«Edited by Govindjee Urbana, Illinois, USA and Shyam Lal Srivastava Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India i The Cover A photograph of Krishnaji (Dada), 1980 ...»
In the “Wireless” class, I sat face to face with my teacher Krishnaji. He was calm, composed and in full command of the subject.
This was very unlike the other senior teacher Dr. Bishambhar Nath (B.N.) Srivastava, who taught the same subject but left us ‘bored’ and uninterested. Very few of us paid attention to him or his words, and we just whiled away the minutes we had with him. Sometimes, our willful disturbances grew loud enough to reach his ears when with a mumble ‘What is it?’, and then in the same breadth, he would say ‘So, we have…’ and his lecture continued.
No such liberties were imaginable in Krishnaji’s lectures. His subject matter seemed interesting, well prepared & delivered, and for reasons unknown, a fear was ever present; we tried our best to behave as keen and willing to grasp the lecture matter. How an aura of awe and respect was present in his class is still a mystery; it just happened.
When afterwards, I was appointed a Lecturer at the University, this mysterious quality of commanding awe and respect came to my lectures too, while some more academically sound and competent friends could not command this magical touch. There was reverence around, and my teaching led to a very intimate relationship with the students. As Krishnaji’s students, we fully enjoyed this happy relationship with him as well.
Another great aspect of Krishnaji’s teaching was the very intimate, person-to-person interaction that we derived in his practical (laboratory) classes. In the laboratory class, the problems faced are even more challenging, both for the teacher and the student: one may have very religiously followed the book, but things refuse to relent and yield the ‘wanted’ results. I remember Krishnaji pondering over our drawn graphs, and our connections on the apparatus, and then coming to conclusions. Following his instructions, or mostly by his ‘tentative suggestions’, the behavior of the wayward instruments underwent a magical change!
I am very much of the opinion that teaching or learning Physics should be an exercise mostly dependent on experimentation, and in this Krishnaji was a role model in as much as he gave intense attention to the laboratory equipment—their purchase, their set-up, needed repairs and maintenance. There are teachers who lack the know-how of instruments, and just shy away from the problem that a student may face. But, Krishnaji was ever willing to go to the work place and “soil his hands”, just like an eager student. This approach endeared him among his students; as a fall-out, his lectures too commanded respect.
I remember Krishnaji’s interest in practical aspects of Physics from an assembled 100 Watt radio transmitter, set up in the top corner room of the department. Here, his keen students, like the class topper Brijnandan Swarup, used to do work with Krishnaji, and the technician Ram Chandra would be hovering around with soldering iron and assorted meters. I personally, and the likes of me, kept out of the way as these things have a habit of eating into your precious time, making you absorbed in unwanted and unimportant (from the examination point of view) chores.
Another love for instrumentation of Krishnaji was two units of an army-surplus big radar equipment. They had a seat inside the room like structure, housing hundreds of components, wiring jungle, antennae and meters galore, cathode ray tubes probably, and unknown mysteries. We could see him sitting inside this ‘gadget’ for hours, in hot sun and rain, trying to manage the affairs—to what result I could not fathom. Nevertheless, it impressed me as certainly the love for such work was never before or afterwards seen in any other teacher that I know of. In this, Krishnaji was unique.
Once at some function in the Physics Department, under Professor Vachaspati, I had to say a few words. Then, I cited Professor Krishnaji as a person who had lived a life of self denial and even missed the opportunity to attain a research degree. I mentioned his sacrifice to set up the highest educational facility for his younger brothers, as also his sense of duty towards his old and ailing mother.
Prof. Vachaspati later on in his own way told me that this was nothing worth mentioning and I should not have unduly made a martyr out of Krishnaji who could not get a research degree due to a lack of needed competence! For a person who had guided dozens of PhD students towards successful research degrees, such remarks only show the personality of the speaker; for, indeed there are none as blind as those who will not see. To my mind, it was a matter of faith with Krishnaji that merit and research were not in need of a degree, or seal of approval, and that their standard and quality would win whatever recognition was due from those who had competence to discern his work, and its true worth. Such thoughts deserve our veneration and emulation.
Many of the readers of this tribute may not know that the first research paper that Krishnaji wrote was through the inspiration of Dr. Rajendra Nath (R.N.) Ghosh. In this paper1, a pulse electronic devise was used; interestingly, I had later used the same for my research degree. Those were the days when Dr. Ghosh, among other acoustic researchers, had pioneered the ultrasonic research at Allahabad University; it was here, where the first paper of Krishnaji was published1. Later, several other papers, on this topic, followed from my work, much before Dr. Gurudev Saran Verma was ready with his work. But, at the recent ultrasonic meet, these pioneering papers were not acknowledged. Indeed, the dome and the tower of the Muir College are seen from afar, but the foundation stones are buried deep, forgotten and unremembered.
When Krishnaji was appointed Professor of Physics at Jodhpur University, he invited Dr. Suresh Chandra Srivastava and me to conduct BSc Practical Examination there. He wanted to establish a healthy precedence, as there the practical examination was highly vitiated and remarkably flawed. We set an example and caught some students as well as teachers in the use of unfair means. In spite of local pressure, Professor Krishnaji held out for exemplary punishment for them, breaking new grounds to preserve the ‘sanctity, the purity and the chastity’ of examinations.
In his retirement, Krishnaji was drawn to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM (Transcendental Meditation), and called upon me to give him some writings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, now known as Osho.
On enquiry, I found that he was planning to write a book on the subject of meditation. In the humblest of words I tried to say that without practically going into meditation, or experiencing only one method, it was not prudent to attempt to write such a book. He listened to me quite attentively and even undertook to go into the practice of Osho’s techniques. Incidently, Osho has given over a hundred techniques for meditation! The idea of writing was shelved and ultimately dropped.
With the above incident, a great characteristic of Prof. Krishnaji comes to light—that he was not averse to learning even from his students, provided it was the truth that was being said. Such humility, such absence of ego (nir-ahamkaar), such love for the truth is indeed a very rare quality. Professor Krishnaji possessed this in abundance.
With these words, I end this Tribute though there remains much more to be said. Whereever you are, our respected and beloved teacher, we offer our humble gratitude for what you taught us and what high ideals you set up for us to be guided in your footsteps. Amen!
I am very happy to contribute some of my memories of my association with Professor Krishnaji (for brevity, I will refer to him as Krishnaji in the text below). I was introduced to him before I joined his section, called “Wireless”, for my MSc (Final) course in
1947. I had earlier completed the diploma of Workshop Practice and was always keen to do experimental research, with my own hands.
This interest helped me in developing a special association with Krishnaji in assembling kits for practicals (laboratory) and in repairing electronic equipment with him. He had developed trust in me and I could handle the complex equipment such as a multi-gun oscilloscope and a close circuit TV.
During the practical examination, I was asked to do the experiment to determine the dielectric constant of liquids. I had myself assembled the equipment but somebody had wrongly scratched HT (for High Tension) and LT (Low Tension) terminals on it. On connecting HT, I realized the blunder and immediately told Krishnaji that I have burnt the valve. Prof. Saligram Bhargava was furious and asked me to go home right in front of the examiner, Prof. D.S. (Daulat Singh) Kothari. Krishnaji insisted that he was well aware of my capability and that this was only an accident and gave me another experiment. When Professor Kothari came to take my viva voce examination, he asked some questions which no other student could answer. He continued asking questions for one hour and I was worried that I had missed one experiment and I may not be able to complete the second one. Later, I went to Krishnaji’s residence to tell him that I do not want to fail and wanted to drop the second practical. He advised me not to be stupid and told me that Prof. Kothari was very happy with my answers. This incident developed into a very personal bond with Krishnaji, as well as with Prof. Kothari for the rest of my life.
During 1949, many of the Intermediate colleges were upgraded to Degree colleges and I had offers to teach in Colleges in several cities in U.P. (Uttar Pradesh): Gorakhpur, Meerut, Rewari, and Khurja.
I was quite young (this was before I had turned 20); my father did not want me to go to these places. Finally I got an offer to teach at Saugar University in Madhya Pradesh, without any interview and I accepted it. The University was only 3 year-old and they wanted someone to develop the MSc and BSc laboratories. When I asked Prof. Devidas Raghunath Bhawalkar, Head of the Department, how he selected me without any interview, he told me that Krishnaji had strongly recommended my name assuring them that I was the best candidate for the job the University wanted to get done. This was a major turning point in my life.
In 1951, I received an offer of research fellowship from Professor Kalpathi Ramakrishna (K.R.) Ramanathan, of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on a mere fifty rupees per month. I was reluctant to leave a University job and join research at a far off institute, which was still to be established. Again Krishnaji advised me that I would never get a chance to work under a great scientist such as Prof. Ramanathan. He assured me that the PRL had a bright future under Profs. K. R. Ramanathan and Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai. It was a hard task for me to establish very complex equipment there, and I am indebted to the training by Krishnaji that I could, single handedly, establish the first ionospheric observatory at Ahmedabad. When I was invited to be a professor at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Krishnaji was keen that I should accept it and return to U.P. Prof. Sarabhai was strongly against my leaving PRL, however; thus, I refused the new offer. After Prof. Sarabhai’s death, I did accept the Directorship of the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism, Bombay (now Mumbai). Krishnaji was a member of the Governing Council of the Institute. I was trying to get land for the northern center of the institute at Bhopal, Jaipur, and Varanasi, but Prof. Krishnaji advised me to seek some land in Allahabad, which is the seat of the National Academy of Sciences, India and the University of Allahabad. Today, Prof. K.S. (Kariamanickam Srinivasa) Krishnan Institute of Geomognetism is located at Jhusi, near Allahabad; this is mainly due to Krishnaji’s suggestion.
Both Profs. Ramanathan and Sarabhai were highly appreciative of the training Krishnaji had given to hundreds of students in the area of Electronics. They told me that if Krishnaji recommends any student, we invite him/her without any hesitation. We have had a number of successful students and engineers in PRL as well as in the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), all because of Krishnaji’s training and his reputation.
Professor Krishnaji was not only a teacher to his students but was always a great friend. I pay my humble homage and respect to him.
Professor Krishnaji, My Teacher, My Guide, and My Mentor Ganesh Prasad Srivastava 22, Dayal Nagar, Dayal Bagh, Agra–282005, UP, India Telephone: (91) 562-257-0317 I grew up under the guidance of Professor Krishnaji who was my teacher and supervisor at the University of Allahabad. University of Allahabad, a sterling center of learning and wisdom, was established on the pattern of Oxford and Cambridge universities, but unlike the latter two, it was never conceived of as a center of theology.
It is true that this Oxford of the East has produced numerous illustrious bureaucrats, politicians and poets, but academics remained the pivot of learning. It has produced a thriving scientific community responsible for founding many science institutions in India and abroad. I deem it fit to recall a few stalwarts such as Kariamanickam Srinivasa (K.S.) Krishnan, Megh Nad Saha, Daulat Singh Kothari and Krishnaji.
My association with Krishnaji started in 1952, when I joined the MSc (Physics) classes. His style of teaching always fascinated me.
What a grasp on the subject and what acumen he had to perceive the knowledge level of each of his students! I had already decided to be his disciple in the field. As luck would have it, I topped the course and he agreed to my joining a research project under him. Later he graciously enrolled me as his research scholar for the doctorate (DPhil) degree. He was a hard task master and his words reverberate in my mind till this date, ‘You shall have to earn your degree. It is not going to be gifted’.
In fact I was his second student, the first being Dr. Prem Swarup.
Both of us went through rigors of research. Krishnaji made us slog, but I must also admit that he sweated it out with us. He would be there taking observations along with us at odd hours. He made both of us set up Klystron power supplies for microwave benches. Many of our experimental results were published in highly acclaimed journals of the day such as the Physical Review and that was a rarity and privilege!