Thursday, October 26, 2006

Visit to AT&S at Nanjangud

Driving from Mysore towards Nanjangud, a little further from the bridge across river Kapila, a road to the right leads into the industrial area of Nanjangud which sits on the southern bank. This is where the 20 acre plot of the environment-friendly Austrian Technologies and Systems (AT&S) is situated amidst the verdant greenery.

This Printed Circuit Board (PCB) manufacturing unit was started as INDAL by Indian authorities in 1989. It was bought over by AT&S in 1999.

As soon as we enter the main gate, we are welcomed by three fluttering flags - the Indian tri-colour, the Austrian national flag and the AT&S flag. A faint chemical odour hanging in the air transports me back in time to my chemistry lab classes in college. Sniff, sniff, I strain to identify the chemicals and hurrah! One among them is Ammonia. But I fail to identify other chemical aromas romancing the air.

Friendly employees attired in navy blue and sky blue uniforms ushered us into the spacious canteen which had doubled up as nice meeting hall for the day. A quick sip of tea pepped us up and our small group of Rotarians, Rotaryannes, Rotaractors and Annets were given a guided tour around the campus by an employee. Two more groups had started early before us.

We first visited the environment section of the factory which houses the effluent treatment plant. Ninety percent of process during the manufacturing of PCBs involve water along with various chemicals and metals, some of which are hazardous. Thus polluted water is treated in this plant to remove all the impurities and render the water clean which is used to quench a thousand and odd trees and a nice garden in the campus.

The next stop was at the unit where the raw water drawn from the river is purified to be used in various processes. A generator room beside this unit houses three massive diesel generators which churn out enough electricity to feed the entire power requirement of the factory. Hence the campus is self sustained in electricity.

We then move indoors where the PCB is manufactured. We were allowed to peep into the designing section where multitudes of computer terminals were occupied by their human conterparts. In this section, the designs of PCBs , as given by the clients, are checked, corrected and converted into a language that is understood by machines doing the tasks. As we were curiously peeping into the glass windows, the human subjects on the other side looked amused and perhaps felt like fishes in an aquarium.

Next we were taken inside a long airconditioned hall which had complex machines each the size of a small car (sorry you can't drive them but rather they can drive a hole into you). They were drilling various sized holes into glass fiber epoxy laminate material (board) and creating a racket. Cacophony of the machines was because they were drilling at an incredible speed of 120,000 rpm (revolutions per minute), my gosh! Listening to it my head spun for a second at 120,000 rpm.

In the next section we saw the drilled boards being sandwiched between two thin copper foils between hot rollers (anyone for a hot sandwich or two?). Next the circuit diagram is printed on these boards with an acid resistant ink. Boards were rolled into a series of narrow acid baths of about 30-40 feet long bubbling with blue, green and clear liquids. Some of these machines were sporting cool red bulbs which were going off and on at random intervals. Liquids in these baths etch out excess copper except at the places protected by the resistant ink.

The boards go through many more such massive machinery and finally are subjected to gold electroplating where a very fine film of gold deposits on copper to prevent oxidation and thus providing a long life to the PCB. We were told that (hold your breath ladies!) a whopping 80 kilos of gold is consumed every month in this plant alone (ladies, dont you think that it is a sheer waste of yellow metal? I see many beautiful heads nodding in agreement).

The boards are taken onto cutting machines (if the PCB being manufactured is small in size, then usually five to six of them are produced on a single sheet of board) and cut to the required size and shape. Thus finished PCBs undergo complete tests, first electronic testing and later manual testing for scratches or abrasions. This manual testing was being done in a controlled environment under lens and microscopes by ladies. Dr. Maya Sitaram asked our guide why only ladies were employed to do the manual testing while ladies were present in none of the other departments. Mr. Keshav gave a tongue-in-cheek answer saying that ladies are good at finding faults (well, does that mean, men are good at making faults? hmm, I guess I am no Shobha De to answer that).

Finally we were at the packing section where each PCBs are bundled in tens, vacuum sealed and packed. Back at the meeting hall, in a formal meeting Rtn. Pradeep Mehta, MD and CFO, AT&S gave a few glimpses about the vision and organisation of AT&S which was followed by a multimedia presentation by Mr. Brown. Mr. Hegde, MD and COO, AT&S was present.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kaveri Teerthodbhava

Painting: Sri Mata Kaveri
Medium: Gouache on board
Size: 20" X 24"
Artist: Sri G.L.N. Simha
Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana

River Kaveri is the life line of millions in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu. She takes birth in the sylvan settings of Western Ghats amidst the picturesque hills Brahmagiri in the land of valiant Kodavas. Each year on the auspicious day of Tulasankramana (around 17th October) she spouts out of her tiny birthplace, at Talacauvery, as if reinvigorated and re-energised.

In the rich tapestry of Hindu mythology, each river has a legend about its birth and is depicted by a certain colour. Ganga is of the colour of sphatika, Godavari is shown in light brown colour while Kaveri is green in colour. Also Ganga is often shown descending from heavens and all other rivers are shown flowing, but it is only Kaveri who gushes out of earth in the form of a spring.

The artist has depicted goddess Kaveri as green in colour. She has draped a rich green saree in the typical Kodava fashion. She is adorned with a high crown, matsya-kundalas, necklaces made of gold, pearls, cowries and lotuses. She wears a waist girdle depicting the avian creatures found all along her course and the vaijayanthi is shown with golden paddy, succulent oranges, vegetation and landscapes which are nourished by her life giving waters.

Two of her hands are shown in abhaya and varada mudras, in the third she holds a kamandalu while in the fourth she holds a beautiful lotus. The goddess is depicted as springing up on vigorous waves surging from beneath. The faint smile on her green visage is reassuring and beautiful.

Among the creative and talented artists of Mysore, Sri G.L.N. Simha occupies a special place as he has pioneered painting based on dhyana shlokas, veda mantras and suktas. This painting has been commissioned by Ramsons Kala Pratishtana as a part of the series of paintings on myths, legends, fairs and festivals of Karnataka by several artists.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Trek to Himavad Gopala Swamy Betta

Frantic activities at the premises of Rotary Centre on Saturday morning was as unique as the crowd gathered there. 73 Rotaractors from various clubs of the Rotary International District 3180 assembled early at 7.00 a.m. ready to be part of a trekking expedition to the Himavad Gopala Swamy Betta.

Three vans with Rotaractors left Mysore towards Gundulpet; further 12 kilometers drive led to Hangala, and turning right through a huge welcome arch we drove 8 kilometers to a picturesque hamlet, Gopalpura, at the foot of Himavad Gopala Swamy Hills.

First two kilometers stretch of kaccha road flanked by the fields of sunflower, castor and jowar was like the calm before a storm. Most of us were under the impression that the entire trek uphill will be a piece of cake, but once we entered the Project Tiger area, there was no room for expecting a smooth ride. All the amateur hearts sunk encountering the gargantuan hill with a steep gradient, the road now wide and comfortable became just a wild narrow path winding like a snake around littered rocks and turning abruptly out of sight into alien woods.

I started chanting Hanuman Chalisa invoking the monkey god and appraising him of the situation at hand. I suppose, most of the 330 million gods and goddesses of Hindu pantheon were readily appealed to by many a fellow trekkers. Dragonflies, butterflies, dung beetles, parakeets, chirping birds, nothing could disturb my concentration on my feet; every step has to be measured, balanced and perfect, one slip and I am in deep trouble.

Fighting the heat from the Sun, off the rocks and that of body, everyone carried rucksacks on their back, drenched in sweat and listening hard to trace any unfamiliar sounds from a possible wild beast.

Halfway uphill, we came across a slopy clearing. The view across was breathtaking. The blunt peaks, continuous contours of the hills, greens, yellows and ochres of the dense valleys, silhouettes of farther hill ranges... It seemed like these giants of hills were lying exhausted trying to reach for the heavens. Rectangular mosaic of various hues of brown at the other end of the scenery marked a sharp contrast, I wish I had a camera that could capture my feelings.

Huffing and puffing we reached a site of medieval fortification at around 1 pm; huge stone blocks of perfect masonry made up this structure, which is now in ruins. It is approximately 700 years old. By now, I had naturalised to climbing and next ascent was comparatively comfortable. As I was nearing the summit, a cluster of tall trees intrigued me which was crowning the hill. Approaching it I was enamoured by them which seemed to belong to the family of Eucalyptus growing to a height of 40-50 feet.

Couple of paces more and we were at the guesthouse, our destination. It was 1.45 pm, after almost 3 hours of climbing the jungle path we had covered a distance of 5 kilometers. The feverish Sun, during ascent, disappeared at the summit, there was a sudden drop in temperature.

The guesthouse was at an altitude of 1477 feet above sea level. It sat snugly on a flat surface overlooking a shallow valley. Its immediate neighbours were weird trees with a heavy coat of moss and mini vegetation clinging on to their myriad branches which looked quite creepy.

Half a kilometer across, the ancient temple of Lord Gopala Swamy stood majestically on a high plinth. A flight of stairs leads onto a big quadrangle with a recently renovated central stone edifice built by Marasinga Dananayaka in early 14th century. The main entrance topped by a gopura leads to an inner courtyard which houses a tall flag mast and an ancient Bela tree whose branches were festooned with bits of clothing left behind as wish fulfilling offerings by the pilgrims. Jaya and Vijaya, the celestial guardians stood on guard flanking the door leading into the navaranga. The sanctum sanctorum enshrines the idol of lord Krishna, the divine cowherd, along with consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama.

In front of the temple there stands an equally ancient stone structure which must have stationed soldiers and guards during its heydays. Coincidentally, today it shelters 12 jawans of Special Task Force (this was before the death of dreaded Veerappan).

It started raining after lunch. Trekkers idled away the afternoon either in sleep or in a game of cards. Evening tea pepped up everyone and we set off for a short walk behind the temple.
We hardly covered a kilometer, there standing on the sloping gorge, the group marvelled at the creation of nature. Miles and miles across wherever I cast my gaze, hills, valleys and virgin forests beckoned my hungry eyes. A string of clouds were floating mid-air as if fluffy, snow-white cotton balls, fastened to an invisible thread, were dangling from the high heavens. To the right, a couple of clouds were nestled in the bosom of a tree-lined valley; far beyond, gray silhouettes of hillocks seem smudged-one with the distant horizon.

The word 'picturesque' sounds utterly pale to describe the drama that was being played before my eyes. Standing there, I was like a hungry person consuming the scenic ambrosia served on the golden platter of nature. The Sun was setting, changing hue of the sky by the minute. During the climax of sunset it seemed like vermillion and gold colours were splashed across the heavens, finally a flaming red Sun dipped away and took refuge behind a weird hillock.

Back at the guesthouse, with no electricity it was the blackest of nights. We had to find our way in the bobbing lights of numerous torches; everyone hopped into bed early, I snuggled cosily into my sleeping bag. We were told that elephants and bisons pay surprise visits to the place during nights, how comforting to sleep with the thought that these wild animals are roaming free in close quarters. The day's activities were so exhausting that even the scare of these beasts did anything but disturb the sleep; everyone hit the sack instantly.

Sunday started early. After morning ablutions we went on a jungle walk being towed by two forest guards. We entered core forest, it was a grassland on hill slopes, the private domain of elephants and bisons, their fresh dung littered around reminding us that we are trespassing in their domain. I saw two elephant bulls gorging on the grass, farther across the ridge two more elephants were seen with four bisons. When I snatched a glimpse at a bison through the binoculars, my heart stopped for a second… Its gaze was piercing mine, but we were very far apart, the thought of which brought blood back to my lungs.

Later, we ventured into the shola forest in one of the valleys searching for natural springs; it is said that there are 77 natural springs in this forest alone.

Returning back to the guesthouse, we packed to descend the hill. The raw heat made a hasty comeback tripling the weight of my backpack. We started down the asphalted road at first and traveled upto 3 kilometers. At the neck of a sharp curve in the road we changed our course for the scariest walk of my life. If I were to have been given a chance, I would have chosen to climb down the same path we ascended the previous day. There was no path here, absolutely nothing to guide us, only trees, shrubs, steep drops and rocks jutting out from everywhere.

Everyone was so anxious, I suppose they even forgot their prayers. The life and limbs depended on feet, balance, calculated steps and hell a lot of good deeds one had done previously. An elephant had trampled a local woman a month back in the same area. Even this wild threat was forgotten while climbing down.

After a grueling 2 hours of descent the landscape abruptly turned arid, thorny and desert like. Next 3 kilometers of walk was through this prickly stretch where the only vegetation was that of thorny shrubs and bushes packed ever so tightly together.

Fighting the darn bushes I was wondering about the abrupt change in landscape every couple of miles. Within 2 days I had encountered hilly terrain, lush green forests, grasslands, moist tropical vegetation of shola forests, rocky slopes and finally here I was, in a desert. I still wonder.

At last we came to Hangala where we had lunch, exhaustion didn't stop some of the Rotaractors from dancing, singing and having fun. The same three vehicles drove us back to Mysore.

I am scared of heights, I was scared when I had to walk on a path where on one side there was an abrupt drop, but when I saw fellow trekkers braving it, I overcame my anxiety and conquered it. The fellowship was evident throughout the programme. A small gesture of help, sharing a laughter, sharing water, sharing risk, extending a hand in support, helping a friend in distraught - it was an experience that I shall cherish for years to come.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rotaract Bhajan

The following Rotaract bhajan (anglo-hindi) was written by me for a function to commemmorate World Rotaract week at our club in 2003. I wrote it on 14th March 2003. It is to be sung similar to the tune of the popular bhajan - Om Jai Jagadeesh Hare.

Rotaract Bhajan

Om jai Rotaract hare
Swami, jai Rotaract hare...
President, members and saare (2)
Tohare charan dhare
Om jai Rotaract hare...

Secretary, directors, editor
Sergeant-at-arms and treasurer
Swami, sergeant-at-arms and treasurer...
Committee members and chairman (2)
Haath phehalaaye khade
Om jai Rotaract hare...

International, vocation
Club, community and youth
Swami, club, community and youth...
Paanch shastr ek me abhay (2)
Stage-fear nivaare
Om jai Rotaract hare

Banake nidarr bhaye leader
ZRR, President, DRR
Swami, ZRR, President, DRR...
Saathme haath badhaaye (2)
Har yuvaa kaam kare
Om jai Rotaract hare (Om jai )