«Edited by Govindjee Urbana, Illinois, USA and Shyam Lal Srivastava Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India i The Cover A photograph of Krishnaji (Dada), 1980 ...»
161.) There was a huge crowd that day, and the program was displayed on television screens by close circuit cameras for the first time in Allahabad. Krishnaji, the real founder of the J.K. Institute of Applied Physics, was a visionary; he saw the emergence of solid state electronics and microwaves in every walk of life in the future, already in the 1950s.
During the summer of 1957, I wanted to stay at Allahabad so that I could prepare, in advance, for the BSc (Part II) course and also earn some money. Krishnaji hired me as a research helper in one of his research projects. That opened a real window of future opportunity for me. Ganesh Prasad Srivastava was writing his thesis on microwave absorption in gases and Prem Swarup, the first student of Krishnaji, had completed his doctoral work and was helping Krishnaji to teach MSc (Tech) course. Shankar Swarup was working on microwave absorption of solid composites, wax impregnated by aluminum particles. I was trained to separate different micron size aluminum particles, placing them on a rotating wheel. Different size particles were photographed and the sizes determined with the help of a comparator. They were catalogued according to the size and then composites were prepared.
After graduating with a BSc degree in 1958 (with merit), I needed advise concerning applying for admission for MSc studies. I wanted to do MSc in Physics, but MSc. (Tech) in Electronics was another very attractive program. Krishnaji knew my family circumstances and he told me that I should do what I liked. During those days, the top 45 students, with first division marks, from all-over India were admitted in the MSc Physics program, but statistically only 4 to 5 students would obtain first division in MSc. I joined MSc (Physics) in July 1958. I did well in MSc (Previous) and ranked first in the class.
During the summer of 1959, I again approached Krishnaji to arrange for my stay in Allahabad. He talked with Professor Kedareshwar Banerji, the then Head Of the Department of Physics, to appoint me as a laboratory assistant in an existing vacancy for just the summer vacation. Prof. Banerji was a very kind and generous person and gave me the job of the laboratory assistant for the summer period. I learnt the upkeep of the instruments; but, most of the time, I was in the Physics Department Library cataloging the books and checking the stocks. That was when I did browse a large number of books. In my MSc (Final), I opted for specialization in Electronics, but soon Krishnaji left the University of Allahabad to join as a Senior Scientific Officer in the Indian Defence Laboratory at Kirkee, near Pune. When the J.K.Institute was fully established and made functional, instead of its able and deserving founder Krishnaji, another professor (Prof. Satyendra Nath Ghosh) was appointed as the Professor of Applied Physics. Krishnaji, a born teacher, found it difficult to be tied to the Defence Laboratory, and he returned to Allahabad University. It was really a great relief to all of us to find him amongst us in February 1960. At our request, he taught us Physics of Radio Receiver, Transmitter and Television. What is remarkable is that he would lecture to us for more than 3 hours at a stretch, and what is more remarkable is that all of us were glued to his words.
These lectures were very thrilling and were in complete contrast to what we had been taught earlier by some other teachers.
I was first in the rank of 1960 MSc (Physics) batch of graduate students. I was very confident to be accepted for the doctoral program under the supervision of Krishnaji, but when I approached him he told me that he had no research project available that would provide me a research fellowship. On top of this, he had already accepted two research students to be enrolled under him during the academic year 1960-1961, and according to the rules of the department, no more than two students could be enrolled for DPhil degree under one teacher in one academic year. He advised me to join with another teacher in the Department of Physics, who had the research project to finance me. I agreed to his suggestion, but soon realized that it was a mistake.
In January 1961, I was appointed a Lecturer in the Department of Physics as a faculty member had taken a leave of absence; thus, the appointment was temporary. Further, my real ordeal in life also started with it. I was struggling to stay at Allahabad with my younger brother and sister, who were living with me as they were studying in the university and in a school, respectively; further, I did not have a regular income. I was being shunted off and on from a teaching job.
It was then that I thought to go to USA for my PhD. I applied to five universities in USA. All of them awarded me fellowship, and I planned to go to Purdue University for PhD in Experimental Solid State Physics. In the summer 1962, I went to seek Krishnaji’s advice on the issue to go to USA. He knew that in my absence the education of my brother and sister would suffer. He narrated his own story as to why he remained at the University of Allahabad taking care of his ailing mother and education of his two younger brothers (Gopalji and Govindjee) and his younger sister (Malati). I told him that my circumstances were similar and that I should remain in Allahabad, provided I could work with him for my DPhil thesis. He accepted me. I soon started working on microwave spectral line broadening due to molecular collisions, a problem on which Dr. Suresh Chandra had just completed his doctoral thesis. It was Dr. Suresh Chandra who really initiated me to research methodology and the challenges in the field of spectral linewidths - a new modified source modulation spectrograph to be built and collision cross sections due to the induction, dispersion and exchange forces to be formulated. For theoretical formulation, we needed mathematical basis of molecular collisions. I was asked to prepare a series of lectures on the required topic to be delivered in the research seminar, with my mentor Krishnaji, Professor Harish Chandra Khare and other teachers in the audience. (Prof. Khare, after completing his PhD thesis in Theoretical Physics from McGill University, Canada, had joined the University of Allahabad as a senior teacher in the Department of Mathematics).
For me to deliver such lectures in the presence of senior teachers was really very discomforting, but through those lectures I learnt to study new subjects with confidence.
One evening at Tea-time, Krishnaji narrated how he started the work in the field of microwaves. Dr. Megh Nad Saha was visiting the Physics Department of Allahabad University in 1950. He told Krishnaji that he had seen the absorption line of ammonia in the microwave region on a cathode ray oscillograph in Walter Gordy’s laboratory in USA, and asked him to work on such contemporary (modern) research field. Krishnaji believed in himself. He built his own instruments for doing experiments on microwaves. In the early 1950s, the X-band klystron power supply was fabricated and with that the X-band microwave bench for the microwave absorption measurements in gases was started (Dr. Prem Swarup, early 1950s), S-band, K-band and J-band benches for absorption measurements in gases at high pressures (Dr. Ganesh Prasad Srivastava, mid 1950s), in solid composites (Dr. Shanker Swarup, late 1950s) and in liquids (Dr Surendra Kumar Garg, late 1950s; Dr Abhai Mansingh, early 1960s), source modulation microwave spectrometer (Dr. Suresh Chandra, late 1950s); its improved version, the author (Dr. Shyam Lal Srivastava, mid 1960s), electron spin resonance set up (late Dr.
Baikunth Nath Mishra, late 1950s), Stark modulation spectrometer (late Dr. Arjun Singh Rajput, early 1960s) and pulse ruby laser (Dr.
Rajendra Kumar Laloraya, late 1960s). Almost all the components of these set-ups were designed and fabricated in the department under very close scrutiny of Krishnaji, with excellent support from his technician late Sri Ram Chandra, who was especially trained on the job by Krishnaji himself. This is how microwave research laboratory was built by Krishnaji in India, showing that even the most sophisticated instruments could be built following the mantra “do it yourself”. Many research students later worked for their doctoral thesis on these facilities.
Krishnaji was an experimentalist par excellence. In one of the scientific gatherings, Prof. Babu Lal Sharraf (a very committed and innovative scientist who invented new experiments for BSc and MSc teaching laboratories) aptly remarked “Prof. Krishnaji is a phenomenon in Experimental Physics - let us follow him”.
Recognizing his outstanding contribution in the field of microwave research in India, Krishnaji was awarded Sir Chandrasekhar Venkat (for short C.V.) Raman Award in 1976 (instituted by Hari Om Trust) by the then Prime Minister Shrimati Indira Gandhi. (A photograph of Indira Gandhi with Krishnaji is reproduced in Part C of this book;
see Figure 3, p. 163.) On May 8, 1963, I was married to Sushma and we were both accepted as family members in the family of Krishnaji. For us that was definitely a social upliftment. When I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in November, 1966, to work with Professor William H Flygare as a post doctoral fellow, I enjoyed the hospitality of Govindjee (youngest brother of Krishnaji) and Rajni Govindjee staying with them for about two weeks and even later enjoyed the lively get togethers with them during the week ends of 1966-1967.
During 1970-1971, Krishnaji was invited to the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia as a Webster fellow; this was the time when more than a dozen research students were working in his group. On his return to India, he accepted the responsibility of ProVice Chancellorship of the University of Allahabad. The University gained from his administrative skills, but we were losers, deprived of his day-to-day discussions.
Krishnaji retired in 1982, and was awarded the emeritus professorship by the University Grants Commission, New Delhi, which he declined. He decided to help his eldest son Deep Ranjan (fondly called Deepak; sadly, on 8th September 2008, Deepak passed away) in establishing a television assembly unit, but it did not succeed resulting in a great financial loss. Although there were a few partners in the adventure, Krishnaji took on himself the responsibility of repaying the loan. For a man who had retired without any significant pensioner’s benefits, and who had spent all his reserves in bringing up the family, it was a decision possible only by a person of the character of Krishnaji. He accepted to work as the scientific advisor of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and repaid all the loans.
He lost his second son Raj Ranjan, his younger brother Gopalji’s daughter (Manju) and her 2 sons; and his own granddaughter Neera (daughter of Ira (Meenu for all of us) and of Dr.Suresh Chandra).
These tragedies would have completely broken any mortal, but he was a pillar of strength rehabilitating the survivors and healing them.
It was during these difficult days he had to be operated upon for a gallbladder stone by Dr. Nandlal Tahliani, a famous surgeon of Allahabad. During the transition from unconscious state (due to anesthesia) to conscious state, I, sitting beside him, heard a few sentences of the grief, pain and sorrow he had suffered. I realized “even a saint is a human being suffering silently, not exhibiting it lest others get hurt”.
During his entire life Krishnaji helped others, irrespective of whether they were his family members, friends, students, colleagues or even strangers. Every evening a host of needy persons used to gather at his residence, and he attended to all of them without any discrimination, sending letters of recommendations, talking on telephone, writing the problems of a few in his diary to which he did attend and solved. There are a large number of beneficiaries like me.
On 12th of August 1997, he, along with his wife Shrimati (Mrs) Bimla (Asthana), daughter-in-law Poonam, wife of Late Sri Raj Ranjan, went to his family physician Dr. Arun Kumar Mukherji to get himself checked up. Dr. Mohan Swarup Sinha took them in his car. Krishnaji requested Dr. Sinha to take Poonam to the eye specialist.
Dr. Mukherji, who examined Dada, did not find any cause of immediate concern, but in the night he suffered from a stroke from which he did not survive; Krishnaji, our Professor Krishnaji, breathed his last on 14th of August 1997 in the intensive care unit of the Nazreth Hospital of Allahabad. We were crest-fallen; the beacon of light was gone. His wife Shrimati Bimla (Asthana) supported the family and kept on caring silently for her children, grand children and many such families like ours with motherly love and affection till her death on 18th of April 2007. We miss them both.
Though Krishnaji had retired from active service, he always wanted the Department of Physics of the University of Allahabad, to reach the new heights. With the change of guards in 1986, the department was generously supported by the University Grants Commission (UGC), New Delhi through Committee for Strengthening Infrastructure in Science and Technology program (COSIST), Special Assistance Program (SAP-1, SAP-2) and by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India through Funding for Infrastructure Development in Science and Technology program (FIST). Later, a new center of nano-science and many individual research projects have been supported by DST. I feel privileged to be associated with the first phase programs of strengthening research in the department. Krishnaji was always available to guide me and show the direction. I, along with a few teachers of the Physics Department, started the twin centers Kedareshwar Banerjee Center of Atmospheric and Ocean Studies and Megh Nad Saha Center of Space Studies under the newly established Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies in 1999 with the active support of the Department of Ocean Development, Government of India and the Indian Space Research Organization, Bangalore, respectively. I believe I could do it because of the blessings of my teacher and mentor Krishnaji. Today, the Physics Department has been granted the status of Center of Advanced Studies by UGC, the seed for that was sown by many able teachers of the yester years in which the contribution of the microwave group of Krishnaji had been quite remarkable1.
Krishnaji did profess “no one is indispensable in this world”.