I was a Civil Engineering Draftsman at the Chief Engineer’s office, Construction Division, Southern Railways, Bangalore Cantonment and worked in the Drawing branch of this office from the latter half of 1969 till my retirement in 1991. Prior to 1969, I was working at the Southern Railways Head Quarters in Madras. This photograph was taken in 1977, when the Head of the Bridge Section, Mr P Seetharamiah, was promoted to Assistant Engineer. All the staff members got together and hosted a farewell party.
It was a memorable day as he was loved by most. It was real pleasure working with him — he was a disciplinarian but a kindhearted gentleman with a helping nature. To give an example, after I transferred from Madras, I was searching for a rented house to set up my family. Financial constraints posed a big hurdle as I had to arrange about Rs 15,000 to 20,000 for a security deposit. At that needy hour, Seetharamiah took pity on me and got me a railway quarter allotted in the old Railway Colony in Bangalore Cantonment. The quarter was so close to my office that I could walk there. I was grateful as the accommodation was free and I can never forget this noble gesture.
During P Seetharamiah’s period with us, we were busy preparing bridge drawings for the Hassan-Mangaluru track. This project was one of the most challenging tasks since the construction and laying of railway tracks had to be done in the Western Ghats. The longest bridge constructed across Netravati River near Mangaluru is a marvellous civil engineering feat. The project was commissioned during the period of Mr PD Damodharan who was the then executive engineer in charge of the drawing office. He was an expert technical authority on bridge construction.
I would like to narrate a funny incident that took place in my office. One day, during office hours, one of the staff members, P Nagappa, who was in charge of the building section, called me to his table. When I went to his desk, he showed me a drawing which he had received from Madras. Pointing his forefinger to the neat machine print like handwriting on the drawing, he said to me ‘look at this handwriting, how nice it is. Some draftsman has done this drawing in Madras. The other day, you were boasting that your handwriting was the best. Can you write like this?’. I recognised that drawing the moment I saw it — it was mine from when I worked in Madras in 1967! But I pretended as if I knew nothing about it and, with a smile on my face, I requested him to find out the name of the person who had prepared that drawing. He hurriedly spread the foldings of the big drawing to find the name of the artist. It said ‘Drawing prepared by VL Narayana’. He was stunned and speechless when he saw this.
He immediately gave me an affectionate hug and said, ‘Narayana, please excuse me. You are really very great’. My other friends who saw this drama came near us and tried to console Mr Nagappa and complimented me for my good drawing. And as a token of appreciation, he gifted that drawing to me, with the following inscription: ‘Narayana is really very great’. I have preserved it even to this day and this incident is still fresh in my mind; I’ll never forget it.
After this, I received such appreciation and compliments from many others, including MN Prasad, who was our chief engineer during my service, and Vijayakumar, Dy Chief Engineer, Construction Division, Bangalore Cantonment.
Since my superior officers appreciated my work, I was fully satisfied with myself and felt that I have done something useful for the government and our nation.
I will never forget my time with the railways as it brought me close to many great and learned people. They not only taught me a lot but also helped me reach great heights.
(The author can be contacted on 9242712436.)