First Year of Engineering, one of the toughest years for any engineer. We had nine subjects in one semester covering various topics, like Electronics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering Drawing (one of my favorite subject) and Communication Skills. Each subject had one or more assignments which we had to submit by the end of semester. In case of Communication Skills, rather than an individual assignment, we had a project as it had to be something practical. The project had to be done in Groups of four to five members, but my team was an outlier in this case as we had seven members. The first step was to finalize a project idea and we were given a week to think about ideas. Do note the project was going to be judged on our communication skills rather than technical skills, and a key requirement was to interact with more people.
We discussed as a team, and came up with a list of ideas, we had to explain each idea and ma’am would help us finalize the same. We had around 5-6 ideas and we explained each one by one. First Idea explained; result: “No”, Second: “No”, Third Idea: “No”. We were running out of ideas and we were looking at each other, thinking “What do we if none of the ideas gets finalized”. The Last idea: “Safety Measures in Cars”; there is a reason why this idea was explained at the end because it came last in our priority list 😊. What do you know, the idea we did not believe/expect/want got finalized 😊. How many times has this happened to you as a student?
As part of the project we had to do primary and secondary research. The year was 1998/1999 and “The Internet” was not so prevalent in India. To do secondary research, we decided to visit “The British Council Library”. My college (Thadomal Shahani) was in Bandra (Mumbai) and the Library was in Town approximately some 8 kms away. As a group only few decided to go there. Believe me, compared to now, it was not an easy job to search for any information. We tried to search for information/data which would be relevant for us, but I don’t think we got a lot of information from the Library, Luckily during that time-frame my Uncle (who was Chief Forest Officer in Gujarat) was in Mumbai. He guided me, and he even got me 3-4 “Autocar” magazines, by the way I still have them with me.
It was a time when we were very much dependent on Primary Research. One day after college, me and one more colleague of mine went to a nearby Hyundai Showroom. We got some basic details on the safety measure in Hyundai. In general, we got more details in terms of sales pamphlets but nothing more than that. We visited many such showrooms, even Mercedes Benz! We even tried visiting some workshops, but we did not get much information.
My Grandfather had a Fiat Premier Padmini, which in my opinion is one of the sturdiest of all cars. You cannot compare it to the current set of cars. Once, my grandfather, my uncle and the driver were in the Fiat, it was stationary. In front of them was a stationary Truck a little distance away. Suddenly from nowhere the truck while reversing came and hit the car from front. Somehow, the truck was not stopping, all three had to jump out of the car. The driver climbed up in the truck and had to stop it himself, seems the driver was drunk. Luckily, nothing happened to them and even the car survived except for the bonnet. You see, the body/chassis of a Fiat (the Premier Padmini) car was made from one piece of steel, which is why it is extraordinarily strong. Current cars are assembled using different parts, due to which they lack the same strength.
My grandfather knew some one in the Fiat company, and they were ready to show me how the shop floor works. It was fun, but unfortunately I was able to visit the same alone and not all my colleagues. Another colleague of mine, was able to secure us a visit to Mahindra & Mahindra’s shop floor. There our group got a chance to see the shop floor for Mahindra Jeeps. It was the first time I had to drink Tea, believe me I don’t like Tea of Coffee! The Floor Manager had ordered tea, and I was feeling odd to say no 😊. It was also probably the first time I got to travel in the most renowned Mumbai Local, as I was more used to travelling by Bus (still am though). Overall, the visit at Mahindra & Mahindra was fun.
After all the hassles and roaming around 😊, the day of Report Submission and Presentation arrived. The presentation was to happen in the small auditorium, which could host around 100 people. In engineering college, any presentation demanded us to be in formals, if I remember correctly, it was black and white day! I vividly remember standing on the podium, reading from a big paper where I had written my speech. It was the first time, I was speaking in front of people (which I remember somewhat) in an auditorium. I was trembling, not looking at the crowd, but looking at the projector and speaking. In the end, the only funny thing which happened was the questions we were being asked by the crowd, ahem!! The purpose of the subject was to simulate a workplace environment, so the crowd was compelled to ask questions😊. The only question I clearly remember was “Why can’t cars have an Air Brake?” Okay, this question kind of threw us off, I did not know the answer, but one of my colleagues answered the question. “Air Brakes are mostly used in Large Vehicles viz, Buses, Trucks etc. and not in small vehicles because of the space required”.
Phew! that was a long journey, by the way, do you remember your First Project or the first time you spoke in front of your class?