Chennai

Back in the summer of ’66

The Electrical Engineering students of the 1966 batch of P.T Lee Chengalvaraya Naicker Polytechnic College, Vepery. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Electrical Engineering students of the 1966 batch of P.T Lee Chengalvaraya Naicker Polytechnic College, Vepery. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Spl Arrangement

Alumni from the 1966 batch of P.T. Lee Chengalvaraya Naicker Polytechnic College are having a grand Golden Jubilee reunion on October 2.

As a digital native, I tend to imagine the past as boring. The more distant the period, the more boring I consider it to be. Recently, when I spoke to the 1966 batch of P.T Lee Chengalvaraya Naicker Polytechnic College, Vepery, I had to revise some of my views about the past.

Students those days may not have had many entertainment options, but they managed to have a good time in their own charming ways.

Back then, the college had no canteen. Not having one turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Students packed food, which they would share. The absence of a canteen led them to visit tea shops in the vicinity.

“During breaks and after college hours, we would meet briefly at these tea shops,” says P. Raj Kumar, a retired safety officer at Chennai Port Trust.

There was a huge tree on the campus which served as a congregating point for students. They would sit under its shade and have a chat.

Alumni from the 1966 will share memories built around the tree and tea shops, when they meet again on October 2 to celebrate their fiftieth year since passing out.

Many ‘firsts’

In 1966, the college — formerly known as C. N. Technical Institute and C. N. Polytechnic — removed Licentiate in Mechanical Engineering from its list of programmes and introduced Diploma in Mechanical Engineering.

“We were the first batch to have workshop-based classes in addition to theory classes. While the morning sessions were spent in the classrooms, the afternoon sessions were conducted at the workshops,” recalls C.M. Sampath Kumar, a retired production manager for a company that manufactures and exports conveyor components.

The change in the name of the course was just the beginning.

“Our director of technical education changed our timings and introduced uniforms,” says Raj Kumar. “Until our previous batch, the college hours were from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. With our batch, it was made nine hours every day. What’s more, the college made khaki uniforms compulsory for workshop classes.”

Change in the course meant change in syllabus too, which in turn necessitated intense research.

“As we did not have Google or Yahoo then, we had to rely on public libraries at the US Consulate and British Council,” says Sampath.

“After 3 p.m. every day, together with two friends, I would visit the libraries, which were free for students. I often rode my bicycle and at times, when not many vehicles were on the road, I would get a friend riding a motorcycle to tow the cycle with me sitting on it. We had been caught and warned by the traffic cops many a time,” he laughs, adding, “We suffered a lot, enjoyed a lot and gained a lot.”

Supportive teachers

Many members of the 1966 batch say their college life was enriched by exemplary teachers.

For T.D. Balasubramanian, an elevator consultant and an alumnus of the 1966 batch, says his professors, which included Rajamanickam and A. Venkatanarayan, had a huge impact on his life. “If we had any problem, we knew we could run to them. They were only happy to stay back after college hours to clear our doubts.” When Balasubramanian served as professor at the same college, between 1970 and 1977, he employed the techniques he had learnt from his mentors. “My students approached me with any problem in the same manner as I did.”

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:29:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/Back-in-the-summer-of-%E2%80%9966/article14928227.ece

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