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Remembering my association with legendary Professors Padmabhushan K. Venkataraman and Ian D Rattee

AFTER passing B.Sc (Tech) in Intermediates and Dyes in 1961 from UDCT (now ICT), it was difficult to find a suitable opening in research and industry. Prof B.D.Tilak was away at Harvard University and Prof S.V.Shunthankar was finalising his senior research students. I did not wish to pursue academic study nor a career in the small and medium scale enterprises due to vulnerability of job security. However, following the advice of top executives like Mr.Majumdar (former student of KV), May & Baker Ltd and Mr.I.A.T.Swamy of Lederle Pharma Ltd, I contacted Padmabhushan Prof K.Venkataraman (KV), Director who offered Junior Research Fellowship of Rs.250 per month during September 1961 to August 1963 with hostel accommodation at National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, equivalent to the salary paid by an industrial company.

Though no freshers were going to NCL at that time, Dr.A.V.Rama Rao (Pharmaceutical senior) joined KV for research. I too registered for PhD, affiliated to Bombay University.

Following me, classmates K.Anji Reddy (Pharmaceuticals), D.N.Rihani and S.Balasubramanian also joined NCL and KV directed them to do research in Chemical Engineering under Dr.L.K.Doraiswamy in Organic Intermediates and Dyes Division. The others – N.D.Ojha, K.L.Rathi, N.K.Parekh, A.Krishna Rao and R.R.Patel secured admission abroad besides K.M.Shah at UDCT. M.S.Moti, R.V.Joshi and A.K.Jain joined the industry. KV also remarked about the number of first classes our batch obtained.

KV proposed I should work on “Constitution of Azoic Coupling Components and Dyes derived from Cyanuric chloride.” In those days senior researchers used to take several years to finish their work for doctoral degrees. He included me as joint author with my senior Dr.R.Srinivasan in his publication in J.S.I.R in 1962. He was extremely busy with the institution affairs besides attending to visitors and senior researchers and had little time to guide us. The few times when I met him, he asked me to answer some questions on the blackboard while he carried on with his work. I had the opportunity to attend the lectures of visiting Nobel Laureate scientists Prof R.B.Woodward and Prof Vladimir Prelog and learnt to work on NMR, IR, UV/IR, Microanalysis etc. Later I met him in IDI disperse dyes seminar and on his 60th birthday celebrations at Wellington Club besides attending his Memorial Lectures.

The reputation of KV was so great that Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Manchester College of Science & Technology, University of Leeds, Bradford University, University of Glasgow, Heriot Watt University, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany offered financial assistance to his students for research work. His scholarly writing of Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes Volumes was regarded as unique contribution thereby more recognition to his students particularly in Europe and USA.

As I preferred attention from my guide and to complete PhD earlier than norm with KV, I opted to apply elsewhere and KV magnanimously consented to support my candidature. Ian D Rattee, the co-discoverer of Procion dyes of ICI took over as Professor and Head of the Colour Chemistry and Dyeing Department at the University of Leeds late 1962 offered me admission as Research Assistant for PhD at £700 a year. We worked on “Kinetics of Hydrolysis of Dichlorotriazinyl Dyes under Alkaline conditions” during 1963 to 1966. Thereafter I submitted my dissertation and returned to India with a publication in JSDC in 1969. Seeking my opinion about the candidature of seniors (Dyes) Prof Rattee recruited B.V.Pujar and A.Vaidyanathan for research work. Prof B.D.Tilak and Prof H.Zollinger of ETH visited the Department for mutual exchange of information in 1964.

Prof Rattee and I had developed rapport and kept in touch through e-mails. We met him on his visits to India. He along with his second wife Dale not only hosted dinner to our family in a restaurant at Leeds on the eve of my Silver Medal Award Celebrations at the Society of Dyers & Colourists in 2013 at Bradford, but also supported me with his presence. It was a proud moment when he said that his first doctoral thesis was received through my hands in 1967. He jokingly commented that incident happened 46 years later, maybe we meet again after 46 years! Unfortunately, that is not to be as he passed away in 2015. I gratefully owe my indebtedness to these professors for their tutelage in my formative years.

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Pidilite Industries Ltd

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