Dr.S.Jayaraman: In Memoriam


Most of you probably have never heard about Dr.S.Jayaraman, who passed away today in India. And its a shame. Because Dr.SJ as we called him was a teacher extraordinaire and a very special person. And for every one who knew him, he means a lot.

I first met Dr.SJ as an eager student wanting to show-off my assumed intelligence in 1997. Dr.SJ, the preeminent expert in Signal Processing at PSG Tech, my alma mater was the man to impress. If you could impress him and I mean really impress him, it meant that you were reasonably smart. I failed in that attempt but gained a mentor, friend and guide in the process.

Dr.SJ taught us Signals and Systems in our sophomore year (4th semester/2nd year in undergrad college). He was a rarity at PSG Tech where much of the education was by rote, very similar to that in high school. Dr.SJ believed in talking to the student and having a discussion on Signal Processing. In the process, the student learnt by choice and out of interest. His ability to hold an audience and talk to them about everything from the latest cricket series to political affairs to the motivations of engineering were unparalleled. He didn’t believe in forcing education down our throats. He was the only teacher ever to give us the choice of not attending class and still getting attendance for it. All he asked for was a chance to convince us on the merits of the subject.

I remember the final exam for his course which was so hard that everyone thought they would fail. I remember the entire class walking to his office and his assurance that he would “take care of us”. That he did. And continued to do so until we left the college, three years later. He handled a couple of other courses for us and convinced us that he was the best the department had to offer by a mile. He deserved much better than what he got but true to self, never complained. Always smiled. He always had heaps of advice for us and copious amounts of time to chat over tea or coffee at the college canteen.

After graduation, I moved to the US but met him over my next couple of trips to the campus. He was the same person. Nothing had changed. He continued to be surrounded by eager engineers wanting to be the next Gates. He saw those kids off just the same way he saw me and countless students before me. With a smile and his patented form of self deprecated humor.

He was so special that 15 years after we first met him, a bunch of my classmates who had gotten together last week to welcome 2013 were talking about him in glowing terms. And this was before he died. Such was the depth of respect and devotion he inspired in us.

Dr.SJ will be remembered by everyone who had a chance to know him. He was special. We will all carry our own memories of special moments we shared with him. The bonds that will stand the test of time.

As for Dr.SJ, he is probably teaching FFT to the Gods up there. Heavens knows, they could do with a good teacher.

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