We were filled with pride and honour during the Avalokana event when Brigadier H R Gopal from 1946 batch graced the occasion. It was with great pleasure we invited him on stage and launched the Centenary Souvenir – Avalokana along with other dignitaries on stage. We were thrilled to hear his speech on the day. When he invited me to his home, I could not just let it pass. The icing on the cake was that Major General Neelkantappa sir also wanted to visit him and he asked me to join him. It was a privilege to drive with him to Brigadier’s residence. Both Brigadier and his wife are such wonderful people that I could not notice how time flew. I tried to have an informal interview along with the normal conversation. Here is a summary of all the amazing things that Brigadier Gopal sir shared with me recalling his memories.
When I joined Engineering, the first two years were common and the remaining three years were our specialization areas—Electrical, Mechanical and Civil. This helped a lot to get the understanding of basic fundamentals of Engineering in general. We understood the concepts very well and hence our practical knowledge was exceptional. It helped me a lot throughout my career. There were around 20 students in the hostel back then (1940s). Even the hostel was occupied by Army sometimes and we were shifted to different rooms on a regular basis.
Among the teachers, I recall Sri B R Narayan Iyengar (famously known as BRN) who was very fond of the students and highly-respected by everyone. He was also the Hostel Warden for us. Every evening, he used to have short chit-chat with the students in hostel. Among other faculty were VenkatSubbiah and C Gopalkrishna who had worked in Public Department of the Govt and then returned to teaching. V K Ramaswamy was very strict and we were afraid of him. He used to rarely meet or speak with the students outside the classes.
Canteen was the adda for all the students. But the juniors were afraid to approach the seniors even then. In Hostel, we had Basketball ground where we used to play various games as a daily routine. We used to play hockey at Sampangi Tank (now the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium). I was very active in sports, especially athletics. We used to go to Survey every year. In 3rd year, we had gone to Banashankari , which was like a picnic then. We had packed Chapathis from hostel and shared among everyone. In the next year, for College tour, 2 batches were created and I was appointed as Secretary for one of them. We were visiting Vijayawada where Krishna river passes through. Though swimming was prohibited, in an accident, one of the students went missing. It has always been a very unpleasant memory and haunted me since then.
Though this incident is previous to my Engineering days, I would like to mention it here that we had the privilege of interacting with Sir Mirza Ismail. Back then, as kids we were unaware of what a great thing it was—speaking to Diwan of Mysore. He used to ride on a horse and go short rounds across various places and talk to people passing by. He asked about the education in the school and how we were studying. He also encouraged playing games and keeping ourselves healthy. His Kannada dialect was very good. He used to insist on planting fast growing trees which could become big in short duration.
My elder brother participated in Freedom Fight at Chikmaglur. He was part of the “Prabhat Pheri” on a regular basis and was arrested in 1940. My sister who was studying Medical course during RENDEZVOUS with a GOLDEN UVCEian that time was also arrested for being part of the freedom movement. My another brother, Varadaraj, who was 2 years senior to me was studying Engineering along with me. He was a Rank student and also the Student Secretary in College was also arrested, Supposedly he got standing ovation in Central Jail. In 2nd year, I joined the Satyagraha movement at Central College along with around 200 students and we were arrested. The funny part was that even in jail we got the Hostel Food. This was because B T Ramiah, the person who ran the Hostel Canteen was given the contract for Jail too. And the same hostel cooks were working as part-time in jail. So, we did not find it difficult at all. From Bangalore were shifted to Mysore Jail. On consideration, Technical/ Medical students were released earlier and we went back to college but had to study with our junior batch because we had lost a year.
One other particular point to mention here was that H Narasimhaiah (of National College fame) was with us when we were in jail. Because of his inspiration only, we discontinued our education for year and participated in Satyagraha. We had seen and experienced police brutality first hand. So I hated Police and Army very much back then. One of my friend’s father was in the army. He had known me personally and also aware that I was a fitness freak. I used to run 6 miles everyday without any sweat. He was the main reason for me to apply for army after Engineering. Out of 5 years of Engineering, last year was Practicals. I had to go to Nagpur Thermal Station. It was very hot there and I had a very difficult time. But I had a great experience of meeting students from various places and different backgrounds. This is where I tried to improve my Hindi too. I still recall purchasing one basket of Nagpur oranges for 50 paise and sharing among 10-15 of our friends.
Though I had applied for Army, I visited my brother in Delhi who was teaching at Sriram college. There was a vacant position for Civil Engineer in one of the Departments and my brother insisted that I work there. It was during the Partition days and I experienced horrific days then. I had to cycle for around 12 miles daily and was stopped a couple of times by fringe groups. Since my Hindi was very bad, it would be a challenge to convince them to let me go. Once my brother had to come searching for me along with his friend since it was very late and I had not returned home. They convinced the group that had held me captive. I cannot forget those nightmarish memories.
Meanwhile, I got a call from the Army in Meerut. I was to take various Exams—Endurance Tests, Psychology Test, Mathematics apart from Physical Test. After 3-4 days of assessment, 4 out of 120 applicants were shortlisted and I was one among them. I was very happy and dreamt of a bright future. In January 1947, I received the call for joining and I was part of 100 cadets. I used to play hockey well and since I was a good runner, it helped me during the hard training days. My fitness and stamina was good due to which around 8-10 of us were only left out of the 100 cadets and I was the only one from Mysore. I was among the Top 10 in the batch. I joined “Bengal Thapars”. Even now I recall the Band playing when I was received at Roorkee Train Station. In 1975 I retired from service.
Brigadier Gopal shared some of his army memories too with me and it was so inspiring to listen to him. He also gave a cheque of Twenty Thousand for VisionUVCE and asked me to keep him posted about the updates in college and Centenary related events. Major General Neelkantappa sir and myself thanked both the Brigadier and his wife and took their leave, promising to visit them again shortly. I consider this to be one of the most memorable and inspiring moments of my life. Thank you Sir !
– Satish A G (Team Sampada)