Spikey, we all knew him as and not many seemed to know why or how Sudhir Karnik got his nickname. Even Spikey was rather evasive about it. Rajiv Deshpande (C72) who was Spikey’s classmate in Bombay Scottish remembers him as a brilliant student and an outstanding athlete. It was Rajiv who finally cleared the mystery. Apparently it was Spikey’s hair which would protrude radially outward that gave him his nickname.
Spikey’s name conjures up many images. Spikey driving around the campus on his motor-bike (one of the very few in H3 at that point of time), Spikey wielding his racquet on the tennis court to win some badly needed points towards to Sports Trophy, Spikey as the roulette wheel operator in the hostel fetes. But having been his next door neighbour in H3 for two years, the most enduring of these images will be Spikey holding forth on a multitude of topics with a glass of his favourite drink in his hand.
Since all other guys in our wing (apart from Spikey) were from my batch (Class of 76), Spikey had become an honorary member of C76 and although most of us had lost touch with him in the intervening pre-email / pre-cellphone era, when we reconnected much later in the nineties, it was as if there was no intermission. He resumed his position as a full-fledged member of C76.
He had obviously added a few dimensions to his already colourful persona. He had gained an MBA from Asian Institute of Management at Manila, was an active and a successful trader in the stock market, and had scored few solid home-runs as angel investor / VC . Although externally he was still the same old Spikey, hard-boiled, sharp-as-nails, street smart, no-nonsense guy, he had also become mellowed down in some ways. He had become a lot more approachable and one could feel the genuine warmth in his relationship with old friends like us. He was very free with his advice on the stock market and open to any of us to call him up and discuss any issues and connect us to his contacts as and when required.
In later years Spikey had developed a penchant for farming and he would spend his week-ends at his Vangani farm planting and organically nurturing a large variety of fruit trees. One doesn’t know if he had had any premonition, but for last couple of years he seemed to be in a winding down mode. He was planning to take things a bit easy with his dogs and the Vangani farm. In fact over the past few months he spent an enormously long time with his dog which he got operated upon and nursed back to health rather than put it to sleep as per the advice of his vet.
His sudden departure from the world on 17th November 2012 was probably characteristic of the person, “no long drawn farewells” for him. He leaves behind Anjali with whom he had been married for more than three decades and two sons Abhijit and Ashutosh, both of them married and well settled; Abhijit, the elder one in Bay Area and Ashutosh, the younger one in London.
Pranay V. Shah - 1954-2012
Pranay joined IIT Bombay in 1971 after schooling at Cathedral High School, Mumbai. P Shah had many “avatars” at IIT….some knew him as a guitar player, others as a bridge player, some as a prolific reader & a philosophic person and yet others knew him as the proverbial “mumbler” with one ear tucked in. Whichever “avatar” it was, a common thread ran through all of them….he endeared himself to one and all.
After graduating from IIT (Mumbai, batch of 1971), Pranay left for the US to do his MBA and pursue a managerial career. Being extremely reticent when it came to his own achievements, few of us would know that he graduated as a Babcock Scholar (the highest honour) from Wake Forest University, North Carolina. He rose rapidly in the executive ranks at Hanes, recognized always as caring and competent. Later in 1995 he joined United Healthcare and stayed on till 2000.
In parallel, he continued studies into the “meaning of life”, which he had begun in high school! In the late 1980s, Pranay discovered a kindred philosopher in Harold Percival whose masterwork of "Thinking and Destiny" became his touchstone.
In February 1997 he reconnected with Mala Dayal, his school friend and they married happily. After returning to Mumbai in 2000, Pranay took up consulting and executive coaching.
In 2001, Mala and Pranay moved to Pune and Pranay added the mantle of becoming a life coach to friends….new and old, young and experienced. The lower you were in the socio-economic echelons of society the deeper was Pranay involvement and the quicker his influence. As he would often describe, “They don’t carry any baggage and can grasp the true meaning of life in an uncluttered manner”. This life coaching, which was indeed precious to all who were fortunate to know him, shone even after he was stricken with leukemia and right to the end. Even in his few months, Pranay brought so many estranged friends together, to carry on the journey of life as he had coached them to….with meaning and purpose. For Pranay, and an inspiring mantra for us, it was always "Forward". So it is....
Prof. R. E. Bedford, Professor Emeritus at IIT Bombay, passed away in Chennai on 25th June 2012, aged 86. He was a faculty member at IIT Bombay from 1958 to 1986, and was its acting Director and Director during 1980-81.
After completing his Ph.D. from the University of Madras in 1955, he held a post-doctoral position at IIT Kharagpur before going to the University of Illinois, USA as a visiting assistant professor. He joined IIT Bombay as an assistant professor in its early days -- September 1958 -- and became full professor in 1966. He was Head, Department of Electrical Engineering in 1964-1966, and was the acting Director and then Director from August 1980 to December 1981. He retired from IIT Bombay in 1986, and was conferred the lifetime Emeritus Professorship shortly thereafter.
Prof. Bedford was one of IIT Bombay's most admired faculty members, held in high esteem by students, faculty and staff alike. A specialist in the theory of electrical machines, he laid the foundation for the country's pre-eminent group in this area at IIT Bombay. Prof. Bedford had worked for his doctorate degree on the theme of prediction of performance of electrical machines using concepts of electromagnetic fields. Continuing this work at IIT Bombay, he published benchmark research papers on space-time harmonics and design of machines. Many students worked under his guidance for doctorate research. His book on electrical machines, co-authored with his colleague in IIT Kharagpur, was a 'bible' on machine theory in those times. Over the years, Prof. Bedford migrated, with ease, to other topics like network synthesis and power electronics, thus straddling both the "heavy'" and "light" current domains – as they were then known -- of electrical engineering.
As an academic administrator, he led the Senate Committee, till today known as the Bedford Committee, which resulted in the far-sighted academic re-structuring of IIT Bombay, which continues till today. He served as acting Director and then Director with distinction for about 16 months in 1980-81.
Professor Bedford was a true scholar, pursuing knowledge for its own sake, and always interested in new ideas not only from his own field of specialization but other areas as well. He was well known for his Socratic method of teaching, using questioning and discussion to stimulate critical thinking. Students and colleagues soon came to realize that his quizzical doubts of various points of electrical
engineering indicated not a lack of understanding, but rather the beginning of a deeper probing. He thus trained a generation of students and colleagues in non-dogmatic and open thinking, not only about technical matters, but about academic issues in general. He was one of a small band of influential faculty members in the formative years of IIT Bombay who created the ethos of an open academic environment, which continues in IIT Bombay till today.
Professor Bedford will be remembered by his colleagues and students at IIT Bombay as the quintessential gentleman, informal, warm and accessible, having a great sense of humour, and as a caring mentor for students and young colleagues. His informality carried over to his dress style. Once at an important conference, his colleagues remember that one of the captains of industry remarked, "What, Bedford, you're in shirt sleeves!" To which Professor Bedford replied with his inimitable good humour, "If I may paraphrase Gandhiji, you are dressed enough for us both!" Professor Bedford also enjoyed many non-curricular activities. He was a puzzle solver par excellence, who routinely completed the (then difficult) Times crossword before the 10:30 am class. He will also be fondly remembered for his portrayal of Professor Higgins trying to teach circuit theory to a recalcitrant Eliza (played by Professor Jimmy Isaac) in the IIT spoof version of My Fair Lady.
The legacy that Professor Bedford created during his years at IIT Bombay will live on in many important ways.
May his soul rest in peace.
Girish Sant, one of the pioneering analysts and advocates of pro-people, scientific policies in the energy sector, passed away on 2nd February 2012 at New Delhi due to cardiac arrest. He completed his B. Tech. in Chemical Engineering from IIT-Bombay in 1986 followed by his Masters in Energy Systems Engineering in 1988. As a student, Girish was a keen mountaineer and loved spending time in the Himalayas.
Girish started his professional career by teaching Chemical Engineering in the Bharati Vidyapeeth College, Pune followed by a short stint with the Systems Research Institute where he researched trends in energy and appliance usage with changing urbanization in Western Maharashtra. In 1989, Girish began work on macro-level energy policy and planning, starting with a detailed Integrated Resource Plan for Maharashtra inspired by the pioneering work of his mentor, Prof Amulya K N Reddy from Indian Institute of Science.
Girish’s firm belief that professional skills should be used to address pressing social questions led him along with his doctor and engineer friends to start PRAYAS in 1994. The word ‘Prayas’ means ‘focused effort’. Prayas is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation based in Pune, India. Prayas undertakes public interest oriented policy analysis in the areas of Health, Energy and Livelihoods. Members of Prayas are professionals working to protect and promote the public interest in general, and interests of the disadvantaged sections of the society, in particular. Prayas Energy Group believes that effective control and influence on governance by people and civil society organisations is the key to efficient governance that would protect and promote public interest. Public interest issues include consumer issues as well broad social issues. In consumer issues, Prayas gives more attention to the issues affecting the poor and the disadvantaged. Social issues include environmental sustainability and equity. Girish was the coordinator of Prayas Energy Group, which made significant contributions over the last two decades through policy analysis and advocacy in the electricity sector.
Some of Girish’s well-known contributions include the scientific critique of the Enron power project; analysis of Sardar Sarovar’s power project, constructive engagement with the electricity regulators and preparation of a Citizen’s Primer on the electricity sector. Some of his recent contributions include implementation innovations in the areas of energy efficient appliances and renewable energy systems for meeting India’s energy needs. He represented India in several international for a on climate and energy issues; authored a range of scientific papers; won several awards, and was a member of various committees of government as well as civil society.
Recently, as a member of the Climate Experts’ Group under BASIC countries, of the Planning Commission’s Experts Committee on the Low Carbon Strategy for Inclusive Growth, and the 12th Plan Steering Committee of the Ministry of Non-Renewable Energy and Ministry of Power, he courageously and relentlessly championed the cause of the weaker sections of society and the long term interest of the nation.
His hard work, his commitment and dedication to the cause of the marginalized are an example for everyone to emulate. His work was characterized by a high analytical rigour and fairness, and honesty with which he approached policy analysis and innovation. He always strived for and was driven by the need for tangible impacts.
Girish was truly a great team leader and team builder and had an innate ability to inspire and motivate everyone to strive for something higher. Above all, his friends and colleagues remember him for his humility, simplicity, and the humane touch in his professional and personal relationships. He achieved a lot in his short lifetime, and leaves behind lot of work to be done. We at Prayas enjoyed working with him and plan to carry on the work he started - the best tribute we could give him.
Sreekumar N (with support from Subodh Wagle, Shripad Dharmadhikary, Ashok Srinivas and Shantanu Dixit)