Some start from the beginning and some from the end, Being a ‘Madhaym-margi’ let me please start from the middle. Another reason to start from the middle – so that readers forgive grammatical mistakes in my narration!

-It was my first day in MACT ( Now MANIT), Bhopal, Being a regional ( now National Institute of Technology), 50% of the students were from other states including from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu etc. Having done my schooling through Hindi medium with English as an optional subject, I was not able to understand much of the lectures in English. During the lunch break, all were introducing each other. I saw one student sitting alone in the top row. I went up to him & introduced myself in broken English-’I, Sunil Sood.You? Palaniappan -he replied. Not being very familiar with south Indian names I asked again what name? He replied again Palaniappan.Although, I still didn’t get his name I left it there and put next question to him – You are from which space? (instead of asking you are from which place?) With slightly difficult name to pronounce and being quite dark in complexion & the fact that he was sitting alone in a corner, he thought, I am trying to make fun of him. Angrily he shot back- what do you mean? Seeing his expressions, I could make out that there is something wrong with my question. I tried to cool him down and asked again. No No City City. I from Bhopal -you? which city? He understood my problem & started laughing & replied that he was from Madras ( now Chennai). Our conversation was also over heard by other batch mates who had a hearty laugh at our expense. Needless to say that this practical joke was quite often repeated during the entire five-year course!

Persons with ‘Sood’ surname are mostly ‘found’ in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. I don’t know how this surname came into being. But the same word in Hindi means ;Byaz’ i.e. ‘Interest’. Soods from Punjab are little bullying type while Soods from Himachal are very simple in nature- I belong to Himachal Pradesh! .Originally hailing from Shimla, my father had shifted to Delhi where I took birth on a rainy night of 9th July 1955.Later my father settled down at Bhopal and set up a restaurant there. It was called ‘Sood Restaurant’ and was quite popular amongst students of nearby medical college .I had 6 brothers (one of them passed away in 2007), all elder to me and 2 sisters; one elder and one younger to me.

Being the youngest son, my mother always ensured special treatment for me. I was treated as most favoured child .I however, disliked the special treatment since it was often at the cost of my elder brothers. I used to resist especially when she would take partial stand against my immediate elder brother and in favor of me. But her special attention towards me remained there till her last day. She used to say that after her death I would regret my rejection of her extra love and affection. Now I really repent for not having accepted all her love and affection for me and sometimes cry in front of her photograph. In these times, when it is hard to get good sleep, I miss her fondling of my hair to make me sleep. Over- all both my parents brought us up very nicely and in ‘single piece’. My father expired at the age of 66 in 1987 and my mother at the age of 72 in 1994.

Due to the special love for me, my mother did not allow to send me to school till I attained the age of 7 years and was given home tuition before being admitted to a Govt Hindi medium school. Those days there were only two English medium Schools in Bhopal. The Head Master was kind enough to admit me directly into class-2 due to my age and the lessons learned at Home.Incidentally, former president of India, Late Dr.Shankar Dayal Sharma had also studied in the same school. I remember, my first teacher being very nice and encouraging. Knowing that we are 7 brothers, he used to say that one day we brothers would rule Bhopal. One brother may become collector, one Doctor, one Lawyer, Engineer etc. For me he had thought that I might become an Engineer since I was good in Maths.

Lots of things happened during my childhood, which had lasting impression in my mind. Being under the constant protective care of my mother, I had become little self –conscious, shy and introvert. There was also a feeling of unknown fear.We were living in isolated house close to a large beautiful lake called “Bada Talab” ( Upper Lake). This lake is one of the largest lakes in the country. Besides lake, there were Gardens, Hills and forests nearby. While, this gave me an opportunity to live with the nature, I used to also get scared in the nights. Certain events during my early childhood to adolescence, also had lasting impression in my mind.1962 Chinese aggression, Nehru ji’s, death in 1964,Wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 and Shastri ji’s death in Tashkent made me a hard core patriot.