G. Ramadas, a retired employee with the Kerala State Electricity Board, remembers his student days at College of Engineering Trivandrum
We all aspire a lot as children, but not all of us get to live our dreams. But I’ve been lucky to live my dream at College of Engineering Trivandrum (CET), a premier engineering college in the country then and now, where I completed my course in electrical engineering. Today, as a retired employee of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) I look back at those years which great happiness.
I hail from Ullala near Vaikom in Kottayam district. When I was a school boy, I used to go to Pallivasal during the school vacations where my father, Gopala Panicker, used to work at the post office, then called Anchal office. During those visits, I was attracted by the power project at Pallivasal, the first hydro electric power project in Kerala. I was so curious and in awe of the mechanism that I wanted to study something related to electricity.
Also, there was an indirect inspiration in the form of Joseph John, Chief Engineer (Electrical and Telephones). In those days there was one chief engineer for power and telephone departments and another for Public Works. It was a very important post and people used to treat these chief engineers with great respect. The Chief Engineer used to come to Pallivasal for inspections. Whenever he was there, he used to go for morning walks and people used to treat him with great respect. When I saw the kind of admiration he received, I decided that I would become a chief engineer one day.
After completing my ESLC [English School Leaving Certificate, equivalent to the present SSLC], my father took a transfer to Thiruvananthapuram so that we could avail ourselves of better academic facilities.
I studied at Intermediate College (present Arts College) after which I appeared for an entrance examination to get admission to CET. The examination covered general science, maths, general knowledge and freehand drawing. Those who cleared it were called for the interview.
The admission was based on the performance in the test, marks in maths, physics and chemistry in the Intermediate and the interview.
In those days CET was located at PMG junction, where the office of the Post Master General now stands. There were 50 seats for civil engineering, and 25 each for electrical and mechanical branches. There was a two-seat quota for students from Orissa then.
I took electrical engineering, as was my wish. Our classes began in July 1952. The first engineering college in the erstwhile state of Travancore, the college had the best of faculty members and students too.
The authorities were very particular about discipline. In fact, we had sessional marks that covered our academic performance as well as behaviour in college. Every student ensured that he was in the good books of the teachers. Girls were not admitted then. Also, ragging never happened on the campus. We had a freshers’ day, of course, which was lots of fun.
M.V. Kesava Rao from Mysore was our Principal. One interesting and, perhaps, frightening incident happened during my second year. We had field surveys in our syllabus. Students were divided into different groups and there were five of us in my team. We had to make notes on the buildings, their elevation and other topographical aspects of the area assigned to us, prepare a landscape using the instruments and submit it. It was important to score well in field survey.
Our group was allotted the area behind the college and we had to move along the route, reach Plamoodu and then back to college. Enroute there was the house of a prominent judge of those days.
He had a big house and sprawling property, surrounded by a compound wall. Instead of taking the public road, we thought of taking a short cut through his compound.
We jumped over the wall with our instruments, but landed right in front of him. When we told him about the survey, he let us go, but not before informing our Principal about our “trespassing.” Next day our professor told us that we were going to lose a year for our indiscretion. We were shell-shocked.
Next day, upon his suggestion, we met the judge, literally begging him for pardon.
He was generous enough to understand our situation and pardon us. When I look back, I remember the incident with much amusement and often wonder what would have happened if I had lost a year!
College life had its share of fun, especially during our college day functions. However, I wasn’t much into extracurricular activities. Of my friends, I remember Madhu [G. Madhusoodanan Nair], father of music composer M. Jayachandran, who regularly used to enact female characters on stage!
Some of us friends used to have regular get-togethers till a few years back. We even went to the old location of the college at PMG. In fact, our workshops used to function adjacent to the Priyadarshini Planetarium, and one can still find ‘CET’ inscribed on the walls.
I passed out of the college with Avittam Thirunal gold medal in 1956 and within a week, I got appointment in the electricity department as a junior engineer. And, as I had wished, I did become a chief engineer, but by then it had become like any other post. I retired from KSEB as technical member in 1978.
I often wonder how times have changed. Now you’ve engineering colleges in plenty and seats are remaining vacant!
(As told to ATHIRA M.)
(A column to commemorate the platinum jubilee of the University of Kerala. Eminent teachers and people from different walks of life talk about their student days in various colleges under the University.)
CET, opened in 1939, owes its origin to Sree Chitra Tirunal Balarama Varma. It functioned at the former office and bungalow of the Chief Engineer (which is now the office of the Postmaster General (PMG)) till 1960 when it was shifted to the sprawling campus near Sreekariyam. Maj T. H. Mathewman, an English man, was the first Principal of the college, which then had an intake of 21 students each for Civil, Mechanical and Electrical branches of engineering.