April 1, 2007

Chamarajanagar’s Illinois connection

He was in Shanghai Monday last, Singapore on Wednesday; has a business meeting in Frankfurt Tuesday next. And he is at Chamrarajanagar for the weekend. If asked which one of these places sticks out like a sore thumb, I guess there would be near unanimity on Chamarajanagar, a town that strikes me as dry, dusty, and in a perpectual state of neglect.

I said near-unanimity, because Chamarajanagar is a ‘charm-nagar’ for our man on the move - Dr. Krishna Venkataswamy, Director of Research and Development of GLS Corporation, McHenry, Illinois. He heads, among much else, the company’s R&D facility in China: and he is on the Global Leadership Team for the company’s business operations in Europe and Asia. His responsibilities entail much traveling. And wherever his travels take him – Mumbai, Tokyo, Hong Kong – and, whenever feasible, Dr. Venkataswamy (Venkatesh, to friends) heads home, to Illinois, via his Charm-Nagar.

“I still feel like a boy from a small town who happened to be fortunate in life,” said Venkateh when we met in Mysore during his current whistle-stop chakkar half-way round the world. Venkatesh doesn’t fit in with the swanky pigeon-holed image of a frequent-flyer company executive. With a red bindi on his forehead, and a vintage hairdo that seems to make a fashion statement against the current trend in sporting long, tapering, sideburns, Venkatesh would pass for a Sanskrit scholar or music vidhwan from Agrahara.

It is not just the look, Venkatesh is refreshingly different in his outlook in life as well. He says his passion for science, notably, physics, got him high grades right through to his Ph.D (completed within a record two years and two months). He is a Director of the Distinguished Alumni Board at the University of Florida, and on the Executive Advisory Board for Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey.
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And it is the same passion for science, not the money, that drives him in his work. Venkatesh is a reputed expert in his specialty - thermoplastic elastomers. He has nearly fifty patents to his credit; has chaired many American and international conferences on Thermoplastic Elastomers. But then this small-town boy still finds time to stay in touch with his school – JSS High School – and his friends from the Chamarajanagar days. He referred to Mallesh, now a professor at Gangotri (Mysore), and Prakash (I believe), a company VP in Bangalore.

By way of a pay-back to his native town, and, as an endearing pretext, if I might add, to keep himself in touch with his humble beginnings, Venkatesh funds a local orphanage and pays for the upkeep of a few needy matriculation students of his school. In life, says Venkatesh, he would have never made it to where he had, if it was not for his late mother, periyappa Ramaswamy Iyer, who stepped in to save his family house from being auctioned when Venkatesh was a schoolboy; his grandpa N S Sundaresa Iyer who funded his education through National College, Bangalore, and IIT Madras (1979 batch); and Dr Krishnamurthy who guided him to take up higher studies in Florida and “showed me the ropes in my early years in the US”. ( Isn’t he the Nanjangud municipal school boy who went to IIT Bombay, and made it big in the US with 100 research papers to his credit ?)

5 comments:

Krishna Vattam said...

Karnataka's successive Chief ministers have been avoiding t o visit Chamarajanagara, fed on beliefs that a CM who visits this town will lose his kurchi.It may be sheer coincidence that S R Bommai who "dared" to visit C'Nagara lost his power, but had the satisfaction of gaining a moral victory.When he questioned the President's action in invoking Article 356 in the state, The Supreme Court in a land mark judgment held that floor of the Legislative Assembly should serve as venue to test whether the Government of the day has lost power or not, and not the corridors of the Cabinet Hall.
But here is a great son of India Dr krishna Venkataswsamy who with his humle beginnings in this town has risen to great heights.Krishna Vattam

GVK said...

Thanks, Mr Vattam, you seem to have made a point on the state of neglect here. Which politician in power would want something done to a town that is so jinxed. Would this mean, Mr Vattam, no MLA from Ch'Nagar can hope to become CM? Why would anyone want to represent this constituency? Wonder what Chamarajanagar residents think of this superstititous belief. Maybe they could make this a poll issue. Shouldn't voters her, irrespective of party preferences, seek an assurance from contesting candidates that they would bring the CM home, if their party came to power ?

Guru said...

Mr GVK,

I seem to remember that you posted another Chamarajanagar connection and a Tamil novelist who is related to you. Is this person is in someway related to you?

I am not minimising this person's achievements in any way, but it is much easier to achieve one's potential in America than in India or in any other country in the world. Besides the obvious reason of opportunity, Americans tend to promote people quickly on a need basis. It happened to me in 1970s in America soon after my studies, when I was pushed upstairs as a leader of a research group in a firm rather quickly much to my utter dismay!

I am glad to say my own old students from Mysore (NRN one and Shyamsunder (of TIFR until recently) another, both have immense international visibility and neither of them went abroad for studies.

About a boy from an unattractive place going very far. I can understand this argument if the 'boy' concerned had all his education in that small and unattractive place. He did go to National College in Bangalore and IIT in Madras! It is really from Madras ( Chennai) to Illinois!

In my opinion, we should celebrate more the achievements of those young men and women who stayed in India and made significant contributions despite a plethora of barriers.

Krishna Vattam said...

That maverick three-time MLA from Chamarajanagara Constituency Vatal Nagaraj has been crying hoarse and attacking successive Chief Ministers for their irrational behaviour . HD Kumaraswamy has been assuring Vatal that he will visit the town. This is for public consumption and the promises are not kept.
It is a pity that barring, perhaps, Ramakrishna Hegde and S R Bommai , others were disinclined to cross the Lakshmana Rekha drawn by astrologers. Even Devaraj Urs, who was credited as having been one “Down To Earth” leader.used to knock at the doors of the palmists. Our leaders have greater confidence in sooth sayers than in voters, whom they take for granted treating them as bakrahas, who with herd mentality , are swayed away by extraneous considerations.
However, a devout CM believes in the Ordains of .Destiny and in HIS omnipotence and HE will never let down a bhakta.The Saint-Composer in one of his padas says ‘I am this planet and that planet’ and in yet another composition the same bard says ‘ When the grace of God has gone not all a lakh doctors can save him , but the devout even if he is in the wilderness, He attends on him

GVK said...

You're right, Mr Guru. I blogged on writer Lakshmi Ramanan, another relation of mine, a while ago.

Would you know, Mr Vattam, how this curse on Chamarajanagar come about?