Textile Potpourri: Education in Colorants and Opportunities in the Industry

Excerpt: Brilliant students, faculty, support staff and alumni are the 4 pillars for existence and growth of an educational institution.

“NOURISHING a youth sublime with fairy tales of science and the long result of time.” Late Dr.C.B.Stevens quoted Alfred Tennyson from Locksley Hall when I thanked him and Mary Stevens for the courtesy and cooperation extended to me for typing my doctoral thesis and finalizing it at the University of Leeds. A couple of academic publications, prolific coverage of techno-commercial events and National Technology Day for 20 years as honorary writer during 50 years in colorant industry serving textile units, I have tried to do my best.

Pictures illustrate ICT, 1959-61 batch, Dyes Day and reunion in 2019, Golden Jubilee in 2011 and with spouses at Pidilite Farm House, Pune. Brilliant students, faculty, support staff and alumni are the 4 pillars for existence and growth of an educational institution. Nostalgia takes me back 6 decades and memories still percolate fresh as I am writing this article about my study at UDCT (now ICT) during 1959-61 in Technology of Intermediates & Dyes with chemical engineering basics and other subjects after passing B.Sc in Chemistry in first class from Andhra University in 1959; Home problem on Phenyl Acetic acid and industrial training at Alta Laboratories.

Research work under the guidance of Padma Bhushan Prof K.Venkataraman on 'Constitution of Azoic coupling components and Dyes derived from cyanuric chloride” with Junior Research Fellowship of CSIR at National Chemical Laboratory, Pune during 1961-63. Learnt IR, UV, NMR, Mass spectrum and microanalysis besides lectures by Nobel Laureates (Robert Woodward and Vladimir Prelog et al). Part of research work of my senior Dr.R.Srinivasan on “A synthesis of 2-Aminocarbazole from 1-Mopholineocyclohexene” included my name and was published in June 1962, J.Sci.Industr.Res, June 1962.

Prof Ian D Rattee, OBE supervised my research on “Hydrolysis of Dichlorotriazinyl dyes under Alkaline conditions” in the Department of Colour Chemistry & Dyeing at the University of Leeds during September 1963 to October1966 with a publication on “Kinetics of Hydrolysis of Dichlorotriazinyl dyes under alkaline conditions” in J.S.D.C., August 1969. This was supported by Research Assistantship with the consent of Ministry of Labour. His inaugural lecture on 'Discovery or Invention' was motivational and inspiring. Prof David Lewis (my batchmate) and Prof Long Lin succeeded Prof Rattee. Mr. Phil Steel, Head of Alumni Relations is seen in the photo with Prof Lin and self.

Bursars appointed me Research Assistant for PhD on a salary of £500 per annum. Little did I realise then regarding onus of fees deduction of £100 besides Income Tax and Gratuity Pension etc. My friend late Roger W Burley, Chemical Engineering PhD dealt with International Pension Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne and regularized disbursement of pension, which I have been receiving in India after I attained the age of 65. I had attended his marriage with Elaine at Blackpool and later housewarming function. With £100 of personal funds in cash at the start, I faced the crunch, meeting expenses of boarding, lodging and other incidental expenses. But, in the second and third years, Prof Rattee advocated them to waive the fees and as it turned out it also attracted increments of £100 by virtue of cost of living.

Besides the initial struggle of communication, choice of food – particularly to a vegetarian, acclimatizing to weather conditions, finding a cozy accommodation to stay and adjustment to socio-cultural and economic environment added to my difficulties. I found the change from one branch of chemistry to another very trying. There were spells of arduous work and sleepless nights. Soon enough, several of my department mates made me feel at home, played snooker, cricket and taught swimming. They called me Paddy (Murthy likened to the Irish name Murphy). British Council was yet another place where I could meet and interact with students not only of Indian origin but also foreign nationals besides tasting wine. The Annual Department Dinner, meeting freshers in the Smoker's Room, interacting with visitors during Cloth Workers' Meet are still fresh in my mind. To augment my income, I was allotted duties of maintaining discipline as an invigilator and recall an incident which bears testimony to British sense of fairness.

After a stint in the Clayton Aniline Company Limited, Manchester, where I worked on 2:5 Diamino toluene and on plant of Diazophenyl Fast Blue GL, I went back to Leeds to finalise my thesis. Fortunately, with the University Appointment Board communicating on my behalf, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited recruited me in London to work for their associate companies in India, Alkali Chemical Corporation of India and ICI (India) Private Ltd from January 1968 and paid my passage to India. Attracting the talent potential as Management Staff to work without on the job induction and dropping them unaware was the order of the then day. I was unprepared to face the world of service, politics in the corporate offices, problems of regional inflexibilities and imbalances and professional jealousies, in time I learnt to handle them.

Friend, Philosopher and Guide Prof Rattee preferred that I should enhance my prospects by gathering experience in European companies or at USA and dissuaded me not to return to India, that too to Kolkata. I also opted of out post-doctoral research work with Prof H.Zahn at German Wool Research Institute on Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung Fellowship at Aachen.

It is heartening to see the developments at the University of Leeds that is undergoing rapid changes like providing Merit Cum Means Scholarships to needy students and ignite the young minds to realize their dreams and aspirations. I had contributed to footsteps fund in the recent past. Memories reawaken my student days at Parkinson Building and Clock Tower, Brotherton Library, Cloth Workers' Court, Students Union, the camaraderie and socio-cultural atmosphere as Mr. Phil Steel showed us around the University when I visited with my family in April 2013.

Despite vicissitudes of career and raising a family, my doctorate from the Leeds University often made the difference while seeking opportunities for employment and connect to top hierarchy like late Mr. P.K.Sanyal, BASF in September 1969; Hoechst/Mafatlal Dyes and Indokem (thanks to Dr. S.C.Amin) as Technical Manager under competitive conditions. It comprised diverse aspects like technical problem-solving, sales and marketing for business development besides print media for 3 years for honing communication skills since it refurbished and alerted changes that were continuously taking place. My stint at these organisations was fortuitous as I was involved with promotion and establishment of Palanil/Navilene disperse dyes, Remazol reactive dyes, Indonon/Navinon vat dyes in textile processing besides regulatory aspects of dyes, organic pigments and specialty chemicals while enjoying the respect of colleagues and industrial contacts.

Late Dr.Ian Holme who catalyzed the formation of SDC Chapter in 2001 at Mumbai encouraged me to keep writing on scientific topics by attending the seminars and conferences since it keeps the mind active and productive. Thus, I have been contributing articles profiling achievers like Prof MM Sharma, Prof A.A.C.M. Benackers, Haldor Topsoe and M.B.Parekh et al, endowment lectures, SDC Colourist/Blog; Dyes (DMAI/CoC), Textiles (Textile Association), Specialty chemicals, Chemical engineering (CHEMCON, WFCFD) and medical topics by leading doctors (Consumer Guidance Society of India) to industry journals like COLOURAGE, Asian Dyer/Textile Journal, Chemical Weekly, Chemical Industry Digest, Chemical Engineering World, Chemical Product Finder), Newsletters (Rangoli of Indokem, PG News of Pidilite, UDAAN of UAA-ICT), Indian Dyechem Bulletin and for the benefit of readers and archives. I continue to enjoy performing song, jokes, mono act play at get togethers.

The Society of Dyers & Colourists bestowed on me Silver Medal for 'Sustained Support for the Indian Textile Industry' at Bradford. Prof Ian D Rattee of Colour Chemistry & Dyeing supported me by his presence despite fading health and it was a proud moment when he mentioned that his maiden doctoral thesis was received through my hands. Picture shows Prof Chris Carr, University of Leeds Alumni was accorded reception at his lecture by SDC EC.

I had attended functions when officials from the University like Vice Chancellor Prof Dr. Arthur Michael, Prof Andrew Lock and Mr.Tony Byng of Business School, and Prof Chris Carr visited Mumbai and India Department organized freshers' induction programs. I also enjoyed the Alumni event in USA when Dr.Arthur Michael invited me for a get-together on a boat moored on the Georgetown Waterfront at Washington DC. Mr.Stevens of Textiles, 1963 batch is seen in the picture.

I had exposure to techno-commercial journalism as Vice President (Marketing) with the support of late Mr.R.V. Raghavan of Colour Publications and enjoyed interacting with Prof M.M. Sharma, FRS and covered various seminars and profiling achievers for a couple of years. He advised to continue writing for the column.

I have been working as Technical Consultant on regulatory aspects of textile chemicals and organic pigments since March 2002 at Pidilite Industries Limited, thanks to Mr. Narendra K Parekh, Vice-Chairman and my classmate (1959-61 at UDCT). I continue writing with passion in various fields for posterity and lead an active and healthy life regardless of age-related issues. It is obvious that with technical background, a person always remains with technical discipline no matter what he does in other areas. Fortunately, I had met the right people at the right time and place for right prospects. This is possible with the training and education provided by the institutions like ICT, NCL and Leeds University. This also proves that learning is an ongoing process, regardless of age and not restricted to formal education in schools, colleges and universities.

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