Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, May 21, 2018

An Engineer First and to the Last

There is often criticism from various quarters that those who study engineering, especially those who have innovative potential, eventually end up doing something more mundane in life. For a considerable amount of time in India since independence, engineering education was heavily subsidised by the State and so this jettisoning of engineering by the students for pursuing careers mainly in management and administration, is considered to be a waste of scarce resources. Especially so in the case of those engineers who left the country and went abroad. In my own case the criticism has been even more trenchant as it has been alleged that I have totally wasted my education by choosing to work among the Bhil Adivasis and fight for their rights.
This criticism has some merit since there are many technological problems that need to be solved in India, both at the low tech and the high tech level and this is not being done. Therefore, I have tried to use my skills as an engineer to address some of the low tech problems as best as I can. However, what is needed is much more engineering innovation and recently I met face to face for the first time, an engineer who has dedicated his whole life to solving engineering problems of a cutting edge nature. This is my senior alumnus from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Varadarajan Seshamani. He graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1969 and then set up his own company to manufacture machine tools in Bengaluru. Since then he has set up many other companies for turnkey project implementation and manufacture of products in cryogenic engineering, thermo-electric engineering and ultra-violet testing of materials. He has not only reverse engineered many expensive instruments that are imported from abroad but has original patents for products that he has developed himself.
I came to know him initially through interactions on Facebook. These interactions were adversarial in the beginning because he is a supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party and so did not take kindly to my criticisms of the BJP's policies. However, as time passed it became evident to both of us that we were not blind followers of any faiths but applied our engineering training to the solution of problems at hand in the political and social sphere also. So finally as an opportunity arose for me to visit Chennai for some work I created a diversion to go via Bengaluru and meet him. Varadarajanji was kind enough not only to spare time to discuss his many engineering achievements during his long career but also arranged for me to meet other people in Bengaluru. Among these was Dipankar Khasnabish who too is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and a civil engineer like myself and happens to be the President of the IIT Kharagpur Alumni Association in Bengaluru. Dipankar was kind enough to have Varadarajanji felicitate me with an angavastram in his factory cum research centre for my supposed contribution to society.
 This was a great honour because Varadarajanji is a self effacing legend and I have done little in comparison. He is seventy years of age and yet he is still the innovation seeking engineer that he was when he started off as he takes on new problems to solve. The white board in the background as can be seen has preliminary drawings and calculations related to a new cryogenic engineering project that he and his team are working on. He has sold his house in Indiranagar in Bengaluru and is now building a new one in Whitefield closer to his factory cum research centre. He is now researching decentralised waste water treatment and reuse because he wants to make this new house of his totally self sufficient in water after learning that people like Viswanath Srikantaiah and I have done so with our own houses. Typically, instead of going for the standardised solutions that are available, he is working from first principles to develop his own system.
When I asked Varadarajanji why he did not think of migrating to the USA, he said that his first priority was to solve the many engineering problems that India faced and so he has dedicated his life to this. He said that he could not take orders from others and so he had set up his own companies. On many occasions he has done consultancy and contract work for foreign companies in their projects in India but always on his own terms. It was inspiring to meet an engineer who has remained dedicated to his profession and his country from the first to the last. I came away from Bengaluru with a stronger resolve to be more of an engineer myself in the work that I do among the Bhils. 


Varadu Seshamani said...

Dear Rahul
Thanks so much for the very high levels of praise that you have given me.
I am now terribly embarassed.
Sincerely ........... Varadu Seshamani

Pradeep Prasad said...

I agree with Rahul's Comment on Varadu

It is a great honour to learn what Rahul is doing, and Varadu has done the right thing by honouring him