Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Vizag trip

Till 15th of September everyday was the sameday.
Same story; Same bench position (in a class of 30 odd that's very strange).
The positions: The typewriters are the "front"ers inthe second row followed by the "anonymous 3" behind whom the 3 heavyweights maintain their positions. They are followed by the irrepressible Pappu, Kudumi(Lakshmi) and GV. R.S(Rubbu) is unshakeable at first position in the 3rd row and maintains hisplace because he comes to class 10 minutes early.The sleepy-faced Raavan is contented sitting behind him along with kaly(you cant leave him out of action)and balabandar.The 4th row is made for the dayskees (and RaaRaa whenever he comes to class).The only notable change may be Pallavan;occasionally perched on thefirst bench(in front of Rubbu) or at the fag end of the row. Otherwise,everything's so perfectly set!

Meanwhile, I come to the 8.30 class 5 minutes lateor if on time I get a dose of BS chaat(he always smells somethin fishy behind my smile).Most times, RaaRaa is his prime target.Vociferous greets of "Hai daa" fill the air.Then its back to the "pracesses";Rubbu and the typewriters are at work, the loudspeaker squeals a few doubts,there are fervent appeals to the class to refer to the handbooks since the "going-on's" in class are only an "overview".In the midst of all these,Pakoda figures out that its time he asked his so-called logical questions which would serve his purpose of killing some lecture time. "Sir, you said that plasma arc welding operates at xxxx deg celsius, sir wont the metal melt and evaporate?(good question) All eyes turn towards him. There are quiet whispers all around(mostly curses, in the girls section). The class goes into extra time. Attendance is taken.
Gentleman strides in.In chaste language,he makes one of his formal statements which is not some damn P.J which you would normally associate wid a prof butneither a rib-tickling joke. "Once upon a time,I was handling the ceramic class for you." There is a loud giggle around the class as he breaks into a smile."Due to time constraints I had to occupy those classes with iron and steelmaking, but we'll arrange for some extra slots some time later." As if to reassure us that we wont be deprieved of the ceramic classes.He then proceeds to ask a few questions.Recently he has singled out a guy in our class and tagged him "20percent"(sounds like 50 cent) .The guy had once said,much to everyone's amazement and amusement, that the molten iron metal in a blast furnace consists of 20% sulphur. What follows next is an avalanche of indicative values,scribbled figures on the board etc. The typewriters once n for all look as if they cant go on any longer. But Rubbu is ever-consistent. He goes on his "page-filling" spree like a man possessed. These notes make their way to different hostels,rooms and to the Xerox centre where his customers have to spend a fortune to get his books photocopied.

But what followed a few weeks back is totally unparalleled in the histroy ofthe 3 sems we hav enjoyed in the dept. Suri was on his dictation-cum-mugging-cumlullaby marathon, repeating each word at least 4 times. The class was flattenedin less than half n hour. Then he came to the application of a certain polymericmaterial. It read "sprocket". He asked meekily " Anybody knows wat is sprocket?"(I was gonna ask him the spelling). There were blank faces all aroundthe class. Then he said " Even I dont know!" and he smiled. We burst out laughing. "You refer some engg dictionary and tell me ok" he said.That wasntall. A little later he encountered a sentence "Nylon fibres are notoriouslystrong". He asked "do you know the meaning of notorious?". Some of ushesistantly said "bad". He remarked " notorious means brute, tough. Men areall tough ,they are strong. Women are very soft. But in some special cases,women become brute." Laughter all over. Then he quoted a phrase in Tamil whichsaid " The wife can turn murderer."(literal translation). A laugh riot followed.

Mech metallurgy is a sea of stammer(aa...aa...aa aaaaah!),slides(dieter),30's on 30,cracks,stress,fatigue,failure and all the forgettable things of life . The subject is totally dry and if at all you are willing to fall in love with it, you u've got to treat cracks like human beings. A chapter is devoted to the birth of a crack,another on how crack grows from boyhood to manhood.Yet another on what is needed to nourish the crack. The fourth one on good ones and bad ones, different sizes ,shapes... Then an umpteenth one on the last-death stage of crack and you thank god that ultimately the material has undergone failure. Whoa! its like studyingevolution and different life cycles once again. For once we broke away from this monotony!
Anyways, the whole Vizag thing was infact born outta nowhere. We just had noother place in our mind.Rather we couldnt think of any other place. Even 3 weeksbefore the actual iv, no one was willing to budge an inch , each expressingdoubts about the place, most importantly the cost incurred on the trip... blahblah. There were more names on the "I-am-not-sure" list (Every guy was actingdiplomatic lest BS would hit back at them.). Sure enough BS had to meet us alland tell us everything would go off well,it would be a good learning experienceand the cost wouldnt be a worry.A major chunk of us were convinced but therewere a few who still wanted to be part of the "list" and they were ultimatelychucked out as per their wishes. Yep, I wouldnt forgive myself if I dont mention the special volunteering job done by Sincere and Raavan in taking pains and booking the tickets for thejourney. As per plan we had to take Pallavan exp from Trichy to Chennai. Thenhave a 10-hour long stop-over there and refresh ourselves before taking theAllepey-Dhanbad exp to Vishakapatnam, the very night. Now, the first hurdle was to wake up at 4-4.30 in the morning.Waking up before the break of dawnwas something special. There was further joy for many of us since there was nowater in our wing; water-lovers like me trodded all the way to the next wing.BS came all the way to Pearl thinking he could hurry us outta of the hostel like well-groomed cattle. But to his surprise each one of us was ready and kickin by 5.20. The NITT bus was waiting at the Pearl gate and we were ferried to the junction before time. At the station some of us had a small fill before the journey and Igot my hands on the latest "India Today" edition featuring "Akkaa"¨ on its coverpage and her US open exploits. Had a good time in the train with BS doing all the papparazzi worksnapping pics of people who had dozed of as soon as the train had pulled out ofthe station.The pics are just amazing.Again , there was a "Hai daa" every second moment.(From now on his he will be referred to as Haidaa in this mail).Hai daa wielded his DigiCam throughout the whole trip with the dexterity of a skilled warrior. To add to all these mini photo sessions was endless chatter from all quarters. Ok, speaking of chatter,there is one person who instantly comes to mind. Yep, loudspeaker. Decibels levels were always on the higher side throughout the journey, whether in train or in the bus,during the iv or sight-seeing. Her voice stood clearly above the rest.We reached Egmore before schedule (Interesting),noon time.
We broke up into batches wid the word that we would assemble at Central,8.30 pm sharp for our10.30 train. Me got down along with RaaRaa, Rubbu, Padips and a few other guys before Egmore arrived.We then parted ways.This long stop-over was somethin Ilooked forward too.

I spent the day at Rubbu's house. Rubbu's home was a cacophony of electrostatics,differential calculus and organic chemistry strewn all over the table.No its not Rubbu studying for entrance exams once again, its his kid bro.Well,not exactly kid bro, he is as tall as Rubbu, same build maybe a bit slimmer, same glases,same face.Infact, both hav same "study" styles(But he has short hair, so he doesnt adorn the scientist look of Rubbu during the exams.). A fellow of few words,he comes along as an Eminem freak I suppose. Rubbu chipped in wid some advice for his bro on wat to mug for the exam and the "sure-shot" questions.Anyways,I had lunch with Rubbu n dozed off immediately ,to be up at 3.Then we charted out a plan to make the most of our short sojourn. We had a series of phone talks with kaly's"batch" n fixed Spencer's as the place of meet.We reached there in half n hour time did a great deal of window shopping, had ice-cream and a few snaps. The northies were off to another theatre to catch up wid the latest hindirelease while we watched a action-packed English movie.Time flew by and at 10.30something we were inside the train.
Gentleman,the girls and half of the boys were there in the other coach while ten of us along with Hai daa were in the S9 coach.Nothin much that night except for some football talk between RaaRaa and BS(RaaRaa revealed his plans of gettin into Liverpool University, shocking me big time), some placement talk,all of us were dead tired . Next day passed of well ; the andhra heat wasnt a bother and so werent those eunuchs as the train crossed the Krishna and godavari.More snaps taken. We reached our destination at somewhere around 3 in the afternoon,that same day.Vishakapatnam we were in! After long it was a trip to "Gulti"stan.
The bus was waiting for us. Gulti songs blared out off the speaker.The roads were clean , wide and long and we reached The residential colonies of the employees ,the place where we would stay for the next 3 days. It was some 3 km away from the steel plant. We were given to big rooms; one each for the girls and the boys. The remaining part of the day was spent in going around the place and we were invited by the man who was instrumental in organizing the whole steel plant visit, to his house. From now on, the bus was our mode of transport, till our departure from Vizag. It didnt take us long to realise that water was a scarce resource and the tankstorage was limited.But we manged well(Freaks! they used to follow the roll number system to stand in the queue for bathing; I was the sufferer.)
The next day was all iron n steel.We started of early and picked up an officialfrom the training centre of the steel plant to guide us and take us around . Thetotal production capacity of the plant is 4.2 million tons of molten iron perannum out of which 3.65 is employed in the steel making process, read a board.That explained to us how massive it was was even before we entered the security laden gates of the plant. Another board read " customer satisfaction, cost effective, consistency, considerate to environment"something of that sort.The official gave us some serious facts.The plant was established in the early 70's. It has a blast furnace of 3000 cubic m working volume.About 36 batteries of coke ovens are used to convert the coking coal to metallurgical coke which is used as fuel for the plant.Each battery cosists of 67 ovens. The coking coal is Australian but the iron-ore is very much Indian.We saw how the conversion to coke was done by the firing process, a feeding machine ran on rails. Then we saw on our way, sintering plants to shape the ore lump, the large mixing bins for the limestone added as flux,the cooling chambers to cool the coke, the flue gas outlets which were overhead, the raw materials handling plants.Also seen were the slag(by product of iron making) processing plants which converted it into grainy form so that they would be supplied to the cement or fertilizer industries.Then we made our way to the actual blast furnace which washigh and huge, bellowing out smoke not heavily though. As we entered its hightemperature interior, we were amazed to see that it was a complex, crisscrossing of meshes of high voltage electrical and instrumentation systems,thousands and lakhs of them ,top to bottom.Within this closed region bounded bythe systems, the reactions that we study in our books are going on in full flow,at a 1000 deg temp. As we climbed up the stairs inside, we could see from ashort distance,molten iron flowing like water but obviously much thicker andred-hot and burning golden in color.Very much like volcano eruptions that v seeon national geographic , the liquid was jumping out of the furnace violently andflowing, giving out smoke and burning everything on its way. It was continuouslygetting collected in the speical containers(ladles).That is why it is acontinuous process and once a furnace is started it goes on for years ,24*7non-stop. It was hard to keep our eyes on it for more than a few seconds, waslike watching 10 solar eclipses at the same time. We were sweating all the time.Then we went along watching the desulphurisation plant, the gas cleaning plants,the cooling water chambers for the furnaces.It was almost noon by then. We hadlunch in the canteen for employees, a good ,hot n hearty one.Off we were again to the Steel making shop or the SMS as they call it, where the iron produced from its iron ore is further converted into steel. It is much more dangerous than the iron making process hence we had to take special permission from the authorities before entering the SMS. An enthusiastic engineer was kind enough to explain us the entire steel making process as we saw from a glass window how the big ton ladle carrying the molten iron (all mechanised) poured it and oygen supply was given through a lance. There was a violent reaction accompanied by a noise very much like a tremor which had all of us gasping ,hot liquid spilling from it. Then it calmed down. We could see the rinsing operation using an inert gas.This was followed by the cutting and casting of the finished steel intodifferent shapes od finished product: rings, billets,plain etc. the scrap steelbeing recycled.Cooling water used in every step.We also paid a visit to the labwhere they take samples of the molten metal analyse it using techniques likeX-ray analysis to check the chemical composition of various elements.All throughout the plant visit from stone to iron to steel, we witnessed hightemperatures and peculiar metal smell.By the time we were out it was almost 4. We returned and refreshed ourselveswere really upbeat when we were told that the beach was next on plans. It waswonderful, Many of us had a great time , though my mob suffered due to the waterfrom the holy dip.Barring a few like goyal saab,bhandari,rubbu,pallavan theothers found frolicking in water to much to resist.There were photo sessions allaround. Me didnt care much for them.
The next day was all high altitude first to a olace called simhachalam, then tothe city(again a bout of window shopping in a mall named CRM). Then we visitedthe areas affected by the tsunami , also visited the port area and enjoyed theferry ride. It was time for another place called place called kailasagiri on thehill, but near the seashore, with only the highway seperating it from the shore.The sky looked threating and it had already started to come down heavily on us.Nevertheless, it was a lovely place and most of the pics were taken there.Thecable car ride was one great experience. The rain just kept increasing. From theday we came to Vizag the climatic cinditions were very Bombayish. It rained thewhole day and night as well.The very next day our train was delayed by 3 hours. There were cyclone warnings.I guess we narrowly escaped the calamity which engulfed the andhra coast.A trip to remember!



1 comment:

engineering consultant said...

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