1959 – 1987, Mysore
I was born on the 10th of June, 1959, in the Shantabai Satwalekar Maternity Home, Abid Road, Hyderabad.
My grandfather Dr. V.N. Patwardhan was stationed at that time in Hyderabad as the Director of the National Institute of Nutrition. My father was away in the U.S. doing post-doctoral research in Denver, Colorado.
After spending a year in Hyderabad, I traveled with my mother to join my father in Denver, Colorado, USA. We spent the next couple or years there and returned to India where my father went to work for CFTRI, a food research institute in Mysore.
Growing Up In Mysore
School and College
I started school in Mysore, in CFTRI School. This school was the most progressive school during those days. It was the only school I knew. The greatest thing about the school was the relationship that was shared between the teacher and the student. There was a certain amount of informality, always within the bounds of discipline, that made for a very conducive learning environment. I learnt more, relatively speaking, during my years at CFTRI school, than I did at any other time in my school life.
It was kind of unconventional by normal school standards, something we were to find out only after we had stepped out into the real world, which we did after we finished 7th grade, I was to simply because at that time they did not have any other grades after the 7th grade.
The school I moved to was Demonstration Multipurpose High School (DMS). I, along with some of my other fellow students moved there from CFTRI School. It was a different school and it was a different experience. Here a teacher was a teacher and a student was a student. It took awhile adjusting to this new world, but we managed to fit in. I was to spend the next three years completing high school in DMS. The next college, (or pre-university college as they were known) I went to was SBRRM College, Mahajana College for short. These two years were the intermediate years that one spent between high school and college and the only focus was getting sufficient marks to be able to get into a good college of one’s choice. I did and was able to get admission in a good engineering college in Mysore.
SJCE – Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering – where I spent the years from 1977-1982 as a student of Electrical Engineering, were the most liberating years of my educational life.
The college was located on the Manasagangotri campus which was a beautiful university campus filled with wide open spaces and trees. The college campus itself was quite spread out with a lot of open space that got filled up with additional buildings in the later years but I had moved out by then.
This period was what can be called a ‘coming into your own’ phase, where one found comfort in dealing with everything around – both in class as well as out of it. In class was simple as there was absolute independence of choice in deciding whether to attend or not, and out of class as there was plenty of opportunity for extra-curricular activities, in which I wholeheartedly participated.
I was part of the students’ council during the early years of college, looking after the film and photography club. A year filled with attending council meetings and organizing various screenings and exhibitions on film and photography.
I was a member of the college Tennis and Swimming teams representing the college in various inter-collegiate and university meets.
There was no swimming pool on campus and I spent all my swimming hours at the pool on the CFTRI campus which had a beautiful swimming pool.
I played tennis at the Vontikoppal Club in Mysore. The college did have a couple of tennis courts but not too many people played there so it was more convenient playing at the club.
And then there were all the inter-collegiate festivals, including the one conducted by our college, Jayciana, that we took part in. We were pretty good at dramatics and made it a point to participate in every single event that was in the dramatics category – skits, pantomimes, dumb-charades, and a whole bunch of others the names of which I dont remember now. Our reputation always preceded us and expectations were always very high every time we went on stage. It however didn’t put any pressure on us at any time because we always performed for ourselves and had a blast doing so!
At times, we also took part in the odd music and literary event too.
It was a fun life! The best days of my life!
Theatre was another big part of my life those days. During the college days there was a theatre group that had been formed by some students of my college along with those from other colleges too.
The theatre group was called Helios and we did put up some plays which included one-act plays like Eugene Ionesco’s The Lesson, Edward Albee’s Zoo Story, Neil Simon’s Visitor From Forest Hills and Athol Fugard’s The Island. The group also staged some Kannada plays.
A few years later we formed another group Orion. We staged two plays under this banner – Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and Athol Fugard’s Dimetos.
In August of 1984, I went to Canada to do a master’s course in Electrical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. This was probably the coldest place on this planet (at least the one I have been to) with temperatures dipping to -42 degrees centigrade during the winters. The wind didn’t help things and if the wind chill factor was factored in, then it was an effective -60 degrees. Insane.
Saskatoon, apart from being very cold and very white (all that snow!) was also very flat. There was no mountain or hill anywhere around the town. In fact, anywhere for miles and miles around. There was no natural barrier and the they said that the only thing between Saskatoon and the north pole was a barbed wire fence. Which did little to keep all the cold winds sweeping in from the north into the city!
I returned to Mysore in November of 1986, with a MS degree in Electrical Engineering.