be on the big stage while at college – and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk about the importance of paying it forward . And it was fantastic to hear from the minister , Prof Imtiaz , Prof Sudhir and our very own Ajith Varghese who was the college Union chairman in 1996 . 


Pretty quickly we figured out that there were 6 of us from the class of 96 in IBM – Nitin, Hemant, Jayaraj, Sunil , Teji and me . How cool is that ? We missed two – Jayaraj was in the middle of a project in Abudhabi and Teji in US . 


What an event this was – we had participation from every corner of the world . We picked up conversations from where we left off 20 years ago . It was fantastic to re-establish the old friendships .


None of this would have happened without the leadership of our friends Mahesh Nair , Krishnakumar , Boby Iyer and many others who herded the proverbial cats all over the globe  . Thank you – you are rock stars !

I can’t wait for the next reunion ! 

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3 thoughts on “Reverie ’96 : Old met new, and got impressed !

  1. This is awesome, Vijay.
    I come from Brazil and Brazil and India have lots of similarities in terms of both of them having lots of “wrongs” and suffering people but they both also have a good share of “rights” that still blossom out of it.
    Paying it forward to my college and younger colleagues and ultimately my country is a topic that is going through my mind for a while now. There are some financial programs but I’d like to do so much more than just give some bucks to sponsor some student-ran projects. You’re an inspiration and I’d love to read more about your relationship back to your alma mater.

    Like

  2. Vijay, great to see all the pictures and sadly missed all the fun. Hoping to do something similar in 2021, and make it large then.

    Like

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