Meeting Sesanka, the man who introduced me to the internet in 1997


                     Meeting Sesanka, the man who introduced me to the internet in 1997


We met after 25 years. Sesanka Pemmaraju works for the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, as Director, Information Technology. At his office room, I noticed a poster. It read: It’s about PEOPLE Not just Technology. This poster aptly defines Sesanka.

Let me use this space to mention something related. Comet Hale Bopp, described as the ‘The Great Comet of 1997’ was visible to the naked eye having faintly be seen and observed the previous year. It is said by scientists that the comet had previously made its appearance 4,200 years ago (source: Wikipedia).  The other details are technical with more scientific explanations but I am not going to delve more into it here. However, the comet had caught my fascination.

There was worldwide interest in the comet. I was working for Andhra Pradesh Times, a newly launched newspaper in Hyderabad at that time. With my fascination for space, I met Dr B G Siddharth, the director of Birla Science Centre. Dr Siddharth who headed the Birla Plantetarium was someone who everyone would flock to for everything related to the sky, planets, space and everything under the sun and around it. I wrote a news report about Comet Hale Bopp after speaking with him and how and where people could see it with the naked eye.

Sesanka was heading the IT department at AP Times, the newspaper I was working for.  He was responsible for all the technology involved with the making of the newspaper.

As I was sitting at my desk, Sesanka approached me and said: “Do you know that you can get more information about Hale Bopp?” My curiosity was aroused. The man who is otherwise completely occupied with his own work, walked me to his workstation. “These are the pictures. This is the information. You can get more information on this. Not just on this but much more about many other subjects,” Sesanka told me.

I gaped at him with amazement. “You can sit here and use my computer anytime to explore all the information that you want to,” Sesanka said.

This was the first time I had got introduced to the internet. And the wonder of it.

Internet was accessible for the public for the first time in India 1995 and in a limited way. It was still in its infancy. I had heard about it but could not visualise or imagine what it was. And here was Sesanka, with a great deal of interest explaining to me something that fascinated me.

The following year in 1998,  I wrote for Rediff-on-the-net, a news website which had gained popularity. I also used to write for a website called “Andhraonline”. I would do interviews and write regularly for it. But I used to have a difficult time explaining to people what the internet was and what a website.

Over a period of time, the internet became more known ad there were more websites and portals. And then came the dotcom bust. The talk was like there was no future for the internet and the domcoms were described as dotcons in derision.

The internet survived it all. It is the year 2022 and no one can survive without the internet.

Back to Sesanka who introduced me to the internet. As we sat for a talk in his office at ISB, he went back in time. He told me had educated himself in computers and taught at NIIT for five years before leaving for the US. After a couple of years, he returned to India and worked in top positions in different companies. He has been with ISB for more than three years now.

We were in touch in for the last couple of years or so but Covid came in the way and we could not meet.

Why did I want to meet Sensaka? This was for more than one reason. The big reason, of course, was that he introduced me to the internet, showed me how to use it and gave me the liberty to explore it.

More importantly, it is his nature. He, being an IT person, could have well been satisfied that he was performing his job well as the newspaper was getting published in time with the best quality possible. What stood out about him was the fact that not only did he read the newspaper thoroughly, he also went out of his way to see if he could be of help to colleagues during a transitional era where technology was beginning to change the world around you and the world itself.

On December 20, 2022 when I went to ISB and met Sesanka,  I was pleased to see him. I went to thank him for the person who he was. As one who introduced me to the internet when hardly anyone had practical knowledge of it, I would say Sesanka’s great gesture in opening up a whole new world for me will never be forgotten by me. Thank you Sesanka.


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