College Life - Aditanar College, Tiruchendur (2/6)

Extra-Curricular Activities
Let's also discuss about how the college life added fuel to my love for writing and public speaking. Guys who are interested in such things, wherever they go, wait for an opportunity to show their talent to everyone. The moment they get that opportunity they would waste no time in proving who they are. Even if they don't get an opportunity, they would keep boasting about their talent with everyone they meet from day one. I also did that. A four-lines short poem of mine was published in my school's annual magazine when I was in my twelfth standard. I was wondering if someone who wrote just four lines was jumping so much, what would those guys who had written forty lines have done. They would have gone straight to Chennai to look for opportunities to write lyrics in movies. I was always keeping that magazine in hand and was showing to everybody I met in the two months summer vacation I had after the public exams. I took that with me while joining the college also. I would slowly start the discussion asking about their interest first and then mine. And, then would tell them about the magazine story and show it to them if I find them interesting in all these. Some people would look weirdly and move on. Others would introduce me to some more people saying, "hey, this guy writes poetry and all!". It's people like them who make our job easier, right?! One such person who was doing that was my class mate Madhusoodanan.

It's such introductions that would bring the first opportunity to your door steps. The first opportunity that knocked my doors was in the college. One of our lecturers by name Mr. Rajesh who was in temporary posting was leaving after his term ended. A farewell party was arranged by the computer science department. They wanted some students also to speak a few words about Rajesh sir. They also wanted someone from the first year to be part of it. Madhusoodanan started spreading the word quickly. He said some of the boys around, "Hey, this guy writes poetry and all. He said he speaks on stage also!". So, it was decided that 'he' is the one to represent the first year. I was saying "no... no..." and meaning "yes... yes..." and accepted the offer. After the speech, people were all very happy. They said, "Generally, only studious boys come to computer science. It's very rare that we have had boys like you in our department!". They were all very proud. I don't know if others were proud but I was very proud. I am sure Madhusoodanan would have felt prouder than me. He didn't stay for too long. He got Engineering seat in few months and left. He is from the temple town of Srivilliputtur. I don't know where he is now. I also don't know if he would remember all these now. There were many people like him who left in the middle. Almost around ten people would have gone like that. With that introduction, I started participating in all cultural events in the college. Got good reception as well everywhere.

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.

There was a half-yearly magazine called "Campus News" in the college. I joined the Editorial board of that as well. If any of my friends read this now, they would wonder if I was so mad about all these. They may know that I was always interested in these stuff more than anything else but they wouldn't have thought I was so mad about all these. Everyone has some madness - mania. I had this mania. I am wondering how I lived a life forgetting all these for almost ten years later. One major problem I had was, I could never write romantic poems. There was no need for that as well. I was very proud of identifying myself as a 'social thinker'. Those days, I used to think, the poets were the most intelligent people on earth. I used to even believe that the world would be more peaceful and prosperous if they become our rulers. Only now do I understand that you should not give them anything other than a pen and a piece of paper. Since I was very active in all these things, I was closer to the staff in Tamil department than with my own ones - the computer science staff. They all used to be very fond of me.

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.

In my second year, Mr. Rufus (I am planning to write many paragraphs about this person later!) was the secretary for this club. I always used to roam with him and by virtue of that I became the secretary the next year. I had an extra eye for this club because of the obvious attraction it has. Can there be a better satisfaction than being part of a group that works for such a cause? Generally, someone from English department who stays in hostel becomes the secretary. That year, thanks to my super-interest, I shared that responsibility with a day-scholar English department student.

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.

And, in the year end, a certificate would be given to all donors. There was an automatic leave for half-a-day for blood donors. Their names would appear in the college magazines. There was nothing other than these. I am sure none of these would have been a matter of importance for them. It's just that happiness, satisfaction and pride. That's it. Some boys would be counting days. As soon as they complete 90 days after one donation they will be ready for the next one. There were people who would have given ten times in three years. They are so happy about it. Giving is winning for them. Good boys... bad boys... all boys would be good when it comes to blood donation. I am sure they would be spreading this habit even after leaving the college. Isn't it a noble thing?

Sisters and Brothers
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.

Since I am the one who is writing I shouldn't miss the opportunity to portray me as a good boy, right? Yeah, I never went to the temple in the three years I spent there. If you don't know how popular that temple is, please help yourself with some googling. It is one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan. Everyday, thousands of devotees come to that place. That's the reason our boys roam around that temple. I won't have gone to the beach in front of the temple more than ten times in the entire three years. I would have gone to the bus stand only on days when I went to my native place. Most importantly, I didn't have any sister in the college. I was so shy of women then. It's only after coming to Bangalore did I get rid of that shyness. I only had brothers. Brothers? Yeah, you have to call all your seniors "anna", which means brother. To be precise - elder brother! It used to be a big problem often. Boys coming from other regions would find it very difficult to call so and call by the name itself by mistake, which would become a big problem.

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.

How about the other one? There is a lot to talk about him so let's discuss in detail in the next part.

-Cont in 3/N...


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