Dr. S.Divakaran – A Professor Par Excellence

Dr. S.Divakaran – A Professor Par Excellence

In this edition of MBMStories, we are talking about a teacher extraordinaire, an academic and a human being par excellence. Yes, he is none other than Dr. S.Divakaran who taught structural Engineering in the Civil Engineering Department of MBM Engineering College from as far back as 1953. He is an eye witness to systematic growth story of MBM even from the days the college did not have its own building! His memoirs of those days are a testimony to the hard conditions in which the teachers then toiled to discharge their pious duty of educating students and stood as a rock in building the image of this college and enhancing its reputation. Though not an alumnus of the college, Dr. Divakaran’s reminiscences are the pages which may become an integral part of the history book of MBM.

Dr. S.Divakaran

Early Education :

Dr. Divakaran was born on 29th September 1931 in Nerur village in Trichy district of Tamil Nadu and had his primary education up to 4th standard in the village only, staying with his uncle, who was popularly called Gandhi Iyer. Later he moved to Salem with his parents and joined a Municipal School from where he appeared at the SSLC examination in 1945. However, his result was initially withheld, he being underage. The minimum age for admission to Madras University then being fourteen years and a half, he had to take a break at home. He utilized this one year period in learning shorthand and typing and attended a Veda pathshala.

Engineering Education :

In 1948 he was one of the only two candidates selected from Salem district for engineering education. However, he was allotted Kakinada College in Andhra Pradesh, which was about 1000 km from his hometown. His first day in the college was very interesting. He reminisces with a broad smile – “I went to the college in my small veshti and reported to the Principal of the college”. In the second year, he secured 96% in Electrical Engineering. The Professor and Head of that department wanted Dr. Divakaran to migrate to Electrical branch, but around 1952, the job prospects in Electrical Engineering were bleak, so he chose Civil Engineering branch only. He topped in the university and obtained bachelor’s degree with Honors, in 1952.

Joining MBM :

After graduation, he joined the Madras PWD Irrigation department in Edappadi, near Salem and worked there till middle of 1953. While in Kakinada, his professor had suggested him to join MBM Engineering College, Jodhpur. He also received a hand-written letter from Prof. VG Garde at Edappadi to apply for a teaching position in Civil Engineering Department of MBM. Being interested in the teaching profession, he applied for a teaching job in MBM and was invited for interview in Jaipur. Jaipur is severely cold during winters, but Dr. Divakaran appeared for the interview in a cotton suit. The interviewer was one Shri LL Joshi, who asked him why he was wearing a cotton suit in winter? Dr. Divakaran replied – “Sir, I have only one suit and it is this!’

He joined the college in mid-1953. The college did not have a building then. One Ugam ji’s building, which was opposite Rathi Book House at that time, was serving as the makeshift college and the classes were being conducted in its rooms and sometimes outdoors. Dr. Divakaran was living in a room in Hostel No. 1 till a quarter was allotted to Prof. Alam Singh in Residency by the then Superintending Engineer BD Mathur. Dr. Divakaran at that time shared this accommodation with Prof. Alam Singh.


Dr. Divakaran competed for the Central Services, appeared at the examination in 1955 and secured All India 14th rank in the merit list, but his poor eye-sight of 6/36 prevented him from joining the Military Engineering Service. However, in 1956 he was selected by the UPSC as Asstt. Engineer in Cochin Port under the Central Government.After he got married in April 1956, he left Cochin and joined back MBM where he taught until 1962.

Dr. Divakaran has mentioned about a very interesting episode of 1954. A committee from the Institution of Engineers comprising Shri SB Joshi, famous structural engineer of Bombay and Shri Ziauddin Ansari, Principal of Osmania Engineering College visited MBM to ascertain whether the college had capable teachers and also for recognizing the college. Dr. Divakaran and Shri PP Mowli were designated to deliver the lectures in the class where the committee members sat. After their classes were over, the team members were highly satisfied and provided their recommendation for recognition of the college.

When the new building of the Mining department was inaugurated, Shri Govind Ballabh Pant, the then Home Minister, was the Chief Guest and Prof. VG Garde was the Principal who welcomed him. Shri Pant was known for his repartees. When the question of allocating more funds for the college cropped up, Shri Pant quipped that the college faculty had a good number of young and energetic teachers already, therefore old dodderers were not needed and so more funds were not necessary!

Prof. Divakaran applied for a Commonwealth scholarship in 1962 for higher studies and was selected for the McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada to pursue Master of Engineering. He then moved to University of Toronto in Canada to obtain Ph.D. degree in 1966 and returned to MBM in August 1966.

Those were the days :

In his memoirs, another legendary professor of Civil Engineering in MBM – Dr. Alam Singh writes –

” Prof. M.L. Mathur. Prof. Kanti Swaroop ( Electrical ), S.Divakaran, Pratap Mowli and I would cycle to Sojati Gate every Saturday evening, for a change. to see some people walking or going on a cycle or Tonga leisurely. The dinner was off. In front of Bata Shoes Company, there was the famous Jagdish Hotel, where milk boiled in a big Kadhai was served with a thick layer of malai. M.L.Mathur, Kanti Swaroop and I always ordered for one glass ( It was a Punjabi glass of about 600 ml capacity) of milk. For cooling the hot milk, it was kept in two utensils and was dropped from one to another from a height of about one yard. Divakaran and Mowli used to say that we took one yard of milk. They were content to have only 200 ml milk. We also indulged in mawa ki kachori and mirchi bada”

Silver Jubilee of the college and Emergency :

The year 1976 was a very tumultuous one. This was the Silver Jubilee year of the college and also the dark year when national emergency was declared. For the celebrations, no politician was willing to come, except Shri Mathura Das Mathur. An IAF Commandant was the Chief Guest at the function. On this occasion it was decided to form an ‘Old Boys Association’ and Prof. Alam Singh was proposed to be the first president. But he declined and the onus of presidentship fell on Prof. Divakaran, a non-alumnus of the college!                                     


Silver Jubilee Function in 1976. Prof. Garde on Dias

Dr. Divakaran mentions the state of affairs during the emergency period when all sorts of restrictions on people were imposed. He recalled that in a function organized by ABVP to honour the boys and girls who secured highest marks and which was presided by Justice Chhangani, he (Dr. Divakaran) was asked to be the key speaker. The text of the speech was written by the editor of the publication ‘Panchajanya’, the mouthpiece of RSS. He read it out, with the result that the Central government’s agency RAW listed him as a ‘Sanghi’. Many faculty members of Jodhpur University represented to the Collector to arrest Dr. Divakaran, though without success. His friend Dr. Sarda Saran Singh ( Mining ) was arrested and put in jail for a year. While others were either afraid of arrest or indifferent, only Dr. Divakaran, his wife and son visited Dr. SS Singh. Dr. Divakaran’s phone was being tapped, as secretly told by a south Indian operator at the Telephone Exchange. In a public meeting where the main speaker was Prof. VV John, Dr. Divakaran also spoke, but his speech was immediately reported to the Vice Chancellor Prof. SC Goyal. Dr. Divakaran laments that one of his own colleagues filed a case against him and other colleague whom he helped for his Ph.D. degree did not help. However, by the time of his retirement in January 1991, the differences were reconciled.

Teaching in Iraq and Ethiopia :

In 1983, Prof. Divakaran took up a teaching assignment as Professor in the Military School of Engineering at Baghdad run by the then President Saddam Hussain, where he taught blast resistant structures. Conditions in Baghdad were also volatile. On one occasion his brother-in-law, who was also living there some miles away and working for a sewerage project in Baghdad, invited Dr. Divakaran’s family. There he met an elderly Arab gentleman who was introduced as the manager of that firm. Next week, Dr. Divakaran received summons from the Chief of Security of a deadly wing of Saddam Hussain accusing him of violating terms of his agreement by helping an Indian company. He sought all details of his brother-in-law before he was released. “However, Arab families there were quite cordial and hospitable” – he remembers.

In 1987, Dr. Divakaran fell seriously ill and had to terminate his contract. He developed TB infection, but was treated successfully. He rejoined MBM and retired from there in January 1991.After retirement he again took up a teaching position in southern Ethiopia at the Arba Minch Institute of Technology. Prof. Jagdish Chandra and Dr. CP Nag and Shri ML Kalawar were also there already. During his tenure, Dr. Divakaran recalls that the Marxist dictator of the country was dethroned and a democratic regime was installed.

Visit of President Of India:

Dr. Divakaran reminisces about a very interesting episode. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of India visited MBM in 1954-55 and was accompanied by High Highness Sawai Man Singh, the Rajpramukh and Shri Mathura Das Mathur, Home Minister of Rajasthan Government. During this visit the President was witnessing a ‘tensile strength’ test on a steel bar being conducted on the Universal Testing Machine in the Civil Engineering Block by Dr. Divakaran. His Highness was requesting the President to leave quickly due to shortage of time, but the President said – “Is test ko poora dekh kar hi jaoonga’ (I will go only after witnessing the full test). And yes, he did wait for another full 10 minutes until the finale of the test when the rod specimen broke! “How humble!” – Dr. Divakaran exclaims on the President’s simplicity.

Dr. Divakaran also remembers that in 1961, Principal Garde wanted MBM to join the Jodhpur University. In a meeting in the chamber of Prof. RD Singh, in which Prof. RM Advani and Dr. Divakaran were also present, he (Dr. Divakaran) pleaded with Prof. Garde not to opt for the University. “Fate overtakes man!”- said Dr. Divakaran with exasperation.

Illustrious Career of Children :

Son Ajay is alumnus of MBM Engineering college, who did his BE(Electronics & Communication) in 1984. He got a research assistantship in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Troy NY where he obtained his Ph.D. For 10 years he was with Mitsubishi Electric Research Institute in Cambridge Massachusetts. In 2010 he moved to SRI International Princeton and now he is Senior Technical Director. His wife Padma is also  Ph.D. from RPI and works for a bank in Jersey city. Elder daughter Dr. Sita is MA from JNVU and Ph.D. in Econometrics from Chennai University. After stint in Public Affairs Centre in Bangalore, she is now Consultant for Orrisa Government. Younger daughter Meena, did M.Sc. (Child Development) from MS University, Vadodara. She has run a day care Centre for Infosys in Electronic City Bangalore. 

On the 80 th Birthday of Dr. Divakaran ( After Performing Homa ) With Wife, Son Ajay and Daughters
Circa 1963 with Wife and daughters

Backbone of College Infrastructure:

Dr. Divakaran supported and helped in the creation and development of other departments in the college. In 1973, when a computer center was established, he was appointed as its first Head. A separate Department of Electronics & Communication Engineering was proposed to be created for a long time, but it could be possible only in the year 1982 with the support of Dr. Divakaran, the then Dean of the Engineering Faculty in the University.

Golden Jubilee Celebrations 2001
With Prof S.S Tak and other alumni

These are only few instances of the tremendous amount of support that Dr. Divakaran provided in the development and strengthening of academic structure in the college. The college owes a great deal to Prof. Divakaran. Team MBM Story is thankful to Dr. Divakaran for sharing the inputs and photographs for this write-up.We all wish him a long, healthy and peaceful life.

About Author :

Er. Kamla Nath Sharma is 1967 batch alumnus of Civil Engineering branch and and an international expert in Hydrology, Water Resources, Irrigation & Drainage and Hydropower Engineering. At present, he is based in Mumbai. He is also an author of research papers on scientific subjects involving water, environment ecology etc. as contained in the ancient Indian literature like Vedas and Upanishad and is a literary writer of stories and satires .Team MBM Stories is thankful to Er. Sharma for preparing this write-up.

30 Responses so far.

    • Marvellous, facts regarding Prof Diwakaran sir, I had done ME seminar under his guidance on long span suspension bridges. He was a great mentor,
      Dr. D. K. Singhal

  1. Great to note. I wasn’t aware of so many achievements of Professor.
    Thanks to Kamala Nath Sharma for writing this. If I remember Kamlanath Sharma was a good badminton player and participated with me in college orchestra by playing Sitar if I am correct.

  2. It is a thrill and very nice feeling to read about Dr Divakaran Sahib and his family. It has been an honor to be taught structural engineering by him.
    On one fine morning In 2014 I received a call from my colleague Dr Damodar Sharma, a former Dean of MBM also, that Dr Divakaran is coming to SF Bay Area.
    We invited him for dinner at our house along with some other local colleagues Manohar Sethi (1957 Batch), Jag Mohan Malhotra (1963 Batch) to receive him at our house in Fremont, CA. He was at our house on time with his wife, and her niece and her child.
    Late in the night he agreed to visit with us the New San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, where I was I also the part of the Construction Team.
    I told him that during every stage of its construction and in meetings, I always remembered what he taught us in early 60s. We never forgot the basics he embedded in us.
    He has been in constant touch since then.
    The Author has done a great job by publishing his life story, never to be forgotten.
    Best Regards
    Lalit Mathur
    1963 Batch
    Fremont, CA

  3. Very inspirational story about our respected dr.divakaran sahib.being myself in mining discipline,he took viva of engineering drawing in those days when allmost all of students used to do topo and he immediately recognised the topo drawings and smiled softly without doing any unfair to the Student.I always remember that personality.very much

  4. Professor Divakaran taught my class mates plate girder bridge (besides other topics, of course) for which he took a real-life kind problem and designed the bridge, step by step, using the relevant codes and slide rule for making any computation. This way, we, the students, could learn it fully. I still recall that during the farewell of my class in 1967, he advised us saying that “do not take excessive rest as it will rust you”. On facebook, once around 2012, I saw a fb page of one Ajay Divakaran and I asked him if he knew Professor Divakaran. On his responding “he is my father”, I asked him to give his e-mail ID and contact number which he did soon after. I sent an e-mail to Professor Divakaran signing as GL Asawa. To my surprise, he, in his reply, addressed me with my full name (Girdhari Lal Asawa) after a gap of almost 45 years. In the first week of December 2018, my wife and I were in Bangalore while visiting one of my nephews. I, naturally, was keen to meet Professor Divakaran. On knowing his residential address, I (alongwith my wife and nephew’s family) visited Professor Divakaran. While introducing me to one of his neighbors, instead of simply saying that I was his student (of which I am so proud), he said that I had been “mighty” Professor at IIT Roorkee. Gurumata made us all feel at home and got served snacks etc. My nephew and his wife and also my wife were so impressed with Professor Divakaran. While conveying my best regards to Professor Divakaran, I wish him healthy and peaceful years ahead.

    • In the last but sixth line, please read “gap of almost 45 years” in place of “gap of almost 35 years”.

  5. बहुत ही सुंदर प्रस्तुति।

    • Reading up on Dr. D’s Bio, there are not enough words to sau and appreciate his tenure at MBM. A dedicated and committed teacher who was keen and willing to share his knowledge to benefit the future generations of engineers. His life time service was invaluable.

    • Reading up on Dr. D’s Bio, there are not enough words to sau and appreciate his tenure at MBM. A dedicated and committed teacher who was keen and willing to share his knowledge to benefit the future generations of engineers. His life time service was invaluable.

  6. I had honour and previledge of Dr Diwakaran’s student. He taught us Docks & Harbour in our final year and guided me well for my Engineering Services Examination 1973 interview at UPSc and I was selected for Military Engineering Services . A thorough and humble gentleman Eveready to help and guide. I salute to his love, affection and commitment for MBM College.

  7. Professor Diwakaran ki madhur smriti ko naman. Am lucky to have studied during his teaching days in college

  8. Very interesting story. I also had interaction with Dr. Divakaran in 1977 and his actions became blessings in disguise and I came out with Gold Medal, which he acknowledged in a full page commendation letter. He was fully devoted for student acquiring knowledge. Pray God bless him and his family with happiness. During my service life I was posted for eight years in Trichi.

  9. Very inspiring story. being a 2014 batch student I really can’t imagine the glorious past of our college and the portrait drawn here it feels a dream college I wanted to join.
    Now the college has been lost its all shine and captured by corrupted and greedy hands.
    Please bring it’s glory back🙏

  10. I am proud of being taught Structural Engg by Dr. S Diwakaran Sb a great Teacher & human being.

  11. I am highly impressed by reading about Diwakaran Sahab. I was in MBM during 1960 to 1964 December
    Trunkete stay as were asked to hurry up due to 1962 war. Dieakaranji taught us in Second Year Civil subject. Being in Electrical stream, I had limited advantage of his knowledge but we all knew Diwakaranji was great teacher and no nonsense Man. In fact like many others, he was jwell in the Teaching faculties of MBM. It was Nehruvian Age of “Maximum with Minimum frills but Hard Work.

    After 1963, we joined Jodhpur University and some slackness was getting into system. Still the Aura of Principal Gardeji with distinguished Faculty Members did not fade.

    We were lucky to have Prof Diwakaran around who will walk in to straighten things in no time. Namaskaram to All.

  12. I graduated from MBM in civil engineering in 1962. We were taught structural by professor S.Diwakaran and another legendary professor GS Pandith.I served in Madhya Pradesh PWD and retired as Chief engineer.

    The teaching of the above professors was immensely helpful in mw entire carrier. And only because of this I could design and construct several major bridges in MPl

    • It is a great feeling remembering our college days and Association with legends like Pro V G Garde, Dr Diwakaran, Dr Alam Singh & Pro Advani and all! Proud of being an MBMite!!
      (I am presently associated with RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University as Professor Emeritus/ Visiting)

  13. I fondly remember his ever smiling face. Indeed a great teacher and a very humble person. गुरु जी को सादर नमन।

  14. Thrilled to know the life profile of our respected Guru Prof Divakaran.He is an institution in himself.

  15. I am very thankful to you dear to get more information about Dr. Divakaran Sir.
    Salute to great Er. Dr Divakaranji

  16. I am his younger brother Arunachala Sharma yadati,and I like to thank him for supporting me for my post grad studies in Math in Madras Christian college.during 1955-57.
    Also I had the privilege of being his colleague in Military College of Engg in Baghdad.teaching aircraft stability and control ( mech engg dept) while he taught Structural engg way back in 1985- 86

  17. I completed Master of Engineering in Structural Engineering from MBM in 1989. I was lucky that Prof Diwakaran sb was Head of the Department, around that time.
    I had taken admission in M E after qualifying in GATE in 1986. A long strike of teachers of MBM in winter of 1987 jeoparadised approval of my proposed research plan for ME dissertation. I had to leave in between and joined a job. But my father, a visionary, motivated me to complete my ME as only dissertation part was remaining. So I returned to MBM in August or September 1988. Did a lot of computer programming in the new computer centre under development at that time. Just when I was writing my thesis in scorching summer of 1989, was asked to vacate L Block hostel immediately by the administration, as they wanted some maintenance works there. Probably only me or two students were residing there at that time.
    I got disturbed, went to Proctor with an application for granting few days permission, but was turned down.
    At that time, MBM used to have mainly part time ME scholars, so people like me, who wished to sincerely complete ME as full time were rare or not existing.
    Greatly disappointed, whole day, with prayers in my heart, I took courage and went to the residence of Prof Diwakaran in evening.
    I thought, he may not recognise me and treat routinely, but, he quietly heard me, took me to his study room, typed himself on his small typewriter and asked me to go to authorities next morning with his letter.
    He advocated to arrange my stay in the letter for one month. I was given accomodation in a building now known as solar passive house dituated opposite to the main gate of MBM, thanks to Prof Diwakaran sb.
    I completed in 15 days and still remember his kindness and support. Shall remain indebted.

  18. My name is RKBhandari. I had the privilege to be a student of legendary Professor Divakaran at MBMEC during the period 1958-1962. Subsequently, destiny took me to dozens of colleges and institutions of repute across the globe, both as a student and a teacher, but in my entire professional career so far, I found very few who could match his charisma and caliber. The influence of the teachers of his kind last through generations and I am grateful to the almighty for the opportunity.
    Could someone provide Prof Divakaran’s contact address and telephone numbers ? I would try to visit him personally once normalcy returns after the current pandemic situation

  19. Prof divakaran taught us 9Mech 1978) Strength of Materials . I remmeber him as an oustanding teacher. Seevral years back, some of had visited him at his home in Bangalore.

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