“I Chose Yale for it’s Active Film Society” : A Short Interview with Professor R. Nagarajan

Prof R Nagarajan (1981/ B.Tech/ Chemical) is currently a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Dean, International and Alumni Relations. Below is an excerpt of his interaction with the Chennai36 team.

Sir, what is you first memory of the institute?

My initial memory was the counselling session that lasted 10 seconds. They simply asked me whether I would prefer to study at Madras. I nodded. I had no clue which branch I wanted and picking out Chemical Engineering wasn’t out of any rational goals. Today I see how much parents and students put into branch and institute choice Back then those deliberations lasted 5-10 seconds.

How were you initial days as a freshman? How did you cope up with ragging and oh, the mess food?

My 80’ batch seniors were the first to rag us. It was at the workshop. They asked me to show my muscles to one of the girls! During those times, ragging used to be highly personalised and an intellectual affair. With all the first years coupled together, it used to be a good environment.

Well, I put on about 10 pounds in my first semester! We just had one cuisine, no real choice between South and North Indian food. Each hostel had a mess, and they were all run my Malayalis. The Biryani at the messes taste the same even today.

Dip into academics…

I remember having lots of issues with the Engineering Drawing course. I had to just look at a drawing and the papers would get dirty. We used to have 4 drawing semesters and 4 workshop semesters. So, my CG used to stoop.

Could you take us to your campus days?

I was practically a day scholar with frequent shuttling back and forth. Striking memories were the Saturday movies and Lending library visits with my sister. We also used to make frequent Pondicherry visits on cycles! One of the habits I picked up at the institute was Movies. We used to have movie festivals, German, Japanese et al. In fact, I choosing Yale over other universities was for its active film society. There were no monkeys in my time. Just the deer.

When did you return to India?

It was during the 2000s that I came back. I was a columnist during those days. Writing is a good vent above everything else. There were things that bothered me when I returned, the traffic and standing in long lines. Getting into IIT was accidental. English literature was my true love.

What is your message to the students?

The key thing to remember is that these are the best days of your life. Even though you think you are overloaded with stuff, you’ll never be freer that you are now. Your whole future is ahead of you. Beat the system before you escape. Get good grades but, that shouldn’t be your purpose of life.

The environment of IIT Madras is unique. You get out of it what you put into it. It moulds you in a way that you won’t even know. Expand your horizons. Develop your personality in a direction you think you want to.