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S. Rajanayagam

(Electrical Engineering 1930-32)
Travelled from Sri Lanka for a 9am lecture...

I have pleasure in sending you the story of an incident that happened to me at College. Since I am 99 years of age this fits well in the 100th anniversary.

Winter in LondonIn 1931 I was attending lectures in Electrical Engineering at City and Guilds Engineering College which was part of Imperial College. I had arrived in the winter in London and found it very difficult to get to the College at nine in the morning.
Photo right: A cold winter in London

These lectures were by Professor Mallett. There was only one door to the lecture room facing Exhibition Road, and one had to pass the lecturer to get to a seat.

On this day I felt I would be chastised, and having put my overcoat into my cupboard which was in the corridor, I was waiting outside.

Just then my friend Sowton arrived and asked me why I was not going in. I said I thought I had better not because I was late. He said he was going in and did so, and sat down. Nothing happened.

So I entered soon after him, and had hardly reached my seat, when Professor Mallett started on me and said I was disturbing his lecture. I listened. In our culture we seldom say sorry, and in fact there is no word in Tamil for it. We just looked sad.

I too must have looked sad because the Professor mellowed his tone, must have thought that I had to travel far in big London, and asked "Do you come from very far?" I did not want to say Earls Court, instead wanted to divert the trend. So I replied "Yes Sir, from Ceylon"

This raised a roar of laughter from the class and the Professor closed the incident by saying "I did not mean that."

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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