Biography of Dr.Verghese Kurien
He was born on 26 November 1921 in Kozhikode, Kerala to a Syrian Anglican Christian family. and schooled at Diamond Jubilee Higher Secondary School, Gobichettipalayam, in Coimbatore district (now in Erode district, Tamil Nadu) while his father worked as a civil surgeon at the government hospital there.
He joined Loyola College in Madras (now, Chennai) at the age of 14, graduating in science with physics in 1940, and then got a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy which at that time was part of University of Madras, in 1943 He had to fend for himself as he was young for his age in every class. This according to him, developed his sense of independence. He lost his father at 22 and his great uncle moved his family to his home in Trichur (now Thrissur). A keen military cadet and a boxer at college, when he wanted to join the army as an engineer, his mother persuaded him to join the Tata Steel Technical Institute, Jamshedpur on a recommendation to the management by his uncle, who was a director with the Tatas, and from where he graduated in 1946, but soon found himself wanting to get away from the hangers-on and yesmen of his uncle.
So he left and applied for a government of India scholarship, and was chosen to study dairy engineering, an irrelevant discipline, much to his surprise and reluctance, but this time his uncle (by now, the finance minister) refused to bail him out. He was thus, sent to the Imperial Institute of Animal Husbandry in Bangalore (now, National Dairy Research Institute, southern station, Bengaluru) where he spent nine months, and merely bid time out to be sent to America. Here too, by choosing some dairying electives, rather perfunctorily, at Michigan State University, he returned with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering (metallurgy) (with a minor in nuclear physics), instead, in 1948. While there, when he found himself at the receiving end of racist jibes, in his words, ‘the Indian in him, saw him put the natives back in their place’.
Later, he would say, ‘I was sent to … study dairy engineering (on the only government scholarship left) … I cheated a bit though, and studied metallurgical and nuclear engineering, disciplines … likely to be of far greater use to my soon-to-be independent country and, quite frankly, to me.’ He did train in dairy technology, with a sense of purpose eventually, in 1952-53, on a government sponsorship to New Zealand, a bastion of cooperative dairying then, and to Australia, when he had to learn to set up the Amul dairy. In 1949, Kurien was sent by the government of India to its run-down, experimental creamery at Anand, in Bombay province (later Bombay state and now part of Gujarat state since 1960), and began to work rather half-heartedly, to serve out his bond-period against the scholarship given by them for his master’s degree. He began to while away his time going off to Bombay city on weekends and on some pretext of work or else, volunteering to tinker with the primitive dairy equipment of Tribhuvandas Patel, who sought his help to process the milk of farmers he had brought together after a strike in 1946, forming a cooperative society to purchase their milk, at Kaira (now, Kheda) nearby.
He had already made up his mind to quit the government job mid-way and leave Anand but, was persuaded by Tribhuvandas to stay back with him after quitting them, and help him set up his dairy. Tribhuvandas’s efforts and the trust placed in him by farmers inspired Kurien to dedicate himself to establishing that dairy cooperative, Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited (KDCMPUL) (which came to be known popularly as Amul dairy), at Anand.
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