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.