Categories
Memoire

Sudhir G Dandnayak – is always around

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!

Categories
Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The Practical(s) : In Practice

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.

Categories
Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – Commuting – to and from the college : My second vehicle promotion

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…

But,

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!

Categories
Memoire

Adieu to Late Shri P P Vora – Refreshing the Memories from The Early Phase of My Career

01-10-1943 | 05-08-2022
Ex-CMD – IDBI |Ex-CMD- NHB

As I read the news of demise of Shri P  P Vora, my mind silently slipped in to time machine and went back to the period of 1974 -1976.

Gujarat Steel Tubes (GST)Ltd was directed by ICICI Ltd to approach GIIC Ltd for their term loan finance requirement of around Rs 40 lacs. GST’s approach to GIIC then led to further GST’s additional relationship(s) with GIIC., one of which was the term finance for a green field project for manufacture of Welded Stainless (SS) Tubes at GST’s wholly owned subsidiary Neeka Tubes Ltd (NTL). The fate had destined me to steer these activities as the then incumbent Project Officer at GST.

That project envisaged in-house manufacturing of the tube mill line, and as I had expected soon became the core discussion topic during the project finance appraisal process. I had just been able to present the case in a manner which paved the way to look at that matter now from financial angle as well. The then Technical Head of R S Dixit (I believe I remember the initials correctly), himself introduced the subject, and me, to Mr. P P Vora – the then Head of Finance at GIIC Ltd.

Mr. P P Vora very carefully, but fully professionally, guided me to develop a model of recording and documenting the cost of in-house manufacturing the SS tube mill that would be not too to complicated for us to build and maintain and which will also be independently verifiable while also meeting the points of views of accounting norms of the Companies Act and the Income Tax Act.

Mr. Dixit and Mr Vora both led the entire appraisal process in such a manner that I never felt any discouragement at any stage and was also in position to show the management and colleagues of NTL that it was I who was successfully navigating the whole process.

The way that process was so naturally executed, I was also able to realize then that even as I have been successful in bringing up my theoretical knowledge so effectively to steer a highly unconventional idea to the world of hard-core reality, I always could maintain myself to the planes of reality that whatever I was able to accomplish was not because I was right , it was the right sagacity of vision of these professionals who held the torch of guiding, supporting and encouraging the entrepreneurship, that created environment where I could see my ideas fructifying into reality.

Moreover, the way these two gentlemen expounded our the then limited perspective of the macro world of SS Tube industry also was to play key role in the way we navigated through those uncharted waters.

In the retrospect I do realize now that their whole holistic approach of evaluating the viability of the project over the life span of the duration of the term loan, unconsciously instilled that habit of looking at any given issue from angles different than the obvious.

When I read the news of passing away of Shri P P Vora, it was perhaps natural that these memories would come to the surface of my mind as my humble tribute to that true to the core entrepreneurship development professional.

I also take this opportunity to record my most sincere acknowledgement of the roles that all those individuals have played at different stages of my 38-years of career wherein the destiny was to help me to groom that idiosyncratic ideal spirit of creativity of mine throughout the career such that I am able to look back at all my failures not with a sense of despair but with the satisfaction that I did I sincerely felt was right for me to do then.

Categories
Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – Commuting – to and from the college : The Walk Commutes

Walk commuting to the college was not uncommon to the college-going class of our H/L government-servant colony locality in those days, since most of the colleges like St. Xaviers and MG Science Colleges or Gujarat College; LD Arts or H L commerce College or even HA Commerce college were within a distance where travel by AMTS bus or walking probably would take the same time. Those who could afford a bicycle did opt for that mode.

When I joined LD Engineering (1966), my close childhood friend, Kusumakar Dholakia, three years senior to me, had already entered SE (the second year of 3-year degree course). And of course, our other close friend, Mahesh Mankad too was pursuing his Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, So, he too was a natural member of the walk-group.  Since they walked to the college, it was natural that I join them too.  I think we had couple of more friends from our area who also used to join the walk-group commuters to LD Engg.

In those days, LD Engineering was almost a crow’s flight path-like walk form our homes at H/L Colony. What is today a densely packed residential area was a barren ground those days. As such, once we crossed the first man-made modern landmark, a main road connecting (the then) Sachivalaya – The Secretariat – presently the Government Polytechnic – with ATIRA, then a bloc of Senior Government Officer’s flats would come into the sight. Our L D college was just behind these flats. As result, our walk would traverse the shortest possible straight line thereafter.

The walks used to be so casual to us that I do not even remember whether it took us half an hour or even some more, nor do I remember what topics we had had every day to keep us so mentally occupied during that walk that we did not feel the distance. When I reflect over it now, I realize it was that strong, informal, bond of (real) friendly comradery among the same-age group persons of those times that bonded us so cohesively during our walk to the college. I would positively recollect that the topics never touched shoptalk of either our studies or our residential area issues. Even though we hardly could have major other- extracurricular – interests in common, our small talks would keep us so occupied that before we would realize, we would be entering the LD Engg campus from the rear side.

Another very striking feature of the bond among our walk-commuter group was the sense of timing, In the days when even now the almost the relic of the bygone area, landline phones, was a rarity, beyond most of us, each one would invariably reach the usual meeting point simultaneously, with a clockwork precision a minute or two gap. If someone had not made it till that time, it was simply presumed that he would have some other plans for the day. So, the group would never wait for that person, or even would not casually inquire the reason thereof the next day. It was ‘time and tide do not wait for anyone’ in real practice.

The current oft-heard phrase – water-logging – was almost unheard of in those days. Wherever the human intervention of planned town planning had not spread its shadow, most of the rainwater would easily flow away through the natural waterways. The open ground between end of L Colony and Sachivalay-Atira main road did become too muddy sometimes. When that would happen, we so easily ‘suffered (😐)’the inconvenience of taking up the ‘little longer’ route of Sachivalay- L Colony caol-tar-paved road !

Most of the walk-rides back home in the evening would be solitary. If there would a couple of others in the company, it was more a matter of chance than that of design. I now wonder, why the members who would so automatically get together at one informally appointed time would never have attempted to ascertain who would be leaving when in the evening so that there would be some company in the back-home journey. I think the real answer lies in the strength of that informal bonding of those friends.

These small pleasures of life then that had made our lives so wonderful to live!

If my recollection is right, it was from second year that on some random occasions I would get to coast along anyone of our professors S/Shri N V Vasani, P K Patel or N R Dave who also used to live in our area. Of course, the chance meeting would hardly last more than a few minutes of formal expression of our respect and then a deliberate increase in speed of our walk so that we would drift away as naturally as we had coasted along.  To the best of my memory, ono one our daily-walk-commute group had ever tried to reach these professors at their home for seeking any help or favour or even for a social call on the traditional festival days of New Year. Neither these professors had expected that of us.

That was the level of respect we the students would have had for our teachers and that was the level of decorum befitting their status that the teachers those days would so easily maintain!

Even after I was bestowed with a bicycle in second year, I used to walk with our group. If I had some planned need for the bicycle in the day at the college – which I plan to take up separately a little later – I would walk with group with my cycle too ‘walking (!)’ alongside!

Categories
Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – Commuting – to and from the college : The Cycling Perspective

Cycling mode of commuting had its own glory and glamour, apart from it being a conveniently available mode of intra-city transportation. Many of the contemporaries of our (government servant) parents used to cycle to and from commuting to the office. Primarily because it saved the ‘cost’ of bus travel, which was not that insignificant ‘saving’ in comparison to theirs the then take-home salaries. Moreover it saved the commuting time and was also useful aid for shopping other day-to-day domestic requirements.

On the other hand, during the years of my 10th and 11th standard years, at Gujarat Law Society High School (GLS), Ahmedabad, we had at least two classmates who were sons of millowners, one was son of a newspaper baron and two were son /daughter of the leading legal luminary, who easily could have used cars for commuting to the school, but they rather preferred the cycle option. Maybe it was the glamour factor of bicycle riding, even when the bicycles were simple vanilla design variants.

Purchase of a cycle, perhaps his/her first independent possession, as the son /daughter steps into the college life was certainly a moment of pride for the parents and the ward too. However, for the college going students it was a very convenient mode of maintaining communication link with their partners of budding love relation. Occasions to manage surreptitious double ‘sawari’ pillion ride had their own charms. Even the films of those days used cycle to depict developing love story between hero and heroine. In fact, the songs filmed with cycle as love-carriage do happen to be some of the most adorable romantic songs of Indian Cinema.

Apart from mine, the other two other very interesting variations in the way we got our first bicycle, by the way, are perhaps the classic case studies of acquisition of a cycle in the then middle-class family.

Vasant Pujara[1]  had one bicycle in the family. The priority over its use was obviously for his father, for commuting to the office as well as for other domestic purposes. Moreover, the shortest route from his home, near Sharda Mandir Bus Stand on the South-westerly corner of Gujarat College, those day was via Gulbai Tekra (Tekra is a small hill in Gujarati). He found it difficult to manage the uphill journey in that passage. So, he opted for commuting by bus. However, in spite of some the rare luxuries of those days, perhaps the difficulties – over-crowding during college timings and additional time in waiting for the bus to arrive – he “got tired of bus journey in two years, got company to go by bicycle and luckily father got transferred to Education Dept. at Gandhinagar. So, I switched over to bicycle journey. …. It was nice company of a two-years junior student of mechanical branch of our college, who wanted to learn engineering drawing. In three years of cycling my legs got stronger. Moreover, as an add-on bonus, I learnt complete dismantling and assembling the bicycle, especially to know the construction of freewheel.”

Aside trivia: One of our co-travellers of pedestrian mode of commuting to the college, and one of my other three chums friends, (now late) Mahesh Mankad, joined a factory at Naroda after completing his studies. Soon he purchased a Rajdoot motorcycle.  He had formed a practice to open up one or other assembly of his motorcycle every Sunday c during his self-service routine. Of course, most of the time, the motorcycle had to be taken to a mechanic to refit that opened-out component and put the motorcycle back to normal working condition!

However, his never accept any failure spirit led him to rise to the level of IAS cadre in his career. We always saluted him for his never-say-die spirit!

However, there were many families in our social strata those days where the cycle would a first major purchase as the son (to the best of my memory, not the daughter, normally those days,) would enter college study level. Even as it was considered a prized possession, the actual purchase was not that easy, as is so vividly narrated by Dilip Vyas:

“When I was in SSC, my parents had told me that if I get percentage over 70% and get into Xavier’s, they will get me a bicycle. Well, I did secure more than 70%, and I got admission to Xavier’s as well. Butt in those days, it was not easy to manage ‘huge’ payment of around Rs. 275 or so needed to buy a bicycle. So, when college started, I had to decide. I tried commuting by AMTS for the first couple of days but it did not make any sense because one had to walk to Sachivalaya bus stand, wait for bus and travel standing, and then walk from University to Xavier’s. So, I decided to walk and save 10 paisa as well to enjoy a packet of Chinai sing (salted ground nuts)! Walking was not much of a problem but since I had no one else to walk with, it was a drag. And then a miracle happened.

As you might remember, Bhavan’s college had opened that year. But for some reason that I can’t remember now, their science side got disapproved by the University just before commencement of the term. Therefore, to accommodate Bhavan’s batch of some 200 first year students, University approved four other existing science colleges in the city to add 50 students each over their limit. So, H-L Colony friend Girish Makwana luckily got in to Xavier’s with 55 %! Now I had company. More importantly, he had a bicycle. So, we commuted ‘double Sawari’ – two-seater ride on bicycle – for most of the year. Just before the end of the year, my parents finally managed to get a bicycle for me and then we commuted together for next year. When I got to LD, it was again just me commuting by myself but now on bike.

Just before BE, another miracle happened. My father had for some reason registered for a scooter under government quota (those good old quota days !! ) many years ago and his name came up. After debating what to do, he applied for a loan and we bought a Vespa! My father never even learned to drive but me being Prince of Wales in the family got the first dib on it. Commuting to college was not allowed because petrol was very expensive (I still remember Rs. 1.75 per litter. Including oil.) but I managed to sneak on to it, occasionally, to commute to the college”.

In my case, several other factors played the role of the final push for purchase of the bicycle.

We had opted for Gujarat Government’s loan scholarship scheme – Rs. 850 per year – to finance my engineering course education. During the first year,

I got my basic study instrument aids like drawing board, the drawing toolbox, the slide rule etc. from my uncle (husband of mother’s sister) and a few textbooks from the free-to-rent-study-books scheme being operated by the association of our community. So, halfway through the second term of the first year, we could see that there was some surplus from the first installment of the loan scholarship, and no major expense appeared in the horizon till the next installment would be received next year. So, one day, my parents decided to purchase a bicycle for me. And lo, that evening I was riding my own bicycle to home from Pankor Naka, the (only) market where goods like bicycles were available those days, through THE traffic of Ellis Bridge.

I started using the cycle in the normal course of commuting to the college only next year, because our preferred commuting mode was walking – which I will deal with a little later.

Apart from the benefits of commuting by cycle, there were a few more, fringe, benefits, at least, as far as I was concerned. But these will have to wait till I link them up later with the relevant main story

I would end with the present part with a very pertinent observation made by Ramesh Doshi – now settled in USA – while we were returning from our reunion luncheon of Ahmedabad-based LDCE71M batchmates in November 2011. Just  as we passed the present BRTS bus stand of ‘L D College’ he spontaneously recalled that those days this track was heavily laden with fin-dust, ground under the repeated crushing under the tyres of the AMTS buses. He then seemed to sleep into reverie of those days as he said: the movement buses had created two, relatively, clean tracks. It was a challenge to drive through that track as we used to continue talking among each other, in the company of others, while riding the cycles. It was not uncommon to get the wheel of the cycle stuck in the dust, get down, lift off the trapped wheel back on to the track, and commence the ride again, While the victim got his act together, the others had to ride on, for if they would stray off a look at what had happened, they also will be down to the dust.”

I do not recall if Professor Kellogg, of Machine Design, who would not tolerate getting late to the class – his was the first period of a day – unless supported by a reason, other than the time-worn excuses like bus got late or the cycle had a puncture etc., accepted this reason for the late coming!

Do You? If the reasons not accepted and reasons accepted could come up live presently, that itself would have been an episode in itself!

[1] Vasant Pujara is one of the key active links in reuniting the LDCE71M batch after a good 48+ years. It was his catalytic role that prompted Ashok Thakkar to prepare our “Selected Life Stories-LDCE Class of 1971-Mechanical”. That has further promoted me to collate the present memoir.

Categories
Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – Commuting – to and from the college : By Bus

One activity that did not catch much of our attention in those days but had had a very telling effect on the way the years @ LDCE shaped up was to and from commuting from the college.

The most used modes of transport were either public bus service (Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service- AMTS) or bicycles. I do not really remember that possibly barring one or two students any used scooter those days. I, and my friends at L colony, near the then Secretariat building complex of Government of Gujarat, did commute by walking down to the college, but that was as more an exception as it was more convenient option.

Our senior friend Shri Suresh Jani, as he has narrated earlier, had been critically ill in the first year. After three months of convalescence from that illness, he could resume going to the college. With a weakened body, commuting by bicycle was ruled out and so the choice was that of using the bus. He could manage a seat, but he found return journeys an ordeal.

Except for some exceptional circumstances that some like our senior friend Shri Suresh Jani was placed, the commuting by bus did appear to be an enjoyable experience, as may be observed from the following narration of memories of 9.38 AM trip of route #60 by Ashok Thakkar –

We used to live in Maninagar, a large, and quite a noted eastern, suburb of Ahmedabad. As such, a fairly large number of students used to commute to the (Gujarat) University area. The public bus service, managed by AMTS, was quite efficient those days. Whereas a normal ticket from Maninagar to University would cost 50 paise, the students were eligible for a ‘concession’ charge of just 5 paise!

The number of students travelling to the University areas was so large, that three bus routes – 52/2, 52/3 and 60 – used to ply from Maninagar to and from the University. There used to a morning service of route # 60 that would leave Maninagar bus terminus at 9.28 and would reach University by 10.00 o’clock, in just 22 minutes flat! Comparatively, the two other two routes – 52/2 and 52/3 – would easily take around 45 minutes.

One aspect of this jet-speed travel was that the bus would be so chock-full of the students going to the University, right from the Maninagar bus terminus that there was no need for it to stop any where along the route, thus making the journey a non-stop whistle journey. Moreover

the driver of the that service, apparently an elderly person, would be so energised by the boisterous crowd of young students that he would drive the bus at the top speed through the entire route. However, in order to reach the University in 22 minutes, one may need to stand in the queue at the first stop for almost same time!

Our the then close-knit posse consisted of LDites Suresh Desai, Mukesh Parikh, Mukul Parikh, Bharat Desai, Umesh Parikh, Sushant Mehta, Jitendra Shah, Arun Shah, Jitu Bhavsar, Pamu Parikh, and of course me. There were a few of seniors also as the regular co-passengers, besides students of science and commerce students. Every trip was an experience in merriment, except that it always used to an all-boys trip, notwithstanding even the students of science and commerce stream!  Apart from me, other batchmates, Suresh, Mukul and Mukesh have settled in the US. Bharat Desai, from the Electrical Engineering discipline, too has settled in California. I am getting so sad to note that Umesh and Sushant – of the electrical branch- and Arun – from Mechanical – have travelled out for the final journey.

Sushant Mehta was fondly addressed as ‘Mama’ – the uncle, mother’s brother. Our ‘great’ Mama was a sole exception to the practice of cooling the heels in the queue for that 9.38 trip. Compared to all of us, he used to stay quite near to the boarding-stop. But he so much abhorred the idea of waiting in the queue that he would so fine tune his start from his home that just the bus would take tun at the corner, Mama would be there. Our driver was also so considerate of him, that only time in the trip, he would slow down the bus just enough to enable Mama yo jump in the running bus. This had become the most happening SOP for Mama and the driver, too. Both had so mastered the art of implementation that, to the best of my memory, Mama had bever missed the trip any time during the five years!

As I end my present anecdote, I recall one more sweet memory. In our final year, some time in December 1970, Mera Naam Joker, of Raj Kapoor, was released in the theatres of the city. The songs of the film were released two/three months prior to the release of the film. In the days when portable tape-recorders were things from the Mars, one day someone alighted the bus with his own portable tape-recorder and kept playing the song – Aye Bhai Jara Dekh Ke Chalo – from the film. I so much got liking to the song in that trip that, even after a good fifty years,  it remains one of my most favourite song.

That 9.38 trip – full of all kinds of jokes, pranks, sharing of experiences that Suresh Desai so fondly recall even today – remains one of most charmed experiences of my life.

How one would wish that clock would turn back so that we can happily go living in those sweet capsules of time!

I am sure many of us will have such sweet memories to share. I invite you to please share them here before I take up my memories of commuting on foot and /or bicycle in the next episode.

Categories
Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The First Year – 4 – Direction-Orienting or Direction-Determining….??

Thus far, we have had three quite divergent experiences/ views, ranging from dazzling to frightening or even or confusing, about the first year. However, very rare must be a case who would have given up the pursuit of graduation engineering study for such reasons.

I am on records, in the earlier episode of these memoirs, that I to had joined engineering studies more because I could, rightly or wrongly – I would never now know, foresee that I was not possibly a good material for study of medical sciences.

My admission to the engineering was in Electrical Engineering. In those days, that was considered as the second choice, the first one being mechanical engineering, I believe that reason simply was the possible career prospects. To me, at that point of time, that hardly mattered, I was happy to be in ‘engineering’, whether it was mechanical or electrical or for that matter x or y or z. As it is I had next to no knowledge of what any of these disciplines meant in so far as the studies are concerned or the kind of work that one would take up after the studies. I did have two maternal uncles – husbands of sisters of mother – who were civil engineers, but I had never seen what kind of work they did when at office. Till that phase of my studies, there never was on occasion where I would have sought their guidance, or they saw ant need to offer me some.

Our subjects for the theory part of mechanical engineering were the fundamental like strength of material, applied mechanics, and even Engineering Drawing. On the other hand, on the practical side, at the Mechanical Workshops, there were carpenter’s tools like chisel or (carpenter’s) hacksaw or a half-a- pound hammer or there was a rough file, a smooth file, a or a right-angle for ‘fitting’ or there were lathes or shapers and some kind of cutting-tools to be used along with these machines. Or at The Engineering Drawing Hall, there were pencils with numbers like 2H or 4H (which I was to know later on that these were numbers designating the hardness of the graphite material used in a pencil). We were told what is to be done and if we asked, we were also told what to use and if further asked, we were also told how to use them, however we neither asked nor it was explained as to why this had to be done.

In so far as Electrical Engineering was considered we started learning the theoretical aspect of connecting a resistor, an inductor and/or a capacitor in ‘parallel’ circuit or a ‘series’ circuit.  If we were taught why a resistor was a resistor or an inductor an inductor, I perhaps may not have comprehended that aspect. I even do not now remember whether we did study that aspect even as part of the study of Physics in the earlier years. However, in the electrical engineering lab, I could ‘see’ that a resistor was a bank of incandescent lamps, an inductor was a sleeve wound with wires and I do not even remember what a capacitor actually looked like then. However even bigger surprise was the fact that what was seen juxtaposed in a small circuit diagram was actually strewn across the large floor space of the lab.

Somehow, that realization led my mind to compare electrical engineering with medical science – if one needed creative imagination to envisage what the reality would like when seen on a diagram, the other one required great deal of memory power that can instantly recall names of medicines for so many diseases.

As a result, for the first time, I was now worried – how will I be able to surmount the challenges of learning the further detailed advances of theory of electrical engineering and put that learning into practice with my so weak connecting link of imagination?

Somehow, I had a feeling that I may be more comfortable with mechanical engineering, even with my known poor record of performing art at the Industry or Drawing classes at Virani High School. I had harrowing time to pull out a cotton thread with the help of hand-held spindle or was a t total loss to draw a boy flying a kite (I could not even draw a kite in that picture!).

On almost a parallel track, the importance of another very basic feature of true learning was to get imbibed in my unconscious self.  Immediately after, my admission to the engineering was confirmed, I had gone to my maternal uncle who was Chief Engineer, Western Railway at Baroda (as it was then called) to collect various tools like engineering drawing board and related accessories and a slide rule. These were the instruments which his elder son had used during his study of civil engineering and now I can use them too. During a very informal chat, he told me that in next couple of years when I had studied enough of electrical engineering I should explain to him, in pure layman’s language, how a circuit having a power source and a few resistors was able to light a lamp and how a similar circuit was able to run an electric motor or how a similar circuit made a radio work. He further explained what his query was with the example of his own field f engineering wherein they- the railway engineers- were able to explain to their uneducated labourers some very basic issues of the work which they were expected to perform, without committing any error.

At that time, I had thought that he is simply checking what I had learned. But after the above narrated experience at the electrical Lab and such similar occasions later on, I realised that he was really emphasising the importance of understanding the basics well if you really want to gainfully apply your knowledge to any practical challenge in the real world.

So, unconsciously, I was to gain two insights – one related to the importance of ability to translate your knowledge into the practice, and vice versa,  and the second was developing ability to communicate about your knowledge-based expectations and requirements with the other person who may happen to be from a totally unrelated field or culture and also to conversely convert other person’s expectations and requirements as source of enhancing your knowledge..

Also, unconsciously I was to realise that first was the area where I was inherently weak and second was the area that I should always strengthen in my all pursuits in the future.

There was, thus, a direction set out for the future, but not the aid*s) that can help me chart a path in that direction.

However, I did have a ray that did give me some hope – that I could physically see what I was learning and clearly understand what I was not able to learn.

The lady luck also turned a benign eye towards me. By the end of first year, we had a window of in the form of opting for another branch. I grabbed that chance and opted for mechanical engineering… and even could succeed in securing berth in that discipline.

So, I was now destined to become a mechanical engineer, after all!

My experiences with the practical side of the engineering studies during these five years of studies is a chapter in itself. So is the story of how my career path took a definitive turn – in the last year of engineering. However, I propose to take them in little later.

I plan to take up the subject of Commuting – to and from the college- next.

Categories
Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The First Year – 3 – Pleasantly Interesting, or Path Determining….!?

In the last episode, we have had two different points of view – from the seniors to our batch – in so far as the experiences of First Year are concerned.

But Ashok Thakkar[1] has very interesting point of view of why he joined engineering, which he captions as ‘That one sentence which changed the direction of my life’:

When I graduated from high school (SSC) in 1965, I got 78% marks and became a state scholar. In those days, unlike today, the guy who stood first in the SSC Board had received 86% marks (today, the top scorer gets 100%). The social norm was such that with such high marks in SSC, you would either become an engineer or a doctor. I was very rebellious from childhood and very interested in literature and art. So, I had decided that I would go for a degree in Arts.

But my father (whom we called “Bapuji”) had different thoughts. He had nothing to do with his son becoming an Arts graduate. The only two options I was allowed to pursue were engineering and medical education, for which one had to join a science college. So, reluctantly, I enrolled in Science in the St. Xavier’s College in Ahmedabad. The year was 1965.

When I passed Pre-University Science in 1966, I was thinking, I would pass one more year in the St. Xavier’s College and then enrol in the local medical school. If I were allowed to go into Arts line, I wanted to become an Economist. If not, my first preference in science would be to become a physicist and second preference, a doctor. But engineering was not much of a preference. Bapuji never wanted to entertain any thoughts about Economics or Physics. So, the only remaining option was to be a doctor.

When Bapuji found out that his son was contemplating being a doctor, he solicited the help of his older cousin Tribhuvandas Thakkar.

Now, it would be appropriate to take a short detour and talk about Shree Tribhuvandas Thakkar, whom we called “Dasbapa”. He was no doubt a very loving, respectable family elder with a distinguished life story.

Bapuji and Dasbapa were actually third or fourth cousins. But no matter. Even today, their mutual love, respect and friendship inspire awe. Everyone always referred to these two as “brothers”. The word “cousin” was never used to describe their relationship.

The two brothers had their bungalows across the street from each other in the Prakashnagar Society in Ahmedabad’s Maninagar suburb. Every morning around 7:30, Dasbapa would cross the street and come to our house. My father would wait for him to drink the first cup of tea. Dasbapa was a man of few words. So, they did not talk much. They would read the newspaper while sipping tea. After approximately half an hour, Dasbapa would get up and leave. No words, no formalities exchanged. But we would all be very sad if Dasbapa skipped a day or two for any reason.

Dasbapa had hardly 6-7 grade education. No one asked about his education level. I have no idea if he knew the English language. He had polio in childhood and therefore was always limping. Ever since I remember, he always walked with a cane.  He joined Sastu Sahitya Vardhak Karyalaya (also known as “Sastu Sahitya”) at the age of seventeen as an “Office Boy”. The founder of Sastu Sahitya, Swami Bhikshu Akhand Anand had personally chosen him. Bhikshu Akhand Anand has been mentioned in Gandhiji’s autobiography “My Experiments with Truth”. Tribhuvandas worked very hard with extreme honesty. Down the road, he became the Editor of Akhand Anand Magazine and General Manager and Trustee of Sastu Sahitya.

It was under Dasbapa’s leadership that Akhand Anand became the number one Gujarati magazine and Sastu Sahitya published scores of books on Hindu Scriptures, Mythology, Vedik knowledge, Bhagvad Geeta as well as Ayurveda. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Ayurvedic College near Bhadra in Ahmedabad. When Dasbapa retired from Sastu Sahitya at the age of 88, people were estimating that he might have created a world record by working at the same place for 71 years. In his 93-year life, he never took any non-Ayurvedic medicine.

The late Gujarati author and poet Shree Karsandas Manek was Dasbapa’s close friend. At Dasbapa’s invitation, Karsandas Manek would travel to Ahmedabad from Mumbai once every month (on Full Moon Day), spend two nights in our home and would deliver an amazing musical treatise on Hindu religion.

Now we return to my story.

One fine morning, while having their morning tea, both brothers cornered me. My father: “Dasbhai, Ashok wants to become a doctor. What is your opinion about it?”

Dasbapa invited me to sit there and asked me “do you know who becomes a doctor?”

Suspecting a conspiracy of sorts and bewildered by the very nature of the question, I just angrily stared at him without uttering a single word.

So, he continued:  “Only a monster becomes a doctor”.  I just sat there watching the two elders toying with my future. Very angry, I just snuck out into another room. I might even have cried. But there was no thought of hating them. I simply loved and adored them too much.

Subsequently, I secured admission in LD College of Engineering in 1966 but hated engineering none the less. It was a five-year degree course. I secured around 58% marks in the first two years of Engineering and got an ATKT (Allowed To Keep Term) in the third year. This meant that I would advance to the fourth year, but with a blot on my otherwise stellar student career. I was very upset. For an entire month before the final exam, I struggled with the idea of quitting engineering. My family was distraught – partly because they saw me very depressed and partly because their son would perhaps quit engineering studies.

Ashok Vaishnav, Atul Desai and a few other close friends were quite supportive in persuading me to stay on. I finally realized that it would be stupid to run away at the first sign of trouble. Success and failure are but two sides of the same coin called “life”. If I quit this time, I would never be able to manage future failures. So, I decided to continue with engineering studies with double the effort. The fact that I was forced to go into engineering was not justification enough to run away. When life gives you a lemon, you have to learn to make the best lemonade instead of yearning for a sweet mango!

Just like Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the Peepal tree, I achieved my enlightenment under the ATKT tree. Soon after, I formulated two rules for my life:

    • Accept and enjoy every situation; and
    • Whatever happens, happens for the best.

After that I worked hard and graduated in Mechanical Engineering (1971) with first class. There have been many ups and downs in life ever since. But after the ATKT in BE3, I never got discouraged by failures and faced every single failure head on with unwavering faith in the above two principles.

Now let us get back to engineering.

It was as if I got life’s magic pill with the engineering knowledge and skill. Engineering has provided the skill to analyze and solve life’s problems. Thank you Dasbapa, thank you Bapuji! My eventual global rise in the world of quality in the fields of Supply Chain Management, Zero Defects quality and expertise in managing global manufacturing are a testament to this magic pill. And yes, about ARTS:  I also became a documentary producer, an internationally published author, a singer, an occasional poet and acquired decent knowledge of Economics!

I also realized that regardless of our educational background (or the lack thereof) and regardless of the ranking in the school, we all possess solutions for all our problems. The trick is to persevere and dig those solutions out from the depths of our inner selves. Happy Engineering!

I would finally present my the story of MY experience of the First Year in the next episode.

[1] Ashok Thakkar, well settled in USA for over three and half decades, was a very close friend then, and remains fairly closely connected even now. Even though core of our upbringing, beliefs and temperament are quite different, we shared  similar approach to major issues then – and as we have recently discovered, continue to do so now, after 50 years as well – and to a fair extent, even now.

Categories
Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The First Year – 2 – Confusing, Frightening …?

Continued from previous episode :The First Year -1

Even though one would easily presume that all those who join the engineering as a discipline for graduate study would have done so because that was their field of interest. Oh well, some may also have joined the course because was the most obvious thing for someone who was considered a ‘bright’ student to do. To some more, it was the aura of prestige of the degree in engineering that also had been a good motivation.

How would all the entrants have felt when they came face-to-face with realities of the studies of the engineering, is the question that simmered up in my mind, when I went reminiscing what I was feeling then.

Before I come back to my own feelings, it seemed a good idea to look at what feelings the other students had at that juncture.

Fortunately, I have three different experience available now to share. Two of the experiences come from the then students of three-year duration – course where one joined the engineering degree course after completing F.Y. B. Sc (or inter-science as it was known earlier, and one form my own batch-mate.

Suresh Jani[1], has very vivid recall of his ‘first’ year. To someone who, has gone through many more cycles of ‘firsts’ now, he seems to be viewing that young novice more objectively, and as such has chosen a third person form of narrative, an arms-distance approach, to refresh his memories of first day at the college in June 1961 –

“June, 1961 ……

Suresh Jani, on that memorable day, you had set your foot in the lecture room of the first-year engineering at LD College of Engineering for the first time. You were lucky to get admission in Mech. Engineering. branch in the prestigious engineering college at Ahmedabad – your own native town. Your other friends were not that lucky. They had to compromise with the branch of engineering. or the town of the college.

“But you were not feeling the joy for this feat. You were deeply engrossed in your much coveted subject of nuclear physics for the entire year of your study at Inter-science class of Gujarat College, Ahmedabad. Your love for this subject had blossomed in the company of two friends who too had similar interest. Your highly cherished dream was to be a renowned scientist like Einstein or Heisenberg.

“Alas! You had to put a full stop to that dream, due to pressure from family members to make you understand that your wishful thinking would, in fact, land you to become a mere science teacher. You had succumbed to the pressure, but your conscience deeply grieved with the pangs of the thorn of remorse and lack of courage to resist that pressure.

“The first lecture in an engineering was, of course, in English. You could not understand a single sentence, since you were used to lectures in the science college classes in Gujarati only. Your pain of having come to a wrong place magnified. Though your command over reading and writing in English was reasonably good, you were not well acquainted with spoken English. When you returned home, you were almost in tears. virtually weeping.

“Gradually, over the next few weeks, that grief subsided. But it did have an unexpected side effect on your health, in the form of a common cold that refused to go away. The common medicines at home failed to control it. In a very short period, it worsened into an attack of bronchitis. You had to stop going to the college. Medicines from a specialist doctor did control it, but the side effects of the medicines had made you very weak.

“After a long lapse of three months, you could resume the college in its second term.”

Though technically a ‘senior’, my good friend, Dilip Vyas[2] shares his experience in this regard more logically, from a very interesting angle. He states:

“I had absolutely no reason to be in LD other than the conventional thinking prevalent in those days that If you are a bright student you go to Science (college), then if you do well (there), you go to either Medicine or Engineering. It was also wrong place for me for another reason. When I passed Pre-Science, the new Engineering course had just opened with limited seats. After passing over the chance to get admission in Civil (only bottom ones go for Civil !! ) after my Pre Science, as you probably remember, I went in to old course after F.Y. B. Sc. Now old Engineering course had become somewhat of a stepchild because new course had all the bright, or brighter, students and old course was just going to run its course and so it did not get the typical attention. This was especially bad for me.

“Until that point, I had studied in so called elite institutions. My primary education was in a public school in Rajkot. From 5 to 8, I went to Virani High School, which was best high school in Rajkot at that time. More importantly, it was so strict that even when commuting to school you were watched by prefaces and if you wander around, you can get punished! Then we moved to Ahmedabad, and I went to CN (Vidyalaya) for three years. It has high reputation in terms of its education and discipline. Then it was on to St. Xavier’s college, where just for missing two periods of Physics, parents received a letter from Father Braganza. After first bi-monthly test, Father D’Souza used to come to the class with a giant book, filled with subject-wise marks. He would make each and every student get up and present that student’s progress, or lack of it, in most caustic and warning tone.

“Reason for this long discourse is to give an idea about why when I got into old engineering course where attendance was almost voluntary, I was ripe for complete melt down as far as discipline was concerned. Being an above-average student, I had never had any reason to work hard to get good (enough) marks. In any case, I never had any ambition to get to number #1 position! This combination was recipe for disaster which sure enough resulted in to failing in F.E. Miraculously, even then that was in only two subjects with 5 or so marks short.[3] Rest of the years at LD in S.E. and B.E. passed similarly without any interest or effort.”

Many of our batchmates also had come from, more or less, similar situations. As such, they may have had similar feelings in their first few weeks. However, because of the undercurrents of partly our individual, as well as collective immaturity, partly ‘ that happens when you study engineering beliefs and partly our (so-called) above-average calibre, we never had any reason to talk with each other, then and later.  On such feelings.

…. whether these were pleasantly interesting and direction-orienting or were direction determining? I have an interesting view form my own batchmate, Ashok Thakkar and my own point of view on the matter.

However, it would be better if we take these up in next episode…..

In the meanwhile, I do long for some more responses or recollections to enrich this journey….


 

[1] Suresh Jani has had a very successful stint at (the then) Ahmedabad electricity Company after his graduation. He has subsequently settled down at USA.

However, it is our post-retirement hobby of ‘blogging’ that brought us together as contributors to Web Gujjari, has cemented our common bond of being LDCEian alumni

[2] Dilip Vyas has since settled well in USA, was student of the ‘last’ batch of three-years ‘old’ degree course, which had passed out two years ahead of our graduation in 1971. Our friendship was because of the common residential colony where we (the families of Government of Gujarat service staff lived. As can be expected that easily had created highly, informal, if not very close, friendship bond among all the ‘boys’ of around five-years age difference group of contemporaries.

[3] When I reflect on Dilip’s observation that ‘an above-average’ student had to face a failure in the first year, I do recollect that some of our batchmates also did face such uncomfortable situations. I, too, couple of occasions where I had almost hit that ‘red-line’. However, my recollections are in somewhat different contexts. So, I propose to take them up at more opportune moment.