Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Life Imitates Onion - Part Deux: Area People Search for Google CEO's Chennai Origins

The farcical search for Venky Ramakrishnan's origins in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, is playing out all over again. This time, the search is for the Chennai origins of Google's newly minted CEO Sundar Pichai.

Exhibit A: Chennai digs for Pichai’s past:

The search for his Chennai connections began soon after news of his new role at Google was announced. Schools, alumni associations and the media came together to track down Mr. Pichai’s roots in the city.

Mr. Pichai was born and brought up in Chennai, but left the city after he completed his class XII in 1989.

At his alma mater, Jawahar Vidyalaya (JV) in Ashok Nagar, the phone has been ringing non-stop since Tuesday morning. “Only when the media alerted us to the news did we start looking through our records. He studied here from 1979 to 1987, and then switched schools,” Alice Jeevan, school Principal said. While the school was able to locate his transfer certificate, they have not yet found his other school records.

“Had he been a naughty child, we would have remembered him,” she said. Mr. Pichai was a quiet student and, though he studied well, was not the school topper.

One of his schoolmates, now in Kolkata, recalls being in the same class with Mr. Pichai, but says they were not good friends. “The only thing I remember is that he and Shankar Subramanian used to compete for the highest marks in science.” She did not wish to be identified.

Vanavani, where he is believed to have attended Classes XI and XII, has been unable to locate his records yet.

Exhibit B: Editing spree on Wikipedia for Sundar Pichai:

The day broke in India with the Wikipedia entry mentioning “done his schooling in Vanavani and Jawahar Vidyalaya, Chennai.” [...]

But then began the edits to the Wikipedia entry on Pichai and, in a sense, all hell broke loose.

Subsequently, various permutations and combinations involving three schools — Vanavani, PSBB and Jawahar Vidyalaya — were the flavour of the day. Other notable mentions were GRT Mahalakshmi Vidyalaya and All Angels Matriculation Higher Secondary School. While the first three were at least in the running, the others were probably long shots for publicity by enthusiastic alumni, taking advantage of the open editing format of Wikipedia.