Photograph: Rohit Gautam
COMING from a Tamil medium Pallavaram Government School in Chennai, Dr. Anand was raised by his father, a clerk in a government department. He was upset when his marks did not support him to pursue a subject that he loved.
A two-year stint in the industry made him realise his strengths and weaknesses. A God fearing man, he shares, “I surrendered myself to God. I had the conviction that whatever happens in my life, happens for good.” In a freewheeling chat he shares how he switched from the industry to the world of teaching…
Q. A school incident that had a deep impact on you.
A. I studied in Pallavaram Government School. It was a phase when I used to frequently participate in many competitions. Once during an event in Class 7, I stood before the mike and could not utter a word. Somehow I was gripped by fear. It was a terrifying experience. Students made fun of me; I ran down to one of the classrooms and broke down. Thereafter, I decided I will never go back to stage again.
Q. How did you overcome your stage fear?
A. College life in Madras Christian College (MCC) transformed me. During a function, while doing PUC (10+2), a professor compelled me to read out from a page to introduce a speaker. Since I was just to read it, I agreed to do so. After the end of the function, an old unknown professor from a different college came forward and said: “God has given you a great voice, make use of it.” Those lines kindled a fire in me. Since then I started speaking confidently on stage.
Q. Did you ever happen to go through a phase of despair during your college days?
A. I was extremely upset when I failed to get admission for BSc Physics at Madras Christian College. My score did not support me to pursue a subject I loved. The college gave me BA Philosophy. I had also applied to engineering colleges and I was sure that I will not get it. To my surprise, my name came out in the third list at College of Engineering, Guindy. I believe it is an act of God. I pursued Mechanical Engineering and came out with a first class.
In the 1970s BHEL was a dream company for all engineers. After graduation I applied and went to Trichy to attend the interview. Sadly I was not selected. I felt bad on hearing the result. In the midst of failures, I had the conviction that whatever happens in my life, happens for good. It kept my fire alive. When I look back now, even though I did not get what I wanted, all that God gave me was good.
Q. What were the challenges that you faced in your professional career?
A. I worked with private and public sector companies for two years. Unfortunately, it left me with no sense of satisfaction. The salary and my colleagues were all good, but there was something missing. Today, I am happy that I lost those two years; it made me think about my strengths and weaknesses. I felt that I can do well in teaching. Then I went on to do MS in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Madras. I joined as an Associate Lecturer at the Guindy campus of Anna University in 1979. Later, I registered for doctoral work from the same college where I was teaching and got the PhD degree.
Q. One student whose perseverance impressed you.
A. When I was the Dean of VIT, a student approached me and asked if he can use my computer after 8 p.m. I asked him, of the 4000 computers on campus, why do you want mine? He replied: “The computer centre is shut then and I don’t have laptop like students residing in hostels. I live in a rented room as expenditure is half. My father has to get my five sisters married”. His determination moved me. When I took the matter to the Chancellor, VIT waived off his fees, bought him a computer. Today, he is a successful engineer at Infosys.