It was more than three decades ago, when Dr. Syed encountered Germany for the first ever time in his life when his father brought home a wall clock that was made in West Germany. He was – as fortune holds it today – assigned with the duty of getting on to a stool once a week and wind the clock. From that close distance he read the inscription “Made in West Germany” several hundred times during the course of the subsequent years until sometime later when the wall clock and his connect to Germany gradually vanished into the ocean of certain turbulent phases of life.
As destiny wanted it to be, he returned to the world of Germany when he accidentally came to know from his friend Ratheesh about the possibility of learning German at the University of Kerala in Trivandrum. Suddenly the wall clock returned to his mind and the remaining part of his life was destined for German and Germany. It was a love at first sight for him as he started learning German in the year 1989, prompting him even to give up even a government job and dedicate his life for a passion called German. After completing his Masters in German, he took on to do his doctorate on Elias Canetti. Notwithstanding the several obstacles in many forms, family and professional engagements, he completed the doctoral work in 2015 and awarded the Ph.D. degree by the university of Kerala on 31st of January 2015.
Even though he could have easily settled down in Germany or another German speaking country of Europe, he decided to live and work in his hometown and promote a language and culture that brought him inner satisfaction and social fulfillment.
HONORARY CONSUL OF GERMANY
Dr. Syed had been working as the informal representative of the German Consulate for its official activities in Kerala for several years. Whenever there was a consular case involving Germans in Kerala, Dr. Syed was the first line of contact for information and assistance. In October 2016, Germany appointed his as the first Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Kerala. He holds this honour in very high regard and does not ever hesitate to work as the extended arm of the Consulate General in the State of Kerala. Today, Dr. Syed spends most of his time, taking care of the several consular matters that arise in different parts of Kerala and also engages himself very actively to promote bilateral relations between Germany and Kerala in the fields of economy, academics, culture and politics. He considers the meeting with the German President Mr. Joachim Gauck as one of the most precious moments in his life so far. The trust and confidence reposed on him by the German diplomatic mission is something he values with great amount of gratitude and respect.
Being in the IT field did never mean to Dr. Syed that he would disconnect himself completely from the world of German language and literature. When his head was working for the IT clients, his heart continued to flow the passion for German in and out, day and night. He maintained his association with the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan intact by regularly attending the seminars in India and Germany. The many scholarships he had received to go to Germany and Austria were just additional sources of an indelible inspiration to remain passionately connected to German.
As the Goethe-Institut’s south Asian head office in New Delhi decided in 2007 to start a German language and cultural centre in Trivandrum under the name “Goethe-Zentrum”, the automatic choice to head the institution was Dr. Syed. Together with a group of other German lovers in the city, he returned to the “homeland” to set up and successfully establish the Goethe-Zentrum in Trivandrum, which has by now become a prominent landmark in the capital city of Kerala. Starting with a small group of just over 10 students by the end of 2008, the Zentrum touched the magical figure of 1000 in the year 2014.
As his wish is not just to promote the German language, he undertook a very important task of establishing a constant and mutually benefitting cultural association between Kerala and Germany by regularly organizing German cultural programs in Trivandrum. The palette includes screening of critically acclaimed German films, theatre performances, Jazz and Rock concerts, literary and scientific seminars and symposiums, art and technical workshops for children and adults, facilitating academic collaborations for educational institutions in Kerala with universities and schools in Germany, assisting the IT and other business enterprises here to explore and expand business opportunities with Germany, setting up a Humboldt Club in Kerala… The list goes further. All these activities through the Goethe-Zentrum, thanks to a dedicated and committed team work, has now won a prominent place for Kerala on the map of Indo-German bilateral relations. The presence of the German Railways as the security and safety partner of the Kochi Metro project or the solar project by BOSCH at the Cochin International Airport are only the first ones to come.
The infinite opportunities offered by the German universities for free studies and research, followed by the possibility to seek employment and settle down there, have led to a steady increase in the number of students learning German at the Zentrum today. The opening of a sub-centre in Kochi has indeed to be attributed to this very positive development.
“I see the success of my life, when I see how successful those who learned German from the Goethe-Zentrum are going to be!”, says Dr. Syed.
It was by accident that Dr. Syed entered the world of IT. He was about to return to the University of Innsbruck early 1996 to continue with his doctoral thesis on Elias Canetti. However, destiny decided otherwise and the German IT Company IVL from the city of Leverkusen spotted him to work for their Indian subsidiary in the newly opened technology park TECHNOPARK as a language and communication coordinator for their German projects. Certainly, the absence of professional prospects those days as a German expert did force him to set aside the doctoral work for some time and enter the IT world, which appeared to beam infinite opportunities.
After having worked with IVL and getting trained in software related work, he decided to take another major challenge in his life by setting up a small IT Company Palnar Transmedia Pvt. Ltd., together with his then colleague, Sreejith Narayan, who is now settled in the United States. Over the last fifteen plus years, Palnar has been serving primarily to small, medium and large enterprises in the German speaking countries as a reliable and competent offshore development partner. Over the years, it has also grown out of the classical services tag to a developer of its own software products for the global market.
After having been subjected to frequent encounters with many demonstrations – mostly of violent nature – in front of the government Secretariat in Trivandrum, the phenomenon of crowds and its behavioural patterns started to arouse an insatiable fascination and interest in him to learn more and analyze the factors that lead to the formation and disintegration of crowds. A crucial meeting with Prof. Walter Weiss from the university of Salzburg in 1994 brought him knowledge about the Nobel litterateur Elias Canetti, who had dedicated his entire life to study the phenomenon of crowds. Thanks to the inspiration from Prof. Weiss and the original works of Canetti that he later sent to India, Dr. Syed took the considered decision to do his doctoral thesis on Elias Canetti under the title: “Portrayal of the Crowds in the Works of Elias Canetti”. It was a journey that took him twenty-one years! Starting in 1994, Dr. Syed had initially thought of completing it by the end of 1998.
However, the compulsion to switch to the IT field, family and financial obligations prevented him from finding the required amount of time and concentration. Finally, in 2012, he completed the thesis and submitted it for examination at the university of Kerala. The open defense – attended by several prominent personalities from the fields of literature, science, politics, media and government administration – was held at the department of German on Thursday 22nd of January 2015. The syndicate meeting held a week later on 31st of January resolved to award the Ph.D. Degree on Dr. Syed. A German publishing house has taken the rights for publishing his thesis in book form.
Dr. Syed is now a member of the International Elias Canetti Society headquartered in the Bulgarian city of Ruse, where Canetti was born in 1904. Dr. Syed was invited by this society in November 2015 to present a paper on the current crowd tendencies in India. This paper can be downloaded from the link below.
Last year the German publishing house Röhrig Universitätsverlag GmbH published his book titled “Portrayal of the Crowds in the Works of Elias Canetti”, which is now available at Amazon.
Click here for the article.
Along with his many responsibilities as a functional interface between Germany and Kerala, Dr. Syed also holds the office of the Honorary Representative of the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce in Kerala. Whether it is an upcoming tender connected to the port project in Trivandrum or the solar power plant project in Cochin airport, Dr. Syed keeps the IGCC office in Bangalore regularly informed about the possibilities for German companies to get business contracts from Kerala. Likewise he also offers assistance to the IT and other companies in Kerala to organize business delegations to Germany or participate in trade fairs there.
Dr. Syed considers him utmost lucky that he was born in India and lives here. This gave him the opportunity to assimilate himself with all religions and cultures here. He got married to Sheena, a Hindu girl, on 16th of February 1997 and their daughter Monika (of course a German name!) was born a year later. They all speak German, which has become the father tongue in the family.
Dr. Syed keeps his academic and professional interests alive by occasionally writing articles on different topics or delivering lectures at international conferences in Germany, for example India’s IT revolution and the social impacts, Inter-cultural differences and difficulties while doing business with India, Challenges of doing offshoring to India, India’s role in the global village etc.
In addition to this, he also visits educational institutions (schools and colleges) to deliver speeches on different topics to inspire the young generation and prepare them to face the challenges tomorrow. He also works as a mentor for young entrepreneurs.
Like in many other parts of South Asia, the tsunami waves of December 2004 also claimed 947 lives in the fishing village of Colachel, some 60 km south of Trivandrum. Deeply touched by this catastrophe of unparalleled magnitude, Dr. Syed set up in January 2005 a charity trust under the name LEBENSLICHT (light of life) to lend a helping hand to the victims. With the help of his friends from Germany, Dr. Margret Brehm and Mr. Gerd Groeschl, the three German cities Wolfegg, Bergatreute and Bad Waldsee pooled approximately 35,000 Euros to buy a piece of land and construct a modern kindergarten for the children of the tsunami affected families. Over the last ten years, the Karunya Kindergarten in Colachel has turned out to be the only successful and sustainable social project following the tsunami disaster in Colachel. Every year some 60 children learn free at this kindergarten and they also get a full meal at noon. Thanks to the selfless support he gets from his friends Subramoniya Sarma and Ratheesh – who are also the members of the charitable society – this CSR initiative stands tall as an exemplary project.
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“Dr Syed Ibrahim, Director, Goethe Zentrum Trivandrum, is the driving force behind the rapid development of the Institute in a short span of six years. From the selection of the location ‘Casa Julia’ (it reminds one of a rustic villa in South Germany) to the planning of various courses and programmes, his ingenuity, leadership and organisational skills are seen in abundant measure, leading to its success.This has been accepted internationally by the elevation of the Trivandrum Goethe Zentrum as the fourth best Goethe Institut world wide. Dr Syed has proved himself to be an excellent resarcher also, having completed his doctoral programme along with his busy schedule of work. Kerala University has recently awarded him the Ph.D. Degree in German. I am happy to note the Goethe Zentrum Trivandum is opening a branch in Ernakulam on Feb 23, 2015. I wish Dr Syed all success in his future endeavours.”
I have pleasure to write a testimonial for Dr Syed Ibrahim.
I know him for the last several years. He is closely associated with the Goethe Zentrum in Trivandrum, of which he is now the honorary director. He had played a major role in getting the Zentrum established in Trivandrum. As a former Alexander von Humboldt fellow in Germany myself, I have good ties with the Zentrum and am impressed by Dr Syed’s deep involvement in the affairs of the same. His untiring and whole-hearted efforts have made the Zentrum a live centre for the learning of the German language and culture in these parts of India.
Dr Syed Ibrahim’s curriculum vitae speak for itself. He has a splendid academic record, topped by a doctorate degree (Ph.D) in German literature from the University of Kerala very recently (2015). Earlier he passed the B.Sc and M.A and MB.A degree examinations creditably and passed the Diplom and Magisterium in German language with the notes “sehr gut” and “gut” respectively (very good and good). Dr Syed had won many a stipendium in India, Germany and Austria.
Dr Syed Ibrahim is a dynamic young man of prodigious energy and elan vital. He has pleasing manners and gets along well with one and all. He is active in social and academic circles in Trivandrum and has a large circle of friends. I wish him all the best.
MEMBERSHIPS & AFFILIATIONS
- Member of the Centre for Global Academics, University of Kerala
- Member of the Academic Council, Govt. Engineering College, Waynad
- Member of the Academic Council, Govt. Engineering College, Bartonhill, Trivandrum
- Member of the Business Incubation Centre, Technopark, Trivandrum
Dr. Syed Ibrahim
Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany
Casa Julia, University Road
Trivandrum – 695034
Tel. +91 471 2300777 / 3013018
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