Jayashree Anandakumar graduated from College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG), Chennai, India in 1968. After a thirty-year career working on radar research and development in India’s prestigious Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), she is now retired and content to live a life immersed in spirituality, and grandchildren.
Jayashree was born on September 9, 1946, in Ettayapuram, a town in Tamil Nadu, in a middle-class family. Her father, S. Chellam, was a Sub-Registrar and her mother was a housewife. Jayashree is one of five children, one boy, and four girls. When Jayashree was three, her mother died. Jayashree was brought up by her elder sister Rukmini and her husband Srinivasan along with her own children. Srinivasan was a medical practitioner.
Jayashree attended Rajah’s High School in Ettayapuram and completed her Secondary School Leaving Certificate (S.S.L.C) exam in 1961. Her father moved to Chennai and she joined Stella Maris College and graduated in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics with distinction. Her experience at the sophisticated college where the rich and famous attended was quite different from the high school in the small town Ettayapuram where she was the top graduate.
In 1963, CEG introduced a three-year intensive undergraduate program in engineering for those with a bachelor’s degree. Jayashree’s father encouraged her to apply. Due to a mistake in her application form, Jayashree never got a call for an interview. However, Jayashree was determined and went to the Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) in person. Mr. Vaiyapuri who was the acting director asked her to have the interview right then and there and she got admitted to the program. Jayashree started her engineering education in 1965.
At Ettayapuram, Jayashree had attended a co-ed school. During her years in Stella Maris, it was still an all-girls environment. Then she arrived in CEG, it was a predominantly male environment with very few girls, but that didn’t concern Jayashree. Some of the boys who attended CEG were immature and used sounds of different types to get her attention. Jayashree simply walked up to them and told them, “My name is Jayashree. Please call me by name if you would like to talk to me”. That was a pretty bold act for an Indian girl in those days.
Jayashree found commuting to the campus from her house in Ayanavaram quite an ordeal. She had to get up at 5:30 AM and take two public buses, an electric train, and then walk to the campus. Having some friends in the CEG faculty travel along the same route helped reduce the monotony. Jayashree looked to her seniors K.S. Babai (CEG 1966) and Indira Premkumar (CEG 1966) for guidance. Though studies and commuting took most of her time, Jayashree found time to be joint secretary of the Electronics Association.
Jayashree remembers buying a sewing machine for three hundred rupees when she received her merit-cum-means scholarship while at CEG. She taught herself to sew with help from neighbors and Indira Premkumar’s mother. She made dresses for children, and even today makes her own blouses.
The three years at CEG passed pretty quickly. Jayashree enjoyed the electronics classes but found the electrical engineering courses challenging. She graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics & Communications Engineering in 1968.
Soon after graduating, Jayashree joined the Madras Government Polytechnic for Women, now known as Dr.Dharmambal Women’s Polytechnic (WPT), in Madras (Chennai) as Assistant Lecturer in the electronics department. Jayashree enjoyed teaching the young women and encouraging them in their technical education to later make themselves self-sufficient.
Jayashree left Chennai and moved to Bangalore in March 1969. She joined Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), the research and development organization under India’s Ministry of Defense as a Non-Gazetted officer (NGO). It took a few years of department exams and interviews before she became a Gazetted officer.
Jayashree worked on the development of radars, an important equipment used in defense. Much of the work she did is classified. One of the equipment she worked on was the Indian Doppler Radar (INDRA). The INDRA-I is a mobile surveillance radar for low-level target detection while the INDRA-II is for ground controlled interception of targets. Another radar was Rajendra, a passive, electronically scanned array, multifunction radar. It is capable of surveillance, tracking, and engaging low radar cross-section targets. Jayashree made significant contributions to the design and development of displays and signal processing. In the beginning, the circuit designs used diodes and transistors. As time went on, the designs started using integrated circuits. In addition to design and development, Jayashree interacted with the production teams in Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to do technical knowledge transfer and integration activities. She traveled within Bangalore and to other parts of India. In addition to checking the working of the equipment in the labs, she also participated in testing the units in the field.
Jayashree retired from LRDE after thirty years of service in 1999.
Jayashree married Anandakumar, a CEG alumnus, in 1969. At the time of their marriage, he worked in Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in Bangalore. Their marriage was an inter-caste marriage and did not have the support of her family. However, at the time of her marriage she was working at WPT, and May George (CEG 1947), the Principal, as well as other former colleagues from WPT, rallied around to support her. The marriage took place in Bangalore. After the marriage, Jayashree left her job in WPT and moved to Bangalore.
Jayashree’s two sons were born in 1970 and 1975. In 1993, Anandakumar passed away due to a massive heart attack. At that time Jayashree’s first son Mahesh Kumar was about to complete his undergraduate education in engineering, and her second son Vijay Ganesh was completing his Pre-University Course (PUC). After a very short time off, Jayashree went back to work. She worked for six more years while Mahesh started his career, got married and had his first child. After her grandson was born, Jayashree retired. Jayashree has had an excellent relationship with her in-laws. She received tremendous support from them throughout her life, especially after Anandakumar passed away.
Her time in retirement is spent mostly on her grandchildren, religious activities and her hobbies of Thanjavur painting and sewing. She has visited the 106 holy temples (called Divya Desam ) important to her religion. She is active in clubs singing the devotional songs in Thiruppugazh. She reads religious books and visits the temple close to her house every day, which also provides her with exercise.
Jayashree’s older son Mahesh graduated from the Regional engineering college (now NIT) at Surat and is currently a director at Extron Electronics. He rides his cycle to work and runs long distance marathons. His wife Vidya Lakshmi is a homemaker and an avid organic farmer and feeds the family. First Grandson Anand currently studies electronics at Manipal Institute of technology and aims to do research in artificial intelligence. The second grandson Aditya has taken up painting and is a table tennis player and aims to join the Indian Airforce.
Her younger son Vijay is an entrepreneur. He runs a company called Sirius technologies dealing with military technology products. His wife Geetanjali works at a nursery school as a teacher nurturing young minds. Tanushree, Jayashree’s only granddaughter is in the seventh grade wants to pursue journalism. The last grandchild Surya who is in the third grade wants to become a scientist like his grandmother.
Jayashree and her daughters-in-law have a great relationship and work together to enrich their family lives.
A Contented Life
Jayashree calls herself a contented woman. After her graduation from CEG, she worked for thirty-one years in technically interesting and challenging projects. When she felt it was time to stop, she did so and started focusing solely on her family and spiritual life.
This quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen master, summarizes what her current daily life is about:
“Whatever the tasks, do them slowly
so not do any tasks with the goal
of getting them over with.
Resolve to each job in a relaxed way,
with all your attention.”
My sincere thanks to Jayashree for providing me the input over WhatsApp to write her life story.
My thanks also go to CEG alumna Indira Premkumar for her recalling of the days of her friendship with Jayashree during CEG and WPT days.
Credit goes to CEG alumnus Babuji Reddy’s collection for the 1968 class picture and the family picture taken during his wedding.
This is the fifteenth write-up in my ambitious journey of chronicling the life and work of the early CEG alumnae. If you like what you read, please “like” and share.
My goal is to encourage more girls to study engineering and science, enter the workforce and be equal partners with men in shaping the future of our world. Women face a lot of critical moments in their lives that make them want to leave the workforce. I am hoping the stories of the CEG women will inspire them to stay in it.
I will be writing more such posts here; and will be collecting them into a book for publishing.
If you have information about CEG alumnae from the 1940s to the 1960s, please contact me to help make these posts complete.