Positive thinking!


A moment with Dr A.K. Bhattacharya

I never realized that I had risen to the stature of ‘Whose Who’ among our small fraternity of agricultural engineers until I was asked to contribute a short text on “Positive Thinking” for the ISAE web page. I was thrilled!
My memories went back to the early nineteen sixties when traveling all the way from Kolkata; I had joined the B. Tech programme in agricultural engineering at the then GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology at Pantnagar, then under Nainital district of Uttar Pradesh. Comparing with my unsuccessful attempts to clear the entrance examinations of a few engineering institutes, admission at Pantnagar University was unbelievably easy. It was through a post card asking me to join there based on my academic scores in High School and I. Sc., given in a plain paper application. The post card was pinned on the notice board of the college where I was doing my B. Sc.
That was perhaps the second instance of reaping the fruits of positive thinking in my life; the first being developing proficiency in Trigonometry at I. Sc., after I could just scrap through the ‘Advanced Mathematics’ paper in the High School examination a few years earlier. I remember how our Maths teacher in school likened me to the goats grazing over the school compound. In fact, he used to rank the goats higher than me with the loud thinking in the class that once explained, even the goats would not make the mistake of writing Sin A + Sin B = Sin (A + B). It had dawned upon me much later that it was indeed a mistake to write like that. I had similar difficulty in trying to learn Statistics and Computer Programming, the two pillars of higher education. But not giving up, I pursued my goal doggedly. Later in my student life, most of my fellow students used to fall back upon me to get better versed with these subjects. And then I realized that I could explain relatively more abstract engineering subjects lucidly once I had myself learnt that thoroughly. Determined effort and an attitude of not giving up were the keys to master any subject. The seed of my becoming a teacher was perhaps sown then. It may not be an exaggeration to say, that with nurturing by learned teachers and God gifted ability to express, the seed grew into a tree. This is what I call “Positive thinking” and in addition, a “positive attitude”.
At Pantnagar I came across both positive and negative thinkers. A positive thinking fellow student, after several attempts, finally cleared the dreaded subjects of Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer taught by then an equally dreaded teacher (but himself very positive) and got the degree a few years after us. A negative thinking chap could not withstand the humiliation by both the teacher and the other classmates on his failure to identify a small piece of dried cow dung cake in a practical examination and left the university without completing the course.
Much later, while pursuing my Ph. D. studies, I was once fabricating a wood-glass wool cover for tensiometers to be installed in the field and kept there in a freezing atmosphere. I had been using rolls of glass wool, piles of wood planks and hammering innumerable nails to make the cover strong when my Advisor came by and seeing me driving the nails fiercely, smiled and commented: “That is a very good way of driving out some of the frustration”. He could have criticized me for wasting nails, wood and glass wool, for making loud noise disturbing others in the workshop. But he did not do any such thing. Rather he found a virtue in what I was doing, which was driving in nails to drive out frustration. That was positive thinking and attitude.  A frustrated person can never achieve and non-achievement adds on to frustration. Though to be able to pursue my academic goals, I had to give up a foreign assignment with lucrative monetary gain and a 3-year foreign training on Remote Sensing with its immense possibilities in India at the early years of my career, I never repented these decisions.
One of course has to decide what one considers as achievement. The first target of a student is to learn the subject, followed by expressing meaningfully what one has learnt. This will be the first important achievement of a student. To make that achievement fruitful, one has to contribute to the current knowledge base, develop plans, designs and artifacts using engineering principles, get recognition as an engineer or scientist of substance on the basis of academic and research quality and field experience. One has to be confident, but not arrogant of what one is doing or expressing. All these are feasible with sincere effort, humility and supported by positive thinking and positive attitude. Positivism is infectious and it helps in creating a conducive work environment. Encouraging others in their endeavors will be encouraging to one’s own pursuits. Belittling others will soon make one small

AK Bhattacharya