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MIT-a phoenix that rose again and again

C Rajam was one of the few who left behind a magnificent technical institute as a crowning achievement of his life’s endeavours, which even after 65 years is shining bright.

Prema Srinivasan, C Rajam’s grand-daughter and her chosen team have done a remarkable job in bringing to life, Rajam, his times and endeavours. Rajam chose to put his heart and soul in whatever he chose to do in his life. He started with selling leather products in Calcutta, then established the first electricity distribution company; and became an agent of Tata Steel and later established a steel rolling mill. He made all these enterprises successful!

Even the living abode, ‘India House’ that he built was magnificent; it reveals Rajam’s aesthetic sense and good taste.  Apart from the gleaming Belgian marble floor, the swimming pool, tennis courts, manicured lawns and the garden were of the highest order.


The losses that triggered MIT’s beginning

Rajam faced two life changing experiences: one, the death of his wife Kaveri and that of his eldest son Viswanathan, whom he was grooming to take over the institutions he had created. The second was the fact that in his steel rolling mills he felt the lack of Indian engineers to install the imported machinery. This made him think that free India will need a lot of multi-skilled specialist engineers, apart from the traditional mechanical and electrical engineers prevalent then. As was his wont, he brought together experts and sought their advice. Among them were M K  Ranganathan, L Venkatakrishna Iyer, retired Chief engineers of the Madras State, and M Subbaraya Iyer, a brilliant lawyer greatly responsible for establishing Vidya Mandir-Mylapore and Vivekananda College. Also there was K Srinivasan, Editor of The Hindu and C R Srinivasan, Editor Swadesamitran who worked with Rajam.  

This brings out another aspect of Rajam - he always sought the best advice from experts. He never aspired for any position or power to himself. Even the word ‘Founder of MIT’ was never used in his time; later it was coined by the alumni association. These experts decided to offer four streams: Aeronautical Engineering,

Automobile Engineering, Electronics and Instrument Technology. Another bold decision was to get four professors from Germany to head these. Germany was on a massive reconstruction process thanks to the Marshall Aid; he was able to get dedicated Professors who were keen on imparting their knowledge and these more than made up for the lack of buildings and equipment in the initial years.

He sold ‘India House’ to develop the Institute. People are mainly impressed by his deep humanism and unshakable faith in bringing high quality education. He strived hard to impart hand-on-training for the students to achieve technological progress.

Illustrious alma maters...

The institute’s alumni more than fulfilled Rajam’s dreams. Among the most famous were Bharat Ratna A P J Abdul Kalam, who studied aeronautics and became the ‘missile man’ of India and President of India.

Another was the famous Tamil writer ‘Sujatha’ Rangarajan, who worked at Bharat Electronics R & D division and was in the team which gave India its ‘electronic voting machine.’ He was a prolific Tamil author, and a legend, especially in science fiction.

In the first batch there was T A S Balagopal who became Director (exports) of Tata Motors and Chairman of Engineering Export Promotion Council of India and N S P Naidu who headed a team, which for the first time in India, designed and constructed at MIT, a glider and flew it from Madras Airport. In the second batch there was S Venkataraman who became Director of Philips (India) and K B Ganesan who became the Director General of Civil Aviation.

There are numerous entrepreneurs, both in India and abroad who are alumni of this great institution.

Innumerable alumni of MIT, the world over, have excelled in their field and are worthy of emulation by the younger generation.        

–  By a special correspondent


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