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Down memory lane

Thirty-four years is a gap too long, but not for this TNAU batch of 1969


THE INTROVERT Vice-Chancellor of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), C. Ramasamy, looked a different man last fortnight. Preparing himself to meet his old pals after a gap of 34 years, he admits he was quite excited and could not sleep well before their reunion.

When the 1969 batch of the TNAU met at the campus, many couldn't recognise their friends, who had well stepped into middle age.

When they finally identified them after a few anxious moments, there was magic in the air. Nostalgia too. "I called up the VC, my batchmate, at least 20 times the day before. The meeting took us back to 1969, literally," recalls K Balaraman, an entrepreneur based in Bangalore. Registrar S D Sundarsingh and the Dean (Agriculture) R Krishnasamy are all from his batch.

"Whenever such a get-together was organised in the campus by our juniors, I yearned that the batch of 69' should also meet. We have been planning to organise this for the last three years," says Mr. Ramasamy.


However, geographical barriers proved a problem. The 1969 batch was spread all over the country and abroad. The first attempt backfired due to out-dated addresses. The meeting rekindled all the memories of campus life. "We had to be in the field at 6 a.m. in our khaki trousers during our college days. Even a minute's delay was viewed seriously," the VC recounts.

The hostel and the mess are something most can't forget. Many had ventured out of their homes for the first time for college, but "we never felt homesick. The hostel and the mess were like home away from home," they say. "There used to be a special dinner on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Ghee rice, quarter chicken, chips and lemon juice were part of the menu. Students from other colleges used to befriend us just to have a go at the food," says M Subash Chandra Bose, Professor, Directorate of Student Welfare, TNAU.

But, these were gourmands with a heart. "During the Indo-Pak war of 1965, the students did not take dinner on Mondays. As rice was in short supply, we donated the entire rice saved," recalls R. Lakshmanan, Manager, State Bank of India. "Our canteen was the only one in the Madras Presidency that sold cigarettes. While our professors smoked on one side, we grabbed a puff on the other," remarks R Umakesan, former Deputy General Manager of Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank.

Ragging was a part of college life even then. "But, it was decent and jovial. There was no physical harassment even in the hostel mess. Moreover, the seniors helped us with the notes," says a nostalgic S Ramakrishnan, former Joint Director of Agriculture.


A few dutifully brought autograph books for the meeting. Everyone turned emotional when the names of their deceased batch mates were mentioned.

The teachers were fondly remembered too. "Our Dean, B W X Ponniah, was a fatherly figure," remarks N Sivaguru, Assistant General Manager, UCO Bank. Some wondered if the meeting would ever take place. An ecstatic Abdul Hassen Sadali says that in "just six months, my wish got fulfilled."

Most of them say they had no vision about their careers, opting to become agricultural officers in banks. However, many have managed to reach the top echelons in their careers, something they are proud of.

Of the 143 students from the batch, 128 attended the meeting. At the end of the day, there was a cultural programme by TNAU students in honour of their seniors. Fifteen retired professors and non-teaching staff of their time were also honoured. Finally, when it was time for dinner, the former students were in for a pleasant surprise - the menu was the same as during their college days.

M. ALLIRAJAN

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