In 1963, while in Science College, Nagpur in our pre-medical batch we had number of girls as classmates rather as many as we boys. During those days talking to a girl was not easy and for me the problem was about speaking in English as having studied in Marathi medium I was learning to cope with the English vocabulary.
To this day I remember the names of some girls like, Asha Vaghela, Kalpana Shrivastav, Shahapurkar, Solav, Mahajan, Rekha, Prema Rawat etc. and who will forget Janaki Velayuthan who was like captain of all of them. Many of them had studied in English medium schools which was my weak point.
I still remember how I faced a tricky situation because of that.
One day in botany class the demonstrator gave us different specimens and asked us to note down their features. As I was examining a specimen on my desk, suddenly two girls approached me with a twig in hand. One of them was Janaki and she asked me a question as if it was her difficulty. I could not understand a word of what she was asking. I said in broken English.. ” let us ask him ” and suggested that we go to Vishwas who would help ‘us’. We just did that and the matter was over. I recall this incidence to say how much poor I was in understanding a simple question leave alone offering a reply in English. Perhaps Janaki just played a trick on me fully knowing that I was unable to explain anything.
Afterwards I entered Nagpur Veterinary College and graduated in 1969. Soon thereafter I got opportunities to work in Nagpur Agriculture College, BAIF, Uruli Kanchan and Development Corporation of Vidarbha.
One day as I was entering NDDB campus with my friend I saw a group of men along with two ladies coming from opposite direction. Probably after visiting somebody’s house they were leaving our campus. And I saw Janaki in that group ! There was no mistake about it. She looked more mature, was apparently married and moving in that group speaking in Malayalam. She was wearing a sari and her hair was flung open like you see in Kerala women after they take overhead bath and freely move. Although I saw her, could recognize her, she hardly paid any attention to me and that group left our campus. They went out towards the Veterinary College Campus which was on the opposite side of the road. After some days I got confirmation that she was Mrs. Sukumaran married to a Professor of Parasitology in Anand Veterinary College. Since our training program took us to many places I had no occasion to see Janaki again during 1972.
On completion of training we became executives and were sent across the country to organize dairy cooperative societies on Amul model. I worked in Rohtak, Manipal, Jalgaon, Guntur and Bhatinda . During this period in September 1976 I got my first promotion also. In August 1977 I returned to Anand from Guntur and started attending office on day to day basis. On the very first day I went to office at 9.30 am and stood in a common queue to sign the muster kept at the Reception Counter.
As I went near the counter I was surprised to see Janaki sitting there as Receptionist cum Telephone Opetator ! She saw me as I signed the muster but did not recognize me, probably.
This happened for several days. Each time she gave a typical smile expected of a Receptionist and nothing further. Soon NDDB decided to post me in the newly opened regional office at Bangalore and I had only few days to depart. So one day in afternoon as I passed by the Reception Counter I found Janaki sitting alone and thought it right to talk to her.
As I went near she gave me a smile.
” Hello Janaki how are you ” I said.
” आप मुझे पहचानते है ? ” she asked me with a surprise. Whether it was real I do not know.
” Yes off course, Janaki ” I continued ” I know you. We were together in Science College Nagpur. ” I said.
” That was long back, कितने साल हो गये, शायद बीस साल, आप अब तक याद करते है ” she said.
” Yes Janaki, I remember those days very well. You were very intelligent, I was sure you would make it to Medical College, what happened ? Somebody said you gave up additional physics paper and chose other line.” I said.
” Yes, my father was transferred , हम लोग गोवा चले गये, and I changed the line.” She said. “How long you have been here ?” She enquired.
” Since 72 ” I said.
” तो आप प्रोजेक्ट एक्झिकेटिव्ह तो जरूर बने होंगे ” She said.
” Yes ” I said and our dialogue was almost over.I just told her about my transfer to Bangalore office as I left.
She was right. I was Project Executive, equivalent to Class One Officer in Central Govt.
But somewhere it pinched me. After meeting Janaki I felt that our life is a game more of opportunities than the capability. In subsequent years I went up the ladder to get second promotion as Senior Project Executive in 1979 whereas I believe Janaki must have continued on the same post. I left NDDB in 1986 to join Maharashtra State Dairy Federation.
In April 2009 I visited Anand for a small get together of my batch-mates. I also met SD Burde, a senior past colleague who gave me information that Dr. Sukumaran had passed away couple of years ago. But I thought better not to disturb her.
One day in Vrikshmandir I read that we have lost over forty former colleagues and their family members from NDDB due to Covid and other causes since the last get together of former NDDB employees in 2020. The list had names of RS Chauhan, PV Ramanan, Sharad Chede, Manubansh and so on……
But when I read the name of Janaki Sukumaran I felt equally sad if not more, since I knew Janaki and her calibre from student days.
It is really your luck that takes you there or not.
Good bye Janaki, may your soul rest in peace.