Signs of brilliance

Published: 24th December 2012 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th December 2012 01:24 PM   |  A+A-


Writer, illustrator Ashok Rajagopalan is great fan of PG Wodehouse. “He taught me to write in a spiritual sense,” says the 48-year-old, who decided to freelance, as a monthly salary of `800 wouldn’t be sufficient to start a family. Rajagopalan, who authored Witchsnare, a gamebook for Penguin, studied mechanical engineering (1980-’84) at Murugappa Polytechnic, Chennai. He also pursued a part-time certificate course in graphic design from Loyola Institute of Visual Communication in 1988. The rebel in college takes us down memory lane.


What did college teach you?

I learned to speak and love Tamil in college. We used to speak Malayalam and English at home. I started reading Sujatha. Puthu Kavithai (A Tamil form of Haiku) was a craze at that time — I wrote a few. I learned interpersonal skills in college and also discovered movies then.


What was your proudest moment in college?

I discovered I was super intelligent. Of course, now I’ve  mellowed down but in the arrogance of youth, I believed I was super intelligent. In 1983, during a workshop, I was asked what is the radius of a spur gear (gear in a straight line). I got the answer in a few seconds — it’s infinity. The workshop head then said, ‘You’re very intelligent but not using it’. Later when I was interning at Tube Products of India, an employee asked me to solve a particular question in his exam. I not only answered him but also gave multiple solutions. I felt proud to be more intelligent than an adult. My friends used to look up to me — I helped them improve their English language skills.


Have you had any embarrassing moments in college?

In the sandwich course, you are expected to do two six-month internships. During my second stint, I was a lost sheep especially in the last three months. I hated the sound of factory and stopped going. I thought this would only result in a loss of stipend (`150 per month). During that time, three classmates and I went on a tour of south Tamil Nadu. When I was away, word went to the institute that I was irregular to the factory. When I returned, I had to face a livid father and principal. Though legally, I could appear for my final exam, the principal wanted to make an example out of me and denied permission. So instead of finishing the course in three-and-a-half years, I had to wait for another six months.


How did you score points with the opposite gender?

I totally missed out on that part as I studied in an all-boys’ school and college. At Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai (Rajagopalan enrolled there to study for AMIE certification but he dropped out in a year), it was worse. We used to be fined `5 for talking to a girl.


Was bunking a part of your college routine?

I only bunked during my internship. All 15 of us once mass bunked the workshop. It was historical as it was the first time students of the sandwich course were skipping a session. The electrical HoD chased us on his cycle. To escape we ran into Ramratna Theatre and watched a Rajini movie.

During my second internship, I used to watch a movie everyday, visit all the libraries and read books at the beach. It became a joke that ‘Go to any theatre and you will find Ashok  there’.


Did you have any rifts with professors? Why?

Except my principal, the rest liked me. I was a goody-goody boy.


Where did you hang out in college?

I used to take my classmates to Moore Market to buy used books. I took my classmates who were from other parts of Tamil Nadu on a tour of the city, showed them LIC’s office and other popular buildings.


What extracurricular activities were you involved in?

My friends and I once devised a solar cooker. It worked well — we boiled an egg and also made tea in it. But I was never excited about academic projects. Neither did I participate in NCC nor sports. I did illustrations for a sci-fi story that my friend had written. I also directed a skit in college.


Stay up to date on all the latest Edex news with The New Indian Express App. Download now


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.