Two Nonagenarians and a Centenarian Reminisce About Their College Days

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These golden oldies got on the phone to have a good laugh about their college days at the National Dairy Research Institute. A daughter tells their tale.

One February evening in Bangalore, two men who, between them, have been on this planet 195 years, got together to remember their salad days (or in their case, milk days). Another 90-year-old joined them to share his own memories for a few minutes on the phone from Pune. The three men were Sheshagiri, aka our Appa, who turned 95 in March, Dasanna the centenarian, and Tulupule, the youngest, at 90 something.

All of them are alumni of the National Dairy Research Institute, Audugodi. Bangalore. They joined the two-year Indian Dairy Diploma (IDD) course in 1947, and two years later, in 1949, emerged as newly qualified dairy technologists, the first batch to graduate in Independent India!

After completing their course, Dasanna and Sheshagiri joined the Karnataka State Cooperative Department as Dairy Officers. Tulupule joined the National Dairy Development Board and worked with the great Verghese Kurien for a while. Another friend, Subba Rao, served in the Animal Husbandry Department. It is not too long ago that Appa was still telling us of Mr. Tulupule’s little trips out of Pune to give consultation to needy dairy entrepreneurs! In 2000, NDRI celebrated its platinum jubilee. It also happened to be the golden anniversary of the class of 1949! The four friends, whose friendship began in times that were simpler and far less competitive, returned to their alma mater for a reunion.

Sheshagiri and Subba Rao wrote a nostalgic piece in the platinum jubilee souvenir. It is reproduced below.

Chewing the Cud!
(Reminiscences of Two Golden Oldies- Batch of 1949)

In November 1947, we entered with great pride the portals of IDRI (Indian Dairy Research Institute, as it was known then) for the first time. Two years later, exactly fifty years ago in 1949, it was with great pride that we came of the institute as technical members of the dairy fraternity, qualifying as we did in the first batch produced by free India.

The year of our graduation coincided with the silver jubilee of our alma mater, and now, in its platinum year, we are indeed fortunate to celebrate the golden jubilee of our class of 1949.

The heart-warming welcome we newcomers received from the senior residents of the hostel who hailed from different regions of India is still fresh in our minds. Our initial feeling of strangeness in our new surroundings vanished amidst this air of friendliness and solicitude.

Friendly food wars

In the beginning, food posed a major problem for the students, coming as we did from different areas and having varied food habits and preferences. Broadly speaking, North Indians wanted mainly wheat and for the South Indians rice was staple! There were already three messes working — one non-vegetarian, one vegetarian catering to the northerners, and a third one managed by the Bengali and Assamese students. We southerners added the fourth dimension to the existing mess situation! For some time we enjoyed our favourite rice dishes with sambhar and rasam.

Soon there was a direction from the Centre that this kind of regional bias was against the spirit of national integration and there should be only two sections — vegetarian and non-vegetarian. This was immediately implemented. Mess secretaries were chosen, committees to advise on the menu were formed, and a happy formula was evolved to the satisfaction of all.

Soon, we began our training. Batches were formed, and the codes of uniforms and behaviour were explained — khaki shorts, shirt and cap for cattle yard and agriculture, white shorts, shirt and cap for dairy technology. If anybody was not in the proper uniform, he would not be allowed to attend the class.

Working hard till the cows came home

Practicals started very early in the morning. Each batch used to work in the cattle yard, farm section, dairy technology section, or engineering section for one week, by rotation. In the afternoon, we worked in dairy bacteriology or dairy chemistry laboratories. And, as you might have guessed, our favorite language of communication was ‘dairy English’!

We teased the northerners, asking them, “Yeh kya cheese hai?” And the Maharashtrians’ penchant for “tasting” the milk instead of testing it caused much mirth in the lab!

Naturally, our dairy training started at the cattle yard. The best way to learn about the cows was to attend to them personally. We washed the cows, rubbed them with kafai and groomed them with curry comb. We attended to their feeding and finally, to the milking, which started, at three in the morning with our gurus — the gowalas — the permanent cattle yard attendants!

They showed us how to tie the legs of the cows with one swing of the rope and untie them with one pull of the rope end. The Institute possessed a large herd of high-yielding milch cows. They were docile, well-trained, very patient, and cooperated very well with their novice classmates!

The dairy technology section was the favourite of all. Butter making and cheese making practicals offered full scope for developing our individual skills and ability in dairy techniques. We took in our stride the various agricultural operations — ploughing, planting grassroots, cutting grass, and irrigating the plots. During the engineering practicals, we chiseled and filed iron and wood blocks. Indeed, a dairyman had to be a man of many parts!

Of travels and triumphs

The most interesting part of our curriculum was the study tours we went on. These tours, apart from being a source of education and entertainment, certainly helped in broadening our vision of dairying in India. In our first year, we toured Kangayam Cattle Farm at Palaykotta, Thirupur, Coimbatore, Ooty, Coonoor, and Madurai. During the second year, we toured North India, visiting Delhi, Lucknow, Izatnagar, Hissar and Karnal. The North Indian tour was always organised to coincide with the All India Cattle Show at Delhi, which offered an opportunity to make a comparative study of various breeds of cattle in India at one place.

The unforgettable event during our training was the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of IDRI in 1948. The main function was presided over by the then Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar. Dr. Kothawala, a prominent figure in Indian dairying and Dr. Khurody, the Milk Commissioner of Bombay, graced the occasion!

We enjoyed our dairy course and benefitted greatly from it. It not only shaped our careers but also gave direction and purpose to our lives.

By the end of two years, we learnt a great truth — how vast any subject can be if one aspires to be an expert! To the team of dedicated scientists and teachers like Dr Sen, the Director of the Institute, Dr Dastur, Dr Ray, Dr Iya, Dr Basu, Dr Ananthakrishnan, Mr. Rangaswamy and Mr. Lazarus, we owe them our Diplomas in Dairying.

The two years spent in the Indian Dairy Research Institute were the best period of our lives together. The memories of the happy days at the Institute still form the “cud” to ruminate over in our twilight years.

(Featured pic shows Dasanna, Vinayak Tulupule, Subba Rao and A. R. Sheshagiris at there Alma Mater in early 2000. This write up first appeared on sweetkharacoffee@wordpress.com.)

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About Author

Alladi Jayasri

Alladi Jayasri is a journalist. Currently based in Virginia, USA, she has worked with three major newspapers, The Hindu, The Times of India and Indian Express for 25 years in Bangalore and New Delhi. She blogs at sweetkharacoffee@worpress.com and VedicRockets@wordpress.com.