| Thrivikramji Bag’s a Fulbright Predoctoral award
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Thrivikramji Bag’s a Fulbright Predoctoral award

Thrivikramji Bag’s a Fulbright Predoctoral award

Thrivikramji Bag’s a Fulbright Predoctoral award

In Oct, 1971, USEFI announced the award of Fulbright Pre-doctoral Fellowship to me (but conditionally) with a possibility to undergo MS studies in Syracuse University, NY. However, the award was anything but firm and will possibly be firmed only if there is a no-show by an awardee or if the IIE had an extra fund coming from the Federal Govt.

In fact, the face to face for selection of young college/university lecturers for the award took place in Madras, say during Aug, 1971, in the USEFI office and one of the selector’s was Prof Saravanan (Presidency College, Madras). I was the only Keralite among the 10 or so candidates from the southern region taking part in the group discussion under the watchful eyes of the experts and Mrs. Nalini Shetty (Education officer, USEFI, Madras).

This GD session was over in 30 minutes and was followed by a session of interview where I satisfactorily answered the questions by the experts. But was unsure if I will be in the shortlisted group for the express reason that I was the only Keralite and the rest came from different parts of TN, Karnataka and AP. I took the selection process rather lightly and yet came back home happily knowing that I had a good chance of being selected.

In the month of Oct 1971, I had a letter from USEFI, New Delhi, signed by one KS Nair, asking me to get ready to go to US by June of 1972, and the offer was subject to the conditions I noted above. Obviously, it was not an exciting piece of news and I was quite unsure of the ultimate outcome. However, a friend of mine, KP Sreedhar (University of Kerala, Dept. of Psychology) had a firm offer of a fellowship and hence he was in a different track regarding the preparations to go to US in the Fall of 1972. But like him I too applied for the issue of a Passport well in advance.

Another interesting incident connected with the interview, also happened in May, 1972, when the MSc lab examinations took place in the Dept. of Geology, University of Kerala. One of the two external examiners was a stocky middle aged man in a slack shirt and trouser adorning a forehead dusted with dry-cow-dung ash, which we, Indians, call vibhuthi. I was one of the two skilled assistants appointed to assist in the examination and as the name suggests our duty was assisting the examiners like water boys in the conduct of examination.

Usually the skilled assistants do not appear in front of the examiners unless there is a direction from the Chairman of the team of examiners. I was kind of idiotic in not recognizing the one with ashed forehead, i.e., the very same Dr Saravanan, who screened me orally and selected for the award, albeit tentative.

In fact, my disposition perhaps surprised Dr Saravanan, and he wanted Prof. Menon (Chairman) to call me in and put me through a sort of identification parade to find out if I recollected the face of Dr Saravanan. On a prompt, I walked into the Chairman’s office to face questioning as to whether I ever had seen one of the two examiners anytime in the past. To their dismay I answered in the negative. The team broke into a loud laugh in my answer, while I stood there with a small face facing them. Then, Dr Saravanan wanted me to take a closer look at his face which I did and then said apologetically “Yes sir, you interviewed me in the USEFI office, Madras for the fellowship”

He then unveiled the secret and told me that I will be going to US for higher studies in the fall of 1972.. He also added that he had exercised special affection and loyalty to his specialization which made my name figure in the list of awardee’s.

Beyond that point the process was on the fast track. Firstly, I had the firm offer and I was required to get the visa stamped in Madras Consulate and go to New Delhi by the June 10, 1972 so that I will depart to USA on my way to the Orientation session arranged for the students under the Fulbright Program in the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

I went to Madras in the first week of June 1972 first to the Passport Office (for me then it is the one closest to my home in Trivandrum), to expedite the issue of Passport and then for the US visa. The Passport was with me in 48 hours of my personally meeting the Officer concerned. Then I went over to the consulate for the visa. Without any hassle visa was approved and then I collected the health screening report from a doctor in the town. In fact earlier I had met this doctor so that he will put me through a routine check before preparing the medical report on my health. The health report given to me will have to be hand carried along to USA, to be given at the port of entry.

Once I had the visa I intended to reach home the fastest manner possible. Obviously it is flying from Madras via Trichi and Madurai to Trivandrum at a cost of say 90 or 100 rupees. The flight usually leaves Madras – Meenambakkam in the early morning reaching Trivandrum around 8:30 am. In fact all that I had was like Rs. 50 only. The train ticket in 3rd class was bout 30 or so rupee only.

The idea that I can fly to Trivandrum occurred to me when I noticed, Mr Anthraper coming out of the Kerala Travels Office in Madras-Egmore on an earlier occasion during my stay in Madras Egmore. From the doctors office I rushed to Kerala Travels, and crashed into the office of Mr. Anthraper, the Manager. I identified myself and told that I was a friend of Baby, his own kid brother who then used to work for the Dept. of Geology and Mining, Govt of Kerala, Trivandrum. Mr Anthraper wanted to know if he could help me in some way possible. I answered in the affirmative and wondered if he could issue me a ticket to Trivandrum by the next day’s Trivandrum flight by Indian Airlines. I also made an advance promise that I will clear the credit to the Kerala Travels in Trivandrum the very next day.

A ticket was written out for me. The next morning I promptly reported to the airport and passenger office. I had the boarding pass issued quickly. I waited in the lounge along with the small crowd bound to Trivandrum. Finally in about 20 min we were put in a bus and driven to the boarding step ladder. The aircraft was a tiny (HS748) passenger aircraft, powered by a pair of propellers. I had a window seat and remember it was the first ever flight I took in my life.

I was seated in the second row on the right side of the isle. Mr Madhu a cine star was given the first row seat. I am not sure if he had the pleasure a window. But there was plenty of legroom though. After the routine counting, checking and announcements the aircraft taxied and then took off. The cabin was noisy, and the engine on my side was rather shaking on the flight. May be some thing not unusual. It was doing around 225 mph. It stopped at Trichy and the in Madurai. The route from Madurai to Trivandrum is over the Western Ghats and may be over Nedeumangad. The plane touched down around 8:30 am in the Trivandrum airport. I hopped into a Taxi to reach home by nine or so in the morning, That flight was indeed an experience to me. As agreed I paid back the money to the Travels Office in Trivandrum.


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