Rajeswari graduated from College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG), Chennai, India, in 1971. Encouraged by her parents to get a good education, she went on to get not just one degree, but multiple ones. She leveraged her continuous education to excel in her technical education career. She educated thousands of girls, enabling them to have good careers and be self-sufficient.
Rajeswari was born on October 8, 1948, in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, second in a family of six children. Her father Alangaram was a businessman, a sales agent, for leading publications such as Kumudam, Kalkandu, Eve’sWeekly, Star & Style, and Blitz, for the town of Dindigul, Madurai district. Alangaram and Rajeswari’s mother Sivabackiam were educated only up to fifth grade. Unlike her peers who spent their time chatting with neighbors, Sivabackiam read the papers and magazines that her husband’s business handled and became determined to educate her children.
Rajeswari studied in St. Joseph’s Girls Higher Secondary School, Dindigul, and completed her SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) in 1965. She joined Fatima College, Madurai, and completed the Pre-University Course (PUC) in 1966. She received a merit scholarship for higher studies beyond PUC.
Rajeswari always excelled in Mathematics. She received a perfect score on her SSLC mathematics exam and had received the district collector’s scholarship for her PUC studies. Her older brother Ramalingam had started studying engineering and Rajeswari’s mother and brother decided she would too. However, Rajeswari’s father was quite apprehensive about sending Rajeswari to CEG, a boy’s college in Chennai. The Principal of Fatima College persuaded him to do so, and also reserved a seat for Rajeswari in Mathematics in Fatima College, in case things did not work out. In addition, she also provided the contact information for Ms. Saroja Sundaramurthy, the woman in charge of the hostel for the Madras Women’s Polytechnic (WPT) for securing accommodation.
Rajeswari became interested in electronics when studying Physics, and chose to do Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE) at CEG.
Rajeswari was one of eight girls in the class that entered CEG in 1966. This was double the number of girls in the previous batch.
Her classmate Betty Nirmala’s father, and her father Alangaram, both approached Prema (CEG 1970) to help their daughters. Prema has been a guide and mentor to Rajeswari since then.
In the first year in Guindy, the girls who came to CEG from the less sophisticated areas of Tamil Nadu wore what is known as half-sarees. They became more sophisticated and started wearing sarees in the second year. Rajeswari remembers being ragged by seniors who told her to buy and bring a lathe machine to college. Prema educated her on what it was.
During college breaks, the CEG girls who lived in the WPT hostel would take the train to go back to their hometowns. Rajeswari remembers the overnight trains, Tirunelveli Express and Pandiyan Express, dropping off S. Radha, Betty, herself, R. Shantha, Nalini and Prema at their respective destinations.
WPT hostel was a good place to learn study habits with fellow classmates and seniors.
Rajeswari graduated from CEG in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in ECE.
Career and Continued Education
Teaching as a career appealed to Rajeswari and her first position was in the Tamil Nadu Polytechnic, Madurai. Later she moved to Government Polytechnic College for women, Madurai. Subsequently, a promotion took her to the Government Polytechnic College, Tiruchirappalli. In 1979, Rajeswari went through a one-year technical teaching program in The National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (NITTTR) in Chennai and graduated with a Bachelor of Technical Education (B.Tech.Ed.) degree. After a series of postings in Coimbatore and Tiruchirappalli in the Women’s Polytechnics, Rajeswari was promoted as Principal in Charge of the Government Polytechnic College for Women (GPCWCBE), Coimbatore in 1991 which was regularized in 1998.
At GPCWCBE, Rajeswari was instrumental in its participation in the Canada India Institutional Cooperation Project (CIICP). Under CIICP, she sent her students to Chandigarh to take part in an international quality circle forum. The students were as good as the international students in qualifications. The students enjoyed visiting Taj Mahal in Agra as part of the trip. Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Persons with Disabilities, Rajeswari was responsible for incorporating the Indian Central Government help for the differently abled children and school dropouts.
Rajeswari was instrumental in using the Community Polytechnic Scheme (CPS) to help prison inmates. She met the Deputy Inspector General of Prisons and briefed him on the project. Under the scheme, she conducted short-term courses to help rehabilitation of the prisoners, courses such as typewriting, tailoring, and computer basic. After some time, one fine morning a released prisoner (who was found innocent in an attempted murder case) from the Coimbatore jail approached Rajeswari and requested employment. Rajeswari gave him a temporary job of marking the playground. Within two months, he started a tailoring shop near the polytechnic and ran a sustaining business. Rajeswari took this as a case study and presented it to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), New Delhi. She won acclaim for the GPCWCBE for being the first in the nation to help prisoners. Soon other institutions followed her example.
Ms.Tamil Mani, who retired from GPCWCBE as Head of the Department for Electronics, Instrumentation, and Computer Science and Engineering had this to say:
“Rajeswari’s capacity to get things done seemed boundless. At the same time, she was a kind and friendly leader, nurturing the lives of students and staff.”
Mr. Rajendran, currently the Head of the Department of Electronics at GPCWCBE, calls her a bold education leader who followed the rules and got things accomplished. He says she also had a very good relationship with those who were influential, and she could get their help in accomplishing her goals for the polytechnic. He called out the many accomplishments of Rajeswari, including the work on training the disabled.
During her tenure at GPCWCBE, Rajeswari was able to generate substantial revenue and was able to fund the staff, student, and infrastructure development; management information systems; and women and rural development. All these developments were done per the guidelines from the Directorate of Technical Education and the Tamil Nadu Government.
In 1984, Rajeswari did a part-time postgraduate program in Electrical Engineering at Government College of Technology (GCT) and received her master’s degree. Between 2001 and 2005, Rajeswari continued her higher studies part-time and received her Ph.D. from PSG College of technology, currently part of Anna University.
In 2004, Rajeswari moved to Chennai to become the Principal, Madras Women’s Polytechnic (WPT), now called Dr. Dharmambal Government Polytechnic College for Women. Here, she was responsible for getting accreditation for all the courses, and in conducting courses under the Canada India Institutional Cooperation Project (CIICP), as well as executing the community polytechnic scheme to help the marginalized sections of the society. Rajeswari says all this was possible because of the excellent cooperation, and help, she received from her staff and faculty.
As the Principal, Rajeswari was involved in upgrading the programs and increasing student enrollments. She was a syllabus committee member to design and upgrade the curriculum for ECE and setting the question papers for the statewide exams. She took a keen interest in student placements in government organizations, with good compensation.
In 2006, after thirty-five years, Rajeswari retired from government service and moved to Coimbatore and joined Kumaraguru College of Technology as Head of the Department, Electronics and Communication Engineering. After working there for more than six years, she resigned the post.
Rajeswari is a regular practitioner of Manavalakalai, a yoga practice promoted by Vethathiri Maharishi. She had provided the yoga training to the staff and students at the Coimbatore and Chennai polytechnics when she was their principal. This helped them handle the pressures of life, and maintain their health. She completed a two-year study and received a master’s degree in Yoga for Human Excellence, under Bharathiyar University in 2017.
Rajeswari’s father passed away in 1996. He was actively managing his business almost till the very end with the help of Rajeswari’s brother Sounder. Her mother passed away in 2001.
Rajeswari’s older brother Ramalingam earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and now is a consultant in New Jersey, USA. His wife is a doctor practicing medicine. They have two daughters, both working professionals. Rajeswari’s first younger brother Sounder has a bachelor’s degree and runs a transportation service business in New Jersey. He and his wife have two daughters. The next brother Mani Bharathi is a Certified Associate of Indian Institute of Banking (CAIIB) and is now a retired bank officer in Dindigul. He and his wife have a son and a daughter. Last brother Sathia Moorthy, is also a CAIIB, and a retired bank officer in Chennai. He and his wife have three children. Rajeswari’s younger sister Niranjana Devi, who received her master’s degree and a bachelor of education degree is a happy housewife settled in Chennai. Her husband retired as Additional Commissioner of Commercial Taxes. They have two sons.
Rajeswari married Muruga Mariappan in 1978. A self-made man, he has a mechanical engineering degree. His career was in banking as a technical officer responsible for evaluating industrial projects, doing due diligence, and recommending worthy projects for loans. He has been a source of support and encouragement for his community in performing social activities. Rajeswari credits Muruga for supporting and encouraging her in her career, and also in her continued studies to achieve the heights she has.
Rajeswari and Muruga have three sons, all of whom followed their parents in studying engineering. All three of them graduated from PSG College of technology. They received their master’s degrees from American universities. Their first son Arun Ram Kumaran received his from University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Ashok Raj Kumaran and Anand Raghu Kumaran received theirs from Purdue University, with research assistantships. All three sons have made their parents proud, excelling at their studies, doing internships at well-known companies such as Intuit, Motorola, and Google, and having successful careers in the USA. Arun and Ashok are Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and Anand is Senior Director of Engineering at Reddit Inc. Arun and Anand are married. Amy, Anand’s wife, works for Microsoft.
Rajeswari and Mariappan have traveled extensively, to Malaysia, South Asia, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, various African countries, and the USA; and European countries such as France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. In addition to sightseeing in Europe, Rajeswari also visited the Darmstadt University and UMIT in Austria.
Rajeswari has been an active participant in the 1971 class alumni reunions and meetings. In retirement, she plans to spend her time on spirituality, meditation, and reading related books. After many years of a successful career which she thoroughly enjoyed, she looks forward to spending time with family and friends.
Accomplished Technical Education Leader, Mother, and Wife
Rajeswari’s parents had very little education. But they encouraged all their children to get a good education in order to better their lives. Rajeswari is a great role model for girls who are the first children in their families to go to college. By her continuous education to enhance her knowledge, and leveraging it to enhance her career, Rajeswari also set an excellent example to those who want to advance in their careers. In her career and family, she had excellent support of her husband who encouraged and cheered her every step of the way. She did all this while showering her love on her three sons who adore their mother. Rajeswari has this to say:
“Today, girls and women have the opportunity to have information from around the world with a click of a mouse on their laptops, or a press of a button on their smartphones. This can make them quite knowledgeable and achieve great success in their careers. Women by nature have the extra power of making men and the whole world better by their kindness and affection. While succeeding in their careers, women should also remember to care for the families, which men, as brothers, fathers, husbands, and sons, will greatly appreciate. Treat career and family as equally important”.
My sincere thanks to Rajeswari for meticulously documenting her career and family details, and sending me all the pictures that make this article come alive.
Rajeswari’s former co-workers, Tamil Mani and Rajendran were kind enough to talk to me and provided their observations about the time when they worked with her. I am very thankful for the same.
This is story number twenty-two 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 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.