On Campus

Standout people

Sandhya Rao | Updated on January 28, 2013 Published on January 28, 2013

After a fairly conventional experience as a privileged undergraduate in a prestigious all-women’s college, moving to a mixed college in “way out” Tambaram for postgraduate studies was a life-changer. The campus was superb, and in June, when colleges opened for the new academic year, the brilliant bright yellow flowers of the dusty shield bearer that generously lined all the drives in the nearly 400-acre space completely camouflaged the fact that it was the height of summer.

There is much to record of that time, but two things, or rather, two people, stand out. For my friend Indu and I, who had been classmates since school, it was like we were doing our own thing at last.She made her presence felt when running for secretary of the college union. This was nothing like the union of our undergrad experience, which was more of a socio-cultural-mostpopulargirlincollege kind of thing. Here, it was political. She represented the SFI.

I remember the day well: there she stood, a tiny, sari-clad figure, speaking bravely on as a massive crowd of mostly boys hooted, heckled and passed comments. She held her ground. And although I didn’t vote for her, I still feel proud of her.

The other person who made an impact was a professor named P. Rajani. Long-haired, kurta-clad, rubber-chappalled – on rainy days he dispensed with the chappals – he was the quintessential quirky intellectual we always longed to have as a teacher. We soon realised he also had something else. In the very first class he took for us, he said something like: Listen, I am so and so and this is what I shall be teaching you. Whatever I know, I shall teach. But I don’t know everything. However, if you’re interested, I will be happy to guide you to books that will tell you much more. It was with him that I learnt the most.

(Sandhya did her MA in English Literature at Madras Christian College, 1976-78.)

Published on January 28, 2013
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