Society

Inspired by the campus

K. Saradamoni as a student   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement



Joining college meant moving to Thiruvananthapuram from my home in Kollam. But the time spent on the campuses of Government College for Women and University College opened a new world before me.

When I joined the former for my intermediate course in 1949, I was actually returning to studies after a five-year gap. I had to discontinue my education after school, for it wasn’t an easy time at home. However, during that gap I read a lot.

Since I had good marks in the school final examination, it was expected of me to take the science group. But I never wanted to become a doctor and therefore took third group with history and logistics. I stayed in a hostel, located near the present office of the Commissioner of Police at Thycaud.

Excitement and hope were in the air as the country had just won independence. That was probably why I was more interested in economics than in history. It was one subject that didn’t bring about any radical rethinking unlike European history or the history of the oppressed classes. Those were the days when we had dreams about a new India where lofty ideals, harmony and mutual care were held high.

Therefore, after finishing my intermediate I joined University College in 1951 to do the three-year BA Honours (equivalent to MA) in Economics. We were the first batch of the course. There were 10 of us, five girls and five boys. A year later, those who pursued the BA Economics course also joined us. So, there was a total of 20 students by the second year.

V.R. Pillai was the head of the department. Lakshmana Panicker is another faculty whom I fondly remember. I had taken politics and statistics as the subsidiary subjects.

It was an enjoyable period on the whole. I was studying in a co-ed institution for the first time, but that was not at all an uncomfortable situation for me.

Kerala, as know it today, was not formed yet, but a lot of changes were happening in the run-up to the formation of the State. There was no national movement per se, still youngsters were excited about politics and the developments. Even I fell into the groove and contested for the post of English editor, as a candidate of the Students Federation (SF) in the college union election. I lost. However, it was all taken in the right spirit. Unlike today, there was camaraderie and friendship among students irrespective of their ideological conflicts.

The college union was inaugurated by Devaki Panikkar, daughter of Sardar K.M. Panikkar. After spending the war years in England as a student she had just come to Kerala via China where her father was the first Indian Ambassador to China.

As for the classes, what I really enjoyed was the socio-economic survey we undertook in Ulloor. We collected data from shops, houses and people in the area. None of the girls in my class came for the survey. The only other girl in the group was a junior student of mine, Shaktimayi. The survey taught me how data collection plays an important role in development initiatives and studies.

The national conference of the Indian Economic Association was held in our college during that time. Those teachers and experts about whom we had studied and heard about attended the conference. Organising the programme was an achievement in itself for our newly-formed department.

After college, I joined University of Madras for MLitt and on coming back I worked with the planning department here as a research officer. In 1962, I shifted to Delhi and was there for nearly 30 years with my family during which I had a fruitful stint with the Indian Statistical Institute.

During the nearly three decades I lived away, more than once I lost touch with my close friends I had from the Women's College days. Somehow we always succeeded in re-establishing contact. In the case of the University College, it was a sort of vacuum. However, when I returned many of us who were in the city got together many times and we enjoy keeping in touch.

When I saw an advertisement about the formation of University College Alumni Senior Citizens’ Association I joined it. One classmate and a junior of mine, both women, too joined. We hold two meetings in a year inside the college campus. No doubt the campus has lost the old glory. It has become silent and desolate!

(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.)

Illustrious career

K. Saradamoni, who calls herself a “concerned social scientist”, is an economist and writer, who retired from the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi. Her studies and books have covered topics such as women, land, labour, family, caste and socio-economic disparities and changes. She is wife of the late N. Gopinathan Nair, also known as Janayugom Gopi, founder editor of Janayugam, the first weekly and daily newspaper of the undivided Communist Party in erstwhile Travancore.


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 11:28:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/inspired-by-the-campus/article5664686.ece

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