Thursday, October 20, 2016

AN OBITUARY NOTE ON KSR FROM A FRIEND











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A  LETTER  FROM  POOVAN MURUGESAN, San Diego, CA 


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                                     KOLA SANTOSH RAJKUMAR 1945-2016

                        It was in 1957 that I met Raj at the American College High School. We were both in 9th grade, in Mr. Johnson’s class. Raj in those days wore baggy pants, a half-sleeve shirt with a big pocket that carried several pens and pencils and a pen-length screw driver. Raj was a gifted handyman even in those days. Another unique thing about Raj was that he drove a motorcycle to school. Motorized two-wheelers were rare back then and then a 14-year-old driving a motorcycle was rarer.  Our paths diverged briefly, but we became classmates once again in PUC at the American College. After B.Sc. at different institutions, we again found ourselves as classmates in M.Sc. physics. Our friendship had enough time to blossom. We became good friends. Generous to a fault, he offered an unconditional friendship. I spent a lot of time during weekends at his family home on North Masi Street. I got to know the family.
                        Raj had a workshop in his house even in his student days, where he repaired electronic instruments, constructed radios and did other repairs. He enjoyed every minute of it.
                        Till the end, he exhibited an enormous stamina and a willingness for hard work. At his age, he carried a full load of work at Aravind Hospital and carried on an extensive personal and official international travel. During my last visit to India, I casually mentioned to him that it would be nice if we got together with our M.Sc. classmates. He somehow dug up the phone numbers of some of them and arranged a get-together. Some of us got to see each other after a gap of nearly 50 years!

                        He was a quintessential family man. He was proud of his son (at Google) and daughter ( a doctor in London), but without exhibiting negative ego. He remained simple in his habits and loyal to his friends. Whenever I visited India, I could count on seeing Raj in his baggy pants, a half-sleeve shirt and on a motor cycle. His sudden death has been a rude shock to me. I have lost my best friend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A TRIBUTE TO KSR






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A  LETTER  FROM  Prof.  V. SRINIVASAN


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Bi-Cycles were the vehicles of the lecturers and demonstrators of the American College for many years in the good old days. A few were proud of their imported bi-cycles from Singapore, Malaysia or Ceylon with some extra fittings and very bright shining handle bars.Then mechanized two wheelers started making their appearance one by one. When Enfiled India Motor cycle manufacturing factory, near Melur,  came into existence a good number of  "bikes" became affordable vehicles that replaced bicycles. A few  Vespa/Bajaj scooters that was possible with dollar payment also invaded the campus along with one or more lambretta scooters that were wedding gifts for some. The result was an informal association known as TWA (Two wheelers association) was formed. Though the bicycles also had only two wheels that fact was coolly forgotten. With faster and quicker mobility the TWA started planning short trips  and picnics on holidays and weekends. Friends of "bikers" joined in such trips and thus an informal PRA (Pillion rider association) also came into being. There were several short trips with few friends now and then, Vasanthan, Sam George and a few others taking the lead.

It was once decided that TWA should go on a long one day trip. The destination choses chosen was Bathlagundu where there was a promise of a host receiving us with food and refreshment. There were about 15 two wheelers and a few cars (George Berlin, Dr. Riesz + Haris and some friends)  It turned out to be a memorable trip for all and an important trip for the College also. The first discussion on College autonomy happened there in the mango grove. The editorial on the subject in the local news paper about that time initiated the discussion. There were nearly 35 to 40 faculty members in that trip.

The second long trip was to Periar and the third to Courtalam with over night stay. All of them were grand successes. An unforgettable incidence in one trip was a PWA member was left out on the high way during a break and this was noticed only after the convoy had gone a good distance. He was later picked up and joined with the troupe by one who was a fast rider. The culprit was me and the victim was Dr P M Sundaram!

On these trips not all vehicles had smooth ride for the entire length of the trip. Tube puncture, leakage of air from the tires and fixing them and manually pumping air on the main road was probably simplest break down  events and on one occasion a large scale repair had to be undertaken lasting for a few hours. Why I recall this now one may wonder.

There is a reason. In all these trips most of the vehicle owners especially the ones with secondhand vehicles were comfortable on these trips mainly because Mr. K S Rajkumar. He was a master servicemen who understood major and minor ailments  of the vehicles voluntarily. Riding majestically on his second world war model motor cycle at a steady speed behind all the other vehicles he was a guardian angel for all. He is now no more with us. I write this on behalf of TWA and PRA of American college to convey our gratitude for his willing assistance. God Bless KSR.

I hope the college Faculty members as his friends, the Department of Applied Sciences and PG and UG Physics Departments in the College where he had served undertake some action and create a memorial to perpetuate his memory. He has one more connection with the College. His father was the auditor for the accounts of the College for many years.

Monday, October 17, 2016

சார்லி எனும் தேவதூதன்





There was an article on Charlie in Tamil Hindu daily yesterday – 16.10.16 – written by one of our alumni, Mr. SOMASUNDARAM, who did his P.G. in English Lit during 1989 -1991 in our college. It was so touching, personal and quite emotive.
SOMASUNDARAM
COMMANDANT
INDIAN COAST GUARD

Since I found the author’s name in the article I contacted him to get his permission to post it in our blog. He was good enough to send the English version of the article also. Since he did not have the softcopy of the Tamil article he sent his manuscript of it. I have already posted the English version and now in this post I have given his own Tamil manuscript and also the scanned copy of the Tamil version from the daily.

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தினசரியில் வந்த கட்டுரை









“மறுபிறப்பு என்று ஒன்றிருந்தால் 
நாம் மறுபடியும் சந்திப்போம். 
அப்போது ஒரு வேளை 
உங்களது பேச்சை 
நான் கேட்கக்கூடும்.”

                                                                                                ....சோமசுந்தரம்



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CHARLIE, MY ANGEL





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CHARLIE  MY  ANGEL


BY

N.  SOMASUNDARAM
an alumnus

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It was year 1989 and I had enrolled in MA (English) program at the American College, Madurai. Though I graduated in Chemistry, I joined the PG program in English as I was preparing to join the defence forces. Initially the course was tough for the beginner and I was struggling to learn the basics of English grammar. My spoken English was a disaster. Dr. Charles Ryerson visited our college, as he used to do every year. Through Prof. RP Nair, our HOD, I came to know about Charlie prior to his visit. He said that Charlie had written a dissertation on the Renaissance in Tamil Society due to the Dravidian Movement. I availed a copy for myself from the library and I finished reading the book before his visit. 

Dr. Charles Ryerson gave an inspiring speech on the Civil Rights Movement in the US and likened that to the struggle of the downtrodden in Tamil society. He had narrated his experience as a christian missionary during the 1950s in the districts of Madurai and Ramanathapuram. I was so engrossed in his speech that I took notes for asking questions after his speech. Also, I did not agree with him on certain notes in his book. After his speech, when the audience was asked if there was any question, as usual, the audience was silent. I was not confident of my spoken English, but had the urge to seek clarifications from him. I got up and asked him questions, to which he patiently replied. He addressed me as ''Chinna Payyan" (little boy) much to the amusement of the audience. I got more comfortable by his friendly banter and gingerly submitted to him that there were many factual errors. He was humility personified and accepted that there might be some. One major factual error was that he had mentioned the great Tamil poet Kamban, who wrote Ramayana in Tamil as Kamba Ramayanam, was a brahmin. I told him that it was a blatant factual error. He asked me how I was so sure of this since the period of Kamban was in the 11th century AD. I replied to him that I myself was the evidence as Kamban was an ancestor from my mother's side. He could not believe. Therefore, I asked him if he could visit my place for showing the proof, which he did. I took him to our temple where the family deity was being worshipped and showed him as many proof as possible to establish the fact. He got convinced and said that he would publish a corrigendum to his book.

Our relationship that of a student-mentor grew strongly during his subsequent visits. We used to engage in meaningful conversations about religion, language, caste system and discrimination based on colour, caste, and creed. He always encouraged me to speak my mind. Though there was several arguments, he always respected my line of thoughts and arguments. I realised later that though I was wrong on many occasions, Charlie ensured that my confidence was not eroded by countering me during our conversations.

About Tamil language, he had great respect and said that the first moment when he came to realise the greatness of it was when he was passing by a street in Madurai, he heard of a song sung so melodiously from a temple. Though he could not understand the meaning, the song was so moving that he entered the temple with folded hands with tears rolling down. Later he learned that the song was from a hymn sung in praise of Lord Shiva, Thiruvasagam, by Maanikka vaasagar. He acknowledged that true to the adage that 'those who are not moved by Thiruvasagam will not be moved by any song'', he was so moved by Thiruvasagam that he started learning Tamil language.

During my college days, I was a staunch atheist. Charlie was worried about me and he advised me to read religious scriptures as there are so many in Tamil, not only for the religious purpose but also for the rich language used in them. Particularly he was not happy about my ambition to join the defence forces. He said that if i joined, it would be a loss to the academic community as he considered my self-thinking as precious and rare.

After completing the PG, I joined the Indian Coast Guard inAfter completing the PG, I joined the Indian Coast Guard in Jan 1992. Our relationship still continued by means of correspondence by mail. When I was in the training phase, I used to anxiously look for his mail whenever the ship returned to the base port. Our communication still grew stronger even after the invent of e-mail. He had opened a separate folder for me, the way I had opened in my email account and maintained our correspondence. Even when he was either busy or his physical condition did not permit him to write an email, I always received his messages through others.






SOMASUNDARAM
COMMANDANT
INDIAN COAST GUARD






When I was a cadet onboard a training ship, I encountered a cyclone at sea. I should say that it was a spiritual revelation for me wherein I came to realise that the humans were nothing but a mere objects in front of nature. I wrote a long letter to Charlie about my experience in which I had written that I realised that 'if there was a design, there could be a designer'. Robert Frost's poem 'Design' came to my mind as I was experiencing the first cyclone as a mariner. Charlie preserved the letter and was planning to publish in a journal at Princeton Theological Seminary. Unfortunately, he lost the letter in a fire accident at his apartment in Rhode Island. He apologized and requested me to write the article again. I had written the article in 1992, and when he asked me to write it again it was year 2002. It was almost after a decade. Whatever i could remember, I wrote it for him as I did not have a copy of it. On receipt of the article, Charlie wrote that he liked the article very much and would publish it in the journal. I am sure he must have done it. I did not check with him. 

Dr. Paul.L.Love, the founder of Study Centre for Indian Literature in English and Translation at Madurai, used to say that whenever he visited the US, Charlie enquired about me. He closely followed me and was inquisitive about my family and career. He was still not happy about my decision to join the defence forces. I think I disobeyed him on that count. Sorry Charlie. But it was more a necessity to take up the first available job in India than your true inclination. 

May be in next birth we will meet again,and probably I will obey you.


Till then Rest In Peace, Charlie. 



NOTE: I am serving as a Commandant in the Indian Coast Guard and this is my 25th year of service. This is written in memory and honour of Dr. Charles R Ryerson III. 



HOMAGE TO Prof. K.S.R.



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Saturday, October 15, 2016

AN OBITUARY





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Our friend Rajkumar of Physics Dept.  has passed away very suddenly. Heart attack says Dr. Mala. It is sad he was picking up fast in Aravind too and was making a good impact there also. He had already visited two countries (Antigua and Kenya) and had run courses there. He will be missed and it is very hard to find a replacement.


Prof. V. Srinivasan