Pradip Ramachandran  | Ex-faculty 1990-1993 

Wow. 20 years. Time sure has flown by. I still vividly remember the day in early 1990 when I chanced to meet Mr. Simon after a long time, and he excitedly mentioned his new project, a catering institute in Trivandrum. 

I was thrilled. I had always wanted to become a teacher. Could this be the opportunity I had hoped for? Would I get an opportunity to teach there, I wondered? 

Conversations between him and my father (who used to be a director at the Tourism Department) led Mr. Simon to the very spot that the institute now stands. Mr. Simon fell in love with the “near-perfect” location, right in the heart of one of the most famous resort areas in the world. 

A few weeks later I applied for a faculty position. After several rounds of interviews, Mr. Simon (I will be forever indebted to him for giving me the opportunity) called to congratulate me. I had been selected as an Instructor, the very first one at the institute. I was ecstatic. My dream had come true and I was both excited and apprehensive. 

Ahead of us lay the daunting task of getting the Institute ready for classes in a few months. After weeks of sweat, toil and tears (of joy) things started falling into place. We scrambled to find vendors for equipments, furniture and supplies. And then, there was the student selection process. After many gruelling days of screening multitudes of eager prospects, we finally had a list of our very first batch of students! 

Although the going was really tough, we prevailed, and by August, we were ready for “show-time”. Opening day was so exciting for all of us, with Mr. Simon at the helm surrounded by his “dream” team, including me, a young teacher out to make an impression. My life would not be the same for the next three years. 

Without a formal pedagogy background, I faced constant trials and tribulations while trying to discover and develop the teacher within me. Striking the right balance between being an effective educator, a good mentor and maintaining discipline was a challenge. I believed (wrongly at the time) that being a tough taskmaster was the way to go. Recesses were the best part of the day, when, as if by magic, the corridors and restrooms would be transformed into my favourite “hunting grounds” and I would be on the prowl for unsuspecting “Malayalam-speaking’ victims (who would then be reprimanded for not communicating in English). Chasing down those trying to sneak away for a puff (smoking was prohibited on campus) was another pastime. On those occasions, I am sure my “victims” wished I were dead!! Looking back, I realise that I may have been overly strict at times when I could have been more understanding while dealing with teenagers. I was young and naïve (like Sidney Poitier in the movie “To Sir with Love”) and every day to me was a new learning experience. However, I hope that towards the end of my 3-year stint (before I left for the US to pursue my higher education), I had redeemed myself and metamorphosed into a better teacher and mentor than when I started.

My most cherished and memorable moments, undoubtedly revolve around the super bunch of students I had the privilege of teaching. It was truly a fantastic experience to have been able to interact with such as a wonderful group of young, intelligent, smart and energy-filled souls. 

“Agony and ecstasy” was the name of the game. I vividly remember the raucous bus-rides from East Fort while faculty tried desperately to maintain calm. The quiet in the classrooms was invariably broken by the clanging of dropped utensils in the kitchen. With so many teenagers milling around, the campus was abuzz with gossip and stories of campus romances. Lunch time was usually spent watching students nervously serving food “created” by aspiring chefs. Superb food, salty food, burnt food; one never knew what would come out of the kitchen. During lunch speeches, I heard great orators and saw others who shivered like they had just seen a ghost. I used to watch with bemusement as students scrubbed the institute down, especially the toilets, to almost surgical specifications! The next couple of years saw students going for summer internships, two new batches of students, and more roller-coaster days. At the end of the third-year potential employers came seeking well qualified trainees. The beaming faces of the new recruits made us all so very proud. We had done it as a team! We had produced a very successful first batch of “KOVCATS”.  

I truly miss those glorious days and often fondly reminisce about the wonderful experiences they offered. How I wish I could re-live all that excitement once more. I consider myself blessed to have been a part (albeit small) of my students’ successes and am extremely proud to have been their teacher. Words fail to express my joy and admiration for their accomplishments. Way to go kiddos!! 

I am extremely proud to have been a part of IHMCT Kovalam and wish everyone a fantastic career ahead. Let us all work together to take our Institute to greater heights.

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