The 1958 batch of the College of Engineering, Trivandrum celebrates the 54th anniversary of their graduation on November 10

They are still “young in mind and spirit” say a bunch of septuagenarians, as they get ready for the annual get-together of the 15th batch of the College of Engineering, Trivandrum (CET). On Saturday (November 10), the “old boys” of Kerala’s first engineering college will be celebrating the 54th anniversary of their graduation with a family meet at Trivandrum Tennis Club.

“We are a tight-knit group because there were just 100 students in the batch with three disciples – Civil, Mechanical and Electrical. There were 50 students in the Department of Civil Engineering and 25 each in the other two. Of the 100, some 25 to 30 members are no more. Securing admission to the college was very difficult in those days. There was no entrance exam. There were only 100 seats across Kerala, so competition, was naturally tough. Also, when we were studying there were no female students in the college. It was only in our final year that two women were admitted to the college for the first time in history,” recalls N. Navakumar, one of the members who spearhead the get-togethers.

CET in those days was at P.M.G Junction, what is now the post master general’s office (the college was shifted to the present campus at Kulathoor in 1960). “College brings back great memories. Classes were held in an isolated part of the PMG building. There was no canteen and no college buses. But we were in the middle of the city and near other colleges such as University College and Arts College and hostels such as University Men’s Hostel and LMS Hostel, where most of the out-of-towners resided,” recalls Padmanabhan Nair K., of the civil branch, who retired as managing director, Kerala Water Authority. “There was much camaraderie. It was a good atmosphere to study in,” says K. Madhavan Nair, another member of the group, who also went on to complete a masters in Hydraulics Engineering from the college.

The group seem to recall their teachers with fondness too. “Our teachers such as Professor Rajaraman and Professor Kesava Rao were not just teachers, they were more like mentors to us,” says Padmanabhan Nair. “I remember that our teachers in the mechanical department such as Professor P.S. Subramanian and Professor Eapen knew each of us individually. In fact, they even knew each of our parents/guardians on a personal basis! We admired and respected our teachers a lot,” adds Navakumar. The 76-year-old mechanical engineer retired as managing director of Kerala Automoblies Limited, after stints at Bhilai Steel Plant, Heavy Engineering Corporation, Ranchi, and Keltron. He is now an industrial consultant.

In fact, most of the members of the 1958 batch have had distinguished careers. “Over two dozen of us retired as chief engineers of various departments of the Kerala government,” says Navakumar. While some have helmed various industries/boards such as Travancore Titanium Products, Cochin Shipyard, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Transformers and Electricals Kerala Limited, to name a few, others are professors emeritus at various engineering colleges such as the National Institutes of Technology or Indian Institutes of Technology. “Most of us are still active in the field though we are all approaching 80,” adds Navakumar.

For the moment, though, they are all waiting for Saturday, when they can catch up with each other lives and relive their precocious college days.

In our heyday

“The Thiruvananthapuram of our college days was calm and quiet. Our college was in the middle of the city but it was more or less like it was situated in a serene village! A fair number of our batchmates and college mates were hostellers; only about 40-odd people in our batch were day scholars. Most of the day scholars, including myself, used to either catch a bus to college or walk to college from our homes. We spent most of our free time discussing films – only a few films were released at the time and were instant hits and the actors, style icons – and politics. University College and M.G. College were the hotbed of politics in those days too. In CET, though, there was no politics. We were just spectators to events unfolding in the other colleges. But we did put up a fair fight during college elections to select student representatives,” recalls R. Balakrishnan Nair, who retired as chief engineer of the Kerala State Electricity Board and was until recently a member of the Government’s panel on inter-state disputes.