1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The Practical(s) : Engineering Drawing – Fortunately It Turned Out To be More Engineering Than Drawing [1]

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.

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The Practical(s) : Civil Engineering – Practical rigours practically upturned into joyous occasions (!) – (II)

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.

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The Practical(s) : Civil Engineering – Practical rigours practically upturned into joyous occasions (!) – [1]

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.

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The Practical(s) : The Encounters with Practical Electrical Engineering

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 !!?

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.

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…


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!

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!

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.

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.

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.