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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.

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Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – The First Year -1 – Dazzling . . ..!?

At the very outset, I would like to submit that I have planned to include a wider view of the experience of studying the engineering degree course, by inviting views of some friends who were senior to us at LD – even though they happened to be in the ‘old’ course of three-year studies for earning an engineering degree. As such, these memoirs will be not simply recounting our memories but also will be retrospectively reflective as well – with that proverbial a pinch of salt that would make the nostalgia a bit tasteful, and meaningful, as well!

When I started recollecting the memories of the First Year of our five-year graduate engineering course @ LD College of Engineering, I thought that looking at it from so far-off (time) reference point, I should be able to see it in a clearer perspective than I indeed did see it then, from the very-close reference point of the present that we were actually living in. But as I try to put down more and more memories of that year here, do I see such a difference? When I started putting down my memories of events of the first year, I perceive that some events ought to have dazzled us or confused us or frightened us. Some of those events certainly were pleasantly interesting, whether direction-orienting or direction-determining or not, at least, then.

As such, I plan to organize these reminiscences of our first year in the three-part posts. Grouping them under the titles of these experiences that living those events that we felt or should have felt.

Dazzling . . ..!?

The very first thing that was ‘new’ to us was the semester system. However, our initial understanding that instead of five annual examinations, to be conducted by (Gujarat) University, we will now have ten examinations. I think we all accepted that ‘fact’ ‘as is’, since we did not have any reasons to think beyond that.

We also knew that we have entered a new field of studies. So, the titles of subjects, in our first semester timetable like Engineering drawing -1 or Workshops or Strength of materials – 1 etc. also we accepted ‘as is’, perhaps subconsciously knowing that we will have to cross many such ‘new’ bridges, so be it.  However, seeing the familiar nouns like Mathematics, Chemistry, with the prefix ‘Engineering’ also did not cause any crease of curiosity on almost anyone of us.  Possibly because, we, all, have been trained well to learn new ‘what’ and ‘how’. without ever thinking why we need to learn that ‘what’ and ‘how’. [In fact, I was to understand and appreciate the importance of ‘why’ almost two decades later, when I had to address the mechanism to assess the effectiveness of the training as part of the portfolio of ISO 9001 related activities.]

In the retrospect, it seems to me that in the natural course of development, a child gets conditioned to learn ‘what’ and ‘how of new things without questioning the ‘why’. However, during the schooling phase, if our education system had instilled the faculty of ‘why’ things are they were and then learn ‘what’ and how’ of it, then perhaps the questions that these issues would have raised in our mind or the answers that we may have got should have been of the dazzling magnitude.

I do not remember whether there were any discussions on such issues among the then first-year batchmates, primarily perhaps because getting to know ‘new’ mates had occupied all the space of our collective minds.

I will correlate this abstract looking thought with my personal example. At my personal level, I had had serial experiences of dealing with (totally) new environments that perhaps had conditioned my auto-adjustment system to get activated to adapt to any new situation. My first major face-off with ‘new’ environment was when I entered Virani Highschool, midway during an academic year in the 5th standard. Landing into Rajkot from Bhuj itself was a major change, both in terms of the first ever exposure to the ‘outside’ world and in terms of a totally new social culture. Then two and half years later, we again shifted to Ahmedabad, again leading to getting acquainted to life in a major city, that too in a new social milieu. Two more years later, we shifted the residence from a government colony located in a predominantly blue-collared working-class area in East Ahmedabad to a government colony in a middle-upper middle class solely residential area in West Ahmedabad. And then, I was required to study my Pre-Science course by staying at a hostel in Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand. On the whole each of the change certainly had helped my overall development, one of which my auto-conditioning to adapt to a change. Of course, its should be certainly noted here that all these changes were because of factors beyond our control, and hence we had no reason, to ask ‘why’.

However, the entire batch of first year would not have had similar conditioning. By and large, everyone had as normal upbringing that every child gets through the adolescence. Therefore, more logically, lack of feeling any major surprise at the new academic environment can better be attributed to the possibility that we were (unconsciously) ready to tread a new path that would lead us to the engineering degree now that we had finally made it to the course. [The basic role of the first few days of first year was to induct us to the course that we become aware of what was in the store in the future and how does the course design is going to help us meet those challenges, and how the first year was going to provide that base. However, whether we did expect that we should have known such aspects or whether we were given to understand these issues or whether we could appreciate such issues is not relevant to the context of the present memoirs.]

Apart from the academics, one aspect that surprisingly did not apparently did not seem to have made significant impact on my (and so with most of the other students) was the vast, sparsely populated, but very-well laid out, campus of LD with imposing buildings, as it was then.

It seems it would be good idea to look at what feelings the students who had joined old – a 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 see if they had had any other types of experiences in the first year that still remain fresh in their memories now.

Please permit me to take a pause at this juncture and regroup my recollections……Till such time that we meet again next month, I would request my LDCE71M batch-mates to share their recollection on the subject.

Continued till the next episode ….

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Memoire

1966 to 1971 – Those Anecdotal Five Years …. – Foreword

After the passage of a good fifty years, a look back to those five years of, 1966 to 19171, ‘studying’ engineering @ L D College of Engineering, Ahmedabad, presents an interesting mixed picture. The academic environment certainly was the driver of the transformation of a novice to an engineering graduate. However, the ‘other’ non-curricular, activities happening at the sides certainly played the catalytic role in that process.

What follows is the attempt to rekindle the memories of Those Anecdotal Years of1966 to 1971 and share those events the way they happened and how they unconsciously shaped to remould my basic instincts and behaviour that were to come to the fore in my subsequent professional life.

I am going to cast the net wide in catching these events, and the details thereof, by inviting my batch-mates to share their own memories and analyses, which I will weave into the narrative, of course, giving each one the due credit for the respective contribution.

Before I take the first step into the deep waters of non-curricular side of our engineering studies, it would be opportune to present what was my frame of mind when I applied for the admission to the graduate engineering course…………

The State of Frame of My Mind as I Ready To Plunge into the Five-Year Graduate-Level Engineering Course

When I finally did get admission to the graduate course in engineering, it was just a step that had happened in the course of progress of student life of most of the students of my time, and (whatever it was, but it was) my educational caliber. All those who thought were good at mathematics at the school level and would score the qualifying marks in the school board examination would invariably choose either admission to the graduate medicine studies or the engineering studies. Many of us had quite explicit reasons for choosing the one, and that one only, but there were as many others as possible too who did not have any set explicit goal but would gladly accept an admission that their standing in the merit list the board examination had made them eligible.

I had studied my pre-science at VP College of Science, Vallabh Vidyanagar, affiliated to S P University. And as it had happened, my standing in the merit list at the S.P. University had made me eligible for direct admission to the graduate medical course at the MS University, Vadodara, under the aegis of the then prevailing MoU between these two universities. The other so qualified students had readily accepted this option. However, I had summarily declined this privilege.  To my misfortune, as I perceived it then, I had scored the highest marks in the subject of Biology in the Pre-Science examination of S P University. As such, the principal of our college was totally at loss to comprehend why would such a ‘meritorious’ (😊) student does not opt for the pursuit of a career in medicine.  I had harrowing time convincing him that despite the way the dice had rolled, I knew very well that it was nothing less than a miracle that I had been able to remember the Latin names of animals and plants during the botany examination. But, to do so for next six years of study and then for the life, was simply not done. It was for the first time in my student life, that I clearly knew what I was not capable of.

But before, I explain why I scored so well in biology then, let me go back little more and revisit what constituted my study-related behavior.

Even during my studies till tenth standard, I was never good at remembering the whole poem, or dates of historical events or formulae of mathematics and all such aspects which demanded sharp faculty of memory. The way I had studied all those years, as I can now see in the retrospect, my natural instincts did get me to sail through the studies rather easily. But I never ‘exceled’ in the studies. Moreover, I never had put in any serious practice to strengthen up my weak areas. As a result, my results at the examinations were above average, but certainly, never excellent.  Nor was I at any time looking at myself to have been left out of the race for the top positions in the examinations.

That changed during my SSC Board study year, the 11th standard. Ours was the second batch to appear for SSC examination form the school, Gujarat Law Society (GLS) High School, Ahmedabad. As such, all teachers had planned to take extra care in matter of the studies of our batch.   Our teacher of mathematics and Science, Shri Gopalbhai Patel, had chalked out plan for the rigorous practice of solving the problems of curriculum of our subject of mathematics. As a part of that plan, we must have solved thousands of sums during the whole year! That hard work of practice had resulted in my scoring my life’s highest ever marks in the subject at the final examination for both the subjects of mathematics.  Of course, the hard work that I was forced to put in mathematics and to some extent in the science subject had also led me to do more than my extra effort for studying other subjects as well. Coupled with my natural abilities, this more than past normal efforts yielded the ultimate result. I scored my best ever overall score in my student life so far.

During the Pre-Science studies, the curriculum had introduced a ‘new’ method of teaching the basic physics and chemistry. Even as it was my first year of studying in English medium, the two textbooks of these two subjects were so interestingly written to kindle my basic instincts of ‘studying’ while enjoying the studies. In so far as biology as a subject was concerned, my other batch mates of the hostel had sharply focused goal of taking up medicine as their career. So, they were putting in real hard work in their studies. Theirs was the only company those days. So, I also studied more than I would have otherwise studied for the examinations.

Thus, it was some interest and some hard work that were at the back of my ‘good’ show at the pre-science examinations. But the exceptional score for the biology was a miracle that remains unexplained!

On the strength of my that score, I did get admission to the graduate engineering course, in the electrical engineering branch, at L D College of Engineering, Ahmedabad.

Well, it was natural that I was happy that I had secured the admission to the prestigious graduate engineering course, at an institute that was considered #1 in those days in Gujarat in so far as engineering studies was concerned. But, internally, I was feeling elated that I would not be finally studying the medicine and be spared from remembering by heart those Latin names. I think I would be the only one who would be happy because of the elimination of non-preferred option than getting selected for a course that was considered to be a royal path to a good career!

But was I really cut-up to the requirements of studying the engineering? Was I indeed a good enough raw material to be turned out into a ‘good’ engineer? Was the engineering study ecology and the academic environment of LD College really be able to transform me?  …………

The answers to these questions lie in far more distant future. In the retrospect, it should be sufficient to state that all that institution offered and all that I could absorb from that had not gone waste and had been proved quite useful, as and when the relevant need did arise.

However, the intent of opening up those pages from the memories is not to clarify what is now no more relevant at this stage of my life. The intent now is to recall those, whether planned or accidental, anecdotes that happened asides the studies and savour them now.

So, we take the plunge……….. now…..

Continued till the next episode ….

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Memoire

LDCE71M Batch Celebrates Golden Jubilee of the Graduation

It was about a year and half, or two years ago that I received an e-mail to join a WhatsApp group of L.D. College of Engineering, Ahmedabad, 1971 batch of Mechanical Engineering (LDCE71M) batch friends. That e-mail was from my LDCE friend, Ashok Thakkar, the only one of the 120 batchmates of LDCE71M batch, with who I had a modicum of e-mail relationship of exchanging New Year Greetings. The batch strength of LDCEM was 120 students. Out of which a half a dozen of us were quite close – to easily visit each other’s homes and enjoy the unscheduled snacks during each such visit – in those five years. And then, a dozen and a half were one ‘group’, of the several close-knit groups of the batchmates, who had easy sharing arrangements – of books, notes journals, tips to survive through the viva tests etc. But it was good fifty years that I had had absolutely no contact with anyone.

Naturally, the idea of getting connected with friends of that ‘golden’ phase of life was quite exciting. Soon, a couple of the more energetic and active friends took up the initiative to gather additional. basic, contact information of the group and put it in a very utilitarian spreadsheet. With that the mere phone numbers of WhatsApp group members now had names on my cell phone=book and my e-mail had an e-mail contact group. That spread sheet also presented us with recent photographs against each name. That helped to me recollect faces from the recesses of my memory and superimpose them with present faces visible in the spreadsheet.

Soon thereafter a couple of video call meetings were organized that further helped to connect the memory of voice to the name and photograph. It was one of those video call meetings that put the idea of collecting information of the 50-year journey of each one’s life and document it in the form of a memoir book to commemorate the reaching of a milestone of half a century of the graduation.

Once the formal idea was circulated in the WhatsApp / e-mails of around (the then) 32 members, a dozen responses came up in no time. That “small” number brought up the force of inertia of half-a-century’s distance and relative inactive life that each one now lived at this age came up with full glaring realization. But the spontaneity and vigour that was spilling out of those dozen responses helped us to resolve us to tighten up our belts and gear up for one-to-one follow-up phone calls to the other ones. A couple of months of joint efforts resulted in getting six more responses.

18 out of 38 presently connected members plus 7 who had left for the eternal journey was perhaps not a very great number to really celebrate the memory of golden jubilee of graduation of a batch of 120 students. However, the intimateness with which each of these eighteen members had put in their journey of 50 years was cause enough to push us to fructify that idea into a reality.

So, finally we, now, have a collection of life stories of (eighteen) batchmates of the class of Mechanical Engineering, 1971, of L.D. College of Engineering, Ahmedabad in the form of a book , which I proudly and happily share here @

_Selected Life Stories-LDCE Class of 1971-Mechanical.

Over and above the outcome it was the process of implementation that had its own moments of pleasures – pleasures of getting to talk the friends after a good 50+ years and finding that the informal warmth of friendship is as live now as it was then!

The proverbial Oliver Twist in me ‘wants some more’ – the process of going through the conceiving and implementing this project has germinated one more idea in my mind – to enliven the memories of those five years of 1966 to 1971 and share the joy of those memories of youthful foolhardiness, unspoiled fun and dreams that had started shaping in our totally inexperienced minds.

Some day soon I, or in all possibilities, we, may hit those lanes of fading memories and live them one again………

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Memoire

My Uncle – Janardan Pranlal Vaishnav

My uncle – Janardan Pranlal Vaishnav [B: 09-06-1932 | D: 23-09-2020]- was the youngest of the three sons of Pranlal Vaghji Vaishnav. The eldest one was Kamalkant Vaishnav and the younger to him was Mahesh Vaishnav, my father.

I was only 19 when Kamalkantbhai passed away in 1970. My relationship with him was that of a very loving uncle. Whatever little I have known of his personality is either from his soliloquy during that fateful bus journey to Bhuj for the ensuing marriage ceremonies of his eldest son, Divyakumar, or subsequent hearsay from different people at different occasions. My father, Maheshbhai, always treated me as junior friend ever since I passed my SSC examinations. When I joined my professional life, he groomed me in the role of as friend-cum-independent family member. After he passed away in 1983, I graduated to the level of Janardanbhai Vaishnav’s principal assistant  in the family matters.

The age difference between each brother was such that they would have got almost similar upbringing during their respective childhoods. However, their developments as youths and then as head of their own micro-families, took different paths. As a result, even if their in-practice approach towards their core values apparently seemed different, they shared a strong family bond of common basic values of life. My position, or competence, expressly disbar me to express any views about them as individuals. Therefore, what follows is what I have perceived as what a next-gen family member would view on the basis of his personal experiences of the associations with the immediately preceding generation family members.

In terms of the Hindu philosophy, 10th to 12th days after the death are considered as the days of beginning of disassociation of the soul from the mortal life relationships. 13th day is the considered to be the day when the journey of the soul commences towards his ultimate destination of attaining the eternal peace. As such, from now on Janardanbhai will live with us in our memories. Standing at that point in my life, I have attempted to recall my reminiscences of him as head of the family. The instances that I present here are solely my own, personal, experiences. Therefore, the interpretations have my personal view point..

The first learning experience with Janardanbhai that I can recall dates to sometime in 1956. We were travelling by train from Bhuj to Sirohi / Abu to spend holidays with grandparents. In those days, the transhipment halt at Palanpur would last two /three hours. During that time, there were many trains, which terminated or started from Palanpur or required a change in engines, came on to the platform. That either, necessitating (as they were in vogue those days) a steam engine to be decoupled or coupled with the rest of the coaches. I was witnessing these activities first time and hence had tremendous childlike curiosity to watch it from the close quarters. However, in the very first instance, the shrill, loud whistle, accompanied by a large boisterous release of steam by the engine was enough to shake me up the bones. I was so afraid that next time I ran away farthest away from the engine being coupled. Janardanbhai, with all the care and tenderness that a force can accommodate, took me right up to the engine and firmly held me there during the whole process. I kept crying all the while, but he simply held me there. He repeated the process each of the four or five instances in those two / three hours. That was his way of imparting me the lesson of driving away fear from my mind, on my own.

In fact, I now can understand that even Kamalkantbhai or Maheshbhai also adopted more or less a similar method to make us understand that even as they would be thee to back us up, we have to learn to fight our battles on our own terms.

Kamalkantbhai would thrust a lighted, giant-sized cracker in our hands such that it would have just enough time before it explodes. We had to learn to handle it safely. My father had got an unexpected chance to instil confidence in me to navigate a unknown terrain. We had just shifted from Rajkot to Ahmadabad on his on the-job regular transfer. I had to reappear for one subject for my VIIth class annual examination, back at Rajkot. Maheshbhai had made all back-end arrangements for my pick-up and stay at Rajkot, but actual bus journey from Ahmadabad to Rajkot, and back had to be performed by me alone. Few years later, I had to be on such projects all alone, but I had had an excellent lesson of being able to stand up on my own feet in my armour by then.

We had spent several summer vacations wherever Janardanbhai would have been posted in his job. To us these were the happy moments of merry abundance. However, when I recall those joyful days now, I realize how finely Janardanbhai  was able to maintain the personal-work life balance. Obviously, he was adept, even then, to bear with equanimity the work-personal life pressures and pulls. My first-hand explicit experience of his forbearance of extreme pressure was when my father, Maheshbahi, passed away in 1983. Janrdanbhai had to bear the responsibility of bring along his mother and a family of wife and two young children during that arduous six-hour Rajkot- Ahmadabad journey,, while ensuring that none of them would get a faintest clue that when they will reach Ahmadabad, they will ne pitched-forked into the last rites of Maheshbhai.  As the autorickshaw came to a halt in front our home, the situation was abundantly clear. As we were witness to the traumatic effects of deaths of my grandfather and Kamalkantbhai have had on my grandmother, we were quite aware of what the state of physical and mental condition of our grandmother would be during the journey. We had also planned for receiving her when they reached our home. So, obviously had Jandardanbahi. He did not waste a moment to help my grandmother’s sagging body frame to alight from the auto and then almost carrying her all the way up three stories on the staircase. In front of the deeply silently resting body of Maheshbhai, he eased my grandmother into the sitting position while continuing his firm grip over her body, till he felt that that critical moment had passed away. He, then, quietly gestured  us to immediately quicken up the rest of the proceedings. With so much of comings and goings of relatives in next few days, he probably could not physically comfort my grandmother, but his vigilant gaze was always on high alert to detect any signs of worry on that count.

As it happened, this was his second such experience. He had to carried out this once before in 1970 too, when they had to travel from Bhuj to Surat, when Kamalakntbhai had passed away, then also without any forewarning. Only the travel at that time was far more arduous on account of severe floods in the rivers of central Gujarat to Tapti at Surat.

After the death of my grandfather, all the brothers took extra care of my grandmother. Sudden death of my grandfather had thoroughly shaken my grandmother. As part of the Hindu tradition, family members and acquaintances would come in person to express their grief to the kay relative of the deceased. Most of these relatives lived in Bhuj and had to travel to Surat for this purpose, As a result, there would always be two or three new grieving people in front of my grandmother. This had aggravated the situation of to such an extent that her own health was now the cause of worry. Kamalkantbhai himself was not in position to take direct initiative since tmy grandmother would always be surrounded by the ladies. So, he used us to create a ‘remote’ protection shield. He would instruct us with new tricks every time a new grieving party would arrive, so that their grieving drama would not last more than few minutes.

My grandmother, by her core nature, was very emotionally sensitive. But she would keep all her pains to herself. That did not work well with her overall health after my grandfather’s death. On top of that, in the spirit of being a devoted wife, she shunned evening meals. It was after great deal of persuasion by her sons that she had agreed to take a glass of milk and just one serving spoonful cooked vegetables as her evening meals.  Over the years, that had rendered her physically very weak.

Her weakened body took its toll when, once she accidently sat down too heavily, resulting in a hair-line crack in the last bone of coccyx. That gradually reduced my grandmother to be bedridden. The bedridden stage acted as the proverbial last straw on the already weakened body of grandmother. She required very delicate and meticulous care for an extended duration. Even if we consider that all the care that Janrdanbhai and his family members took of her as natural affection and sense of duty, more striking was the unwavering faith that Janardanbhai held in the remotest possible chance that she would survive. At the very last, when treating doctors declared that her kidney has totally stopped functioning and medically speaking the end may now be a matter of sometime only, and that he may call me to remain present. But he seemed not keen to accept that finality. Probably, nature also needed extra efforts to overcome the positive force of his the then thought process. Grandmother medically breathed last only after about 60 hours. After so much of traumatic last couple of days, visibly from outside and emotionally from within Janrdanbhai was like a true saint, fully at peace with himself. At the end of the traditional mourning period of 12 days, he assembled the whole of larger Vaishnav family, to read out the formal will that my grandfather had written, along with an informally written  testament of my grandmother’s last wishes. He ensured that all that was directed therein is complied with in letter and in spirit, with the least possible delay of implementation

The disposal of THE FAMILY HOME at Bhuj, the  only immovable ancestral property, took some more time, and had quite a few glitches. But Janardanbhai ensured that whole process ends to its logical conclusion. Since then, till the END, In a family where the next generations were also quite now grown up, more and more differences of the outlook to different issues would come to fore. Janardanbhai was always explicit and clear about his own approach, but he was practical enough not to insist that his view, as the head of the family, only should prevail. His pragmatic approach indeed worked well in keeping the broader family tied up as loose federation.

After, Janardanbhai’s wife (Purnimakaki) passed away, he seemed to be even more balanced and liberal (!) in his approach with the (greater) family issues.  He ensured that marriage of Kamalkantbhai granddaughter, which was held in just three /four months after the death of his wife, or that of Maheshbhai’s grandson, in the same year, had the faintest shadow his personal loss. After a few years, in another such family occasion, I believed that respect due to his position may not be accorded, and hence I was ambivalent about his presence in the function. He simply brushed aside my objections and ensured that all of us attended the function. To him, duty associated with his position was far more important than the status of that position.

Whether it was duty to the family, or to their profession, or whether it was maintaining a commitment, or whether it acting according to the spirit of what they considered or understood as ethically right, was always one of the many dimensions of honesty for all the brothers.  Another very important dimension of honesty was always do what you say and think, while maintaining total transparency. That is why they perhaps never feared or hid their considered views. Kamalkantbhai never seemed to hesitate to call a spade a spade. Maheshbhai’s expression of his view was always soft. If he thought that his views will not be acceptable, he may even choose to remain silent. Of course, under those circumstances, his unspoken word was louder and more forthright. Janardanbhai would spell out his views once, and then if these were not heeded to, he would never broach that subject again. In the process, it was abundantly clear to the other party that he did not agree to what they say or approve what they do. For him, the matter ended there with a full stop.

Someone who is so honest in such subtle matters, it was not surprising that financial impropriety of smallest degree was a cardinal sin, for all the brothers. Only one illustration should sufficient to impart clarity to what I have to say. When I was shifting to Mundra on a job transfer, I could persuade Janardanbhai to accept a small imprest amount towards any minor maintenance expenses of our house. He religiously documented any expenses incurred and the outstanding balance in a letter to me every six months, even when we talked with each other over phone at least once a week.

Money (material wealth), for all three brothers, was simply a medium for conducting the ways of life and not the means or an end to the happiness.

Outwardly, the death of his wife (Purnimakaki) seemed to have had no effect on the conduct of Janardanbhai’s life. But from within, he seemed to have decided to retire from the active executive responsibilities of the principal player of the household. He started grooming his daughter-in-law (Ami) to take over the economic and financial management sides of the household. While he provided the back-end support for maintaining the meticulous documentation of the financial affairs, he did ensure that Ami did inculcate a similar habit for maintaining the documentation with accuracy and timeliness.

One can also observe that major prostrate problem, before five years or so, was another gamechanger in his life. He now seemed to plot the chess board of his for the end game. Death of his son-in-law (Dushyant Rindani) was destiny’s unexpected change in the rules of the game. But, Janardanbhai mentally had so advanced in this process of renunciation that could take even that in stride and seemed to have felt that his endgame plan can proceed as planned. With that state of his mental approach, his advancing physical age gradually had started affecting his general health. In the retrospect now, it seems that his illness in last fortnight, he had probably seen the inevitable. As a result, he seemed to participate, with only barest  minimum passive support, in all the nursing efforts that his immediate family had undertaken with missionary passion.    

Janadanbhai used to state that he had lived his life fully, in the same spirit as the heart-touching statement ‘Life is so beautiful’ by Don’ Corleone, of Mario Puzo’s epic novel “The Godfather’. Janrdanbhai had so cleanly closed all the accounts of the books of his  life, that his eternal journey will be one of the most peaceful journeys.

We are so fortunate that we are born, and have lived, in the family of such exemplary human beings. I would only wish that I can draw some lessons from these lives to live the rest of my life with similar balance and fortitude….

Categories
Memoire

Adieu to (S T) Parikh saheb

Shri S T (Shrish Trilokchandra) Parikh’s long, live; vigil came to an end on 31st July 2015. His own fairly chronic illness, his wife (Surkhabhabhi)’s critical ill-health and her parting the long company last year also did not affect his ever so equanimous, take-each-event-of-the-life-as-it-happens approach to his life.

Whenever I met or talked to him in last three / four years, this was one more facet of his personality that I did observe. In fact it is a plus to many qualities of his personality that I would reel off. When I talked to him last week and promised to meet soon enough, his tone and tenor were, as-ever, so balanced – without any rancor – and pleasant enough. In the hindsight now, I so much regret that I took his so strongly positive attitude towards life as as-is-usual-well signal and not took up my inner urge to visit him there and then.

In fact, I now so clearly recollect that even during our period together at Gujarat Steel Tubes (1973 to 1979), he had never complained of things that he would be involved with, things that no one in the organization would (or could handle), things that would keep life not smooth for even a short period. He would approach all such unexpected trouble-monger events with his, as-usual, cool and calm analytical approach, observe the event and the happenings under – or behind – such events minutely and formulate a decision objectively. Most of the decisions would appear to be out-of-box ones to the others. This invariably called for a great amount of convincing to all, but he would approach each discussion with same vigor and meticulousness, without any trace of exasperation, or for that matter, even frustration, which any other human being, in the similar circumstances, would (sometimes) feel.

For me, personally, the loss is quite profound. That he was one single person who made me what I professionally am can be called THE understatement of my life. When I reflect, I can so vividly see how painstaking and loving he was in those formative years of mine at Gujarat Steel Tubes.

He would give me a set of figures of allocation of steel and ask to me to tabulate them. Initially, I would invariably make some error in my totaling up. He would very gently show those mistakes while explaining the pattern of allocation among the different steel tube manufacturers as well its implications for GST in particular and the Steel Tube Industry in general. It was his way of directing me to take care of very small details while giving me the benefit of his expertise in the macro analysis of the Steel Industry.

For every new task that he would choose to entrust me, he would make sure that I certainly knew of the unspoken backing of his position in the company but also subtly made sure to the concerned outside world also would know it too that I carried his confidence, and hence his authority.

He chose to invest his confidence in me, and then went all the way. I feel happy that I have been able to repay his efforts, to some degree, in turn by helping careers of several of my colleagues.

I can fill millions of bytes to recollect such seemingly very insignificant, but so ever vital events that helped build the foundation of my career.

He was a natural network builder. This was one quality of his that just did not permeate through the filters of my own personality. Almost all these years, it was, invariably, he who would call me up at fairly regular interval, even when I inveterately failed to take the next call first.

He was always a low-key player, never played his own drum and hardly cared whether someone would take cognizance of his contribution(s).

Well everything that begins has to end. So does a great life that may never get the due that so much was deserved, in so many words. But, Parikh saheb always took such things in his stride, and still never missed a beat in the rhythm of his life.

Categories
Memoire

‘S T Parikh Saheb’s Family Celebrates His Turning 75

The occasion was momentous – certainly because both ‘Parikh Saheb’ and Surekhabhabhi have fought back very critical illnesses in the last couple of years; because they have maintained same conviviality, grace and equanimity, and certainly because we had had opportunity to meet many of Gujarat Steel Tubes (GST) colleagues.

When I joined GST (1973), he had already made his place in the (India’s the then) steel tube industry’s steel procurement space. He had laid foundation for meeting demands of the raw materials that GST ‘s major capacity addition was poised to need by 1974-75 period., within 5 years of taking over this role – from a core civial engineer’s mantle that he donned previously.

Shri ST Parikh was my mentor in the truest sense of mentorship, when management lexicon had not ‘known’ the concept of mentoring. He not only made possible all the opportunities for me to learn the ropes , but also showed several opportunities of new areas of learning in that short period of six years. He also had foresight to identify talent in the organization which was not fully used by their existing jobs. He drafted such persons in different capacities under his umbrella and paved way for their growth and provided the organization the much needed depth of expertise in an area (steel procurement) which he could have continued to operate as his ole domain. He never hesitated in training this team in all possible tricks of the trade. He was laying the foundation of of building a team in area which could have merrily remained his one-man-playground.

Moreover, he was always ready to extend helping hand to the weaker players of the industry without affecting the interests of GST.  This showed his skills of balancing two totally divergent activities. This, also, was building up of wide area network of those days.

He knew which relationships to build and ensured that once built, the relationship did not whither out, as long as he so desired. It should be no one’s surprise that all these bridges that he assiduously built have kept serving him even now.

And the bonus of attending today’s function – we met Apoorvabhai (Shah) and Karunaben, Pradip Desai, K M Shah, M N Shah, Manibhai Patel, Jyotindra Buch and KP Shah, after a good 30 years!

Categories
Memoire

Amadavad – The mega chapter of the story of my 50 years

My tryst with Amadavad began in 1961, when we moved to the city on account of my father’s transfer from Rajkot.  Our mode of transport from the [old]  Kalupur Railway Station to our first home in Amadavad at Lal Mill Colony [officially –  Rajpur – Hirpur Government Colony] was a covered, horse-driven buggy. The state of health of the horses that drew the carriages indicated the phasing out of horse-carriages as a popular mode of city transport in the near future. The Lal Mill Colony was a red-brick housing colony consisting of one-room-kitchen houses situated in the backyard of Lal Mills in the humming Gomtipur – Rakhial industrial area in the eastern part of Amdavad.

Another popular mode of travel was the city bus service run by Amdavad Municipal Corporation – the AMTS. Many office-goers and students and almost all of the textile workers were seen to use the bicycle. Auto-rickshaws were a rarity at that point of time. One used to routinely walk distances of a kilometer or two, so that served as another mode of transportation.

The AMTS introduced its present-day route identification system sometime in 1962. The then method of route identification – 5A, 2D etc. – was to be replaced by two / three digit numbers. The first or first two digits would relate to the area being served and the last digit indicated the destination. A digit from 1 to 5 would indicate that a route terminated at Lal Darwaja; that from 6 to 9, that a route terminated at Kalupur and that of 0 would indicate that the route terminated at neither of the two destinations mentioned above. Thus, Route 42 was a route from Lal Darwaja to Polytechnic, while Route 20 represented the service from Maninagar to Civil Hospital.

Until we left Lal Mill Colony for our next area of stay – H / L Colony, near the then Sachivalaya – sometime in March 1963, there seemed to be no indication whatsoever that these textile mills of the “Manchester of India” were in their last phase of health – their life would last about a century. Another surprising aspect of this lifecycle is that the industry had to find ways to survive – as it so happened, in a different format – because its products continued to be basic necessities, but the then leaders of the industry could not foresee the looming clouds of huge change waiting to happen in less than 20 years.

Equally surprising was the fact that even with around 100 textile mills and a host of supporting small scale ancillary units operating at their full capacity for almost 75 years , air or water pollution had yet to enter the lexicon. May be the technology was far less pollutant (!), or the norms were too loose, or there was still not enough of awareness.

H / L Colony, or in fact the mother area of Ambawadi, was the area where mango trees still existed on huge tracts of open lands till almost the end of the 1960s. These grounds were used by boys of all ages to play cricket during vacations and on holidays. We would walk to G L S School via Gulbai Tekra through open grounds with hardly one pucca road. The present C G Road looked like a mini–Shahibaug – a decently silent road with beautiful bungalows on each side. Even our route to L D College of Engineering – in the period from 1965 to 1969/70 – was through the open grounds at the back of the LD hostels, stretching right up to the Sachivalaya [the present-day Polytechnic or Panjarapole Char Rastaa]. The area between Azad Society and ATIRA was also more of an open ground till the end of the decade. We had to bribe our friends to visit Sardar Patel Stadium to see cricket matches. The bribe was usually a plate of ice-cream at Ambalal’s at Stadium six-road junction. Rasranjan used to be housed at Navarangpura Market and it was a favorite joint for LD hostelites for a treat of Punjabi samosa at Rs.2 each, a princely sum in those days.

The first major building to come up near H / L Colony was that of the Sahajanand College, in 1967 or thereabouts. And the transformation of that area was complete in less than a decade thereafter. Similarly, the open grounds behind L D Hostel blocks and near Panjarapole circle saw hectic construction activity from 1970 onwards. By the end of that decade, all these open grounds were sporting swanky bungalows or decent tenement-type housing societies.

Ashram Road’s transformational journey took a big leap with the opening of the Nataraj Theater sometime in 1967/68. It was the first theater on the western side of the Sabarmati. Even with an exemplary track record right from inception, Nataraj turned out to have a life of only around 40 years. One of its other proud occupants – the G I I C – was to bow out earlier, falling prey to its own parochial methodology, its fall accelerated by the wave of Development Finance Institutions getting converted into commercial banks by the end of 20th Century.

The banks of the stream Chandrabhaga, near Ashram Road, under the Parixitllal  Majumdar [Dandi] Bridge – now a small and  hidden relic of its glorious history –  were our sites for chain-link and theodolite survey practicals. Our seniors and teachers would advise us to be vigilant for hidden earthen pots during such forays, because they were pots in which ‘laththa’, or country-made liquor, was left to mature.  The textile mills were still fascinating places for the students of L D College of Engineering. They would visit the mills for their projects related to humidification or industrial engineering. Even as late as end-1970 /71, if someone had predicted closure of these mills, he might have been sent to a mental asylum.

We left Amadavad between 1969 and 1973.

When we moved back to the city in 1973, we put up at Seema Society, near the present Vijay Char Rasta. In those days, we would get down at Dadasaheb’s Steps bus-stop prior to Gujarat University and then walk to Swati Society on the road along the University Hostels. Vijay Char Rasta acquired its present form only by end of the ‘70s. The Drive-in theater was the new star attraction at that time. So was our Seema Society because one could see the drive-in theater’s screen from the society. This view was blocked as early as 1974 by tall buildings in the vicinity of the theater, by which time we had moved on to Pragatinagar  in the Naranpura area.

Also by this time, Ashram Road had acquired a few more landmarks. One of them was La Gajjar Chambers, the then headquarters of RBI’s foray into Amdavad. Another was Sales India, the result of a determined effort by a Keralite entrepreneur, who was a working in a cooperative bank when he started this venture. Amdavad had its first experience of multi-brand retail through this store. The founder had to fight all the tough battles that a person who comes with a concept that is much ahead of its time has to fight. Not only has he fought these battles successfully, his next generation has expanded its footprint all over Amdavad, taking on the competition of large organized retail stores that sprung up in the first decade of the 21st century.

By 1974, we had shifted to Pragatinagar in Naranpura area – again a totally alien area for us – where G H B was in the process of setting up a series of middle-income and higher-middle-income apartments. We had to walk from Vijaynagar, Ranna Park [ Nava Vadaj] or Ankur Society- a good half a kilometer – for the next year and a half. By that time, G H B had constructed its headquarters in that area and Shastrinagar had also sprung up. The area was now considered ‘fast developing’ in the advertisements of other private societies that were coming up in the areas, some of them even a couple of kilometers further away in Ghatlodia.

This was also a time when I was to witness to the growth of the Vatva Industrial Area. In early 1975, the best route to reach Vatva was either from Chandola Lake via Vatva village or via Shah Alam – Isanpur – Vatva Village from the point of entry near Vatva Railway Station. In fact, the only ‘decent’ cup of tea or a plate of ‘aluwada’ would be available near that railway crossing, because of the presence of SLM Maneklal / T Maneklal  on one side and Ambica Tubes on the other side of the road. By the end of that decade, Phase I of the estate was humming with the activities of hundreds of small-scale engineering units and Phase II was witnessing the beginning of the meteoric boom of small units in the dyes and intermediates industry. By 1986/87, when the industrial estates at the periphery of Amdavad were covered under the A M C, industry had devoured the roads, storm-water drains and water mains system almost in entirety, and had led to loud echoes of pained protests from nearby downstream villages against the rampant pollution of their water bodies on account of the discharge of polluted untreated water effluents by these dyes and intermediates units. What a remarkable comparison arises between an era of 75 to 100 years of nearly a hundred ‘giant’ integrated textile mills and less than a decade of a few hundred  small dyes and intermediates units!

By the ‘80s, areas like ‘Jodhpur’, ‘Satellite’, ‘Vastrapur’, etc., also appeared on the map of developing Amadavad. So did the extended shopping ‘mall’ in the form of C G Road, probably as a direct consequence of a market research study which foresaw the middle and upper-middle class of India to drive demand for the branded FMCGs and the Consumer Durables sectors. This is when the new, ‘foreign’, high-end brands of ready-made apparel, which had made a strong entry pitch, discovered the value–minded price sensitivity of the Amdavadi culture. Customers would visit these swanky showrooms on C G Road and then get the designs they saw there copied on to similar-looking dress material purchased from Ratanpole  / Dhalgarwad, the traditional textile retail shopping area in the old city. Some smart marketers countered this by introducing a parallel brand that would offer the kind of value an Amadavadi customer would look for at the offered price. Well, it is not for nothing that Amadavad is considered one of the ideal test markets for consumer durables!

By the end of ‘80s, it seemed that  the boundaries of west Amdavad had touched a new limit – S G Road [Sarkhej – Gandhinagar by-pass].The S G Road became a destination for a new flavor on Amadavad’s social circuit, with  open-air garden restaurants and resorts, where a group could go out for a picnic-cum- lunch [on week-ends] or dinners [on week-days].Until the mid-‘90s, it had yet to become a highly frequented destination for the car-owning public in Amdavad. As a result, big trucks or trailers that overturned or bumped into smaller vehicles in the late hours of the evening and at night turned out to be a big killer. But, by the late-‘90s, the Amadavad–side of S G Road could see a packed skyline of commercial buildings. New areas such as Bodakdev, Premchandnagar, etc. were added to the map of Amdavad. The Nirma Education Campus and the model-replica of the Vaishnodevi temple were still considered quite far from the city!

We were again away from Amdavad for almost the entire first decade of the 21st century. But a WOW escaped our lips when we saw what growth Amdavad had seen since it was declared a megacity! An additional outer ring road sprung up on the western corridor – S P Road. If City Pulse was the first multiplex by the late-’90s, the S G Road was witness to a mushrooming growth of malls and multiplexes in the next decade. Amdavad now had half a dozen swanky corporate hospitals, a swankier airport which could carry a couple of million passengers a year and over 150 flights a day, a host of fly-overs or under-bridges, two brand new bridges over the Sabarmati, a fully operational BRTS that connects RTO Circle to Naroda and Maninagar, and of course, no parking space on any major road for large cars.

One of the things that has not changed over the years is that Amdavad still does not get regular theater drama in Gujarati [hence, I shudder to even aspire for Hindi or English drama]. The city’s stage theaters either go idle or play host to sundry programs. Saptak has continued to host its annual Indian classical music festival for over 30 years, and one does read about an odd exhibition in the Hutheesingh Art Gallery or the Gufa [at CEPT]. But these seem to be exceptions in the traditional image of Amdavad as a city that is insensitive to art!

[This article is inspired by the booklet અમદાવાદની અસ્મિતા – પરિચય પુસ્તિકા ૧૨૬૬, published by Parichay Trust, Mumbai.

Details are as follows:

Author: Dr. Manekbhai Patel, ‘Setu’ dental centre, 85, Shankar Society, Part – 2, Ankur Road, Ahmedabad 380013 Phone: +91 79 2747 46 27

Publisher: Parichay Trust, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Bldg., Netaji Subhash Road, Charni Road, Mumbai 40002 parichay.trust@gmail.com ]

 

P.S. I have re-posted this piece, thanks to the editorial improvements carried out by Tadatmya Vaishnav.