“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less
difficult for each other?” -George Elliot (1819-1880)
What is a mentor? How did the word originate? Some say it has Greek origins in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. When Ulysses left for the Trojan War, he left the care of his household to a trusted friend named ‘Mentor’. Many trace its origin to Swahili language spoken in ancient Africa, where a person interacting with children was called “Habari gani menta” Yet others believe that the origins of this word lie in pre history, where the English translations of some inscriptions in the caves of La Grotte de Niaux in the Pyrennes mean “men” taking children on a ‘tour’.
Be that as it may be, mentoring & education have been second nature to me.
I had started my career at a place in Kashmere Gate, Delhi. Right in front of my office* was Delhi College of Engineeing-now NIT Delhi at Bawana and Delhi Institute of Technology-now Neta Ji Subhash Institute of Technology at Dwarka. I had many friends amongst the faculty there-I remember Prof R S Shukla, Prof B M Chaudhry, Prof P R Chadha, Prof D C Kulshreshtha and Prof N N Bhargava. Their students regularly came to me for assistance with their project work. I think the first project I helped them with was making of a Digital Multimeter. I wish I had made notes of those so many who learnt practical work from me. The glow on their face, when their circuits worked was a reward no award can equal.
There were some who wanted to become entrepreneurs, and have retained contact with me even uptil today and are business men in their own right. One such person is Mannu Wadhawan.
Mannu’s Dad, Sh L C Wadhawan, was Director with the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals, Govt of India, New Delhi. He called me sometime in 1993 and said whether his son, Mannu, can have internship in my factory. I proposed he do this in a certain “XYZ Ltd”, which was a very much bigger company, almost 100 times bigger, and offered better scope. Mr Wadhawan said : “ Bhushan Ji, they are jugaru people-what will he learn there? With you he will, at least, gain some knowledge”. I have cherished it as one of the best complements I have got.
A few days later, Mannu was at the door step of my factory in Okhla, looking very hesitant but hopeful. My first words to him were, “Mannu you are here to learn. Be prepared to work on the shop floor. You will be dirtying your hands and do everything from spray painting to electrical testing.” His response: ”Yes, Sir”.
I used to make instruments for universities, defence, space, railways, industries, etc. Our factory was vertically integrated. We designed all products ourselves and made everything like sheet metal housings, transformers, meters, printed circuit boards, screen printed panels in house. I found it fun to see raw material come in and be transformed into a a different shape altogether. Mannu went through every step and was all set for entrepreneurship.
A couple of years later, he established his own company, Unitek Electronics**, making the things shown above and doing very well since then.
Mannu says: “ Mr Bhushan insisted on hands on working. He wanted everything checked and rechecked with our own eyes. He did not accept ‘output not coming’-he wanted us to give the actual readings of the stages previous to the output. He wont budge from his chair to help us, saying that we should look at the circuit and the fault will be found in wrong wiring.
Now I know, his object was to force us to think for ourselves. I hated him then but love him now, for I do the same things.”
I am proud of him and glad to have played a role in his mentoring.