«Edited by Govindjee Urbana, Illinois, USA and Shyam Lal Srivastava Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India i The Cover A photograph of Krishnaji (Dada), 1980 ...»
A person himself may be an extremely good research scholar or a knowledgeable person in a specialized subject, and develop a good research group and publish papers, but it is not easy to train research students who in due course of time establish their own research groups at different places. Krishnaji had the exceptional ability of providing this training and is indeed the leader who has spread Electronics teaching in North India and Research on Microwaves and Dielectrics all over India. Dr. Prem Swarup, the first PhD student of Professor Krishnaji, has been instrumental in the development of the solid state microwave devices in Solid-state Physics Laboratory of the Ministry of Defense, Government of India. The passion for microwave developed during his PhD work continues in him; after retirement, he is still associated with teaching ‘microwaves’ to Engineering Students at Indra Prastha University, Delhi. Professor Ganesh Prasad (G.P.) Srivastava, Krishnaji’s second student, had put the teaching of Electronics in Physics at Delhi University to a highly respectable level, and had established a large Microwave Research group there.
He has the distinction of starting Electronics as a discipline separate from Physics and was the first Head of the Department of Electronic Science at the South Campus of the Delhi University. Several other students of Krishnaji have similar credentials.
Krishnaji was a close friend of my maternal uncle (Mama, in Hindi) Professor Yadupati Sahai (the youngest brother of the great Urdu poet Raghupati Sahai ‘Firaq Gorakhpuri’). Krishnaji used to visit his residence at 8 Bank (now Ram Narain Lal) Road close to where he himself lived (at 14 B Bank Road). When I joined BSc, my Mama told me that I should meet Krishnaji. I had heard from my peers that he is considered one of the top teachers in Physics and has established a very good research laboratory in Electronics (no one in BSc classes knew the exact area). I told my Mama that you know my cousins who joined BSc (Physics, Chemistry & Mathematics) and that my family has the unique distinction that no one has been able to ever pass the BSc examination. They changed subjects to become a graduate in another field, and went to join the Indian Army. I said “I think it will be better if I meet Professor Krishnaji after I have passed BSc, otherwise it will be embarrassing for you to have introduced your nephew who has carried the tradition of his family.” I did not meet Krishnaji at that time. Well I was able to break the tradition of my family: I passed the BSc Exam., joined MSc (Physics) in the 1957-1958 session and met Professor Krishnaji for the first time at the residence of my Mama sometime during 1957-1958. He did not teach me any course up to MSc (Previous), but in my MSc (Final), I opted for Electronics as a special paper and then came in close contact with him as a ‘subject teacher’. His approach of training students in the Electronics Laboratory was unique (at least in the Indian context).
He never liked any one coming and telling him that a particular circuit or equipment is not working. He always insisted that we should tell which component of a circuit or unit of equipment is not working.
This gave us the confidence to open the inside of an equipment and check it without fear of damaging the equipment. Such a training can be given by a teacher who himself knows how the stuff works and has the magnanimity to understand that even if something is damaged, it should be taken as a part of the learning process rather than shouting at the student (or blaming the student) as some did. I found this quality lacking in majority of experimental physicists of my generation and, I believe that Krishnaji’s approach is necessary to establish an experimental research laboratory in India. This may be the secret why almost all PhD students of Krishnaji have been able to establish an experimental research laboratory and group in whichever University they have joined as faculty.
As I have mentioned earlier, I was also one of them who thought Krishnaji liked me the most; I have every reason to believe it as is evident by the following narration.
The first special personal favor Krishnaji gave me was in January of 1959. I had a severe attack of asthma/bronchitis in the second half of 1958. (Actually it could not be properly diagnosed at that time; it was discovered only after my retirement that it was due to some weak heart muscles from my childhood). I had to stay at my home at Fatehpur, in UP; thus, I missed lectures and laboratory and was unable to put in hard work and needed special food which was not possible in the hostel I lived. I met Krishnaji at his residence to tell him that I wanted to ‘drop out’ of the classes that year, and would appear in the final examination only the following year. His attitude changed and it appeared he was not talking to a student but to a family member and asked me what I want to do after MSc. I said I want to do research under you. However, since all your PhD students have first division and I cannot get first division if I appear this year, and thus, I will not be able to join research in your group. He said “You have above 60% in the MSc (Previous) and if you even start studying without exerting yourself, you will at least get pass marks and so overall you will pass with a second division. There is no guarantee that you will not get sick next year as there may not be a permanent cure of your ailment.
I can assure you that even if you get a second division, I will accept you in my research group”. I was greatly moved by this gesture and I was reminded of some such gesture of my father. I am told that I had some problem as a child in my foot and I could not walk up to the age of three or four years; at that time, my father felt that he should do something for his sickly (invalid) child and, thus, he got a house built exclusively for me, so that I could survive economically by the rent (it would fetch me), if I would be unable to get over my sickness.
Professor Krishnaji had become more like a father- figure for me and a part of my family on my own, not because he was a friend of my Mama. Well I did appear in the examination of 1959 and, as expected, I obtained a second division. Krishnaji kept his word and enrolled me for PhD in 1960. Someone very close to Krishnaji and his family with far superior academic record than mine had to ‘suffer’ because a teacher wanted to help a weak sickly student. I may add that the one who had ‘suffered’, but later joined research under Krishnaji, is now a close family friend of mine. This incident reflects the human values a student develops in his association with Krishnaji.
It was made clear to me that I will not get any stipend during research, so I had joined, to teach, CMP (Chaudhary Mahadeo Prasad) Degree College immediately after MSc in July 1959, and continued there even after getting enrolled for PhD in 1960. I was busy working in the college during the day and was working in the laboratory in the evenings and holidays; thus, my interaction for research problems with Krishnaji was not possible during the day time, but he had given me the liberty to come to his residence whenever I had any problems, in the late evenings and holidays. As expected, I always had problems and my frequent visits to his residence sometimes extended to dinner time. (I am thankful to the Late Mrs. Krihnaji (Shrimati Bimla) for offering dinner whenever I got late. She knew I will not get anything that late in the hostel.) Around 1960-1961, Professor H.C. (Harish Chandra) Khare returned from Canada; he belonged to my home town Fatehpur, and was just like a brother to me; he was also very close to Krishnaji. Dr. Khare’s presence further cemented my relationship with Krishnaji and his family, and I developed very close relationship with the entire family. This is reflected in a photograph taken in January 1965 when the entire immediate family of Krishnaji and one of his sisters-in law came to Fatehpur at the reception of my marriage with Kalpana, daughter of Professor Hari Shankar Srivastava (then Professor of History at the Gorakhpur University). (See Part C, Figure 4, p. 163.) I am not going to write about the impact of research papers I published under Krishnaji and how the research field of “Microwave Studies of Dielectrics” spread in India, but only one incident that reflects Krishnaji’s international research status. When I was writing my doctoral thesis in the second half of 1964, my elder brother Professor Ajai Mansingh was a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada.
He wanted me to come there for my post doctoral work but I was not very keen and did not approach anyone. My brother went to the Physics Department to find opportunities for me. He met Professor D.B. (David Boyd) McLay and told him that I was finishing my PhD in Physics at the University of Allahabad, and then enquired if there were any openings for me. Professor McLay asked him: Is your brother, by any chance, a student of Professor Krishnaji? My brother said “Yes, but I do not know the exact work he is doing”. Professor McLay said “If he is a student of Prof. Krishnaji, then I am sure that he will be able to obtain Post Doctoral Fellowship of the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada”. He noted that Dr. C.C. Costain was Head of the Microwave Spectroscopy, and Dr. Gerhard Herzberg was Head of the Spectroscopy Group at NRC, and, Dr. Costain had personally visited the research laboratory of Krishnaji a couple of years back. He told my brother that both he and Herzberg have a very high opinion of the work of Professor Krishnaji. Professor McLay sent me the forms and I did get the NRC Fellowship to work at the Queen’s University. A person commanding such a great respect from persons like Dr. Herzberg, who was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, speaks a lot about the quality of the laboratory and the research developed by Krishnaji probably without visiting any University abroad. My association with Krishnaji did not end after my going to Canada in 1965 as a NRC Post Doctorate Fellow and later as an Assistant Professor of Physics at Queen’s University in Canada. We were always in touch and I visited him and his family whenever I came to India during my stay in Canada.
After the death of my father in 1969, I decided to return to India as I had promised my father that I will not settle abroad. Again, Krishnaji was instrumental in getting me a Reader’s position at the University of Delhi in 1972. Professor Ganesh Prasad (G.P.) Srivastava was already there; he did not have much personal contact with me as we had never overlapped during research but he helped me a lot since Krishnaji had requested him to do so. The greatness of a teacher in ‘how to project a student’ can be given with one example. The “Microwave Dielectric Studies in Liquids” had spread at various research centers in India and those involved approached Krishnaji for help whenever they had any difficulty. He started telling all those who came to him for help to contact me at Delhi as I was now more exposed to the general area of Dielectrics. This way my name became known to many groups working on Dielectrics in the country, which finally culminated into starting a “National Seminar on Ferroelectrics and Dielectrics (NSFD) in 1980. It is being held once in two years.
Krishnaji was honored in NSFD VII, held at the University at Srinagar, Garwhal, in 1992, for his immense contribution in the development of research activities in the field of Dielectrics all over India (see Part D, p. 231, for the Seventieth birthday celebration of Professor Krishnaji).
Since our stay in Delhi and Krishnaji’s association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his stay in Maharishi’s Ashram at Noida (Uttar Pradesh) increased the family visits and my daughter Smita and son Suhas started respecting and treating Krishnaji (and his family) as their own family members. In a way, this has turned out to be a reality because my daughter-in-law Meenal is niece of Avinash, husband of Ila. (Ila is the youngest daughter of Gopalji, Krishanji’s younger brother.) I add here a few words about Delhi University to write about Krishnaji’s association with this University. The President of India is also Head (Visitor) of the Delhi University (DU). Out of the three important committees, Academic Council (AC), Executive Council (EC) and the University Court, EC is the highest administrative body.
The Vice Chancellor and three in the rank of Pro-Vice-chancellor (PVC), Dean of Colleges and Director of the South Campus of DU are members of all the 3 committees. The EC has two elected teachers’ representatives and three elected members from the Court. The Court has wider representation and includes eminent persons from different walks of life. The two most important members in EC are eminent persons nominated by the Visitor for a period of three years; they are called Visitor’s Nominees. The Visitor’s Nominees have to ensure that the University ordinances are properly followed and the University Administration does not take arbitrary decisions. Krishnaji was one of the Visitor’s (President of India) Nominees in the EC of DU (1985-1988). He was earlier Pro-VC of the University of Allahabad. The benefit of his own experience of problems in the University administration in general and functioning of Delhi University, in particular by virtue of being a EC member, was fully utilized by me when I took up the administrative position as Director of the South Campus of DU (1995-2000) straight from my research laboratory. I was not associated with any of the top committees of DU earlier and had not paid much attention to the functioning of the University. The guidance of Krishnaji helped me in successfully completing my tenure. Unfortunately, he died a few months before my term as Director of the South Campus ended. I could not attend his funeral at Allahabad. However, the DU had convened a condolence meeting for Krishnaji because of his association with the highest body of DU, and because of the highest respect the teaching community had for him.
I mention here a few things about Krishnaji’s tenure as Visitor’s (President’s) Nominee in the EC of Delhi University. Elected representatives of the teachers bring problems to the above-mentioned committees which need interpretation of some of the ordinances;