Monday, 15 September 2008

Living after death (part 3 of 3)

[.....continued from part 2]
Read part 1 of this article here and part 2 here

So who is this person who has done so much for the nation that not a day passes without remembering him?

He is none other than "Bharath Rathna" Sir M Visvesvarayya or Sir M V - the most famous engineer India has ever produced. You can spell his name in different ways, Vishweshwariah, Visweswaraiah, etc and each of those spelling can have tens of his achievements listed and still the list would not be complete - he was such a great and prolific engineer.

Born into total poverty and deprived of facilities that we today take for granted, Sir M V's journey from being an ordinary school going village boy to achieving the highest civilian awards of the country, is one that is awe-inspiring and worth emulating.

Sir M V lost his father at a very young age but he was very determined to do well in studies. With no money to pursue this dream, he became a tutor for some rich students and funded himself. He was very disciplined and hardworking and naturally, he topped high school and the Bachelors degree at Madras University. Then he joined the College of Engineering at Pune as a Civil engineering student and graduated as an engineer topping in that too and winning a gold medal. He began his career as an engineer with the Bombay government.

His plan for controlling the flooding waters of river Moosa at Hyderabad earned him great laurels and recognition. He was called upon to construct many a dams, reservoirs, irrigation and water supply canals all of which he did with unmatchable efficiency and brilliance. His innovating skills were at their best when he designed and patented a system of automatic weir water floodgates at Khadakvasla near Pune. The world famous Brindavan gardens and the KRS at Mysore are his master-piece!

Recognizing his statesmanship, the Wodeyar of Mysore appointed him as the Dewan of Mysore - equivalent to the chief minister these days. As the Dewan, Sir M V was instrumental in the scientific and industrial advancement of the state. He rescued and resurrected the Bhadravathi Iron and Steel works limited from bankruptcy, making a profit of 2 lakh rupees - a very huge sum those days. The profit from these was used to start many schools, educational institutes, colleges and job centers. He set-up the Mysore university, SJP polytechnic institute at Bangalore and the nation's first private engineering college in the year 1917 - the University Visvesvarya College of Engineering (U V C E) which functions even to this day. He promoted education for everyone, including girls, and set up Degree College at Maharani's, Mysore. He also established the Kannada Sahitya Parishad (Kannada Literary Academy). Sensing the growing needs of the finance sector, he started the Mysore Bank which runs even today as the State Bank of Mysore. Even one of these achievements are enough for someone to be remembered long. But Sir M V did all of these and even more.

Today Bangalore is the hub of industrial and technological progress in India. It has grown to be the silicon valley of India with every major IT/Telecommunication company of the world having its office here. It is also a centre for research and defense establishments. It has grown tremendously in aerospace and heavy machine tools sector. Each of these are largely due to the efforts of two people - Dewan K Sheshadri Iyer, the administrator and Sir M V, the Engineer. It was their statesmanship and the ability to see beyond their lifetimes that has helped the progress of our state. Asia's first hydroelectric power project was started at Shivanasamudra in the year 1894 by Sir M V and Bangalore became the first India city to get electricity in the year 1917. It was instrumental in making the city a technology hub many years after his death.

Even with so much political power with him, Sir M V never mis-used it. When he was appointed the Dewan, he called up all his relatives and said that he would accept the post on the condition that no one asked for favors from him! How many of today's politicians would do that ? Once, while he was the chief engineer of Mysore, his uncle asked him to use his powers and give him a promotion. Sir M V did not promote him but ended up paying the extra money to his uncle every month from his own salary.

Yesterday when in cab I saw a huge poster which said some youth association was celebrating the 25th year of public Ganesh Utsav. There were huge larger than life cutouts of politicians who looked like rowdies and a very small picture of the lord Ganesh himself. It made me feel sick immediately by thinking how much these people go in projecting themselves. Very much unlike them, Sir M V led a simple and humble life. He was never interested in medals or laurels. But his deeds were such that medals came looking for him - he was awarded the honorary doctorate from almost all Indian universities. The British awarded him the knighthood and the Indian government - the Bharath Ratna award.

Today is 15th September. It is Sir M V's 148th birthday. It is celebrated all over the country as "Engineers' day". Even years after his death, Sir M V lives on in the hearts of each one of us. The farmers of Mandya and Mysore when they water their fields with KRS water, the workers of iron and steel companies in companies set up by him, the devotees who travel on the road from Tirupati to Tirumala, the people of Hyderabad, Pune and Bangalore, the employees of Mysore Bank, the numerous students who study in institutes set up by him - Sir MV still lives for every one of them. Let us all pay our tributes to him and as Engineers let us all pledge ourselves today so that we too will follow the example set by this great man and serve the society. Happy Engineers' day to everyone!

PS: When I finished writing this article, I remembered a recent debate where people hotly debated the naming of the new international airport at Bangalore. Many argued it should be named after Kempe Gowda, the founder. Some wanted it to be named after Tippu Sultan; some wanted Rajiv Gandhi,etc. There was an article in a kannada paper who wanted it to be named after Sir M V. After all, it was Sir M V who started the Walchand Hirachnad company as far back in 1913 which today is known as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) - the only aircraft factory in India till date! We can name airports after anyone famous but naming it after Sir M V will be more apt as he was mainly responsible for the flying of planes in India. Don't you people think so?


Anonymous said...

Superb article Shashi!!!. Keep it up!!!

I never knew so many things about Visweswaraiah.The article was very informative.

Happy Engineers' day to all :)

lalitha said...

Hmm..Nice articles .As I kept saying all the time,you have a good flow of thoughts !!

Your portrait or the hand - drawing of your face.. interests me a lot.. It depicts the "Comedian Shashidhar":)
You used it in so many places.. your blog, you also made it the initial orkut photo..

Shashia said...

Thanks for dropping by and reading it. I am glad you found it informative. It is really a special ocassion :)

Thanks for the comment. Will try and streamline the thoughts even further.
That picture is special as it was drawn by my brother. So I wont remove it :)

Nithin said...

Nice article..

rajivmaskara said...

Just went through all the three parts of your post. Super post, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

shreyas said...

super post shashidhar

Amol said...

Amazing article.. very informative.. very well written indeed!

utsav mone said...

Good Article

Sampurna Rakshit said...

nice post. learnt a lot. truly, i feel ashamed to refer to myself as an engineer after reading about this. Btw, UVCE is the one in Tirupati na? and VTU is also named after him?

Shashia said...

@Nithin, Rajiv, Amol, Utsav and Sampurna,

Thanks a lot for reading and commenting on this :)


UVCE is the one in Bangalore. I am not sure if there is one in Tirupati. will find out and let you know

Yep, VTU - Visweswariah Technological University, Belgaum, to which most govt/private engg colleges in Karnataka are affiliated.