Memoirs of Prof. N R Kamath

 
Born on September 8, 1914, Narayan Rangappa Kamath hailed from Mulki, a small town on the banks of the river Shambhavi near Mangalore in South Kanara district of Karnataka State. He was the youngest of seven children, five boys and two girls. One of his sisters, Bhavani, a school teacher and a remarkable woman, had a profound influence on the formative years of her youngest brother’s life.
NRK completed his early education in Mulki and his SSLC from Government College, Mangalore in 1930 with high credits. He could not gain admission to the much coveted Presidency College, Madras since admission at that time was also dependent on religious consideration and young Narayan despite his excellent results, belonged to the wrong constituency. He moved to St Xavier’s College, Bombay where he completed the B.Sc. course in 1934 with a unique distinction of securing 100% marks in Chemistry, a record unequalled in Bombay University for the next 40 years.
Read more in  Fundamatics Issue 2Q2014.
The late Prof. N R Kamath was an outstanding teacher and technologist who had a profound influence on his students, first at the University Department of Chemical Technology (UDCT, and now named as Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai), and then at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Prof. Kamath played a decisive role as an academician and administrator during the formative phase of growth of not only the Chemical Engineering Department but also the Institute. As the founder Head of the Chemical Engineering department, he played a visionary role in setting the teaching and research agenda for the department. He was a motivating force for both the faculty and students of the department throughout his stint as the Head from 1959 to 1974. During his long stint as the Deputy Director of the Institute, he showed his administrative acumen by putting in place processes for facile management of all academic activities across the campus. He was a role model and mentor to many of the young faculty and students of his era.

As a fitting tribute to the pioneering role he played in shaping the destiny of the department, The Department of Chemical Engineering is organizing a centenary celebration function on Saturday, 6 September 2014 at the Victor Menezes Convention Center located on the IIT Bombay campus.

We plan to bring out a book of memoirs containing pictures and reminiscences of all who closely worked with Prof. N R Kamath. We invite you to write about your cherished association with Prof. Kamath--as a teacher, researcher, administrator, and a person. You may directly "Add new comment" using the link below, which will appear on this page after you "Post" (submit) itPlease do send in any photographs that you may have to ravindragudi at gmail.com.  

Details of the centenary celebration function can be found here.
RSVP Registration Form : http://goo.gl/3CGXBt

The Balm of a Wink and a Head Nod

Late in 1965, I nervously awaited the assignment of a thesis topic that, in my thinking, stood before me and my BTech diploma in Chemical Engineering. At the time, the BTech was awarded after the completion of a five-year programme. The day arrived, when Professor Kamath walked into the classroom with a paper bag that looked like a lunch brown bag! In there were slivers of white slips, akin to what one finds in a Chinese fortune cookie. We students were asked to walk up to him, one by one, put our hands into the bag without peeking, and pull out our fate for the next three months! I was called in turn. With a silent prayer, but exuding great confidence for the benefit of my mentor, I got my fortune. Back at my desk, I slowly unfolded the thin strip. It said, "Design the plant and process for the manufacture of 1000 tonnes per day of Portland Cement, with a detailed design of the kiln recommended.”
When all my classmates had received their respective assignment, there was a mad rush for the library! Soon it seemed that the library had no material of use to me. Then, I discovered an index card in our library holdings titled, “Design for Cement Manufacture”. I thought I had hit pay-dirt. But, walking over to the shelves, I was shocked to see a big, fat book written entirely in Cyrillic script by a Russian author! I could not make head or tail of it. I was doomed!
Panic set in!
Breathless and sweating, incoherent to boot, I was at Professor Kamath’s Deputy Director’s office! He was in a meeting. But, someone must have said something to him. He walked out to see me! This was the way he always treated his hapless students in trouble! Teary eyed, I told him of my fears. I asked if I could change the topic assigned to me.
My mentor gently put his hand on my shoulder, smiled, and with his iconic wink and head-nod, said, “This topic will be very good to you!”
Professor Kamath's characteristic wink, reinforced by his head-nod, was both, a soothing balm and forceful argument one could not counter!
A day after a sleepless night I was called back to Professor Kamath’s office. While I sat sullenly, before him, he called his old friend and classmate from his own student-days, Mr. H.N. Banerjea, CE, who was the Chief Engineer at the Associated Cement Companies. ACC, as the company was better known, was already India’s foremost manufacturer of cement and ready mixed concrete with a network of factories throughout the country.
Professor Kamath told me to go see Mr. Banerjea. The very next day, I walked into the ACC offices across from Western Railway’s Churchgate terminal, and approached a tall, lanky man who looked very familiar! “Where is the office of Mr. H.N. Banerjea?” I asked. Then I saw the name plate on his desk that read, “Polly Umrigar”. The famed cricket legend pointed me to Mr. Banerjea, who was sitting behind a class door, just behind him!
Over the next two months, Mr. Banerjea saw me each week, and gave me a comprehensive, crash course on the cement engineering design, replete with homework and hands on experience! The resulting BTech thesis was rated by Professors Samir Sarkar and M.P. Bhuskute as ‘Excellent’.
After graduation from IIT, I went on to the United States, but from time to time corresponded with my mentor.
Visiting Bombay, a decade later, I went to see Professor Kamath and Ruzena, at their home in Sion. The very first question he asked me, as I entered his house, was, “Did you get your PhD?”
“Yes”, I said.
“What was the title of your dissertation?” he asked.
“A Study of Human Judgment in Process Facility Planning through Interactive Computer Simulation of Cement Engineering Design.”
Professor Kamath chuckled, put his hand gently on my shoulder, and to my astonishment, said, “I told you this topic will be very good to you!”
Then, he gave me his iconic wink and head-nod, which I cherish to this day.

Krishna S. Dhir, PhD,
(BTech, Chem E, '66, H6)
Dean
College of Business and Economics
University of Hawaii at Hilo
Hilo, Hawaii 96720-4091
USA

Salute to a Great Professor and an Excellent Human Being

I feel myself fortunate to stand before you today to speak a few words about the Godfather of my father, Prof. N R Kamath. I am here principally on behalf of my father (Mr. Anand Naik) who is sitting in the audience and who had the privilege to know Prof. Kamath from very close quarters.

Please allow me to share with you some of the experiences which my father had with Prof.Kamath. My father was a school dropout from a poor family from South Karnataka. He moved from his native place to Bombay for a living and started working in a canteen of UDCT at the age of 12. He was known as the ‘Canteen Boy’ and had to struggle a lot initially; there were times when he could not afford food to eat and spent many sleepless nights. During his service as a canteen boy, he used to serve tea to Prof. Kamath and happened to meet him regularly.

One fine day, Prof.Kamath came to him and gently asked about him and on listening about his background, he felt pity on him and decided to help him. He was an extremely compassionate man. He told him that he’ll help him on the condition that he must continue his education. But, employment was very important for daily living. Besides, my father had to send money to his parents and siblings, who were fully dependent on him. In our native place we were totally dependent on agriculture and the rules of taxation were very exacting back then.

When Prof.Kamath got Professorship at IIT Bombay, he asked my father whether he would like to work with him. Prof.Kamath had a magnetic personality and he impressed my father with his inspirational words, because of which, he decided to follow him. He offered him a job in the Directors Office. Back in those days, sanction for recruitment of staff was difficult and he was offered the job of Peon. However, Prof.Kamath insisted him to do further studies, waived his duties for evening classes, and helped him in taking admission at night school, which was at Fort. My father was able to study up to 10th Standard and that helped him to get a technical post. He unofficially helped him in obtaining training at the central workshop of the Institute, which benefited him for the rest of his professional life. Prof.Kamath was a very farsighted man and a visionary, who was determined to help his friend, my father, through education. I wish there many Prof.Kamath’s in our society, who, apart from achieving unparalleled success themselves, would help the people around them to achieve a position of respect.

Life was still tough and the earning was not sufficient for us. Very often he used to provide financial assistance to my father and never expected anything in return. Many times in the evening, he used to drop him by his car at Matunga station, though he used to stay nearer, at Sion. He was aware that my father had to rush to his evening classes.
Prof.Kamath was very particular about his class timings. He wanted himself and his subordinate to reach office well before the designated time. In particular, for the class at 8.30 in the morning, he had to reach the office by 8.00 a.m.

My father had narrated one incident to me which I want to share with you. During those days, the results used to be declared late and an anxious student’s parent wanted to know whether his son had passed the exam or not. He was reluctant to meet Prof.Kamath. He went to my father and requested him to ask the Professor about his son's result. When he did the same, Prof.Kamath initially gave him a hard stare, making him nervous, but afterwards he gently called him and told that he couldn’t disclose the result before its due time. But he did say that the student had passed the exam. My father informed the same to the parent and he happily kept some money in his pocket. Prof.Kamath saw that and he advised him that if he inculcates greed, one day he’ll end up with a bad habit which may cost him his job. He realized the importance of integrity and literally cried and immediately returned the money to the parent.

Prof.Kamath was a man with integrity, vision, wisdom, compassion and punctuality, who led not only by words, but by example. When he came to India after his marriage, he didn't have accommodation. He lived in a worker’s quarter at the KEM Hospital with one room and kitchen for a short period of time and thereafter he shifted to his own apartment at Sion. My father says that he was a man of action and religiously avoided pending of files. Whether it was borrowing books from Central Library at V.T., for him or watching him sipping his favourite cup of black tea, lost in thought, my father has fond memories of Prof. Kamath. He and I accept this moment to salute a great Professor and an excellent human being and wish that our country is blessed with many more such souls.

I also thank the department of Chemical Engineering for giving me this opportunity to share my father’s experiences of Prof.Kamath with you.

Thank You.

Praveen A. Naik
S/O. Anand C. Naik (Retired in 1999)
Sr. Mechanic (HS)
Deptt. of Chemical Engg. IIT Bombay

My Memories of Prof. N.R. Kamath

It was about 54 years ago that I along with half of my classmates joined IIT Bombay in its first 5 year batch. The other half joined a year later as the second year students. Most of my classmates have fond memories of Prof. Kamath and many of them still talk about their initial interview with him. I missed that opportunity. To this day, it is a mystery to me as to how I got into IIT. I did not ask for it but sometime in the later part of June 1960, an application was sent to my home in Indore. I was away and therefore, my brother filled it out and a few days later I got a letter stating that I was admitted and should report ASAP because the classes had already started. The only thing I can think of is that I was recruited because of my 2nd position in the State Higher Secondary Board Examinations. A female had secured the 1st position. I don’t know if she got the application too but I doubt it. So, I missed the interview with Prof. Kamath but of all of the professors I had at IIT, I remember him the best. He taught us History of Technology and I learnt more from that course than any other course that was taught to us in the first two years at IIT.

Dwarika Agarwal
IITB 1965 (Met)
700 Esplanade, Unit 30
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

An ode to NRK

Millions have walked this World before
their footprints obliterated by others' and nature's doings
few have like NRK
theirs' indelible making a difference
and for others to follow!

- S Arunkumar
B.Tech.(Hons.)(ME-1964)

Prof Kamath as I remember him

Professor Kamath was the very first teacher our batch of 300 came across when we attended his Monday morning lecture at the Lecture Theatre when he taught us "History of Technology" for a full semester. We were all young, new, raw and still listened to the great man revealing to us how mankind had come up due to advances made by technology. He covered pre-historic periods and came to modern times. That he was the only teacher in IIT who could have taught this subject was a revelation I got after spending some years there and more intensely as I write these memoirs.

I was very fortunate to have seen Prof Kamath during the three years I spent at the Chemical Engineering Department. I realised that only Prof Kamath could substitute for a teacher who was absent and give us practical knowledge on different aspects of chemical engineering. That he would travel by Bus No. 302, walk up the steep climb from Gandhinagar to the Chem Engg department is known, but while talking to us about condensation polymers, he would say that as the bus approached Kurla, the smell that we got outside of Caprihans was that of phenol formaldehyde resin. He would often say that to make condensation polymers, all that you required were the raw materials, a drum and some source of heat. When I took practical training during the fourth year at Indian Plastics, Poisar, I could really see that he was not cracking one of his jokes. In that context, I remember him talking about his friend Mr. Ketkar, an expert and how Prof Kamath's having an antidote saved Ketkar. I remember him telling us that once Ketkar got a splash of phenol formaldehyde on his face and good old whiskey that Prof Kamath had could get the material off Ketkar's cheek and saved him.

Vijay Kulkarni, Vijay Raghavan and myself took up home paper topics related to each other. I took manufacture of methacrolein, Kulkarni methacrylic acid and Raghavan methyl methacrylate. We struggled for process details and rate constants, asked our guide and were stuck. We gathered courage and all three of us landed at Prof Kamath's large room, where he would sit one one side one day and told him our difficulties. He said that he would be happy to help and walked with us all the way to the Library, took out relevant volumes of Chemical Abstracts and showed us the way forward. If we all could complete our home papers well, the credit must entirely go to Prof. Kamath's intervention. I remember that while walking to the Library, he kept talking about what topics to give for B. Tech and for M. Tech.

It was a practice that one had to collect his final year result only from the hands of Prof. Kamath. When I went to collect mine, I was astonished to find that not only he called me by name, he knew much more about my academic performance than what I had expected. He told me that, much before the CPA, CGPA system came into vogue at IIT, the result and rank that I got was a normalised one based on my performance over the last three years.

I remember that Prof Kamath had told us in an open class that anyone who did not get job in two months could approach him and due to his students holding high positions in various companies, Prof Kamath could get him a job. He in fact did that for a few of my classmates.

I found the job by myself in Ion Exchange and when I went to tell Prof Kamath, he was very happy that I was joining a company in which the person whom he adored was the chairman. He was referring to Dr. R R Hattihangadi, the first Chemical Engineer from India whom Prof Kamath considered to be his Guru.

More than 45 years after I finished my graduation, the only feeling that comes to my mind about Prof. Kamath is of reverence. I also consider myself to be fortunate to have seen and interacted with Prof Kamath when he was at his peak.

Prof. N. R. Kamath – Memories from the Early Days of IITB

In 1960, IITB was in the process of moving to its new location in Powai. The place had the feel of a large construction site with barren landscape and essentially no trees. I was in the very first class of the new five year program and graduated in 1965. Just about the first member of staff I met was Prof. Kamath. As I recall, his office was in a small temporary building as the main building and offices there, were not yet ready. My brother-in-law knew Prof. Kamath from their UDCT days and I sought his advice with a few questions and concerns.

Prof. Kamath was a brilliant man and an excellent teacher; but, was somewhat quizzical. He came to IITB with a high reputation from UDCT (U. Department of Chemical Technology) in Bombay. My fond memory of him is his teaching a class on ‘History of Technology’ about the ancient civilizations of Mohan Jo Daro and Harappa. It was a fascinating look at advancements that had taken place thousands of years back. I was also impressed that the Deputy Director would take personal interest in teaching that course to the young incoming students.

During our years at IITB, Brigadier (retired) S. K. Bose was the Director and Prof. N. R. Kamath was the Deputy Director. It is my belief that Brig. Bose with his military background, deserves much credit for the rapid build up of IITB’s infrastructure and for instituting many of the administrative functions and procedures.

In my role as the Social Secretary of IITB for one year, I had a reasonable contact with Brig. Bose and Prof. Kamath and found both to be easily accessible. They were different in many ways. Brig. Bose took part in annual holi celebration and anyone could smear holi colors on him – the sort of informality most professors would shun. He took much interest in student activities in sports and in cultural events like the Thursday Evening Forum which I organized. Prof. Kamath took more interest in academic activities and events. While their personalities were different, during my many contacts with them, I never heard either one say anything that would have put the other in an unfavorable light.

On one occasion, I had to talk with Prof. Kamath about something. I stuck my head in his office and asked him if he could spare some time. He looked up and said ‘No’. I blurted out ‘Sir, I just need one minute’. Prof Kamath took his wrist watch off, placed it on the table and calmly said ‘Okay, you have one minute’. I was flustered and rushed into whatever I had to say. I recall that I finished in less than a minute. He grinned, put his watch back on and we parted. I have long forgotten what the topic of that brief monologue was. But, I still remember Prof. Kamath and that meeting although I never saw him again after I graduated from IIITB and left for the USA in 1965.

Kishor M. Kulkarni
IITB Class of 1965, Mech. Engg. Sept. 3, 2014
President (retired), Advanced Metalworking, Carmel, IN
Current residence: Naples, FL, USA

Prof N.R. Kamath

I knew Prof.Kamath from 1964 to 1969 when I graduated with a B.Tech in Chem Engg from Powai.

He is the one professor and Head of chem engg that none of us will ever forget. He really inspired us

I am very glad that we are holding this centennial celebration for this great man.

A great University is built by Great Teachers - Tribute to NRK

All of us who were students at IIT Bombay during its early years will remain eternally grateful to the highly capable and selfless teachers who constituted the faculty of those days. It is often said that the Brand that IITB is today owes a lot to the achievements of its Alumni. The Alumni achievers both here in India and overseas will acknowledge that they are what they are thanks to the rigorous Joint Entrance exam and the quality of education(particularly undergraduate education) that they received here.
Among the early teachers, the late Professor N.R.Kamath stands out like a colossus. The depth and breadth of his knowledge of Engineering and Technology and the genuine empathy with which he provided guidance and leadership to his undergraduate as well as post graduate students as well as other faculty members is remembered to this day.
NRK was a living example of the qualities of Internationalism, Industry collaboration, and cross disciplinary study that are highly prized in the top Universities of the world today. It takes hundreds of years for an Institution to become a World class University. As one who was fortunate to experience the best of such education at IITB and later at the world renowned CalTech in USA, I am confident that if we can continue to attract technologist leaders of the calibre of late NRK to research and teach at IITB the Institute will march ahead in the years to come to the "Top 10" league of Science and Technology Universities in the world.
Dr A.L.Ravimohan, President's Gold Medalist IITB 1967, PhD(CalTech, USA),
Leading R&D professional http://www.triiton.com

Famous saying from NRK

I am a 1968 graduate from Mechanical Engineering and was in Hostel 5 throughout my stay at Powai.

I met Prof Kamath during the interview in 1963 and he asked me "Why do you want to be in Mechanical Engineering?" and I had responded that it was because my father was a Mechanical Engineer. He said that was a good enough reason. The most memorable saying I remember is the one he often repeated during the course in "History of Technology" that he taught every First Year class. The saying was: "Where there is no knowledge of the past, there can be no vision for the future". This was the first sentence he said in the course and he repeated it on numerous occasions through the term.

Someone remarked that he was the only HOD who remained in that position for his career at IIT. I remember the incident that occurred during my time in IIT. At that time, Mr. Kamraj, the Congress Party Chief Minister of Madras, decided he would not run for his certain-to-win election, but would spend his time strengthening the party organization throughout the State. This impressed the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru very much and he praised Mr. Kamraj in many interviews and news briefs. Brigadier Bose, who was the Director then, decided that we should have the HOD's in the various departments rotate and put that into effect EXCEPT for the Chemical Engineering Department. Prof.Kamath told him that his appointment letter offered him the position of HOD of Chemical Engineering and he expected IIT to honor that. Perhaps in retribution, the Brigadier removed him as Deputy Director and asked the former Civil Engineering HOD Prof. Pannikar to become the Deputy Director. In case people are not aware, Brig Bose was a Civil Engineer by training and always had a soft spot for Civil Engineering Department.

NRK was very firm in his convictions and did not budge easily as can be deduced from the above anecdote. He preferred to continue as the HOD of Chemical Engineering even though it meant giving up being Deputy Director (and the higher salary and supposed prestige).

Reminiscences

Prof. NRK was my uncle, my father's youngest brother. He was the role model for me.

He was a brilliant student throughout.

I feel proud that I am niece of Prof. N. R. Kamath. He was responsible for my higher education and what I am today.
It is nice of his old students of IIT to recognise his ability, knowledge and celebrate his birth centenary.
I wish the "LEGACY" project all the success.

Regards
Meera Kamath

Reminiscences

I had the honour and privilege of knowing quite well in the early years.
I cannot do better than to quote my own remarks which I made about Prof. N.R.Kamath during the condolence meeting held in LT “He was a legend in his lifetime.” I had the good fortune of interacting with him on quite a few occasions. I was a young lecturer who had joined IIT in 1958. After some months when Prof.NRK joined as HOD in Ch.E. dept., I heard some colleagues say “UDCT’s loss is IITB’s gain”. After some years down the line, Prof. P.K. Kelkar hand-picked Prof.NRK to be Dy.D. It occurred to us, junior faculty, that the two stalwarts were managing the Acd. Affairs of the Institute like a compact and competent team, with the former being the Chairman, Senate and the latter as ex-offico Chairman,the then Senate Standing Committee. No surprise about it. After all, they both had stellar acd and admin credentials. Prof. PKK had groomed VJTI into one of the very best engineering institutions of those times; with Prof. NRK’s leadership, the then UDCT became a byword for excellent chemical engineering education.
I shall cite just one instance of my few interactions with Prof.NRK. In EE we had a student association, EESA, which was a copy-cat of our ‘elder-brother- dept’ CHEA. As his oratory skills and wide general knowledge were well-known, I requested him to deliver a talk in our association. He gave me a title for his talk: ”The six mechanical levers”. I was puzzled: “A Chem.prof to speak on a Mech.topic to Elec. Students? Also, we know only of three levers!”
No need to add that the talk was a great success. By ‘magic’ he derived a subset of 3 additions to the existing three.
Looking back, it occurs to me that these two great personalities, Prof.PK Kelkar and Prof.NR Kamath, had complementary traits. One was a planner, a dreamer, a visionary who would give inspiring speeches and urge us to go to the moon and aim at the stars. The other was a do-er, a hands-on practical person with his feet firmly on the ground, and with no illusions about what can be done and what cannot.
I had the good fortune of interacting a lot with Prof.PKK during earlier years.In the later years, I had the good fortune of interacting with Prof. NRK a few times.
For us in IIT, one was our Nehru, and the other our Patel. We needed them both. We looked up to them both. We sought guidance from both.
At the Institute level, we remember one, always. But, do we remember the other, as well? I am glad that the Chem.Engg. community has remembered and is organizing this grand function.
May I congratulate the Chem.Engg.Dept faculty and the entire Chem.Eng. fraternity for having thought of such an appropriate and touching manner in which to honour and cherish the memory of – now I quote from A N Dravid’s summing-up comment in the book by Rohit – “an inspiration, a motivator, a learned teacher and an encyclopedia of information in his field”
With best wishes for the function to be held on Sep. 6th, appropriately near to the Teacher’s Day.
(Retd EE Prof)Hariharan
mvhariharan@hotmail.co

My impressions

My name is Shivram Murty. I am from the 1969 batch. We live in the US near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Professor Kamath inspired me to set high goals and work towards them. With his blessings I attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota and devoted my career to R&D in Food Processing.

I remember the twinkle in his eye and his great sense of humor. He was always accessible to students and was a wonderful mentor.

It is our privilege to participate in a legacy project honoring prof. Kamath at IIT Bombay and to strengthen the department of Chemical Engineering.

Best regards;

Gale and Shivram Murty

Memories of Dr.NR Kamath

To us in the Chemical Engineeering Class of 1971, Dr.NR Kamath had achieved Demigod status. There was an aura about him that is indescribable.

The Essence of NRK

The other day, my friend and I ordered a plate of french fries, a Nimboo Paani and a coke. The waiter brought the Nimboo Paani and and the fries, but forgot the coke. My friend started complaining about the waiter, and I told him, "But he is a first class waiter! We ordered three items, and he got two of them right out of three - at SSC exams, he would get 67%, and hence a first class!"

We had hearty laugh, but unfortunately, my joke was not quite original. It was a direct take from one of NRK's class-room witticisms - "Anyone who wrote that oxygen was odourless, tasteless and green deserved to fail, but ended up with a first class!" NRK certainly had a way to deflate our young egos that had been a touch affected by the marks we got before we got into IIT. If that was not enough, he would add, "You might think that, by rising to the top, you are the cream. But as chemical engineers you will soon realize that it is not only cream that rises - so does slag!" And then came that famous pause, when he looked around the class-room, to be followed by that wonderful broad smile.

I doubt if anyone in the class realized that we had been very gently chastened. All of us had broad smiles on our faces, even though most of us had been brought down to earth in the process.

Yes, that was the essence of NRK. Was he a good teacher? Not at all! He did not teach anything! If you took down notes during his class, he objected to it. Moreover, when I did take notes, I found that there was very little content in it. Almost every other teacher filled the lecture hour with far more note-worthy material. In that sense, NRK was not a good teacher at all. But then, if you sat and listened to his lecture, if you paid attention to his various nuances - even though he did not teach much, you would realize that you learnt a lot - in fact, a lot more than you would from any of the other professors who were doling out note-worthy material! Comments would open up vast vistas to our young minds. His simple analysis would then convert what started off as impossibilities into simple deductions. He thereby awakened in all of us a way of thinking, a way of tackling problems, that has remained with us

"What is 90% by weight water, and 90% by volume air? Wouldn't that be a good product to make, with water and air as the main raw materials?" he started off a lecture, explaining the intricacies of ice-cream making.

NRK always came up with a unique way of looking at things. It is only when you mulled over his comments that you realized the holistic viewpoint that he held.

Unfortunately NRK has been so strongly associated with Chemical Engineering that one does not realize that his environmental concerns did not get adequate mention. He voiced opinions which decades later became prime focus. Only his students woke up and remembered that NRK had talked about all these things years earlier. But NRK never got the recognition he deserved in this field.

And now we have reached the centenary year. It is time to remember that great man - and to dwell on that mischievous smile of his!

​Satish Hattianga​di
IITB BTech Chem 71

A guru in the true sense

I cannot forget the introductory lecture Prof. NRK gave us as we entered the Chemical engineering stream at the IIT. The distinction he made between pure engineering and technology and the 7 M's that were essential to take engineering and science to technology can not be forgotten. That lecture has been the guiding line for me all through my career to assess and reaffirm that whatever I have done either to create new avenues or diversification in business or to take on a pure engineering task.
I feel fortunate to have had NRK as my guru and to have been guided by his words all through my professional career. I feel proud to name him as my professor and guru in any forum.

N R Kamath Reminiscences

I am honored to join the celebration for Professor Kamath’s centenary. I remember his effortless teaching style sprinkled with humor. When he wanted to make a point he would add a question and a wink. He encouraged me to think outside the box and not accept things at face value.

As the only female student in the Department at the time, I was in a tough spot at times. Professor Kamath would look at me reassuringly as if to say, “I understand”.

I must mention Mrs. Kamath, as growing up in Sion I had admired her unassuming presence from a distance, long before joining IIT. When I met her in 1984 in the market, she told me the sad news.

I will always remain awed by Professor Kamath’s depth of knowledge, his breadth of influence but above of all by his strength of character.

Rekha Nadkarni
IITB Chemical Engineering, 1968

NRK REMINISCENCES

NRK REMINISCENCES -- G.Devaki Sastry

It happens to most of us in our lives. You come across a person who leaves a deep impression in your mind, shapes your character not by preaching but living a life that you would like to emulate.Such were his sincerity of purpose, hard work, honesty and simplicity. That person was Prof N.R.Kamath. I found my teacher.at the age of 19, who became my guide, philosopher and a friend if I may claim so, all rolled in to one;.

Twenty five years of association with a great person and how do I condense or present my memories of him? I will try to share with you a few which come to my mind.

When I started as a research student with prof.N.R.Kamath in 1958 at UDCT he had just joined IIT , Bombay as Prof and Head of Department of Chemical engineering. IIT was functioning from SASMIRA building at Worli . After a full working day there he used to come to UDCT at Matunga in the evening daily to guide his students there. We were about 15 of us at various stages of research in technology ,chemical engineering, and pure scince at M.Sc, M.Sc Tech and Ph.D levels in different subjects such as macro molecular chemistry ,cellulose chemistry, natural resins, polymers ,paints, pigments and chemical engineering. This routine of guidance and interaction with his students continued till each and every one of us completed our experimental work, wrote and rewrote our draft thesis several times to his satisfaction and approval and submitted them. He used to spend his precious week ends with his students at his residence in Sion for this purpose.

He had a very vivid and prodigious memory. He used to say that during the long years he spent at UDCT as a Reader,he did nothing but read, read and read. He would give a particular reference for me to look up in the literature, the name of the journal, the year, volume number and which side of the page the particular matter could be found.

He led a simple life. He used to wake up early at 4-00 AM to prepare and update his lectures for the day. He used to travel by BEST bus from Sion, get off the bus at the junction of Powai and Agra Road, walk up the hill for a distance of more than a kilo meter to IIT and return the same way until he bought an Ambassador car after a few years.

The pressure on his time as head of Dept of Chemical Engineering and Deputy Director of IIT was so high that every minute of his time was put to maximum use. Most of the days during his lunch break – a frugal lunch of a sandwich and light tea- he would call me for discussion of my research work.

He had very good empathy with his students and took genuine interest in them. He took the trouble and the made the extra effort to visit my parents at Tiruchurapalli when went on an official tour to Karaikudi.
I needed a letter of reference and recommendation when I started my career as teaching assistant at M.S University Baroda. He gave me one saying “Here is a candidate who has done good work in her research career and has to start a teaching career with no prior experience in teaching”. I was quite worried as to how it will work- but it worked alright. That was his way of putting things in their proper perspective.

It will be incomplete without mentioning my close association with Mrs.Kamath- a great lady who made her husband’s country as her own, physically, emotionally and culturally. I will always remember the time I have spent with her and the conversations we had. She had a deep understanding of Indian way of life and the changes she had witnessed in the six decades she lived in India especially in the lives of Indian women

"Professor Narayan R Kamath :Some Reminiscences"

NRK - Friend, Guide & Mentor

My first encounter with NRK was in May/June 1969 after being selected in the JEE after FY Science. With a West Zone rank of 54 and AIR 125 I was assured of getting ChE in IIT. In those days the IITB brand for Chemical Engineering was not as strong as it is today. UDCT was the preferred destination for aspiring Chemical Engineers like me. Besides IIT course was residential with the attendant risks of heavy ragging! I was the in a quandary on whether to join IITB or continue for one more year with the pleasant life at the colourful coed St. Xavier's College to complete Inter Science and then go to UDCT , the next year. It was then that one of my Uncles who knew NRK through a family connection suggested that I meet NRK at his residence after he sets up an appointment.

At the appointed time and date, accompanied by my father, I climbed up the steps to NRK's, first floor, Sion residence on Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar road with an apprehensive mind. The welcoming smile and the characteristic twinkle in his eye set to rest my fears of expecting typical stern serious Professor to face! Within the next few minutes in his drawing room he had dispelled all doubts and worries from my mind through his humorous and reassuring answers. Now I do not remember his specific answers but I only recollect his charming manner of speaking and charismatic personality.

By the time we had finished our Tea & Biscuits , I had made up my mind . I had decided that I had to learn under this interesting, humorous & learned teacher and would rather forgo the pleasure of one more year at St. Xaviers and ChE through UDCT. I have no regrets at all and in fact I feel that I am lucky to have have met the great man on that day and having joined IITB.

PROF. N.R. KAMATH - THE TEACHER, EDUCATOR, MOTIVATOR

PROF. N.R.KAMATH- THE TEACHER, EDUCATOR, MOTIVATOR…..
I have been fortunate to have had several great teachers but Prof. N.R. Kamath tops that list. I saw him for the first time during my M.Tech. admission interview and was impressed by his encouraging style of questioning which reduced my nervousness to face others in the committee. Then it was almost a daily affair with him 5 days a week as he taught us Cellulose and Materials science. The interest in the subjects which germinated then grew as years passed by. I joined Grasim but left it after a couple of years to join back the Dept. for Ph.D program with him.
The best time to see NRK as a Research student with him was 8 am in the morning while he was sipping Tea from a big pot after entering the office or at 1 pm the lunch time. If by chance some faculty from any Dept. entered ,one was asked to get out and wait. Students were welcome any time if he was free . He would quickly comprehend the work done, suggest new one which would easily take another three months. We often walked with him to main building and conversation continued till he entered DD office. His research ideas were unique and original. I wish he had documented them in articles or books. The frustrations of lost work of a few months is quite common with Research Fellows. One of his often repeated quote for such a situation was `Time wasted, is not wasted time’. I did not grasp it well then and my ego did not allow me to ask others. I knew it much later that it was his version of a famous quote by Bertrand Russell.
He was extraordinary brilliant and had such a breadth of knowledge which covered all major disciplines of science and Engineering. His lectures on History of Technology were simply enchanting. Sessions with him were fascinating . He was so versatile in his topics to talk about and made delightful explanations of everyday processes, nourishing food, human behavior, culture and so much more.
Once I joined as a faculty he was more solemn but very supportive. He gave me full load of 4 courses and said that though I had tutorial experience of these courses, I must prepare well for a lecture. He also said that Library reading for at least an hour daily was a must to be current with literature in this profession. He put me soon in contact with Technology Departments in UDCT and various technical forums such as Plastics and Rubber associations. I did realize then that his image was far bigger than what we knew of him in IIT. Where ever I went, in these institutions or industries, I was warmly welcomed with his reference and that enrichment I felt in my life was entirely due to him. I will be for ever grateful to him for instilling a confidence in our ability to learn and then prepare to deliver our best be it a classroom or a gathering of professionals related to that subject.
He had amazing charisma and could keep you engaged for hours narrating stories of his consultation trips to industries and how easy it was to solve those seemingly difficult problems to them. It was his encouragement and guidance that I could tackle some important problems for Railways and India security press.
His genuine care of his students won the hearts of many. I am quoting from memory a sentence written in campus magazine by a UG student at the time of his retirement ` A person of Prof. NRK’s caliber would rarely walk in the corridors of this institution in years to come’.
M.K. Trivedi,
Professor (Retired), Chemical Eng. Dept. I.I.T. Bombay
Email- trivedimkt@yahoo.com
August 24, 2014

Prof.N.R.Kamath--The Guru of Gurus

My first encounter with Prof.Kamath occurred ,late in the evening in July,1962.After appearing for my first ever surprise test[ for M.Tech admissions] in the morning,I had waited for my turn for the Interview in the Main building outside room numbers 1/2.I entered probably after 7pm-totally nervous and apprehensive.I vividly recall Prof.Kamath asking a few questions to put me at ease,and reassuring me that local trains were available till late in the evening to enable me to reach Dadar.After a few probing questions by other members of the panel,I seem to have landed on the term Free Energy.Prof.Kamath immediately asked me what was free about free energy,about the types of free energy and their significance.As I struggled to find some satisfactory answers,he sat up erect,and,said "never mind young man,you will learn a lot more about these when you come to IITBombay;thank you,and,good luck";What an encouraging way of concluding an Interview,and,as I realized much later,what a neat way of sending a subtle message that I was in!!.I gained admission to M.Tech-with "Fertlizers" as specialization.
As a teacher[he took around 15 lectures on Polymers-as a part of the Materials Science course]he was unique.He entered the class-always on the dot-with not even a sheet of paper[by way of lecture notes in hand]. His mastery of the subject was reflected in every aptly chosen word he spoke,and we just listened in awe.Almost every five minutes,he would throw up questions,such as .."what will happen if I increased the length of this chain". so on and.If some one dared to ask him for the answer,he would suggest that as graduate engineers,we should learn how to find the answers.I realized much later that many of his questions had no immediate answers,and,were indicative of the directions in which research was being envisaged/progressing in the field of Engineering Polymers.He was a demanding,but generous examiner,and,to get about 60-65% in his tests/exams,was immensely satisfying.
Some time midway during our second year,I approached him [he was so student friendly]to enquire about prospects of a faculty position.He took me to his office,pulled out a copy of a news paper from his bag,and,pointed to a HMV advertisement,and,said," this is something I don't want in the department",and,proceed to talk for a while,on the ills of in breeding.
His pragmatism,and,ability to adapt to changes[perhaps not always to his liking] were on show-within a few months.Chemistry department was hived off,and,a few of the Chemical Engineering faculty were sent to the Soviet Union on UNESCO fellowships.He remembered our earlier conversation,and,asked me what made me think I could be a good teacher.With the confidence that comes with youth [and ignorance],I replied that I was very sure that I would make a better teacher than at least some of my teachers over the years were.He said,OK-if you are still interested,you can apply.Over the next few years,several IITBombay M.Techs,mid-Ph.D students,and,one Ph.D as well,were inducted into the Department.
It was as his young colleague that I immensely enjoyed my association with Prof.Kamath.His mentoring was non-invasive,and,he never offered any advice on how to become a good teacher-except to say that " read,read,think,and,prepare well;you must remember that every batch will have a few Dravids and Ravimohans;you need to at least keep pace with them,if not be ahead of them.His way of mentoring included throwing several searching questions ;these made us run to the Library and start reading up.
Not entirely happy,a couple of us persisted with requests for his time[with the hope that we could ,perhaps,one day emulate him;what a fond hope it turned out to be!!],he would invite us to join him when he ate his frugal lunch[always,a sandwich,and a fruit,followed byblack tea he personally brewed];during those precious minutes,we could discuss anything with him-except Institute politics]. His words were few and precious,but his questions,numerous These lunch time rendezvous were deeply enriching,and,left me hungrier;I often felt like asking"Please sir,can I have some more".I learnt more Chemical Engineering trying to find answers to some of the questions he posed,than from all my teachers in my student days.
Prof.Kamath was extremely sensitive to the need to build a truly academic environment.He never instructed/ordered,or, use his seniority and position to tell me/us what to do;he suggested,threw hints,asked questions.
He had a deep and abiding soft corner for the young,meek,timid,vulnerable,disadvantaged.His style of allocating teaching load was to start with the junior most faculty,give them topics of their choice,and,gradually move up the seniority ladder;he often observed"if you are truly a professor,you should be able to teach any subject that we have in the curriculum". To freshers,he would allot small classes,and PG electives-to bolster their confidence levels,and,then throw them to the "wolves"[ large,third year classes in the Main building]. When someone expressed reservations about passing marginal students[we were awarding marks those days]he would ask"are you sure that your evaluation is so precise that xxx should get only 37?;do you mind if my old,broad shoulders carry the sins instead of your young frail shoulders?",seek the concerned answer books,and,moderate by adding plus 2 or plus 3, and,sign his initials.I distinctly recall an alumnus telling me almost three decades later:"sir,Prof.Kamath is no longer around,so I am telling you.He had taken a promise from me that I will never practice Chemical Engineering-before he let me go;sir,I have kept my word all these years,and,intend to do so in the future as well".
With his clarity of thought and vision,administrative acumen,time management skills.and,command over the English language,he would never leave any file/paper pending at the end of the day.For some whom he trusted totally,he would sign papers in the corridor-forwarding and approving-using pens with different coloured inks,and,say get going,don't waste your time chasing papers.
His penchant for the right word was unique.If someone used the words education and training interchangeably,he would observe" Human beings can be educated,while even dogs can be trained".He was particular about any caller for whom he had no time being told"Prof.Kamath was not
available";he would insist that indicating that he was not in his chair would amount to lying.
He had a phenomenal memory;he would address every member of the supporting staff[there were over a hundred those days] by his/her first name,enquire after their heath and the welfare of the family-most often in the staff member's mother tongue.This endeared him as very caring,and,humane HOD.
In my near four decades old association with IITBombay as a faculty member,and,in almost all the capacities I served,almost all that I learnt from Prof.Kamath was immensely helpful,and,served as beacon during difficult times.Whatever I manged to achieve/contribute has been almost entirely due to his mentorship,and,leadership by example.
As the founder HOD,he truly laid the foundations for a vibrant,academic environment in which students can learn to learn,young Faculty can pursue their passions,all stake holders express themselves,and,contribute to Institution building.He mentored and left behind a bunch of committed Faculty and staff who learnt,adapted themselves to change,and,delivered with focus on high academic standards,ethical practices,and with a humane touch-without much fanfare.
He believed that scholarship,like gems,should be discovered and appreciated He would rather accept that
"Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness in the desert air",
than encourage/seek publicity and self promotion/advertisement.
In short, he was the "complete man" in an embryonic academic setting.

Prof. N R Kamath -- an educationalist par excellence

I consider myself fortunate to be part of the Chemical Engineering Department during the NRK era. As an apprehensive post graduate student entering the department in 1960 in its formative years on a green field site, there were many teething problems to tackle. The most reassuring part during those trying times was the ready accessibility of Prof. Kamath to the students and his sympathetic and constructive approach to sort out outstanding issues. For those completing their Master’s degree , Prof . Kamath with his connections with the industry was of considerable help in finding suitable industry placements for them.. I was one such a beneficiary but opted to continue for my PhD in the department. His amazing capability to find out facile solutions to the most complex of problems was of help to me on my tortuous route towards completion of my PhD.

It was as a faculty of the department that my association with him became much closer. The first thing he told me after joining duty was to read the letter of appointment carefully and understand what was expected of me as a faculty. To my own interpretation , he added his own expectations. Knowing his prowess as an inspiring teacher and the exalted place he had kept for teaching in his list of priorities for a department in the process of consolidation of its academic programmes, it was evident that being an effective teacher was the one he would endorse wholeheartedly. In those days there were no formal processes for course assessment. But Prof. Kamath had an unsolicited information pathway to the students to get this vital data . In the early days of BTech programme, BTech projects involved design of chemical plants. As a young faculty, I had often problems in deciding as to what could be a doable design project. Prof. Kamath with his intimate knowledge of the Chemical Process Industry and it growth plans , had often helped me to identify suitable design projects. For the evaluation of the BTech design reports, he would get leading experts from academia and industry to be external examiners . This helped many of the faculty to forge professional and personal links with the visiting experts.

As a permanent head of the department, he undertook the administrative responsibility of running the department on his broad shoulders. Though this may seen autocratic in the present day context , this can be justified even now with the indisputable philosophy “ let the best person do the job”. This was also a silver line for his younger colleagues as this left them adequate time to do teaching and research. Prof. Kamath could absorb in his stride many things that may not have gone the way he wanted . One was the cleavage of the Chemistry section from the parent Chemical Engineering department . He handled the process and pangs of this separation in his imitable stoic manner . He was also not a great champion of the semester , credit and grade system which came into force in early seventies. Being well versed in English , he was particularly amused by the terminology “ Instructor” used to describe a faculty teaching a course. He used to remark dryly that this term best suited those handling physical education in schools. Despite these reservations , he knew how to adapt himself with the changing times gracefully. Prof. Kamath had remarkable memory. In departmental meetings, if some one had made comments contrary to the ones made earlier, he would politely point out the contradiction much to the embarrassment of the person concerned.

Though he held the vantage position of the Deputy Director, it was his persona that made him a venerable figure in the campus. He would draw upon his vast reservoir knowledge on wide ranging topics and his eloquence to drive home his perception of things in a convincing manner. I was once a witness to such an uninhibited display of his oratory in his speech to the students of Hostel 1 during one of its Hostel Day functions. He held the hostel inmates spellbound with his scientific analysis of the dietary pattern and physical attributes of Indians drawn along demographic lines across the country. I do not think any one else would have been able to pull off such a talk with such aplomb.

I had some occasions to interact with him outside his official garb as the Head or the Deputy Director. Once I caught with Prof. Kamath as he was walking down the hilly route to the Kanjur Marg station. As I was also going to the same destination, I had the opportunity to walk with him to the station. Being a seasoned traveler on suburban trains, he demonstrated to me how to get into the crowded train that had arrived at the station. Another occasion of seeing him in a different light was , when I happened to visit him in his apartment after his retirement from IIT. For a change , he talked about the evolving political situation in the country. I was amazed to find that many of his predictions about the political destiny of our country had turned out to very accurate. This was perhaps the last lesson I had learnt from him. There were many more such occasions when I could see the human side of his redoubtable character. For me he is the epitome of an educationalist par excellence .

These memoirs are written as my tribute to Prof. Kamath for his role in shaping my professional career

My memories of Prof. N R Kamath

When I joined UDCT in 1955, Prof. N. R. Kamath was on vacation in Czechkoslovakia and he resumed at UDCT after all the admission process was over. On his return, he called all the new entrants of B.Sc. Tech Course individually, for an introductory meeting. When it was my turn, he asked me a question “what made me opt for this Plastic Technology Course?” My answer was very frank and simple, “I am here not by design, but by chance, since there were no seats available on the subject of my choice”. To this, he gave me a stern look and wished me Good Luck.

As time passed, I came closer to him and tried to analyse his personality traits and by the time I completed my B.Sc. Tech. with First Division, he not only congratulated me, but, helped me to register for M.Sc. (Tech.) programme and simultaneously even put in a strong recommendation to CHIKA LTD. for the job, which I succeeded in getting. Thereafter, we continued to meet frequently and he was always keen to get updated about the current developments in Plastic Industry and what is going on in the market.

When he was to reach 60, few of his past students Prof. M. M. Sharma, Late K. B. Shah and myself, took the initiative and decided to celebrate his 60th birthday. Thanks to his other past students like A. P. Nadkarni, Ravi Marfatia, Dr. S. P. Potnis etc. who took very active interest and we felicitated him at a grand function. The Souvenir Issue of the said function is still well maintained in my Library. We even formed a Trust in his name, but, later wound up and proceeds were used in creating Endowments at (1) Institute of Chemical Engineers, (2) Indian Plastics Institute and (3) The Colour Society.

Earlier, a few of us took the initiative and formed the NRK Club, which included him and his wife and nearly fifteen of his UDCT passed students. We regularly met with families at home every 4-6 weeks for dinner. This tradition continued for more than 25 years which brought all our families very close to NRK and Mrs. Kamath. NRK passed away at Czechkoslovakia on 9th July, 1983, but, the NRK Club Meetings continued for several years thereafter with the gracious presence of Mrs. Kamath.

Later I had the privilege of being the Trustee of Mrs. Kamath’s Will and along with other members, we distributed assets as per her wish, keeping memories of NRK alive by donating the amount in the aforementioned three Institutions and simultaneously created a new Endowment “Prof N. R. Kamath – Book Authors Award” at the UDCT.

Besides being an outstanding Teacher and dynamic personality, NRK was bold, forthright, sincere and above all very human to all those who came in contact with him. He has engraved a deep impression in my mind, which has tremendously helped in building up my professional and business career.

J. R. SHAH
19th August, 2014

Memories of Prof. N. R. Kamath

MEMORIES OF PROF. N. R. KAMATH

When I joined UDCT in 1955, Prof. N. R. Kamath was on vacation in Czechkoslovakia and he resumed at UDCT after all the admission process was over. On his return, he called all the new entrants of B.Sc. Tech Course individually, for an introductory meeting. When it was my turn, he asked me a question “what made me opt for this Plastic Technology Course?” My answer was very frank and simple, “I am here not by design, but by chance, since there were no seats available on the subject of my choice”. To this, he gave me a stern look and wished me Good Luck.

As time passed, I came closer to him and tried to analyse his personality traits and by the time I completed my B.Sc. Tech. with First Division, he not only congratulated me, but, helped me to register for M.Sc. (Tech.) programme and simultaneously even put in a strong recommendation to CHIKA LTD. for the job, which I succeeded in getting. Thereafter, we continued to meet frequently and he was always keen to get updated about the current developments in Plastic Industry and what is going on in the market.

When he was to reach 60, few of his past students Prof. M. M. Sharma, Late K. B. Shah and myself, took the initiative and decided to celebrate his 60th birthday. Thanks to his other past students like A. P. Nadkarni, Ravi Marfatia, Dr. S. P. Potnis etc. who took very active interest and we felicitated him at a grand function. The Souvenir Issue of the said function is still well maintained in my Library. We even formed a Trust in his name, but, later wound up and proceeds were used in creating Endowments at (1) Institute of Chemical Engineers, (2) Indian Plastics Institute and (3) The Colour Society.

Earlier, a few of us took the initiative and formed the NRK Club, which included him and his wife and nearly fifteen of his UDCT passed students. We regularly met with families at home every 4-6 weeks for dinner. This tradition continued for more than 25 years which brought all our families very close to NRK and Mrs. Kamath. NRK passed away at Czechkoslovakia on 9th July, 1983, but, the NRK Club Meetings continued for several years thereafter with the gracious presence of Mrs. Kamath.

Later I had the privilege of being the Trustee of Mrs. Kamath’s Will and along with other members, we distributed assets as per her wish, keeping memories of NRK alive by donating the amount in the aforementioned three Institutions and simultaneously created a new Endowment “Prof N. R. Kamath – Book Authors Award” at the UDCT.

Besides being an outstanding Teacher and dynamic personality, NRK was bold, forthright, sincere and above all very human to all those who came in contact with him. He has engraved a deep impression in my mind, which has tremendously helped in building up my professional and business career.

J. R. SHAH
19th August, 2014

To Sir With Love

The START OF THE AFFAIR

I recollect that we had joined IIT in the first week of June 1962, a motley bunch of youngsters from all over India. The atmosphere at Powai was very different from what prevailed at home.

At that time there used to be approximately 70 students per class and the first two years of instructions were same for all disciplines.

On our second day at IIT, there was a class on the History of Technology, taken by Prof N. R. Kamath. Prof. Kamath appeared a well-dressed individual, neatly clad in a tie and jacket. He called out each student by name and stared straight into the eyes of each student.

What we had envisioned as a boring lecture turned out to be a talk full of deep insights, observations and conclusions derived from everyday occurrence, but led to shaping of mankind. By the end of the lecture the general consensus was DIL MAANGE MORE.

That weekend, on a Saturday evening, three of us went to see an English movie at the EROS cinema at Churchgate. We arrived 10 minutes early and were at the snacks counter. We saw Prof. Kamath & Mrs. Kamath standing on the other side waiting to go in. He saw me along with my friends, pointed at me and waved to me to meet him. When I went near him he smiled and asked me “you are a fresher from IIT Bombay?” I was pleasantly surprised, nay flabbergasted, that he had recognized me / us as students of IIT with just one exposure.

THE MAN

At the start of the final year, it was time for us students to decide on the topics on which we would prepare our Home Paper, out of a list of topics which had been suggested. I, as a member of a family which was in the manufacturing industry, had been examining the possibility of entering the field of manufacture of organic chemicals based on the products to be manufactured by NOCIL, whose petrochemical complex was under construction. We had narrowed down to the manufacture of ETHANOLAMINES as the product of choice.
I accordingly approached Prof. Kamath with a request that I would like to do my home paper on the manufacture of ethanolamines. Prof. Kamath dissuaded me from opting for this as the information available from literature was at best very sketchy and limited and there were few manufacturers, mostly concentrated in USA and to a lesser extent in Europe. However, when I informed him the reason for my opting for the same, he ultimately agreed to my request. He also told me that I could seek his help in case I got stuck.

I had written to manufacturers of ethanolamines both in the USA and Europe, informing them that I had an assignment in college to produce a paper on ethanolamine manufacture. I was pleasantly surprised to receive substantial information from 3 to 4 manufacturers worldwide. This smoothened my task of writing the Home Paper with help from Prof. Kamath when required.

I graduated in 1967 and thereafter, secured admission to the Michigan State University, USA. However, as luck would have it, our company received the Letter of Intent from the G.O.I. for setting up the facility for manufacturing ethanolamines in the Thane Belapur Road area. I therefore surrendered my admission to MSU and stayed back in India to help set up the plant.

We installed the plasticizers plant in 1971 and commissioned the ethanolamines plant set up with French know how in October 1973.

Prof. Kamath came to visit the plant in December 1973 at my request. The visitors book carries a remark “A GOOD BEGINNING, KEEP IT UP”.

HUMOUR AND READY WIT

Sometime during our time at IIT the mathematical genius Shakuntala Devi had visited the campus for a demonstration which was held at the Lecture Theatre which was then the only Auditorium on campus. As was the convention, the first row seats were occupied by the Director and Professors. Brig. Bose, Mrs. Bose, Prof. Kamath and Mrs. Kamath among others attended the show and were seated in the front row.

Shakuntala Devi was at the peak in those days, and it was a breathtaking show as she solved complex calculations with ease.

Finally, she wanted to demonstrate her prowess with the calendar. She was to be given any date in any year and she would correctly identify which day of the week it was.
As luck would have it, she zeroed in on Prof. Kamath and pointing towards him said, “Sir, can you give me a date?” Prof. Kamath got up from his seat, walked up the few steps to the stage, went to the microphone and, in his very typical style announced “This pretty young lady has asked me for a date. Though I am tempted to, I refrain from doing so, as Mrs. Kamath is present here. ” For a moment there was pin drop silence and then the audience burst into peals of laughter. Such was the ready wit of Prof. Kamath.

Prof. KAMATH AT HIS BEST

I had made it a practice to visit Prof. Kamath, once in a while, when I could, after graduation. After pleasantries were exchanged, Prof. Kamath would invariably enquire of me “what can I do for you?” and my unvarying reply would be that I had come to seek his blessings.

In mid-1970, we were gearing to set up our plant for the manufacture of phthalate plasticizers, know how for which had been secured from the National Chemical Laboratories, Pune. It was decided that we would conduct experiments to optimize the process further. I was charged with setting up a pilot plant for the same, by my uncle who was the Director in charge of Bombay operations. I gave him a time of six weeks by which I would have pilot plant ready and installed.

The pilot plant was designed and ordered to be received in four weeks. Unfortunately, three weeks after ordering the unit, there was a strike in the vendor’s unit and another week passed by with no resolution in sight. Sitting at home with my uncle that evening, he ribbed me saying that I had promised that I would have pilot plant ready in six weeks and with one week to go I had nothing to show.

I remembered that there were some Russian made reactors at IIT which had been received from the USSR. Reasonably confident that one of them would serve the purpose, I drove down to IIT the next morning and went to meet Prof. Kamath at his office in the Chemical Engineering Department.

I was greeted by him with his routine question “What can I do for you?” I replied that I had come today with a request and not just for his blessings.

I explained to him the reason for the visit. He instructed me to first go and see if the reactors were where I had seen them last and if there was one which I could use.
I returned from the storage area and informed him that I had located a suitable reactor which would serve my purpose. He then informed me that he would like to have a letter from me / my company, with a request to loan us the reactor (stating that it should be sent back in pristine condition). I told him that I had my company letterhead, but he would have to tell me what he wanted me to write to him. He smiled and summoned his secretary/ typist and proceeded to dictate to him the letter from me to him. He then dictated the reply to my letter to him and asked his secretary to type both letters and bring them. In the meanwhile he quizzed me on what we wanted to achieve. He discussed the same and had valuable tips to give me.
When the letters came, duly typed, we signed one letter each and exchanged them. He then enquired of me, when I would like to collect the reactor. For once, he was surprised when I replied that I had a jeep with a trailer and four labourers waiting, and I would like to take the same back with me.

I recollect with great pleasure and deepest regards how Prof. Kamath helped his students.

This is all the more relevant that this was Institute property which was loaned to me, on the basis of a simple letter.

I will always bow my head in respectful homage to my GURU.

Dipak Himatsingka
Chem 67

Fondest memories of NRK

My fondest memories at IIT B relate to NRK.

(Shekhar Sathe, 1974 batch, Chemical Engineering Department. After pursuing a long career in Finance and Banking with the Kotak Mahindra group he is now in the film making business. His company Infinitum Productions has produced a few movies like “Pervertigo”, “It Felt Like Love” and “Ek Hazarachi Note”).

I first “met” him in 1968 when I appeared for the “admission interview”. He had asked me, “What do you want to do?” With a brave face I had said I wanted to get into the Bombay campus, Electrical or Chemical. “Sorry young man, I can give you a seat at IIT Kanpur’, he had said. “I am sorry Sir, I cannot go to Kanpur, I will try for Bombay next year”. “Very good!” he had said and to my surprise he got up from the chair and shook my hand saying, “I like people who know what they want”.

The next year I had no hesitation in choosing Chemical Engineering at IIT B. The man with the bushy eyebrows had made a great impression on me. As fate had destined, the year 1969 was a momentous year and scores of young people like me gravitated to the then prevailing rebellious mood denouncing America’s war in Vietnam. I got busy organizing the mess workers and working for the drought affected areas. My interests had widened beyond the class room and I used to miss class. But I never missed Professor Kamath’s class. He always held the closest attention of each member of the stinkers’ society, as he liked to refer to the Chemical Engineering Department.

The campus buzzed with protest meetings and sporadic rallies. Naturally, the rightwing members wanted to do something to counter the leftwing surge. They invited a high functionary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (I think it was one Mr. Apte with a flowing white beard) to address the student community. A meeting was called at the Lecture Hall. Prof. Kamath was asked to chair that meeting. The high functionary in his speech grandiosely sung high praises of India’s ancient wisdom and scientific achievements from the vedas saying how foolish it was for youngsters to chase West’s technology and culture. He spoke for about 40 minutes. And then Prof Kamath rose to deliver his address. As was his wont, he opened with a forthright remark that the organisers had erred on two counts.

First, they had invited a man belonging to a religio-political organization to talk to students who had embarked on a long journey in pursuit of science in India’s foremost educational institution. The second mistake was they asked him to chair the meeting. There was a cascading applause to that opening remark. Professor Kamath tore to pieces the entire regressive argument presented by
the speaker. The entire Lecture Hall was on its feet thunderously applauding and roaring with laughter. Following that event, I was emboldened to approach the director’s office requesting use of Institute’s facilities for conducting study circles and inviting speakers from outside. Not only did Professor Kamath who was officiating as the Director then encouraged me for the activity, he also offered the use of IIT’s printing press (I hope the press is still there) for printing posters and pamphlets.

Besides, he made available IIT’s Ambassador car to ferry speakers from outside whenever required. All I had to do was to fill a form to get the vehicle.

I am forever grateful to Professor Kamath for all the encouragement I received from him. I have never worked as a Chemical Engineer after I graduated. Every time I rode the bus past Sion I used to look up to the window of his flat where he lived on the first floor in the hope of catching a glimpse of him. But that was never to be.

NRK Memoirs

Sometime in Dec 1971, when the Indo-Pak war was on, NRK and I walked through the corridor from the Chem. Engg. Dept to the Main Building, with NRK giving me his take on the outcome of the War.

He was at that time deputising for Dr P K Kelkar, Director of IIT Bombay who was away.

When we entered the Diro’s chambers, NRK took a seat on one of the visitor’s chairs. I was surprised and took a seat in another chair next to him. Sensing my confusion, he said I am only the Officiating Director, I do not consider it appropriate to sit in his Chair ( or words to that effect, said with great humility and respect for the Chair ).

One aspect I can never forget is NRK's great faculty for recollecting and relating facts and figures. He once told us that the cost of production of the liquid in the Coca Cola bottle is only 7 paise ( a bottle would cost Rs 1.25 those days ). Attending his lectures was a great experience, sheer pleasure to my mind.

Prof. N R Kamath was the only IIT Professor to have been HOD of a Dept. at Bombay during his entire tenure as faculty ( from date of joining in 1959 till retirement in 1974 ) and perhaps the only faculty at IIT without a PhD degree to be appointed a Professor / HOD. Such was his standing, stature, eminence and authority.

NRK has rightly been hailed as an outstanding teacher & technologist, gifted orator, a genius and a great human being. He was loved and revered by his students, staff, colleagues and associates and all those whose lives he touched.

May he continue to inspire us.

Niranjan V Bhat ( Ranju )
IITB Class of 71 BTech Chem H4 W3

Prof. N.R. Kamath

I consider it a singular fortune to have been under the tutelage of Prof.N.R. Kamath, while pursuing masters degree in Pet.Ref.Eng, during the period 1963-65 at IIT, Mumbai. On two occasions due to my impetuosity, immaturity I had erred in interrupting his narration. Still, he was kind and charitable to me at all times. The interruptions however turned out as blessing as they revealed hidden facets of him to me.. On the first occasion I came to know that he regularly perused more than 150 technical and non technical journals and magazines. Just imagine the number. On the second occasion, I had completed the story of Chatrapati Shivaji's general Tanaji Malsure being narrated by him to Prof.Bagaturov, during send off party. I came to know he was fluent in almost all the languages of India and Europe. Thereafter with an impish smile and twinkling in his eyes he always addressed me in Marathi only. Even after 4 years later when we came across each other on Ghatkopar station's foot bridge he called me by full name and then with the twinkle in his eyes talked to me in Marathi. What an amazing memory for a Professor to have to remember one of his hundreds of students and also an earlier incident. In his inagural lecture he had asked us to do one thing most in life was to 'THINK'. To my utter chagrinand regret throughout my 45 years of professional carrier, with our country's working condition of hunting with the hounds and running with the hare, I could never have time to indulge in his profound advice. Now in retrospect I feel how much better my performance would have been if only I could have had time to think. Prof. P.S.Murthy had right in the beginning warned us never to argue with him as he is so clear in the fundamentals of all subjects that we will only cut a sorry figure. I consider it my 'sowbhagya' to have come across a 'GENIUS' in flesh and blood.

Memories / Anecdotes

Prof. N. R. Kamath: An intellectual patriot, gifted orator, and teacher par excellence.

Prof. N. R. Kamath (NRK) did his schooling in Mangalore, at Canara High School. In 1974 when the school did not have money even to pay salaries to their teachers NRK, just before retirement from IIT-B, personally visited his school to hand over a cheque for Rs. 1,00,000 on behalf of his family along with a token contribution from his two elder brothers. The school head master was pleasantly shocked to receive the amount from NRK also a teacher as until then none had donated as big an amount as this and also refraining the school management from giving undue publicity on his sympathetic gesture.

In 1991, while visiting USA, I went to see ex-UDCT graduate Prof. Darus Balsara, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN. During that time, I also had an opportunity to meet the HOD of chemical engineering who told me, that some of the universities in USA were reproducing the question papers set by NRK at IIT-Bombay for their students! NRK reputation as an innovative teacher of excellence was such.

NRK's assessment standards were high and unbiased. As selection board member, responsible to promote scientific staff at the CSIR-Labs., he remarked that one candidate, was unfit even to hold the current post let alone his selection for promotion. As a reward to his honest opinion, the CSIR-Labs., removed NRK’s name forever from the selection board.

NRK research group members at UDCT formed the “NRK-CLUB". Members gathered and organized family bi-monthly dinner party meetings, especially after NRK's superannuation from IIT-B and this continued even after his sudden demise in Prague in 1983, with Mrs. Ruzena Kamath as Chief Guest.

I still vividly recollect the condolence meeting at UDCT auditorium held in his memory subsequent to his demise, with his pupils, colleagues, friends, and relatives paying floral tributes to his photograph and ‘urn’ containing his ashes prior to its immersion in the river at Mulki, NRK’s birthplace.

NRK according to me was a ‘Sadguru’ in the true Indian tradition.

Dr. S. G. Bhat, Ph.D. (Tech.), B.Sc. (Tech) – 1951
Sion, Mumbai

Professor N R Kamath

There are many memories of Professor Kamath which are as vivid today as they were almost 45 years ago. Among these is his walking into the Classroom every Monday morning and writing on the blackboard the various Factors of Productivity (as Economists call them) : MEN, MONEY, MATERIALS, MANAGEMENT, MARKETS, MACHINERY and MOTIVE POWER. He would then proceed to deal with each and its relevance to the chemical industry in his typical scholarly manner, laced occasionally with his characteristic wit. It is a tribute to him that the generation of his students has contributed significantly to the enhancement of India's standing in each of these during the last five decades.

His familiarity and proximity to Indian chemical companies made his lectures on Chemical Processes practical and absorbing.

Plain living and high thinking was one of his many attributes. I still recall his walking up the Powai hill, all the way from the then just constructed Kanjurmarg station to the Campus, when the BEST employees had struck work.

He was, indeed, a trend setter.

I remember his welcome

I remember his welcome address to our batch in 1968. He had outlined the duties of a Chemical Engineer as "Manufacture different chemical substances economically and 'Without becoming a nuisance to the society'! This comment at that time is an example of the vision of a great man.
There is a story t
He remembered all of us by our first names years after we had passed out.hat he had advised one Calcutta based company to source a very large piecde of equipment from a supplier in Baroda, and not from a Bombay supplier because of a bridge en route from Bombay which would not be able to carry the equipment.