To me, and perhaps to many more like me, workshops remained an enigma, not only during the studies, but well into the years of hard core career. To someone like me, so raw to the then basics of engineering, the lexicons ‘file’ or ‘chisel’ or lathe or even the ‘boiler-suit’ were the first time ever addition to the language or the knowledge. When I went to purchase these instruments at the then then hardware market at Pankor Naka, Ahmedabad, the merchant must have easily recognized that I was an ‘engineering fresher’ the way I must have (stupidly) stared at his simple clarifications queries! So, they helped me to ‘choose’ what was possibly the best for me then.
The Distinguishing ‘Symbol’ of the Engineering ….
Nothing perhaps captured more symbolically the image of an Engineering college quite like the way the workshop did for most of the people, within as well as outside the LDCE*.
The Workshop is situated right in the middle of LDCE campus. A typical factory-structure like seemed match more than the juxtaposed ‘mammoth’ Drawing. In those days. The workshops housed the carpentry, fitting, and machine shops up front, with the smithy shop located separately at the back, for good reason. *
The first thing that made the student attending the Workshops stand out within the college environment was the ‘blue boiler suit.’ The boiler-suit, normally, that would be laundry-washed – for a good reason:) – when it enters workshops first time at the beginning of the year, would be so thoroughly soiled that even its ‘dark blue’ colour would be almost become undistinguished behind the grey-blackish grime accumulated over the whole year, Typically, once it entered the locker, the boiler suit would go for the next wash only at the end of the year.
That the perspiration and the grime made the boiler-suit dirty and smelly would be a classic understatement for the period of our stay at LDCE. Well, before the end of the first term itself, the boiler suit would become extremely dirty and smelly. No wonder, we, then, could not concentrate on the tasks on hand. Of course, in the hindsight, this appears to be more of an excuse to hide our inability to justice to the tasks!!.
Taking back the suit in such a condition was perhaps was manageable to someone like me who did not stay to far from the college and used bicycle as transport to stealthily whisk it away to the clothing-washing space at home. I think others who also used bicycles as transport and did not stay that close, they also had mastered the art of safely shifting it to the home without being held up on the road for being a serious nuisance to the public safety!
But how would those who used AMTS buses as mode of transport would have managed this, without being thrown out of the bus remains unfathomed.
The heavy hammer that we used during the smithy shops practical also seemed to have earned the student of engineering a tongue-in-cheek identity among the non-engineering student community. The soft-skills-learning community of science and arts colleges would derisively call the LDCE students as ‘Hathodas’ (Gujarati for sledgehammer), Wearing the ‘blue collared’ – literally, figuratively as well as really – only helped to perpetuate that stereotype. *
The students from other colleges also used that slang convey the lack of sense of art in the engineering students. If they really did mean the lack sense of appreciating the art, the use of this slang title was also meant to rub the further salt in our wounds caused by the lack of ‘female’ students among us in those days. The implication was that lack of presence of ‘she’ students that could have possibly made LDites more art oriented. Of course, we used to take such name-callings as tinge of envy at the back of their minds for being ‘second-class’ students in the overall hierarchy of the various disciplines of the then studies at collegiate level.
* These passages are scripted by Dilip Vyas
I plan to take up the insider’s look at the memories of the – ideal and real conditions of – ‘practice of art’ at the Workshops in the next episode.
Hard-etched soft memories, indirectly, related to the subject of Engineering Drawing Practicals
The subject of Engineering Drawing Practicals immediately draws up the picture of a vast hall. The massive empty space of the practical hall never seemed to fill up even with rows of huge tables, with the entire batch of the students occupying it during their regular class, even when almost all students simultaneously opening or closing of the table to top to take out of put in the drawing boards , or the sound of simultaneous foot fall of all the students entering or leaving the hall.
One other such memory is what Dilip Vyas so fondly recollects in these words: “As I reflect on my time in LD engineering, the memory that stands out the most is the image of myself riding a bicycle with a drawing board and T square affixed to it with drawing clips under my right arm, while using my left hand to steer the bike. Looking back, I am amazed how was it I was able to carry such a load while riding a bicycle, since I don’t think I could manage that for even 100 feet now.”
And we had to that for a very few kilometers, with almost no traffic route to the college from our L colony residences. How could our friends who used choke full AMTS buses as transport or bikes to commute from ‘far-flung’ residential areas navigating through the regular road traffic routes is something that I could not comprehend then, or even now.
Fortunately, as per the well-settled tradition, probably borne out of sheer necessity, we used to bring the boards into the college only once, at the beginning of the term, and take back home only at the end of the term. There were some very resourceful friends who could retain their own hostel rooms even during the post-term vacations. That helped many friends to store their drawing boards there.
Another memory that remains etched in my mind and cling to my physical body even now is severe aggrievement of my sinus allergy because of the small dust particles always hanging the air at the drawing hall. It was not certainly because of the fine dust environment that I had attracted that allergy. I did have it very strongly within me right form my childhood and carry it even now. But there should be no denying the fact that I started practice of carrying at least two handkerchiefs whenever I am prone to aggrievement of my chronic allergy. I even started carrying an additional hand cotton napkin a the times of examination times. I do that even ow when I am to attend some critical engagement which particularly will have long uninterrupted sessions.
Another memory is that of mood of festivity during the end-of the term late night sessions of glace-tracing of unfinished drawing sheets. I was one of those batchmates who somehow could manage the completion during the regular classes. However, that never stopped us from remaining full time present at the late-night sessions organized at the hostel rooms of our batchmates. In fact almost the whole of the hostel was abuzz till very late nights in those days since practically the whole college used to join in either actually undertaking the glass-tracing or completion of the journals by en masse copying or attending the sessions as a matter of solidarity. Those of us who were in attendance out of the feeling of solidarity, or sharing the joys of festivity, had to take up the responsibility of ferrying the late-night snacks and cups of tea every hour or so till the sessions lasted, keep the track of expenses such that the accounts of soldiery fund collection vs. actual expenses can be presented when the sessions ended.
I think almost all the students of engineering remain indebted to these stress-busting sidekicks of the practicals that made the rigors of study, if there are such, not only bearable but even enjoyable.
We take up The adventures of goof ups in Workshops in the next episode ……..
Drawing in the name of the subject itself had chilled me to the bones.
Just one illustration will suffice to show that I so much did not have the basic inclination towards the drawing as an practical art form that I could not develop most rudimentary skills of drawing any object.
My first encounter with Drawing was when I had reached Virani High School in the second term of eighth standard, in the year 1958-59. Drawing was one subject that we had to study, along with Music and Craft, in addition to the other regular subjects. I very distinctly remember that first topic that was assigned to me was A Kite-Flying Boy. For the convenience of the class, our teacher had drawn live a picture on the back board. It hardly would have taken five minutes for him to do so. I picked up a few clouds in the sky as my first choice. Since clouds have no specific shape, I could satisfy myself with what I drew. Then in the rest of the time, I chose to draw the kite and the string that held it, being next simpler topics. At the very first attempt, my kite turned out to be a non-parallel, four-sided object, perhaps one of the most asymmetric 4-sided polygon. Realising my error, I immediately rubbed it off. I must have spent nearly whole of the next drawing period in drawing up a decent-enough looking lite. However, even after making that part of the sheet almost back, I could not manage with a decent-looking kite.
My rest of the memory is totally blank, so I do not really remember what happened to that drawing or how would have I managed to pass the subject that year or the next year, before I left Virani because of transfer of my father to Ahmedabad. However, there is little doubt that I WAS indeed extremely poor at the drawing.
Clearing the first hurdle
I then came face-to-face with drawing as subject of study now, and that too, once again, where I had to draw objects. The only silver lining to the dark cloud was that this was not to be free-hand drawing, but drawings to be created with the help of various instruments.
However, there can not be any drawing where I would not face hick-ups.
Till now I only had used a pencil that had a point which as not too blunt. Now, we were to purchase pencil with 2H and 4H classifications, one each was to be prepared with a sharp conical point and other with a chisel-type edge. What appears to be so simple when I write this or read it, actually had turned out to be an as arduous task as that of drawing that kite.
The first assignment was drawing a few alphabets and numbers as well as the drawing identification ‘name plate’. Well, after several iterations drawing one alphabet and getting it rejected because of right thickness of the pencil point not used, I managed to get that assignment approved.
The subsequent topics had good deal of theoretical backing, well covered and explained in our Machine Design textbooks. So even if, the overall quality of my engineering drawings remained poor enough, I was able to understand the theoretical part well enough to help me sail through the three years of study of the subject.
As far as I recollect, several of my batchmates were sailing in the same boat, with varying degree of comfort (or discomfort). Dilip Vyas has capitulated these feelings as –
“Drawing was never my strong suit from school years. When I had to draw structure of eye in General Science in SSC exam, that was the only difficult part in an otherwise easy paper. So entering Engineering college, I was not looking forward to the drawing part. But seniors and my cousin reassured me that Engineering drawing is different and easy because it is to be done with all kinds of gadgets and not free hand.
“I now realize that even though engineering drawing involves using tools and techniques to create technical illustrations, it still requires a certain level of skill and knowledge. Concepts such as orthographic projection, isometric projection, and dimensioning are all critical to creating accurate and useful technical drawings.
“Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how I managed to get through that part of my coursework. But somehow, I must have done the minimum required to earn my degree. I remember feeling a great temptation to cheat, but I resisted and didn’t do any TC or engage in any other form of academic dishonesty.
“As I progressed through my career, I began to appreciate the benefits of actually doing engineering drawings. One of the biggest advantages was being able to interpret blueprints of parts and machinery more easily, as I had a better understanding of the technical illustrations and the principles of engineering drawing.
“In today’s age of computer-aided design (CAD), engineering drawing has undergone a significant transformation. Three-dimensional images and models can be created and modified with the stroke of a key, making the design process faster, more efficient, and more precise than ever before.
“While I’m sure this technology has made engineering drawing easier in many ways, I also hope that the importance of foundational skills such as orthographic projection, isometric projection, and dimensioning are not lost in the process. These skills are still critical to creating accurate and useful technical illustrations, and they provide a solid foundation for understanding the principles of engineering design.
“Overall, I’m optimistic that the advancements in technology have made engineering drawing more interesting and accessible to the current generation of students and professionals. I look forward to seeing how this field continues to evolve and innovate in the years to come.”
I would fully agree with Dilip’s optimism of the present and future of engineering drawing as a discipline of study and practice.
Apart from these core part of the topic of Engineering Drawing, I recall several soft aspects, which did add some colours and life those days to the subject in particular and the study in general.
The Theodolite Survey at ‘Craters of River Chandra Bhaga’ – A Windfall of Secret Treasure
We had had another field practical in the form of a theodolite survey. The field site selected was ‘the craters of river Chandra Bhaga’ opposite the Sabarmati Ashram The reason to place ‘the craters…’Bhaga’ with italics emphasis is that it is one of those ground realities of recent geographical past of ‘50s and ‘60s that the viral development of real estate properties in around Ahmedabad have obliterated many geographical realities from the map of Ahmedabad.
This is the present-day satellite map of area opposite of Sabarmati Ashram. What was barren tracts of craters of river Chandra Bhaga, across the then Ashram Road, is now full of all kinds of buildings. Though the satellite map shows some traces of river Chandra Bhaga basin, what is really left out of the ‘river; is just a sewer ‘rivulet’. That meeting point of Chandra Bhaga with Sabarmati could be crossed via the Dandi Bridge (a.k.a. Parikshitlal Majumadar Bridge) then exists almost at the point of being vanished now.
Well, let us come back to our present subject.
We were supposed to go over to the craters of the river to map the geographical contours of around 1000 sq. yards area there. The field trip being more picnic outing for us, we would have perhaps loved more to map the craters of some other types.
However, the area, literally and really, shorn of any ‘greenery’ save a few bushed here and there. But lady luck had perhaps thought of not disappointing us and had stored below the barren surface, again literally and really, a ‘secret treasure’. It was supposed to be secret from the prying ‘self-righteous’ morally correct’ prying eyes of the ‘honourable’ society. And since it was done clandestinely, it did mean a ‘treasure’ for those who treated it as a business.
These were the cottage-scale ‘distilleries’ of ‘desi’ liquor.
When our supervisors saw us what we had ‘uncovered’, we were strictly warned to keep away from these ‘objects and mind what was our business then. However, some adventurous ones from us withheld themselves from breaking a couple of the pots.
The smell that erupted out was so pungent and obnoxious that no one of us then dared to go within yards of these pots during our stay that day.
I do not think it may any more be necessary that other than these adventure our practical had met the same fate as the previous one of chain link survey had met.
We will take up sweet sour memories of Engineering Drawing practicals in the next episode.
If the practicals of Electrical Engineering were an enigma to me, the practicals of Civil Engineering turned out to be acid test for my inherent sense of practical applications. I do not remember much of what we had done in the Civil Labs, but two outdoor field projects – the chain link survey and the theodolite survey. Of course, I should confess that I remember them for wrong reasons.
Chain Link survey that did not link in the end
I understand that one of the popular sites for the chain link survey field projects was Swastik Society, a upper-middle class residential society opposite H L College Commerce, in the Navrangpura area of Ahmedabad.
On the appointed day our batch duly assembled at the location. However, I am almost not able to recollect how we transported the hardware or actually conducted the survey, what seems to remain deeply etched into my memory are our (undeservingly) joyous holiday mood, the ire of the residents of the area and the goof up in the practical.
From the day the schedule for this field practical was announced, we had started looking forward to this major outdoor experience – not with the curiosity of putting our sense of practical application to the real field test, but with joy of one-day picnic. As a result, from the moment we landed at the field site, we were too raucously loud and noisy for any decent residential area. When I try to look back now, I can certainly visualize how loud that noise would be in the serene afternoon silence of an upper middle-class society. I do not remember whether we indeed chided up for this uncivilized crowd behaviour by our staff, and if we were we paid any heed to it or not. But I still very clearly recall the severe, but too decent for a rowdy crowd like ours to appreciate, chidings of some of the ladies of the society, As I look back, I wonder how were we not banned entry forever for these field projects in the society!
Well, we did manage to run through the actual measurements on the field. However, when the results were plotted down on a scale drawing, we were aghast to know that the start point and the end points were so much off the mark that our end point would actually land up a couple of kilometres from the real end. However, it seemed that almost every batch would goof here, with some degree of difference. So, our teachers readily offered us some ‘practical tips’ to bring the semblance to the measurements vis-a-vis the reality.
Our friend Dilip Vyas, has captured the mood of such chain link survey practical so well:
Being admitted to Mech. Side, I had Civil for only one year. Part of almost introductory Civil Eng. was chain and compass survey which was I think done sometime in July/August period. Since group of students and supervisor cannot just go anywhere to do it, it was done around LD in nearby Government societies. As it happened, we had to do chain survey in H Colony which was just in our back yard. On the appointed Survey day, there was no regular college. The practical was to commence in the early morning. Being Mechanical students, we tended to take anything to do with civil lightly. Almost bordering on condescending negligence. With the benefit of whatever wisdom has come with age, now I realize how stupid that was. But when you are eighteen and have just entered the rarefied word of your first choice of college location and engineering branch (AM was usually first choice and usually comprised of highest marks getters along with AE. AM meant Ahmedabad Mechanical and was among nine choices offered. Three college locations – Ahmedabad, Morvi and Suart – and three Engineering branches were the order at that time), I guess you do tend to be somewhat fool of yourself !
So anyway, we finished the survey before two o’clock in the afternoon and decided to take advantage of free half day by going to newly opened Rupali theatre which had the added attraction of 70 mm. screen. It was showing My Fair lady. I now know that the film is considered a classic but, on that day, combination of having spent most of the day out in hot Sun, having missed lunch and watching the film had given me a severe headache. Later, to compound the misery, when we had to plot our survey in Civil Engineering drawing, final two points came out about two centimetres apart because of sloppy work we had done in the field. Luckily teacher in charge at that time was understanding (and as it turned out, was soon headed to US on Immigration Visa) and gave us a pass to adjust the error and project turned out to be Ok. The drawing part of this, and other drawing projects later, are stories in themselves.
Now, I understand, that they do not need chain to measure the distance. I have seen surveyors doing similar work using laser like device which gives you a very accurate distance between two points.
Before I draw any conclusion, it would be in good order to recount the experiences of another field practical – the theodolite survey.
As I started writing down this piece, I had had quite serious introspection about what would have happened if I had to continue my studies for the graduate degree of Electrical Engineering.
I must candidly admit that my introspection remained at the surface level only, One reason perhaps is that, at the back of my mind, I always thought that I am writing memoirs here, not the treatise on how I should, or should not, have taken up my studies. Another reason seems to be the fact that electrical engineering has always remained an abstract subject with me, even when I had had occasions to deal with the subject later in my career, so why to rationalize , or justify, that rightly or wrongly perceived abstractness!
So, rather than digressing into not-so-relevant areas, I will come back to the subject –
As I started ruminating into my memories of the electrical engineering practicals, the first thing strikes me even today is the awe that large swathe of space that the electrical lab presented, every time stepped into the lab building. Even today, I do not have any rational explanation for that feeling, because I already had had sufficient acclimatization with huge expanse of the LDCE campus, that of very large classrooms, large library and such other infrastructure as compared to my previous experience with the environment that I had had experienced at the schools.
I will take the help of experiences that Dilip Vyas has shared to build the base of my narrative:
“For me Electrical lab was a mysterious and a little scary place. My earliest memory of an experience with electricity was at about seven years old when during a Vastu – house-warming – ceremony at my Mama’s (mother’s brother) newly constructed home in Rajkot, a relative touched some switch and was immediately thrown off on the floor. People said Ramnikbhai was lucky because Rajkot had recently switched to AC current from DC, otherwise he would have been stuck to the switch and may have died!
“With that childhood traumatic memory, I walked into large Electricity lab on the east side of campus with some awe and lot of trepidation. Fortunately, our instructors also were either aware of our awe and inexperience or were scared that some stupid guy touching something and burning him or a machine. (By the way, it was all HIM at that time. No HER. ) And so, they were very insistent on not turning anything up without someone from staff did the final check on wiring connections and, even then, instructor will be the one who will do the honour of flipping the switch. I don’t know about the others, but I was more than OK with that arrangement.
“I do not recall any major up or down incident during Electrical lab sessions.
“There was also, just like CIVIL subjects, little bit of lack of interest (may be a smudge of disdain ? ) for ELECTRICAL. After all we were the chosen Mechanical branch students!! Though in reality, Electrical was on par with Mechanical and some students with better marks were opting for it with their choice. ( In fact, by the time of graduation, Civil Eng. Jobs were easier to find than other branches in those socialist time when Government was the biggest likely Employer of engineers. )
“Another contrast that I felt was that most staffers, and not just lab related demonstrators but department in general, on Mechanical side were more ‘fun’ than the Electrical side.”
+ + +
Simultaneous with our electrical engineering lab practicals, in the First Year, we were being inducted into the basics of theory part of the electrical engineering with topics like ‘parallel’ and ‘series’ circuits and electrical devices like motors, transformers etc. Till then, my exposure to ‘the electrical’ was limited to switching off or on the lights only. I even did not any occasion to see even a water filling pump!
However, like the other ‘engineering’ subjects that also we were learning for the first time, I had started to mentally accept ‘circuit diagrams’ as one of the basic tools of communication in the electrical engineering and recognizing the symbols of resistors or motors etc and those for the way they relate to each other in a circuit.
However, at the electrical lab, my encounter with the same real, physical, objects of so much of a different dimension somehow added to the awe that I felt with abstractness of concepts of ‘current flowing into the circuit’ or ‘voltage applied to the circuit’
Here there were boxes lined up across one wall of the lab. Each box had several light bulbs fitted in slots in different rows. As we went closer to the box, we could see that each had several electric bulbs with different wattages. We could, at least, make out that sum of bulbs in different rows would give us different total wattages. We were informed that these are the resistors.
Then as we looked around, we could also see that there were copper-wire-wound coils lined up in different shelves. We were told these were “inductors” of different inductance capacities. I was so naive at that stage, even when I physically see these coils I failed to comprehend that the copper-wire-winding when charged with electrical current, it would ‘induce’ a magnetic field, and hence the name – inductor. I do not actually remember when this knowledge had lighted up in my mind, but today when I think back, I could see how inadequately I was geared up to take up the practicals as the structured medium of learning.
And then came up the most revealing part of the electrical lab experience – connecting the actual circuit. what could be easily squeezed in less than a quarter page of a notebook, was now spread here all across the lab. Between the two objects there were long electrical wires in place of a short line of the circuit diagram, anything from one to three boxes (of electric lamps) for one symbol of a resistor, a couple coils at a different table as ‘inductors, and so on. And top of all these, the switch was a ‘big box’ with a handle, which we were strictly not permitted to put on or put off!
It therefore can hardly be any surprise that it took me quite some good exposure during the actual career that I could get the real difference between a squirrel cage and a slip ring motor! But, more surprising is the fact that I was already seeing the motors powering the machines in e Workshop practicals, and yet it never struck me to apply the knowledge of motor classification in identifying which type of motor is used for a particular machine!
By the time I had undergone a few more of such experiments, it seemed to me that whatever little I was able to understand in the theory had evaporated in the lab.!
However, before I came up to stage of seriously taking on the fight with that big bull of perceived fear of abstractness of electrical engineering, providence offered me a short cut! Before the end of the First Year, a notice was published that all the students of the First Year desiring a change into another branch can apply for such a change.
I immediately put my bet on the Mechanical Engineering – partly because that was the ‘in-thing’ at that time and partly because I could get respite from studying the electrical engineering for all five years. Early into the second year, lady luck smiled at me, and I got the transfer to Mechanical Engineering.
As I look back, it seems quite clear to me that I must have felt so relived then that I never ever gave a second thought to the possibility of how good (or bad) an electrical engineer been I had to continue with the Electrical Engineering. Or for that matter, even was I a good enough material for the rigors of mechanical engineering?
I have a confession to make today – I am happy that I do not have to answer that question now !!?
That in nutshell is how I would always recall Sudhir Dandnayak. As colleagues, our relationship, apparently, was always at the level of our official matters, but as a person he was always around whenever I sought his support, even when he may physically be not there.
Sudhir and I started our careers almost simultaneously, at Gujarat Steel Tubes Ltd., Ahmedabad. He had joined the Exports department after completing his post-graduation studies in export management whereas I was entrusted the role of setting up company’s first ever green-field diversification into manufacture of welded stainless tubes. As such, we hardly had any common ground that would provide a platform for us to know each other, even as colleagues. However, the fact that we were two formally educated novices naturally did connect us. As a result, we did interact with each other whenever some opportunity was available.
After a couple of years, I was entrusted the role of developing vendors of products other than steel pipes and tubes for exports, so that the company could attain the status of a ‘merchant’ export house. Sudhir was allotted the corresponding responsibility of developing the exports for such products. However, after some efforts, the company lost interest in this area. So, our relationship, too, could not go further. But, whatever few months we did get to work together, it was that unique charm of his personality that we had been able to build a rapport beyond the natural affinity that two professionally educated novices would have for each other.
After a decade or so, the destiny again brought us together – at Ratnamani Metals and Tubes Ltd. Here too he oversaw the developing the exports of stainless tubes and pipes, but initially, my area of work related to altogether a different product. But as the fate had indeed scripted some years of our lives when we could really work together, I was assigned the role of managing the plant operations of stainless-steel pipes and tubes.
That is the period when I came to know of the unique side of the personality of Sudhir Dandnayak. Professionally, we were two streams moving at cross currents. The products that Sudhir could present for the exports required the mindset of goldsmith, whereas we, the production team, had the strong mind set of ironsmiths. In many instances, we could not measure up to the levels of performance that Sudhir would have expected of us in so far as developing the soft skills to manufacture the types of stainless-steel pipes and tubes that export markets he was trying to develop. When these differences would go too far, Sudhir would be quite firm in putting across his views, while fully empathising with our state of mental make-up and the physical infrastructure which we then had. Many a times when we would be put to extremely hot-bed positions, even when he would naturally be on the opposing side of the table, he never allowed any trace of bitterness into his approach with us, either during or after the incident. In fact, he would remain so equanimous that we too never felt any distance from him.
In my personal case, there were many instances, where he had no formal role to take my side or help me, but I found lot of encouragement by his apparently nonvisible presence around me. In many of the such cases, I was clearly able to discern his capability to smoothly navigate through the extremely unfavourable environment with deep calm and patience. It was tis unique side of personality that gravitated me to seek his counsel. He was always there to help me in such situations by enabling me to look at the situation form totally different perspective.
After I had left Ratamani Metal, we had had very few occasions to meet each other either professionally or personally. But whenever I was in extremely distressed state of mind, I always remembered his ways of remaining untouched by the storms around and could always find that solace that helped me to weather my storms.
It cannot be a mere coincidence that his photograph in the obituary – which I have morphed in this article – epitomises his that facet of the personality, of being able to maintain that faint smile (of hope, composure and being at peace) even when the subtle lines of inherent tensions of the modern-day life could be discerned on his forehead.
We, the ordinary mortal ‘friends’ of Sudhir Dandnayak will be able to take solace that he was sent as an emissary by Him to provide peace, composure and commitment of conviction amid the turmoil’s of mundane life and has been recalled by Him for some larger mission there, because we always found him and will find him even now or in future, around us. However, the void that his immediate family will face of his that very personality would be impossible to be filled up even his presence will always be felt around them. If he was here, may be he would have some solution for it!
Roger Federer (B: 8th August 1981) will be remembered as usherer of a new age of speed-power-and-grace style play in the annals of tennis in the first decade of 21st century, Once he bagged the first ever grand slam win – the 2002 Wimbledon Singles Final -, he so effortlessly seemed to dominate the next decade. The ease with which he could adjust his game to the demands of different surfaces, he seemed to effortlessly accumulate 19 more grans slams, with one Calendar Grand Slam as well as record 8 Wimbledon Singles to=titles, even while facing fierce completion form Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
His recent announcement of retiring voluntarily from the professional tennis spurs me to note down some of my memories of the game of tennis as well as some lessons that his career offers to all of us, for our personal as well professional lives.
My basic interest in tennis dates back to ‘60s, when I would read the whole of sports page in the English newspaper with a basic aim to improve my English. There,, along with news of cricket and cricket stars, I would get to read about exploits the then tennis greats like Rod Laver, Ken Rosewell, Roy Emerson, Stan Smith or the Indian greats like Ramanathan Krishnan, Premjit Lal and Jaideep Mukherjea.. However, I saw the real tennis court for the first time only when I joined L D College of Engineering, Ahmedabad in 1966.
Then came the mid ‘70s, when TV had started making in-roads into Indian homes. In that period, we would invariably make it a point to watch the live telecasts of the tennis matches, more particularly the Wimbledon finals. Bjorn Borg, Ile Nastase, John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe, or Vijay Amrithraj of India are the names from that period that remain etched in my mind. Watching these matches also cultivated the understanding of the game of tennis. Then came Boris Becker, who cliched Wimbledon Singles title in 1985, at the age of 17 (the youngest to win the title) as an unseeded player. His ‘boom boom’ serve ushered in the ear of strong first serve as the major match-winning weapon. In fact, ‘number of first serve as aces’ then became a major parameter to assess the match performance.
By ‘90s, the tennis had started becoming the game of technique and power, with most games being decided on the first serves only. The charm of serve and volley, spins, dropshots suddenly started looking like relics form the distant past. However, games of players like Stefan Edberg, still, remained attraction of watching the full live matches.
By the end ‘90s, new star, Roger Federer, could be seen at the horizon of the tennis world. However much before Federer won his junior Wimbledon title in 1988, his father was able see that hidden talent in the boy. He used to motivate the young Federer to nurture the goal to reach the Top 100 so that he could earn the expenses of travelling for playing in the tournaments.
However, the adolescent Federer was feeling extremely home sick. Additionally, when he would match, he would keep crying, alone. He would try to copy some of the shots of his the then idols, like Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker etc. But obviously once into the rhythm of a match these copy shots would not work. He would then grievously regret his such decisions.
However, his Junior Wimbledon title win in 1998 had created its own impact in the world of tennis. But his short temper was still a big hampering factor that seemed to keep consistency away from his game. The 6-3, 6-3 straight sets defeat against Franco Squillari turned out to be the eye-opener for Federer. His own terrible behaviour on the court in that match hurt Federer so much that he vowed not to lose his cool ever again.
The manner in which he succeeded in maintaining the right balance between the hot lava’s flow of series of successes on the court and exemplary coolness of temperament on and off the court has placed the Federer’s subsequent professional career and his life in coveted a role model for a professional in any walk-in life. The way he could create the harmony between his natural talent and acquired competence could be seen in the smooth precision on the court that elevated him to status of (one of) the greatest player as well as a treat to watch for his fans.
However, what appears to be so simple in the way it comes across in these words, in was not all that smooth sailing for Federer. In fact, in the same year at Wimbledon, he suffered another defeat at the hands of Tim Henman. That defeat was the second eye-opener event in the life of Roger Federer.
He realized that along with the natural skill and acquired composure, the discipline also plays a crucial role in the success for a professional. He realized the importance of regular and dedicated training, reaching the venue o the match well before the scheduled time, a sound sleep of night and such other every single detail of a professional life.
The death of his mentor and one-time coach, Peter Carter, too made Federer realize what his destiny was. Roger Federer realized that this untimely death was a sacrifice at the altar of his success.
His win at the 2003 Wimbledon Singles final, against Mark Philippoussis, was the first sweet fruit of his changed way of life. Every lesson that Federer learnt from the subsequent success, or defeat went on to add to the humility, maturity and burning desire for success on all types of surfaces.
His 2009 French Open title was perhaps his sweetest of all 20 grand slam wins. The way he transformed his game from a straight two set defeats and on the brink of a breakpoint in the third one, in the fourth round, is considered to be nothing sort of a miracle. That French Open title established him as the sixth ever male winner of career grand slam, after Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Andre Agassi. (His close rivals and compatriots Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic also have achieved this success subsequently.)
In the age where changes in the ball and the racquet, tennis attire and gear, surface, post-match analysis rapidly started undergoing changes because of the pressures of the respective technologies, a very unique blend of Federer’s skill, style, commitment and razor-sharp intuition has played a key role in recognising him as THE trend-setter player of his time. Never retiring from a match or the tournament in his long gruelling career also remains an unbeatable record.
The destiny had other plans for Federer as he mulled different strategies to continue pursuing his tennis career in spite of advancing age taking its toll on his physique. In aa freak accident in 2026, His left knee popped up when he slipped while running a bath for his daughters. He had to undergo a surgery he was avoiding all this while. Once he recuperated back to the fighting fitness, he went ton defeat Nadal in 2017 Australian Open final to clinch his 18th grand slam!
Presently, Roger Federer, in sage-like decision, recognises the inner messages that his body has been sending in that enough is enough now. His body now has to be accorded its due after having fully supported his career over more than 1,500 matches in last 24 years hat his body cannot take more strains of the professional tennis, so he has decided to hang off his professional tennis gears.
As much as it is important to nurture burning desire to excel at each stage of life and put in all the energies to achieve that success, it is also a defining quality of a successful individuals to know when it is time to quit, gracefully, voluntarily, in planned manner. The great cricketer Vijay Merchant out it succinctly when he said, ‘Retire when people ask why and not when’.
Along with burning desire to always excel with matching approach towards the on-court play on different surface s and ability to adjust the playing style, one very major facet of Roger Federer’s tennis persona has been his very unique equation he has been able to maintain with his hotly chasing his heels compatriot competitors – Rafael Nadal and then Novak Djokovic. On 3rd July, 2022, Roger Federer was in two minds to accept the invitation to attend the 100th anniversary celebrations of the beginning of Wimbledon which was to be attended by almost all the past greats. In the end, his love for the game and the ground that gave him the unique status of eight, record-making, grand slams seem to have tilted in favour of the decision to attend the function. Importantly, one can so clearly see the unique chemistry he had been able to work out with the compatriot competitors and his respect for other greats like Stan Smith, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and such other great legends. It is that quality of Roger Federer that puts him in to the league of one of the ‘aal-time greats’ from a simple great player of his time.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic essentially have very different playing styles, each having one more suited for a particular type of the surface. However, it is to their individual and collective credit that they have won 65 finals out of a total 72, played across different types of surfaces. If 2004 to 2010 was the golden period of Federer, it is Nadal and Djokovic who seem to have dominated the next decade.
Even when their on-court competitive spirits is quite fierce, the combative mood simply gets switched off as anon as the match ends. It is this unique Coopetition ( a business strategy that uses insights gained from game theory to understand when it is better for competitors to work together) that has not only spurred each one of them to raise their game to sustained higher levels of performance, but also greatly benefitted the game of tennis at large. Every match between any two of these three has been a great event for not only the respective fans but has also attracted several other classes of essentially non-tennis loving public to the game.
If shattering of one record after the other in just one time period of the game is because of the great individual competence of each one of these three, a major part of the credit is also due to the strong stimuli that their cooperative completion. To better appreciate this aspect, let us go back a little in the past.
After a string of successes at clay and grass courts of French Open and Wimbledon respectively, Bjorn Borg was not able to crack the American Open title. After a fourth successive failure, when he suddenly announced his retirement from the active game, his words were:
“When you go out on the court, you should say this is great, I’m going to hit the tennis ball, I’m going to try to win every point, and I like to make a good shot. If you don’t think and feel that, it’s very difficult to play.”
There are two different explanations to this statement. One school interprets this as his frustration that he did not have that quality of competition that could help him to elevate his game for the hard courts of American Open. The other school looks at this feeling as Post-Prime Depression, wherein the symptoms include a bruised ego, growing awareness that the top spot in the ranking will never belong to you again, and a fear of the inevitable. It was perhaps a combination of both the factors that prompted Borg to suddenly call it a day.
In comparison to this, there hardly was a phase when any one of the three – Federer, Nadal or Djokovic – always would keep so much winning on a particular surface that other may simply lose all hope of ever winning again on that surface.
Roger Federer selecting the September 2022 Laver Cup as his swan song professional tournament, where he was to team up with Rafael Nadal under the captainship of Bjorn Borg, epitomises the true nature of that unique competitively cooperative spirit. Nadal was all tears at the end of the doubles which he and Federer had lost. However, these tears were not because the two greats could not win just one match, but were the natural reaction that he would never play that high-class, high-voltage tennis against Federer.
Federer has not only given back to tennis what he has got in so much abundance from the game, but he has put his earnings from the game to the care and education of the children across the poorer nations. An official statement at Roger Federer Foundation that he has set up for this purpose notes that the foundation has been able to reach out more than 1.8 million deprived children over last 18 years.
Federer was so graceful tennis player, who combined minimalist elegance with an abundance of flair, that it is said the even after a gruelling five-steer, he would hardly have shed a drop of perspiration and would be as immaculate as he was at the beginning of the match. His gliding movements across the court were so much a stamen of kinetic beauty that he was called ‘a poetic inspiration with the racquet’. For many others watching his game was more of a ‘spiritual experience’.
In his farewell statement Roger Federer very emotionally states that “…..to the game of tennis: I love you and will never leave you.”
The words of Bjorn Borg, at the recent Laver Cup, aptly sums up the feelings that we all will cherish for Roger Federer – …. no one is bigger than the sport itself — but what he did for the sport all around the world, it’s amazing. We should all be proud.
As I sit down to introspect today, I am still not been to clearly spell out my relationship with the practical(s) during the five years of the study of engineering. Whether it was lack of interest, or lack of aptitude, or lack of skills, lack of appreciation of importance of the practical(s) for an engineering professional, I can vaguely define that relationship as the degree of connect only to the extent that I had with all other subjects- be it its theoretical part or the practical part. When I reflect a bit deeper, I can possibly see conditioning of a typical mindset that the environment those days would tend to mold.
In most of the middle and upper lass homes, the atmosphere generally inculcated the belief that during the ‘student’ phase of the life, a growing person had to study as best as the facilities available. The evaluation of the learning normally always gross total of all the marks that a student gets for all the subjects during the studies. The emphasis on studying was so much that the children hardly were given any other assignments that would either develop their aptitude for multi-disciplinary learning. It was the sacrosanct responsibility of the parents and the family to make available best possible resources to help the child pursue the studies, Correspondingly, it was considered to be prime duty of the child to study as much as he/she can, till a particular age or till the family could afford the total cost of study for all the children in the family.
As I had seen, during my Democratic High School (Gomtipur, Ahmadabad – a residential area in the textile mills dominated locality of eastern Ahmadabad) days, the friends who came from working class families, used to double up for many daily family-support chores. However, for the elite student class of the society – to which we belonged at bottom of the pyramid strata – the only activities that could possibly inculcate some aptitude for the practical life was a school picnic her or a short vacation tour there. If any school induced the students to create some kinds of working models or develop any performing art skill was considered to an ‘enlightened’ school. These schools therefore were considered ‘experimental’ schools because they dared (or imagined creating) unusual educational methods that included the practical(s) as well to the historically developed educational model of the school.
The studies till 11th standard those days, generally, was all about theories. The schools that offered multi-disciplinary education during primary, secondary, and higher-secondary stage were far too few. Most of the students of that period would see a laboratory, as part o the regular studies, only when they reached the level of college studies. Even at this stage, the ‘practical(s)’ were treated more a part of a given curriculum. One would study, or teach, the practical as all other subjects were being studies all these years.
As a result, I would tend to conclude that most of the students of those times were hardly aware that the structured studying was as much widening of the learning as it was developing the reasoning.
I, too, was a typical product of that system – certainly somewhat better than the then average – who had reached the level of studying engineering in course of the regular development of the life. That did not necessarily mean that I was attitudinally competent, or ready, to appreciate the importance of ‘the practical(s)’ in the pursuit of the engineering studies. I was not even aware that I will need to consciously cultivate several changes in my natural aptitude in order to really absorb what I was to learn during the course of my engineering studies. As a result, whatever shortcomings came up during the course of studies, my typical response was to accept them as it were rather than try to improve upon it.
In the retrospect, I do realize that It was only when I entered the ‘earning’ phase of the life that I could actually realize the importance what we were made to study during school and college. But that is a subject far beyond the scope of the present endeavor.
My memories and experiences of the practical(s) that will come up in my now to follow narrative should present that side of apathy. I candidly admit that the above disclaimer is not an effort to justify that apathy, but a sincere effort to present my perspective of that reality.
I plan to take my ‘(Mis)connections at the Electical Lab’ in the next episode.
The memories that Suresh Jani shares with us of his commuting by route no #47, is typically very sketchy, but enough to rekindle similar memories in our minds:
My second vehicle promotion – from two wheels to four large-sized wheels mode of transport
Diwan Ballubhai Secondary School, Kankaria, Ahmedabad, was hardly a couple of kilometres from my home. So as was the customary practice of those times, walking was the natural mode of commuting to the school. But when I entered the 11th standard (SSC) class, I was awarded my first promotion – from two legs to two wheels mode of transport – of commuting on a bicycle.
I had joined Gujarat College (Ells Bridge, Ahmedabad) for my Prescience. The college was around four kilometers from my home. So, I continued to use bicycle for commuting to the college.
After my Inter, I joined L D Engineering college, which was still at more distance from my home. So I got my second vehicle promotion – from two wheels to four large-sized wheels -of traveling to and from college by AMTS bus service, by the pair of circular routes of #46 and #47.
I had to take my Kalupur Station to Delhi Darwaja-Income tax office- side route of #47 for my ride to college. I would walk up to the Sarangpur Garden bus stop, just outside the Sarangpur Gate. Even though the bus route was a circular one – one that does not have a specific terminus point for the reverse journey – we used to get almost no-passenger-situations when we would board the bus. After two stops was the Kalupur Gate stop, where two other colleagues, Bhupendra Doshi and Vinod Solanki, would join.
Bhupendra Doshi went on to reach the position of Chief Engineer at Aryodaya Ginning Mills and had retired from a senior position from Delhi. Vinod Solanki had risen to become professor at the engineering college.
Presently, our bus journey would progress towards Dariapur, where at Upadhyay would join us. He went to reach the position of Superintending Engineer at Head Office of Gujarat Electricity Board. When our journey would reach Shahpur, Pancholi would join in. Unfortunately, I do not recollect the full name of Pancholi, nor have whereabouts of his career progression. Both of them normally had to travel standing till Income Tax office bus stop, from where they generally used to get a seat till our last stop of Gujarat University.
Many other contemporary LDites also used to join in this bus service during the whole route. However, since they all belonged to other classes, our relationship remained at the level of high-hello stage only.
We used to remain fully occupied with some or other topic of discussion during the trip every day. The topics would range from the films that we may have seen of late or filming the skits of our teachers. The actors of those films or our teachers would be awarded with most innovative fishpond titles as part of our story sessions. During the ‘submission’ season, the discussing would remain focused on the woes of meeting the ‘submission’ targets, duly interspersed with any improvisations that anyone had had benefit to try out to ease the load.
The return journey from college to home was on the pairing circular route of #46 service. The return journeys were invariably the standing ones for most of the part of route. Many a times we must have felt that additional burden over hectic studies of the day. Sometimes, in order to beat that boredom of travelling in standing mode, or just for the sake of fun because that would also cost us 5 paisa, we would choose the longer route of #47 service that would take us Paldi Jamalpur etc. The bonus of that longer route was company of many other friends who normally travelled by that route. Unfortunately, I am not able recollect more details of them.
Of course, after the graduation during the service, I was beneficiary of company-provided Royal Enfield motorcycle, which wen onto scale up with my own scooter and company-provided car too.
Post-retirement too I have been rewarded with a car gifted by so lovingly by my daughter and son-in- law. Added to this is frequent long-haul air travel to USA and India once every few years, the share of promotions of travel means seems not to end…
Nothing of these luxuries would stand any chance with the innate pleasure that 5-paisa student concession travel that route #47 had provided……..
An aside memory:
That takes me back to my bus travel to commute to Democratic High school during early 1964, because of our mid-academic year shifting to the H colony, a government servant residential facility opposite the then Secretariat. I would normally take Lal Darwaja to Polytechnic route (#43) for one leg of my daily commuting. That route, as well many buses of routes #46 and #47 had Leyland model known as “Tiger cub’.
The Obvious difference of this bus was its seating arrangement. Its ‘out’ gate was right at the front wall of the body. As a result, the first the first passenger seat in the left side was so close to the front wall that when sitting there, you can feel that the traffic ahead is just a hand away. Even at the age of 15 /16 years, that feel gave me a great thrill. However, I still remember those buses for its another feature, At the start, when the driver would engage the gear, the bus would get into the motion with a very soft jerk. Then, once it would gain speed, it has a very different rhythm. Interestingly, today, when I ride the modern Volvo or Mercedes buses, with their ultra-modern automobile engineering, I get the same feel of rhythm!