From blinking robots to omelettes in the canteen, old memories reign supreme at institute's annual day

Recently, even as young students walked up to the stage to collect their gold medals for performing well in academics at the College of Engineering Guindy, Anna University, a group of grey-haired men, some of them holding on to others for support, sat in seats in the front row watching the proceedings proudly. Even after the event, there were many queued up to talk to them.

As alumni of the country's oldest technical institute, the feeling of pride was evident in their faces, and equally clear was their eagerness to narrate tales of the good old days. 80-year-old C.T. Sriramamalu , who joined the college in 1951, to study highways engineering, then the most sought-after course recalled every detail of how the celebrations would happen then. “We had the main green hall then, which used to be our drawing room with boards. During such days, we would clear the room of benches, decorate it a little and that was it,” he says, pointing to the extravagant floral designs that hung from the stage. “It was all very simple then.”

“There used to be no time then for many of these activities. Surveying and NCC activities used to start at 6 a.m.,” recalls S. Chidambaram, who passed out of the college in 1955. The engineering institution was established in 1794. It was started in May 1794 as a School of Survey and established as a college in 1859.

So while participating in the NCC parade that happened almost thrice a week kept them fit and healthy, special occasions called for special parades. “And then, we would be given 2 annas to buy an omelette, something that was very famous in the canteen back then,” recalled Mr. Chidamabaram.

There were very few cultural programmes by students then, because girls would never participate in them. “Even the audience would be full of staff members and their families,” he added.

On exhibit days, “unlike the sophisticated human robots that students make today, We would make ‘robots' that could blink,” said A. Balasubramanian, who passed out of telecom engineering in 1950.

“In fact, the robot was a group of people covered by a sheet. They would answer questions that visitors would ask them. But that is all we could do with the resources we had,” he added.

Also, most anticipated were the ‘Mess Days' when the canteen would throw open a buffet of 30 – 40 food items and students could bring in their family members and friends.

Iconic figures such as C. Rajagopalachari, T. Prakasam and K. Kamaraj often came and spoke to them on Annual days.

“Once Vyjayanthimala, only a fifteen-year-old then came and performed here. We were all so thrilled,” said Sugunakar Rao, who belongs to the 1949 batch of CEG, sitting beside his grandson who sat with the gold medal he received for merit for this year.

“Seldom do you want your grandchildren to study in the same college as you did. Some historical institutions just grow with times, like this one.”

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012

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