By the time I was 17, I was in the second year of my economics course in Vivekananda College, Madras. I stayed in the hostel where we had to follow strict discipline—no smoking at all, no dressing in flashy clothes; be back in the room by 9 pm and silence to be observed after 10 pm. While there was some irritation about the rigid discipline, the culture was one of compliance rather than defiance. Some students were mischievous, but by and large, the students were keen to do well academically. Getting rich was not the goal for most, but getting good education and a decent job was the goal for almost all. As a student, I was above average and perhaps among the top, but not consistently at the very top. I didn’t have a competitive spirit, but aspired to do reasonably well.
I didn’t have any dreams as such. However, I used to study till midnight on many days, and along with a friend of mine, watch aeroplanes flying, a little before midnight. My wish then was to travel by plane some day.
Was I conformist, a rebel or a risk-taker at 17? Well, I can’t say I was any of these. When it came to a career, there were three options open to us, a teacher or a lecturer’s job, an upper division clerk in the Accountant General’s Office for which there used to be a competitive examination and, of course, the civil services. The private sector was only for those whose families were already in business or who had family connections with businesses.
I must also mention that we were lucky in the political leadership of the time which had a soft corner for young people. The leaders were very accessible. In May 1959, a batch of students from our college went on an excursion to Delhi. The group sought an appointment with the then president, prime minister and vice-president. We met each of them and could take group photos. Panditji shook hands with me and gave me an autograph which I still preserve. Dr Rajendra Prasad too gave me an autograph, in Hindi.
As told to Lola Nayar
This idea, can change perspectives, even mine. The gentleman, is a great man, and if he isn't the current governor of the Reserve Bank, he is certainly a governor, in a time of the bank. Even great people, need an impetus, any impetus, but it seems, the impetus does not matter, perhaps. The gentleman perhaps sees the motive behind him wanting to fly, in a plane, the reason why he is so important to India, as we see him to be. I think, people like him are important, because they are going to be changing perspectives, this gentleman, doesn't care about flying in planes, now. I just hope, everyone who are in a certain situations which are similar, have interesting personal experiences to share.
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