Thursday, May 24, 2012

The University of Calicut

The University of Calicut is one of the earlier universities commenced in Kerala and REC of our times was affiliated to this University and somewhere a piece of good fortune for the students of our times. The University is situated at a place called Tenhipalam some 30kms from Calicut town. Calicut is called Kozhikode in the vernacular. There were two other engineering colleges affiliated to this University and they were College of Engineering Trichur  and NSS college Palghat. I have not visited these two colleges and are also some of the engineering colleges started in Kerala earlier on.

The University of Calicut buildings look impressive for any casual traveler who takes the highway that runs along side the University and now to take note that at the back end of our education existed this monolith is somewhere exhilarating. For me especially exposed to the education system of Kerala all of a sudden having had my formative education under a totally different system in Bangalore found it essential to re-position myself vis-a-vis the demands of this University. But I give full points to this University and what it stands for.

There was an awful practice at this university when we were first year students...postponement of exams. This errant phenomena was arrested by Dr. S U Pillai when he took over as Principal in 1983 and thereafter exams were conducted in clockwork precision with no postponement whatsoever..Dr. S U Pillai deserves credit for this.

Now REC being re framed as NIT and being autonomous may have no links with this university so to say and may be missing the prop that this establishment had earlier provided. I am told an engineering college in its own right has been created by Calicut University called CUIET as a replacement for the erstwhile REC and I am told is an institution to reckon with. This is a positive development. It would be very worthwhile for me to point out that Dr.S U Pillai had vehemently campaigned for academic autonomy for REC Calicut in 1983 and was fiercely committed to this goal. There was an open house discussion in the auditorium of REC and even I spoke for a few minutes on why academic autonomy should be granted to REC. REC has indeed become academically autonomous in its revised version as NIT.

I must have visited University of Calicut few times, first in 1984 with my class mate Om Prakash Jha..I dont remember for what reason. The Pareeksha Bhavan used to be on the left side of the road as we approach the University from Calicut and was a small building. The present structure within the fold of the University campus must have been occupied in 1985. During these times there was only one photocopying machine that too down the road and worked on the older form of exposure technology and not the automatic ones we see today. I had visited the University for a non-academic purpose once in 1985 for some function relating to Sports in the REC college bus and on our return journey had given P T Usha and  O M Nambiar a lift in our college bus.

What I like about the University of Calicut is the impressive buildings..At least I found them impressive. I think the University by itself must not just be a Pareeksha Bhavan and must focus on researching subjects,the examination and its patterns, and take a more proactive approach may be in supervising the educational institutes under its fold which it must be doing with increased vigour now and attempt to personally know every single student under its rolls and their aspirations.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Does V K Krishna Menon have a Nambiar Connection

V K Krishna Menon is often revered in India and the world for his large scale contribution to the strengthening of a fledgling nation post independence and his rapport with Jawaharlal Nehru.. a formidable combination and meeting of minds leading to a very dedicated and honest team work touching various levels of Indian polity and governance. I happened to visit the V K Krishna Menon museum in Calicut.

But I find something startling about this man that from his father's side he  appears to be from the family of the Raja of  Kadathunad who are from the Nambiar clan and were feudalatories of the Kolathiri. Kadathunad would translate to the modern region around Vadakara. The words Kolathiri and Kadathunad would need more research.

This would point to the possibility of V K Krishna menon having a Nambiar ancestry from his father's side which might need some probing.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Near the boundary wall behind the DB (departmental building) is a "rustic eat-out" called "Pappachan" unique in many ways and used to be a convex point for staff and students alike.

What was unique about this place. It used to be some kind of conical structure made of thatched roof with a seating capacity of about ten. Rice was not served in this would be chappathi with dry dishes made from ladies finger and the like..there used to be curd served in a tumbler, glass of milk and only half boiled eggs and used to be clean..spick and span. and of course tea was available any time. Papachan used to be run by an elderly man at that time supported by younger associates.

We students used to get a 15 minute break both in the mornings and in the evenings between lectures and a quick visit to Papachan was always on the cards. There use to be a radio playing the local radio station always which was characteristic of this place. S R Sampath , Sudan Su Mohan Jena and myself ....we used to visit this place for tea on a regular basis and some times sneak through the back door when the faculty was busy teaching.

I visited Papachan many years later on a unscheduled visit to REC and asked for the elderly man ...who appeared no sooner and was all too cheerful to see me and did not accept the amount for a curd that I had. This was emotional for me as well as him that I had the courtesy to specifically ask for him on my visit.

Many  more such eat-outs must have surfaced around this place now. Papachan was unique in many ways..its strict vegetarian diet...the cleanliness...the thatched roof  ..the rains outside and the All India radio programmes of Calicut Station...and the quick service of   Radha the service boy..the half boiled eggs..the spoon to break it and the fresh glass of milk.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Basket Ball at REC NIT Calicut

Basket ball used to be a favorite past time for many at REC NIT Calicut. It was a favourite past time for me too. As we enter the Main Building on the left side used to be the lone basket ball court of our times. Way back in 1983 there were discussions about setting up a fiber glass basket ball court which must have come to fruition now. There were quite a few who played basket ball during our times. Chellamuthu a sturdy six footer and my senior by a few batches had represented the South Zone. During my first year I used to play very regularly with senior students like Martin and Placid Sam. Placid Sam Iam told later was the regional head of BPL.

I got some basic initiation into this game as a student at school and in the summer of 1980 had some formal training under the aegis of the ITI Sports club through a sports camp conducted by Mr. Somkumar who was a Karnataka State player and in the coaching sessions we were trained on faking, screening, dribbling, various kinds of shots and passing. This training stood by me in good stead. The sports club had issued certificates to the participants but I failed to collect the same due to some reason.

I regret not being a regular player for REC Calicut but was annointed the captain of the semester team and were runners-up on more than one occasion. playing for REC Calicut would mean taking protracted breaks from the educational process which was an unwelcome idea for me at that point of time as it would detatch oneself from the formality of education. I was sent for once in 1983 as the college team was to depart to Ooty for a tournament and I politely refused . George John , Jacob Simon were all players on our semester side and I remeber another lad from Chennai who was in civil engineering whose name I fail to recollect now. Playing in the rain was a very interesting exercise with  occasionally some one falling after slipping off some marshy patch.

I very distinctly remember a match in 1983 where we were playing our junior semester and with just 30 seconds left both the teams had scored an equivalent amount of goals.The ball was in my hand ..and it was almost centre court..and i could sense the defences of the rival team were very stiff and I could see many of the positions in the front asking me for a pass..i could somewhere sense the futility of making a pass at that crucial juncture... and from the centre took a very long set shot and it was a goal and I more than very vigorously cajoled the entire team from preventing the rival team from making any advanced into our side and i took on the responsibility of covering one of their key players and  before long the 30 seconds had elapsed and we won the match. had I not made that decision at that juncture we would have lost or more precisely a defanite result would have been delayed. The talk of the hostels during the several ensuing days were my goal and how it helped our side win the match.

I think sport is an important component of an Education system. I noticed a very startling co-relation at REC Calicut in that most of the students who maintained very high grades hardly or never participated in any sport. Is this pointer to suggest that to maintain high grades one must avoid sports. I could not resist sports at that age and the path of no sport was not an option acceptable to me on any count. I think the Universities of the world must inculcate in their final mark sheet a colum that would be indicative the sport in which the incumbent participated in a formal or non-formal setting so that any man who likes a game would continue playing it with due assurance that his passion and occupation with the game is very much in the scheme of things and as one goes through the academic records recorded somewhere is a pointer to the sport that must have without fail shaped the overall persona and attitude of any person in question.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Unforgettable Damu Kutty

In the office of   REC Calicut  of our times in the first floor of the MB (main building) used to be a college clerical staff by name Damu Kutty. He was very different for he shared a genuine concern for students and to a large extent was a data base of students both past and present. Very often dressed in a white mundu and shirt he was resplendent with enthusiasm for students largely sharing and providing crucial information as the situation demanded.

I remember the day I got my provisional certificate from the university and he gave me a general idea of the offices in the university that i should approach and he was filled with glee too.Many other students of our times would endorse for sure what I have written about him. Once in a while I used to meet him in the college bus.

Damukutty matter where you are now and what you are up to let me disclose to you that your concern for the student populace was not in vain and many student alumni across the length  and breadth of this country must definitely be reminiscing your kind gestures and genuine concern for the student populace.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What ails the United States

 I used to very vividly and with keenness watch a TV serial on History Channel titled "The History of the US" and came to know much about this country which I hither-to didnt. Some where starting with the advent of the settlers step by step through the ages to the modern day United states it said it all...the various mile stones through which the community emerged into a country to become a very powerful economy with a distinct blend and spirit to be duplicated as a model by various economies. If I were to ever use the word Neo-Economy it would be befitting to be the one the United States created and endured during the past 150 years. What makes the United States is largely the purposeful union of states themselves united by a spirit of coherence and a common bedrock of enduring hardships and looking at the future with optimism and faith and when such a combination is in some kind of test by time it slowly solidifies as a common cult to be held on with conviction that bulldozes any apparent impediment with lethal force.

There are a few things unique about America as a country. Point 1 its inventive spirit ..point 2 its  social composition consisting of people  from many parts of the globe....Point 3 its history that has in it entrenched a saga of two wars namely the war for independence and the civil war ...point 4 its geography of being in an isolated continent away from the bulk  land mass of Eurasia ....and above all a faith system that somewhere formed the crux and possibly brought into the country by the settlers.
Let me dwell upon the points mentioned above in some detail. The inventive spirit is transperent in the many technological inventions that took birth in the United States ..the telephone . the electric bulb...the aeroplane to name a few  and not to forget the modern day computer and the internet...and not to forget methodologies of mass production and the atom bomb. Driven deep in the culture of this country is a quest for knowledge and an optimism to develop new things and an environment in part that un-shakles individuals into such effort.
Secondly the US is an embodiment of a classic example of what a community can become on leveraging the skills of people from very different genetic and ethnic backgrounds not that such compositions were not beset by problems but successively overcoming such bottlenecks time and again and channelising them for  betterment. Each community brings with them certain special talents which when combines with each other what we have is explosive growth of some kind unlike a country which might be composed of a certain sect of people work with one or few skill sets. 
America had wars aplenty starting with wars with the local Indians to the American war of Independence to the civil war barely 150 years ago which in my view-point gave the country a first hand insight of how to prepare oneself for war and what the realities were . Not that other societies and countries did not have such the war theater was time and again well within their soil and more often than not the enemy was within themselves and the wars were closely fought and not one sided which means every strategy under the belt had to be carefully examined and implemented for advantage. America knew too well what it meant to be at war not just the fighting , the logistics, war time manufacturing and the general uncertainities and wrath. The second world war tilts in favour of the Allies with the advent of America into the war and all the experience garnered by the country over the past came handy in their mission and operation in Europe against Germany.
Point 4  america has an unique geography a large country that stretches from one ocean to the other and a predominantly cold climate susceptible to natural disaster now and then. But America all through enjoyed a military advantage of the impossibility of a terrestrial invasion by any enemy.....being fortified by the sea on both sides. this is some kind of a natural defense and an advantage as inflicting collateral damage for any enemy would be an impossibility.
The strength of America does not essentially ly in economic prowess but in a faith system largely that comes from the roots from whence it came  and every time it was put to test it stood the test of time. This Faith system could be seen as a combination  of a conviction and optimism  and with  religious ideals running somewhere beneath. This system drew the country and its people on track every time it went astray and acted as a lighthouse to a wandering ship... a self correcting mechanism to which the country turned when in some kind of quandry. Slavery was not abolished by anyone external to the country but by some one from within who saw a large deviation from the ideals on which the society was constituted to what was in vogue.

Why have I titled this write-up as 'What Ails the United States"?  Is there something that is really haywire or intimidating..The answer may be No but still looking at things and the hearsay it appears that the United States somewhere needs to re-orient itself once more in relation to world forces and finds itself running an economy short of the bounty repeatedly under a cloud of varying perceptions and aspirations.

At the rock bottom let us analyze the events of the past several decades. The first half of the bygone century was a testing field for the economy of the US and with the Second World War thrust on it found herself as a country deeply embedded in war effort and for a preponderant majority of time a haven for war time manufacturing that spurred the economy and the country. The next mile stone if one might say are the events in Germany which triggers the cold war and much of the focus and thrust of American foreign policy dwell ed on the Cold war. The Soviet Union  and the United States the single dominant powers that overwhelmed Germany were at loggerheads about what had to be done with the fallen Germany and landed up dividing it and sowing the seeds in the bargain for a long drawn conflict lasting for more than four decades which would demand American intervention into many parts of the world to keep the soviets under check and it appears the USA was paranoid of the Soviet Union ;in the process  infringing into global territories made alliances and partnerships there upon which were short lived and for immediate purposes- the dissolution of which sometimes unilateral left a trail of opponents who became enemies over a period of time . They were helpless at one point of time but emerged formidable over a course of time. With the collapse of the cold war which was unexpected the the economic patterns of the globe change as many technologies developed during the Cold War and its fears catapulted by default into the common domain changing once and for all the rules of World polity.

We see a flattenning of the world in modern times and the emergence of a level playing feild largely created by technological inventions and momentum. Some where the very factors of the past that were of significant advantage for the USA have somewhere not been productive as they once were. Previously lesser the population of a country the better the economic indices would be was a beleif but in the present day scenario of low cost high connectivity it translates into weak local markets vis-a-vis a populated country. A country today with higher population and enlivened with advanced technologies operating at low costs has a formidable economic formula under its belt and gallops much faster into progress as other economies of the world look stalemated.

Let me give an analogy.  Take a part of the sea where there is fishing  and  there is a big ship fishing using modern technologies  and a myriad of small  motor boats fishing using less advanced technologies. The end result of such a scenario is that the big ship would have  a surfeit of catch and the smaller boats though not well off but still surviving the environment and able to barely meet economic demands of survival.The economics of the big ship work too well and do so repeatedly more than offsetting economic equations of survival. Think of another situation where all the motor boats have access to advanced technologies of fishing and the result would be drastic for the big ship over time as smaller motor  boats are making a catch ten times more than before and communication technologies help these motor boats co-apt with each other. What ensues is a unhealthy situation for the big ship operating in the same waters as they see a downward trend and the ship being big is less nimble and at the same time having economic overheads owing to its size increasingly tends to a survival problem and has to create strategies to counter the down turn. What is happening is world affairs is all too similar.  The smaller motor boats are having an unprecedented catch and need more and more manpower to pursue its activities and a reverse happening within the precincts of the larger ship and the situation intensifying with time.

What can the President of the United States do today?  They say "Man would make a difference on a job"....but the President of the  United States no matter who he is as a person..a performer or reformer or transformer has his hands full with a few problems and can take some immediate measures but the large scale changes if any would only result in the long term depending on what strategic measures he might initiate to align the country in a new global setting.

What ails the United States ?  I dont know for sure but i can see situations that might be the cause of ailment.

Firstly I see the near collapse of the American Auto sector which was once a monopoly player and the sector loosing steadily to the Japanese first within the American markets itself and the world markets ther upon. Auto sector is large scale employer and generator of profits. Steady down slide in this sector has to be arrested which means some kinds on newer forms of working cultures must be developed.

Secondly I see the immigration policies of the United States doing it untold harm. In the 1920's anyone could walk into the country and many did and within this larger crowd were few men who would make large scale positive influences on the multitude through their actions. Henry Ford for example..a Quadricyle driven through Detroit ends up being a big manufacturing sector. This doesn't exist today. On the contrary educated people with formal qualifications make an entry and their contributions are good but not path braking. The richest man today I am told is in Mexico. Henry Fords' and Andrew Carneiges' of the world are staying back in their countries and making contributions of some larger form. In some way this must be remedied ..i dont know how..but it should be.

Thirdly the country carries with it the wages of the cold war which is manifested today in continuous military engagements at few pockets in the world and might be draining attention and expenditure. These ventures might need specialized management and monitoring.

America has an internal problem or concern in the form of   a poor concentration of population. It appears to me a large geographical area with less population and not a healthy trend in the present global environment. Countries with larger populations today seem to be reaping internal economic rewards with lesser necessity to look outwards. The unification of Europe can be seen as an effort to improve population economics of the zone. China has it as a birthright and India has it too. I am somewhere talking about  population and density of population. China as a country I presume has a lesser density of population compared to India and density of population being higher somewhere creates economic security and advantage.

I believe a Head of state must be at least 55 years of age and on getting two terms would be roughly 65 years when he demits office an ideal age range where the incumbent had adequate experience and brings an average of 30 years of experience when he assumes office. Any one younger would carry some kind of a risk factor when he operates from high offices. This is my personal view which may not be entirely with sound standing but an issue that might have significance in the affairs of a state.

Well  I just thought of putting forth ideas or reactions to the happenings around the world at large and no matter in which part of the world one is day to day problems of humanity are the same and increasing with time this globe is becoming an "United States" where the states of the world are keen on partnering with each other to assuage their problems and that of their citizens and every inhabitant of this planet as of now has something to celebrate.