Hailing from a poor family of weavers from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Dr. S. Neelamani has risen to a position of respect and authority by his sheer hard work and dedication. In an interview with The Times Kuwait, Dr. Neelamani spoke about his early hardship in life and how he overcame them with his education.
“We were a family of 10 children and the first time I even wore slippers was in class 11,” he reminisced as he spoke of his early days. His father was a handloom weaver and in a weaver’s family the entire family had to contribute so young Neelamani too worked on the looms.
But a difficult life did not deter Neelamani and his interest in maths and science were evident in his early years of schooling. “I realised I was doing well when I came first in my high school,” he modestly points out.
From there on, there was no looking back as Neelamani got a merit admission for engineering. He attributes this success to his teachers and family. “At the end of the 4th year my guide, Prof Kumerasan, advised me to look up new areas of engineering such as coastal engineering and ocean engineering, which I readily took up.”
Neelamani’s thirst for education was profound and he got himself admitted to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology – Kharagpur for M.Tech and soon after completed his PhD from Madras IIT in 1989. He was immediately absorbed into the institute and began his career as a teacher.
In 1996, Dr. Neelamani was the recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Post Doctoral Research Fellowship, offered by the AvH Foundation, in Bonn, Germany. This was a due recognition for his hard work and educational dynamism. “I felt happy to have achieved this in my early stages of life,” he remarked.
Dr. Neelamani’s smiling and jovial personality has won him thousands of admirers and well-wishers. He astute intelligence is evident in his explanations of coastal engineering, an engineering branch that he simplifies to the smallest detail. It is an irony then that his upbringing was in a small village 50 km away from the Indian city of Coimbatore, with the nearest coast 250 km on the western side and 500 on the east.
In 2003, Dr Neelamani came to Kuwait to take up a vacancy as a research scientist at the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR) on a two year leave from IIT. “I was happy to do research work here and after two years decided to stay on,” he pointed out.
“KISR is without doubt one of the best research institutes in the Arabian Gulf and I am happy to be working here,” he says, and goes on to explain the dynamics and usefulness of Coastal Engineering.
“As a research institute KISR plays a major role in helping society,” he points out, while elaborating that the design data they provide organisations, companies and even governments with this essential information helps good decision making while saving money, time and even the environment.
Kuwait has many unique characteristics such as all water is consumed from the sea so correct desalination processes must be used, which includes right location of usage and discharge. The same applies to power plants where huge amount of sea water is used in cooling the turbines.
The challenges are enormous and Dr. Neelamani explains intricate details of the process and procedures that is understandable to even a layman.
Dr. Neelamani has several accolades to his honor, including scientific achievement award from KISR for three consecutive years, 2009-2012 and in 2013 the award for his distinguished scientific contribution and achievements.
Dr. Neelamani has widely traveled to countries in Europe, Asia, USA, Australia, Brazil, South Africa for conferences and scientific lectures. He has published 260 scientific papers in reputed international journals. Recently he released a book titled ‘Extreme Wind Atlas in Kuwait’, which is useful for all infrastructure companies and whoever is building high-rise buildings.
Among his many social activities Dr. Neelamani is a member of the Indian Community School Kuwait, Board of Trustees and actively participates in counselling and guiding students. “One of the most enjoyable things I do is giving children seminars on engineering as a career,” he says.
He spends a lot of his vacation time back in his native country guiding and training students, a field he is most comfortable in. His simplicity and demeanour may conceal his 63 page CV that has details from his qualifications, credentials, reports, publications and lectures but there is no disputing the fact that Dr. S. Neelamani has set an example for others to emulate.
– By Reaven D’Souza