“Remember, Your work may be only to sweep a railway crossing, but it is your duty to keep it so clean that no other crossing in the world is as clean as yours”.
The obsession for perfection and excellence, which is clearly reflected in the above quote, is none other than that of the matchless dreamer, achiever, the great Sir M. Visvesvaraya. Any endeavour that he embarked on, he executed with a great degree of perfection.
An engineer by profession and a genius, Sir MV, as he was affectionately and respectfully addressed, was the architect of the Krishnarajasagara dam, which has amazed and enchanted thousands of people from all countries. It is one of the biggest dams in India which irrigates a hundred and twenty thousand acres of land. The Bhadravati Iron and Steel Works, the Mysore Sandal Oil Factory and the Mysore Soap factory, Mysore University, the State Bank of Mysore (it was first named The Bank of Mysore) – all these were the gifts of one man, Sir MV – and he gave these to his country, when it was still not free. Bharata Ratna (The gem of India), the highest honour for a citizen of India was conferred on him in 1955. He achieved celebrity status when he designed a flood protection system to save Hyderabad city from floods. He was also instrumental in developing a system to save the Visakhapatnam port from sea erosion.
After taking a voluntary retirement in 1908, he was appointed Dewan of Mysore, one of the largest and most important princely states in India. With the support of HH The Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, he made an arguably unprecedented contribution as Dewan to the all-round development of the state. Not only the KRS dam & reservoir, but also the hydel projects at Shivanasamudra, the steel mills at Bhadravati, the University of Mysore and many other industries and public works owe their inception or active nurture to him. He was instrumental in setting up the Government Engineering College in 1917 in the city of Bangalore, one of the first Engineering institutes in the country. This institution was later named the UVCE (University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering) after its founder; it remains one of the most reputed institutes of higher learning in Karnataka.
The institutions named in his honour are deservedly a legion, and include the technical university, Visvesvaraya Technological University, Belgaum, to which all the state engineering colleges of the Karnataka state are now affiliated. As part of his birth centenary celebrations, the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum was set up in Bangalore.
Sir MV, a great philanthropist, a fearless patriot and a soul of great conviction died at the ripe age of 101. His famous words were “Industrialise or perish”. He was one of the makers of Modern India. Every one of his creations was mighty and magnificent but the man himself was far mightier and more magnificent.
From his boyhood Visvesvaraya was eager to learn new things. When he was past one hundred, a relative was going to Madras; he asked Sir MV, “What shall I bring you from Madras?” Said MV, “Bring a good Modern English Dictionary.”
Let all of us join in saluting the noble and great soul of Sir MV, whose 145th birth anniversary just passed by.
(His birthday on Sep.15th is celebrated as Engineer’s day.)