BIRTH AND FAMILY
Dr. K.K. Damodaran was born in Kochuparambil house in a tiny village of Kadapramannar, Tiruvalla, in Alappuzha District of Kerala in the early morning of 31st October 1921 in “Rohini nakshatram” (birth star according to the Malayalam calendar). His father was Velutha Kunju Raman (V.K.Raman) and mother, Kochupennu Kunjipennu. He was sixth of the nine children born to his parents. Shri Damodaran had three elder brothers and two elder sisters. They are Krishnan, Narayanan, Kesavan, Karthiayani and Narayani and the other younger sisters are Janaki, Lakshmikutty and Bharatikutti. By knowing the date and time of his birth one well known astrologer of that time in the village told his father that he was lucky to have this child. He predicted a great future to the child and that the boy would bring name and fame to the family. His father was an agriculturist having business in coconut husk cover (outer cover of coconut which is used to make coir). Mother was house wife. Elder brother Narayanan joined the War Service as an electrician and subsequently joined the Electricity board of Kerala and retired as Junior Engineer. Another brother Kesavan studied up to 9th standard and later the land survey course and joined the village office. He became village officer and then retired from the government treasury as treasurer. One sister Lakshmikutty was a teacher and she retired as a Head Mistress from government primary school.
Dr. Damodaran had his education started very late at the age of seven. As was the practice at that time he also started education by writing on the ground. He studied from first standard to fourth standard in Malayalam in a Christian school called as Mozhasseri School. He also used to attend the moral lesson classes conducted in the Sunday school. Fifth standard to seventh standard in Malayalam he studied in St.Mary’s school at Niranam. He was a brilliant student. He always stood first in the class. When he was in fifth standard his teacher Shri. Govindan Nair took him to his colleagues and made him to answer a question in Arithmetics from the lessons of the sixth standard. According to them it was a tough one even for the sixth standard students. He could answer the question easily without any difficulty. As he was excellent in studies, every body at home liked him and gave all the encouragement and support needed for his studies. He rarely participated in extra curricular activities.
In 1941 he joined St.Berchmans College, Changanassery for Intermediate course in Science. He was staying there in a family friend’s house. He passed the Intermediate Science in first class. Then in 1943 he joined the University College, Trivandrum for B.Sc (Physics). At Trivandrum he stayed in Government Hostel for one year and later in a private house as paying guest. Part of the expenditure used to get covered from the Scholarship and the balance was met by his father. He passed B.Sc (Physics) in first class in 1945. However, he could not clear his English paper. At Trivandrum he was introduced to the Ex-Chief Secretary Shri C.O.Madhavan and his brother Dr.C.O.Karunakaran, the then Director of Public Health. They were introduced by his class mate at Changanassery Shri Balaraman who later became the Director of Public Health, and was the son of Dr.C.O.Karunakaran and. the association with them had helped him a lot in shaping his future.
Immediately after passing the B.Sc degree he Joined M.S.English High School, Ranni as Science Teacher for nearly 8 months. After clearing the English paper in 1946 he joined St.Josephs College, Trichnappally which was under Madras University, for B.Sc(Honors) which was equivalent to M.A.(Physics). He passed the Honors degree in second class. This enabled him to have two degrees Viz: B.Sc(Honors) and M.A.(Physics). At Trichnapally he was staying in college hostel. He was getting a scholarship at the initiative of Shri R.Shankar from Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam(SNDP Yogam) during his studies at Trichnappally. SNDP Yogam was an organisation started in the year 1903 by Sree Narayana Guru, Dr.Palpu and Kumaran Asan for the upliftment of socially, educationally, and economically backward class. He was fortunate to be away from the social inequalities being prevalent on those days in Kerala. This was mainly because his education was mostly in the institutions run by the Christians and by the time he has graduated, the social awareness had gathered momentum in Kerala.
In 1948, immediately after the M.A.(Physics) examination results were published, he met Shri R.Shankar who was the General Secretary of S N D P Yogam and a prominent political leader of Indian National Congress then. Shri Shankar was in the process of starting Sree Narayana College at Kollam. Dr. Damodaran assisted Shri Shankar and other people from the management in the initial works of starting the college. He was then appointed as the Senior Lecturer in Physics. He was the first lecturer to be appointed in the college. All the remaining staff including the Principal was appointed later. He was also made warden of the college hostel. He used to give free tuition to the hostel students in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
BEGINNING OF SOCIAL SERVICE
In 1950 Shri R.Shankar undertook a massive fund collection drive in almost all the Talukas in Travancore state for the construction of College Building. Donations were collected in kind and cash. Dr.Damodaran also took an active part in the fund collection drive. They could collect a donation amounting to over Rupees one lakh from each taluk. In those days the said amount of Rupees one lakh was equivalent to today’s one crore.
VISIT TO LONDON FOR RESEARCH
(1) “Single scattering of fast electron by atomic nuclei”
(2) “Preparation of scattering foils of uranium”
(3) “Dissociation of hydrogen ions(H)+ in gases”
After getting the PhD, he joined the Physics Department of Burmingham University as research fellow. There his guides were Professor P.B.Moon, FRS and Professor Burcham, FRS. He worked there for about two years. During this period he stayed as paying guest. Break fast was available at the host’s place. Lunch and dinner were taken from University canteen. While in London he could attend the conferences conducted by the Indian Embassy for Indian students and the conferences conducted by BBC for Indian Students. He could also attend the conference of vice-chancellors of Commonwealth Universities conducted in London in 1953. There he could get introduced to several vice-chancellors of Indian Universities. SNDP Yogam celebrated its golden jubilee at Kollam in 1953. As he was in London, he could not participate in the celebrations. However in the souvenir released on the occasion his bio-data and photograph were published.
INTRODUCTION TO HOMI JEHANGIR BHABHA
While in Burmingham University Dr.Damodaran was introduced to Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha through his professors Prof. H.S.W. Massey, Prof. E.H.S.Burhop, Prof. P.B.Moon and Prof. W.E.Burcham who were co-researchers with Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha in Cambridge University. Dr.Bhabha was a great visionary with a very brilliant academic record from great institute like Cambridge University. He had a vision of building a self-reliant modern India. He wanted to introduce nuclear technology in India for the purpose of peaceful uses of Atomic Energy. He strongly believed and prophesied that the very atomic energy which led to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War-II could be harnessed for civilian purpose to produce electric power and isotopes for various applications. Under the leadership of Dr. Bhabha who was the Director in Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (an institution started by TATA and later handed over to government) and with the active support of the then Prime Minister Shri.Jawaharlal Nehru, Government of India started another research establishment in Bombay in the year 1954 which was then called as Atomic Energy Establishment Trombay (AEET). It was inaugurated by Shri. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. This establishment was later renamed in the year 1967 as Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in the loving memory of Dr.Bhabha who had an unfortunate death in the year 1966 by air-crash of AIR INDIA flight near Mt.Blanca in Europe.
RETURN TO INDIA
On the basis of the recommendation of the professors at Burmingham University and Professors of University College, London Dr. Bhabha had appointed Dr. Damodaran as research officer in Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay without any interview. He happily accepted the appointment for the reason that he considered the chance to work under Dr.Bhabha was really an honor and a blessing. He was also fascinated by the criticality of the 1st research reactor named Apsara in India. There was a hidden urge in him to do something in the name of Sree Narayana Guru for the benefit of the public and that also influenced his decision to come back to India. In the meantime he got the permission from Shri R.Shankar to repay the loan scholarship taken from SNDP Yogam by installments without interest. He also got no objection from the management for not returning to S.N.College, Kollam.
BEGINNING OF CAREER
Dr.Damodaran was made the member secretary of the training school co-ordination committee, thereby putting him responsible for the implementation of the decisions of the committee and the day-to-day nitty gritty matters pertaining to the training school. To begin with, the training was started in 1957 in a hired space in a building in Churchgate(Express Building). This was shifted in 1963 to another rented building namely Harchandrai House in Marine lines and to BARC premises at Anushakti Nagar in the year 1967. In 1970 August the training school moved to its permanent building, training school complex, situated in south side of BARC at Trombay. Classrooms, laboratories, audio-visual aids, attached workshops, canteen for trainees etc were all in the same complex. As years passed by more and more courses were introduced and there was the necessity of more administrative powers bestowing to the person running the institute. This was realized by the authorities and Dr.Damodaran was made the Head of Training division. The training school Co-ordination committee was reconstituted to three committees viz. Training School Physics Committee, Training School Chemistry Committee and Training School Engineering Committee. Head of the training Division was the member secretary in all the three committees. The committees were made autonomous so far as the curriculum development, faculty appointment, selection of the trainees etc were concerned. The implementation of the decisions of the committees was, however, on the shoulders of Dr.Damodaran. This institute was providing one year training in Nuclear Science and Engineering to the top ranking Engineering and Science graduates with stipend. The trainees were selected by giving wide publicity in all the leading news papers. A selection committee was entrusted with the job of screening the candidates and conducting the interview There were 15 interview committees to select good candidates in various disciplines. The merit was the only consideration in the selection process. During the training there used to be continuous evaluation by conducting weekly examinations and counseling. In the beginning Dr.Damodaran could do side by side the research work for about 6 years but this had to be stopped due to pressure of work. Before starting the training school the scientists were trained at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Bombay in basic sciences. However, after the formation of the Institute, it started giving training in Physics, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Metallurgy, and Biological sciences. Later the courses like Instrumentation Technology, Computer science etc. were added. Russian language was also introduced from the 7th batch as a foreign language but this was discontinued after few years. Dr. Bhabha used to give constant support and encouragement to the trainees. His guidance and inspiration were exceptionally good from the very beginning. He used to preside over the graduation function of the Training School to distribute the awards to the trainees on completion of the one year training. He used to mix freely with the trainees to motivate them and also to get the feed back. Dr.Damodaran was provided with all the facilities including car with driver and telephone by BARC. He was also made in-charge of the Training School Hostel. The hostel was at the beginning in the Military barrack at Bandra Band Stand. Later it was shifted to the Vrindavan Building at Anusakti Nagar and finally in 1975 to the present 14 storey building at Anushakti Nagar. This hostel is having facilities like single room accommodation for the trainees, special ladies wing, clean and hygienic kitchen, dining hall, recreational lounge for indoor games, well equipped library for trainees with working hours specially suited to trainees, well furnished multipurpose hall and official guest houses. Dr. Damodaran continued there from the 1st batch to the 25th batch. During the period of 25 years he was looking after the training of 3750 Scientists and Engineers. Average batch size used to be 150 trainees. The trainees after completing the training were absorbed in the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay and other projects under the Department of Atomic Energy such as Nuclear power project, Heavy Water project,Atomic Minerals Division, Space Project etc.
Dr. Damodaran married Kum. Saraswathi daughter of Shri Kochera Panicker and Smt Naniyamma of Edayila Veedu, Pattathanam, Kollam on 04th May 1959 at Sarada Temple at Sivagiri Mutt, Varkala. It was an arranged marriage. The bride was the seventh of the eight children of her parents. She had 5 elder brothers, one elder sister and one younger sister. She was a post graduate in Zoology with high second class. She had to sacrifice the desire for a job for the benefit of the family. She entered the family way soon after the marriage. The first child, Asha was born on 27.03.1960 and the second child, Vinod was born on 17.07.1962. Asha and Vinod studied in Scottish High School, Mahim, Bombay in ICSE syllabus. Both of them were very good in studies, throughout with distinction. The responsibility of their studies were fully on his wife because Dr.Damodaran was very busy in his earlier years of service in setting up the training institute at the Atomic Establishment and since 1963 he continued to be busy due to the acceptance of additional responsibility in Samiti’s activities. Asha passed her M.B.B.S in general medicine and M.D. in radiology from Grand Medical College, Mumbai. Asha married Shri Pradeep Chandran a Mechanical Engineer in April 1986. They are working at Damam, Saudi Arabia. They have two sons (Varun-14 years and Rohit-12years). Vinod passed B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT, Mumbai and specialised in software technology from NCST. He completed his post graduate diploma in software technology in 1st rank. He worked about 2 years in NELCO and 6 years in Godrej. He left for California, USA in 1990 and is working there. He married Kum. Deepa, Bsc.B.Ed, daughter of Shri K.Divakaran and Indira of Zenith Park, Mumbai in October 1989. He has one son (Neil –12 years) and a daughter (Priti-10 years). They are settled in California, USA. Apart from looking after the children, his wife had to look after the guests too. Their families being big the guests were very frequent affair. After starting the Samiti, its visitors were also regulars at their house and at times staying too. She had been looking after them very well without any sort of displeasure. Few of the great personalities who stayed at their house include (1) Dr.Natraja Guru
According to Mrs.Saraswati Damodaran, Dr.Damodaran is quiet, kind hearted,loving,hospitable, sympathetic and helpful. He rarely got anger and the chances of quarrel at home were rare. He preferred simplicity in his personal life and at home.He avoid luxury. He has no false prejudices or ego. Even if there is difference of opinion with somebody he never stood on false prestige to stick to his own point. He will listen to others and compromise if it is beneficial to all. But if he is convinced that his point is right he cannot be changed. She remembered that once an astrologer had seen his horoscope and said that he is like a rock in the ocean –let any amount of waves come and go, the rock remains unchanged. She subscribed to the said observation. Once he decide to do something he will do it by hook or crook. Immediately after their marriage they were visiting the elder persons in the family for introduction. They went to her eldest uncle, who was most respected by all at that time, and Dr.Damodaran paid the respect by touching the feet. As there was no such custom in her family she did not do that. But Dr.Damodaran expected her also to do the same. Dr.Damodaran did not express the displeasure there. After reaching home he expressed his displeasure and took her again to that uncle and made her to pay respect by touching his feet. That Uncle used to say that Damodaran is like a tree full of fruits in the branches. The branches of a tree full of fruits will always bow down. At home he never used to show love and affection either to wife or children.His love and affection was within. Quoting an incident she explained this point. In 1998 Dr.Damodaran had an attack of Malaria and he was admitted to BARC hospital at Anusakti Nagar.After two days Mrs Damodaran was attacked by Cerebral Malaria and she was also admitted in the same hospital. Her condition worsened and with the help of Shri.P.K.Venu, who was working then at Jaslok Hospital , she was removed to Jaslok Hospital. She was critical and unconscious. Doctors told that the near and dear may be informed. Their son Vinod was at Bangalore for some official Visit from USA. He was informed and he came. Their Daughter Asha with family was at native place.Though her husband Pradeep was in hospital due to the attack of Malaria and jaundice, she also came. Son and daughter decided not to inform the condition of mother to father because he was already ill. Every one was under tension. One phone came and Asha picked up. The sound was resembling that of their relative Shri.Sivanandan. She explained everything to him. The phone was in fact of Dr.Damodaran. He kept it with him. Vinod visited his father the same day without knowing about the conversation Asha had.. Father started crying unexpectedly. He also lost control. Both of them embraced and wept for some time. This incident was not known to mother. After mother recovered Vinod left for USA and from there he wrote a letter Quoting the incident and wrote “ that day only I came to know how much love father had towards mother”. At the time of marriage he was a vegetarian. As Mrs.Damodaran was fond of fish they used to cook fish at home. Slowly he started eating fish. Now he has no restriction for any food. In the beginning his salary was not enough for running the home. They were meeting both ends by taking loan and with the financial help from Mrs.Damodaran’s family. In spite of the financial difficulties he used to help the near and dear. He never spent any money for decorating the house or for buying any luxurious things at home. The children after visiting their friends’ houses used to say about the luxuries there. She also sometimes felt the need for limited luxuries. But Dr.Damodaran never appreciated such desires. The life therefore went on like that. But now she feel that the way they had come in life was better. She is having a feeling of fulfillment. Children also learnt to be independent and they are fully on their own feet. Before accepting the responsibilities in Sree Narayana Mandira Samiti he used to help in family matters like looking after children, going for marketing etc. But after getting involved in the activities of the Samiti he is rarely available at home. She herself was droping and bringing back children from school. Since 1970 they had a car. She had to learn driving for meeting the necessities.As there was servants since beginning she could manage the home some how or the other. In 2004 she was seriously attacked by dengu fever and admitted in hospital. Children had to be called from abroad. In that condition also he was finding some time to go to Samiti. That is his attachment to Samiti now.
Foreign visits as part of social service :
Mrs and Dr.Damodaran visited USA during the period from 09.07.1992 to 24.08.1992. During this visit Sree Narayana Association of North America honoured Dr.Damodaran at New York on 15.08.1992. He and his wife visited UK during the period from 30.06.1994 to 20.07.1994 and participated in the inauguration of the Mission Centre of Sree Narayana Mission at East Ham, London. They again visited USA during 10.03.1997 to 05.05.1997. This time also the Sree Narayana Association of North America honoured Dr.Damodaran at New York on 24.04.1997. On their way to USA they visited the Mission Centre of Sree Narayana Guru Mission of Singapore both the times.Mrs. and Dr. Damodaran were the chief guests at the Onam and Chathayam celebration of “Saradhi” at Kuwait on 31.08.2001. On 03.09.2001, they were honored by Vidya International Charitable Trust at Abu Dhabi. They were also honored by Malayalee organizations at Dubai, Sharjah, and Ajman.
Awards and recognition received for social work :
Sree Narayana world council of New York gave him an award for social service at Sree Narayana Global Convention held in August 1999 at Hilton Parcippany, New Jersey, USA. Asianet interviewed Dr.K.K.Damodaran in their studio at Trivandrum for their “Suprabhatham” programme and telecast his speech on 11.03.1999 highlighting his service in the field of Education and Social Service. He was presented an award for life time achievement for science and social work by Dr.B.L.Mungekar Vice-Chancellor of Bombay University at a function organized by “RAGASUDHA” at M.I.D.C. ground Dombivili on 14.04.2002. Sree Narayana Samiti, Bangalore presented an award to Dr.K.K.Damodaran at the Silver Jubilee function of the Samiti on 05.05.2002 for his outstanding contribution in spreading the messages and teachings of Sree Narayana Guru. “Pathradhipar K. Sukumaran” award for best Sree Narayana Dharma Pracharakan in India was presented to him on 18.10.2002 at a function held at Press Club, Tiruvananthapuram under the auspices of Sree Narayana Mission of India by the then Union Minister Shri. O.Rajgopal. Shree Hariharaputra Bhajan Samaj, Chembur presented him an award for his outstanding service in the field of Education at their Samaj Shakti awards function held at Shanmukhananda Sabha Hall on 22.05.2004. Sree Narayana Samiti, Bangalore honored him with with an award for his social work on 14.11.2004 on the occasion of the 150th Sree Narayana Guru Jayanti celebration.
Felicitation on 80th Birthday :
Dr. K.K.Damodaran Felicitation Committee had organized a grand felicitation function on 4th November 2001 at Sree Narayana Guru School Complex, Chembur to honor Dr.K.K.Damodaran, M.Sc. Ph.D.(London) on his 80th memorable birthday. Shri.G.Karthikeyan, Minister for Culture, Kerala State was the Chief Guest. The Minister in his address by quoting the words of Mahatma Gandhi declared that “ Dr. Damodaran’s life is his message” amidst thunderous applause from the vast gathering. The function commenced with receiving Dr.K.K.Damodaran, Smt.Saraswati Damodaran and Chief Guest Shri.G.Karthikeyan at the main gate of the function venue with thalappoli and Nadaswaram. Lighting of the lamp by the Chief Guest marked the beginning of the function. The felicitation committee Chairman Shri.Kumaran M.Nair welcomed the guests. Shri.C.V.Saseendran,President of Keraleeya Kendra Sanghadana introduced Dr.Damodaran to the distinguished gathering with vivid details of his life sketch. Thereafter a continuous stream of admirers, individuals and the representatives from various organizations including those from Sree Narayana Mandira Samiti, surged to the dais for floral tributes, presentation of memento, shawls,drawings and many other gifts. A “Prasasthipathram” was presented to Dr.Damodaran by Shri.K.S.Menon. Chief Guest presented “Ponnada” to Dr.Damodaran and Smt.Saraswati Damodaran. In the felicitation speeches, prominent public figures praised the services of Dr.Damodaran in his official assignments as well as in educational, social, cultural and spiritual fields. Shri.K.A.Sukumaran,Secretary of the felicitation committee proposed vote of thanks.A grand cultural program and feast followed the function.