My name is Joshy Kallungal graduated in 1969 from IIT Madras with B.Tech in Chemical Engineering. I was also the recipient of the Governor’s Medal for overall achievements in Academic & extra Curricular activities. After graduation I left India in August 1969 for higher studies in the USA and obtained Masters from University of Michigan and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Syracuse University in 1975. I retired from active employment in 2006 and pursuing an active lifestyle in retirement.
The 1968 Athletics Team. Joshy is standing on the extreme right.
My journey relevant to this article began in Bangalore at the Military school (then known as King Georges which changed its name to Bangalore Military School). I joined the school in 1956 and graduated in 1963. The school provided an environment where both academics and sports were given high priority. In 1960, a good friend (Jayant) of mine at the school, who was our reigning long distance running (800M & 1500M) champion at that time, took me under his wings to groom me to follow his footsteps. I practiced long and hard and as a result in 1962 was able to win the cross-country, 1500M, 800M and 400M championships at the school. Having received only a 2nd class in Senior Cambridge exams (present day equivalent to pre-degree), I could not get admission to any Engineering college in 1963. In 1964 I wrote the entrance exam for IIT and was fortunate enough to be selected and to an interview on the first day, so that I could get the discipline of my choice (Chemical Engineering). The academic competition was very intense, as I was now competing with the crème of the crop in India.
The training, mentoring and discipline I received at King Georges school was I believe instrumental to my success in the next five years at IIT Madras. In 1964, the first Inter IIT Meet was inaugurated and was hosted by IIT Madras in December 1964. Since joining IIT Madras in August 1964, I kept practicing my distance running. My training route was from the Hostels to the front gate and back a round trip distance of about 6 Km.
Around November, a track & field coach was hired by IIT Madras to train our athletes for the upcoming Inter IIT Meet in December 1964. In addition to the daily 6 Km run, I also practiced under the Coach on running strategies. The Inter IIT competitions were opened by the famous Cricketer, Nawab of Pataudi in December 1964. One of the first track event was the 5000Km run. I had no idea of my competition from the other four IIT’s. My coach had warned me during training that in long distance running, some people may try to box better runners, so as to throw off their rhythm and thus win the race. In order to avoid this potential strategy to be executed, I decided to take the lead and increased the running pace. After having completed six laps (of the total 12.5 laps), I had built up a lead of almost 200m from the rest of the pack. I finished the race with the same lead. Having won the 5000M race with such convincing fashion was a very exhilarating experience. My coach assured me that there was no one in any other IIT’s that could beat me in either the 800M or the 1500M races. Those races were for me to loose and not others to win. This certainly boosted my confidence for rest of the competition.
Of course the fast paced 5000M race took a toll on me. Within about 30 minutes after the race, I has severe leg cramps and was unable to even walk. My good friends Raju Jacob and Chandy Mathew came to my rescue by obtaining a infrared lamp and massaged my legs for hours until some level of normalcy returned. As suggested by my coach, I easily won the 1500M and 800 M race, thus gaining 3 gold medals for IIT Madras.
I would like to share an incidence that occurred during the this Inter IIT meet . After having won the 5000M and 1500 M race, one of the managers of an IIT team ( I will not share the name of the IIT, as it is not important or would be appropriate) approached me and offered a significant bribe to permit his team member to win the 800M race. I immediately reported the matter to IITM managers to handle the incidence. This was an eye opening experience in my young life. Obviously, I went on to win the 800 M race convincingly. My coach and I had strategized the potential tactics that the opposition team members may use to deny me the race, such as boxing me in etc.
After the Inter IIT meet was completed, to my surprise, I found that many children of IIT Madras lecturer’s and other employees, considered me as their hero. This was really a new experience for me and I quite did not know how to handle such admirations. I also started seeing getting undue respect from fellow classmates and seniors.
I continued with my training for distance running through my final years at IIT Madras. I also participated in other team sports activity such as Volley Ball at IITM. At a personal level, after the first Inter IIT meet in 1964, I had trained hard for the next one in 1965. But unfortunately, it was cancelled due to the Indo- China war that broke out during that year. It was certainly a great disappointment at a personal level for having invested time and effort in training that could not be realized during a competition. I started training again for the next Inter IIT meet in 1966. Again, I was denied an opportunity to compete in 1966, as I came down with serious illness that resulted in my hospitalization for a two week period and subsequent recovery back to health for another couple of months. During this illness, I had lost in excess of 20 lbs (my pre illness weight was 130 lbs) and was in no shape to even walk, let alone run. These set backs did not dishearten me in any way although the events were disappointments in my journey of life.
During the 5 years I was at IITM, we had intra-mural (between Hostels) sports competition in the following: Basket Ball, Volley Ball, Hockey, Football, Cricket , Track & Field. There was intense competition among the hostels for the coveted overall championship cup (Schroeter Cup). The Hostel championship deciding sport was usually the Track & Field. In year 1968, Tapti Hostel was already leading going into the Track & Field competitions, which usually was conducted over several days. On the final day of the track & field, just prior to the prize distributions, my late friend Mr. Chandy Mathew, pulled a humorous prank as he drove into the stadium with a bullock drawn cart, to signify the winning of the overall championship by Tapti Hostel, which we had won easily, as the Tapti athletes captured all gold medals and in many cases the silver medals for running events. I do not know if anyone had actually captured a photograph of the bullock cart being driven into the stadium by Chandy Mathew. The bullock cart drive around the track was a symbolic version of the victory lap that the athletes do now when they win an event. This event has been etched in my memory, which I am unlikely to forget for the rest of my life.
The dedication and rigor with which I trained resulted in my winning most of the track events ( 5000M, 1500M, 800M, 200M races) at the annual intra-mural (between hostels) championships. In the final year (1968) at IIT Madras, I won all track races including 100M race at the Intra-mural competitions and held records in every event. I do not know how many or if any records are still in force.
During the second year (1965) at IIT Madras, we were now in the enviable position and enjoyed ragging rights over the new entrants into IIT Madras. Some of the raggings probably crossed the line and complaints were lodged against many of us. The named people were summoned to meet with the Director. He asked us why he should not discharge us from IIT for what we had done? We tried to find excuses and rationale for continuing the tradition at the same time we were scared out of our wits on the possibility of being thrown out of IIT. The Director singled me out and expressed his displeasure that I the champion athlete who had made IIT Madras proud at the first Inter IIT meet, and should be setting a good example would join the group of unruly classmates. I had no answer for his remarks except to apologise and promised never to repeat this behaviour. In any case he decided that he would suspend us from classes for a period of two weeks and would be under house arrest residing in the home of the Wardens for each hostel. This was probably an action that benefited us, as most of these professors ( who were also Wardens) had young daughters in their homes. After a week the wardens began to pressure the Directors to commute the sentence to minimize any incidence with their children! We were granted release much earlier than the original sentence.
I believe that the constant training probably helped me to be much more healthy, thus enabling me to study and absorb concepts and subject matter with relative ease, efficiency and effectiveness. Most of the subjects, I obtained an A or an S grade with very few B grades. I graduated the Chemical Engineering batch with a second rank(of 40) and got an overall marks of 74..8 out of 100.
During my five years at IIT Madras, I participated in the Student Council as Institute Sports Secretary and other portfolios. I believe that my balanced approach to sports and academic activities helped me excel in both areas with a great deal of success. Thus enabling me to be awarded the coveted Governors medal for overall excellence in both academic and extra curricular activities. I was also able to carry those skills and experience in my career in Public Safety in North America.