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It’s back to college for Google’s Sundar Pichai

The 44-year old CEO recalled how he had to work very hard to make up for poor grades in the first year of his four-year course at IIT-Kgp.

kolkata Updated: Jan 06, 2017 13:10 IST
Mou Chakraborty
Mou Chakraborty
Hindustan Times
Google CEO,Sundar Pichai,IIT Kharagpur
The Google CEO interacting with students at IIT Kharagpur campus on Thursday.(Samir Jana)

One of the things a rather shy man from Chennai remembered on Thursday after returning to his alma mater IIT-Kgp that he left 23 years ago was that he used a soft expletive “abbe saale’’ that thoroughly upset the mess attendant, and how he used to bunk classes. The lanky, bespectacled 44-year old man, who was narrating his memories and drew loud cheer from the audience consisting mainly of current students, was none other than the chief executive officer of Google, Sundar Pichai.

During the entire 45-minute address, lanky, bespectacled Pichai who exuded a boyish charm, immersed himself and wallowed in fond memories of campus life.

As he walked into the campus retired professor of metallurgy Sanat Kumar Roy, who used to teach Pichai, welcomed him. He touched Roy’s feet and exclaimed, “You look so old!”

“In my 45-year old career as a professor at IIT-Kgp Sundar has been one of the most dedicated and hardworking students,” said Roy.

Later, while interacting with the students Pichai named professor Roy and the current director of IIT Kanpur, professor Indranil Manna as the two teachers who left a lasting impression on him.

“The last time I left IIT-Kgp I was on my way to the railway station and then never came back. And today, when I am back, a lot of things have changed but a lot have remained the same,” said the Google CEO.

“I am sure the students at Harry’s (the name of the canteen) are still clueless about whether they have been served dal or sambar,” quipped Pichai. Even before he could complete the sentence the current students shouting in the affirmative.

Answering questions from students on whether he, too, used to bunk classes, Pichai wore a shy smile and said, “Of course, I worked hard and had some fun too! I stayed up till late at night and missed my morning classes.”

Pichai’s wife Anjali, too, was a student at IIT-KGP. The Google CEO remembered how in those days technology did not help people to stay connected and how he struggled to meet her. “It was not easy. Every time I went to S N Hall to meet her, the system was to go through the front door and ask for permission. And then someone would shout out my name and ask Anjali to come out!”

Talking about how he once used Hindi slang and upset the mess attendant he said, “I came from Chennai and never spoke Hindi but heard people talking and understood the language. One day I decided to call my mess attendant and did so by calling him ‘abbe saale’’. I thought that was the way of calling people. But that insult lead the mess to remain closed for some time.”

The top executive of Google also went to Nehru Hall and visited room No. B 308, where he had spent his days. “Nothing much has changed. My dormitory still looks the same,” Pichai said.

Harsheel Pansare, a fifth year architecture student who currently occupies room B308 was elated. “I feel so lucky to get the same room as him. He walked into the room, looked around and asked me whether the balls hit at cricket games in the adjoining ground still lands inside,” Pansare said.

Pichai took a volley of questions from students including how he was ragged, how was his job interview, digitisation drive in India, products on which Google is working on, the technology education scenario in India and tips to succeed in life.

“I am convinced that India will be a global player in digital economy. It is only a matter of time,” he remarked.

While the program was coming to a close, a student asked Pichai how she can replace him in Google. “Be careful about what you wish for, but I would be happy to discuss it over a cup of tea,” Pichai quipped.

First Published: Jan 06, 2017 13:10 IST