College Life - Aditanar College, Tiruchendur (2/6)
There were many forums (fora?!) and clubs like Thiruvalluvar mandram, Gandhian thought club, Writers forum (one for Tamil and another for English!), Blood donors club, Value education club, etc. I applied for all clubs and got enrolled in the first year itself. My plan was to become the joint secretary in the second year and the secretary in the third year. It did happen in some forums. The value education club, for example, organizes for seminars on specific topics two days in a week (it was on Wednesdays and Thursdays if I am not wrong!). Generally, the professors who are good in public speaking are brought for this. Sometimes, people from outside also were brought. One or two opportunities were given to students as well. I also got that opportunity once. It should be a topic of some value - because it's called value education! I don't remember what I spoke on. There would at least be ten competitions in a year. I used to take part in all of them and come second in most of them! Second? Yeah, that is my favorite place. Somehow, I wouldn't come first. It would be different people who come first every time. The same person would even go to third place next time but the second place was always reserved for me in all three years. At some point in time, I was even worried if I would always be a No. 2 in everything in life.
Mr. Kannan, the current head of Tamil department, once told in the class itself, "Whether you get a job in your field or not, I can assure you of a journalist job in Daily Thanthi (A Tamil newspaper run by the same management of our college's). If we give you a letter that's enough!". Mr. Abdul Razzak, who was the head of Tamil department then, had no connection with our class (heard that he is no more!) but he was always in touch with me. In one of the college events, he said on the stage, "Everyone has a favorite poem and I have one. It is this..." and read a long poem. In the end he asked "Do you know who wrote this poem?" and paused for a while. Nobody could guess it right. He said, "He is sitting right here... Bharathiraja! Stand up!" and made me feel so honored. He is a great orator. I used to love his speeches. He can keep people engrossed in his speech for hours. More than all these, whatever interest I have in writing, speaking, politics and public affairs till today was all watered there. I am not sure if I would have had so many opportunities in any other college. I don't think I can forget this or deny this - ever.
Blood Donors Club
This club was founded in a time when blood donation was not all that common as it is now. From a single digit number (of donations) in the first year it had become 200+ in the year I left. I won't be surprised even if it has reached 1000 now. If there is any need for blood anywhere in any of the three districts in that region (Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari), it was our students who went to the spot immediately to donate blood. Sometimes, they used to go to far away places as well. Some of my friends went to Kerala also. I went till Nagercoil once. I think, all the credits should go to our college for making blood donation so simple in the entire region.
We had a lot of different experiences as well in that club. Once, a person who came asked for a donor from his caste itself. Our professor got wild and shouted, "Man, doing this itself is a big favor for you. In this, you have such a reservation also!". Then he agreed to take whoever was sent. The same person came after a few months looking for 'his brother'. His brother? Yeah, that's what he said - "I want to see my brother who gave blood the other day!". Isn't it surprising in this age? We also strictly instruct the people who come to not give any cash to the donors other than the travel expenses. We also instruct them to provide some good food and buy something like Horlicks bottle after the process. That's it. Even our boys used to be very interested in donating blood. That's why even when our boys used to disturb the public at times they would take it very light. Those days, we were seen as life donors - not just blood donors.
Our college is a boys college. To be politically correct - a men's college! Can't say it's a 'men only' college. There were also girls... sorry ladies... in some classes. There were three Post Graduate courses - M.A. Economics, M.A. English and M.Sc. Mathematics. All of them had lady students also. Those boys who think life without girls is incomplete would somehow make some friends in the PG classes. They would call them their sisters. As they are elder in age, that's the only option they had. They would be our heroes during the days of Rakhi festival. The more rakhis one had the more popular he was. Those boys who think being the brother of elder women is the cheapest thing in life had other options like the bus stand, the temple and the beach in front of the temple. Some boys can't sleep that night if they don't show their face to at least one new girl every evening in any of these three places.
Today, after getting used to the culture of calling people of even the father's age by name, all these seem very silly. But, I still love that culture. It's the culture of that land. It's just about being Roman in Rome, right? Calling the seniors by name in that place is as awkward as calling my manager "anna" in Bangalore. It's a big challenge for those who spent more years in schools. They would have to call smaller boys "anna" just because they are seniors in college. Some boys don't take it very seriously and just adapt to that culture. That's the beauty in it.
I had two such annas (brothers). I am still in touch with them. Both of them are related to the legal profession in some way. The first one is Mr. Mariappa. He is married to a magistrate. The second one is Mr. Rufus. He is an advocate. Both were Mr. Mohan Ram's close friends. That's where all these started, right? Mr. Mariappa is my senior in the same department - computer science. He is from Tenkasi. We were roaming together from my first year itself. Starting from the morning and evening walks on the seashore to weekend outings... everything was with him. There is nothing that we haven't talked about.