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My Story

When I wrote most of it, I had crossed fifty, now I am fast approaching sixty!! Though I have added a few lines a few months ago. A couple of years ago, i started reminiscing about my life adventures, on an e-forum called Vimarsh. I started writing it a couple of years age, almost 4 years. I started the story by saying I am currently out of station. Yesterday, while I was traveling I overhead some conversation between two of my young co-passengers. The conversation set in a thought process in my mind recollecting and reassessing my own experience. Let me then recount some of it, with the hope that it may be of some use to our young students who planning their career goals. While I was an undergraduate student at DU, I had set my career goals to become a teacher in the University. I wanted to become a University professor (not a college lecturer). So, I took very seriously my studies in Chemistry both at the undergraduate as well as post graduate levels. Indeed, I used to ask many questions from my teachers during the lectures and some of my teachers were indeed quite encouraging too, particularly Dr. M. M. Kapoor, who had joined the DU faculty only a couple of years before I entered the B.Sc (hons) chem course in 1969. Those days all our classes for chemistry used to be held in the university chem department only. I remember I was appreciated by almost all of my teachers. Although I never stood first or second in any examination but I was always among the top 5%. Joining M.Sc at DU came very naturally, because it was in tune with my career goals and my crusade to concentrate on chemistry continued. I even used to read several international magazines. In fact I had subscribed to Chemistry and J. Chem Edu journals published by the American Chemical Society. Physical Chemistry was my pet subject and indeed I secured the maximum marks among my colleagues in the first year.

After M.Sc. my natural choice was to persue for a Ph.D. degree because I had chosen teaching as my career goal. Because I wanted to do it in a novel way, I wanted to do research in Nonequilibrium thermodynamics, a subject I had developed a fancy for, I first wrote a letter to Prof. R. P. Rastogi, the only physical chemist of repute in an Indian University, simply because I felt there is no chance to do it with Prof Ilya Prigogine, the master of the subject, because he was in Brussels and there was hardly a possibility to get a finacial support for my study there. After, I received no encouraging response, I decided to go to IIT Kanpur. Several of my undergraduate friends had gone there and they used to speak very highly of the institute. I could not go there for M.Sc because my father could not support my study there at that time. Perusing Ph.D was a different case because every student chosen was entitled for a scholarship. I chose Dr. Pinaki Gupta Bhaya, as my thesis supervisor, because he said that he could guide me on the subject. He had excellent credentials: An M.Sc from Cambridge, Ph.D from Columbia University and Post doc at Max Plank Institute at Gottingen. Perhaps that was my first career mistake, Why let me explain. I found later, that even though PGB had excellent credentials he had no good ideas for a PhD thesis that could be done with the facilities available at IITK at that time. He had experience in NMR studies of biomolecules and was interested in using paramagnetic ions as probes to find the immediate molecular environment of divalent ions like Calcium by studying the NMR spectra of samples that had Europium instead of Calcium. But, the NMR facilities required to do so were not available at IITK perhaps one could use the FTNMR facilities at CDRI Lucknow but that was not really convenient. The result was that I found a problem for myself through my extensive literature survey and decided to do the studies on interaction of Calcium with phospholipid vesicles. I planned to do so by scanning temperature microcalorimetry, and in fact explored to make the instrument myself but even that was not possible. The end result was that at the end of five years when I was really desperate to submit a thesis, I decided to study the interaction of cardiolipin vesicles with calcium using a Toshniwal spectrophotometer and a light scattering photometer the only two instruments I could lay hand on. I tailored the Toshniwal spectrophotometer to record time variance of light transmission, for doing so I experiemented with FET op-amps and the photomultiplier circuit. It goes to the credit of PGB that he allowed me all freedom in the lab. Although PGB was an excellent friendly guide, I learnt how to establish a research laboratory and to persue a thesis topic totally independently only because of him. Ultimately I got a PhD degree from IIT Kanpur after devoting seven years of my life, I also published a single author paper in an international

journal describing a novel method i had discovered for estimating the concentration of phospholipids in an aqueous dispersion colorimetrically. The method attracted a lot of attention internationally as I received more than a thousand reprint requests from over thirty countries. After completing a successful postgraduate program from the most prestigious institute of India and that too with the most prestigious chemistry department, I had hoped that my teaching career would be a roaring success, I had ambitions for working on a topic that I reckoned could at least lead to a nomination for the Nobel, but that was not to be so. Why? My first mistake was my choice of my thesis supervisor, he was not an established scientist who could help me get a faculty position in a leading University, the IITK has/had a policy of not recruiting its alumni in order to avoid inbreeding. My second mistake was that I had become a bit proud of myself. I did not want to do postdoctoral work, with any professor in USA. I tried to be choosy. I wanted to work with some established professor with lots of experience in the subject I had submitted my thesis. If I were not that choosy and applied to many universities in US, the chances are that someone or the other would have invited me to his lab (to work like a Nepali Gurkha) in return after a couple of years of hard work he might have given me a recommendation that would have added weight to my candidature for a faculty position in an Indian University. But I didn't know that! The result was that in the absence of a godfather, I never got an appointment as a faculty member to this day of my life. So what is the moral of the story? Never aspire for a teaching position in a University, unless you have a very influential godfather (or father uncle etc.) who is a senior professor in such a university. Because appointments to the faculty are seldom made on merit, they are only based on the merit (read influence) of the person who supports your application. Next is a career in science as a scientist in a research institute. The situation is no different! After I realized that I could not get a faculty position in a university, I joined CSIR Centre for Biochemicals as a Research Associate, getting a research associate position is comparatively easy. During my tenure of

two years, I was successful in publishing a method for preparative purification of cerebrosides, in Analytical Biochemistry A reputed journal published by the Academic Press. It was the first paper published by anybody in the Centre for Biochemicals CSIR, related to the work in which they were engaged in and I was the senior author of the paper. Still I never succeeded in getting a position as a scientist in CSIR, the Centre advertised for a scientist post, with qualifications no one else in India, except myself, had at that time, But, I was not appointed simply because the position was a bit senior (Scientist E1) and I had only two years of post doc experience in CSIR. But that is not the end of the story, Let me try to tell the rest of the story. After I realized that it may not be easy to get a teaching job, I attempted entrepreneurship. My first attempt was a pipet pump, I saw with someone who had returned from Germany. It is a cute device, I got the mould made and attempted marketing it, with limited success. It is during this phase that one day I met Professor K.V. Sane, one of my former teachers at DU. He was at that time engaged in promoting the fabrication of a low cost electronic instruments for chemistry. They had already developed designs for the pH meter and conductometer in association with Professor P.K. Srivastava. For some reason Prof Sane had developed differences with Prof Srivastava and he jumped at my skills. He invited me to join his group. I resigned from the post of RA at CSIR Centre for Biochemicals and joined him. (that was another blunder of my life as I later realized). I was very quick to pick up the strings (my experience at IITK with the instruments was of great help) and soon was successful in developing a new design for a low cost colorimeter using LED's as light source. The design was very mich appreciated by the members of a workshop organized by UNESCO at Bombay. Soon my efforts seemed to bear some fruits. I visited Bangladesh and Thailand as a sponsored resource person for teacher training ( had developed the entire kit for this purpose). After sometime prof Sane managed to get a national project for training university teachers in Indian Universities. Our first workshop was held at the University of Hyderabad. During the workshop the Head of the Chemistry department Prof Jagannathan, really appreciated my work and he was interested in offering me a job of Reader at UOH, but apparently Prof Sane dissuaded him from doing so, because otherwise he would have lost me. Anyway, I continued with Prof Sane, in the hope that someday he could help me get a job. But, I was mistaken! Soon a post of Reader was advertised in DU, I was invited for the interview, but I could not get the job because a student of the Head of the Department had precedence over my candidature. HOD's have to take care of their research students at every possible opportunity.

After several years serving as a research associate with Prof, K. V. Sane which involved training many university teachers to fabricate electronic instruments (like colorimeter, pHmeter, conductometer etc. and publishing about a dozen articles in Chemistry Education, a journal sponsored by UGC) using operational amplifiers and trips to Europe(Germany, France, UK) and Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, sponsored by UNESCO, IDRC etc in this context, I started feeling disillusioned with the project, because I felt I was not doing anything really useful, teachers invariably forgot all the training after they had finished the workshop, they came largely for the Certificate which they thought was useful in their career advancement. I also started realizing that there is just no hope of a career for me within a University, I decided to explore other avenues. Those days video cassette lending was much in vogue, one could find a video library in every street corner. I thought of a plan to start an educational video library, that is a library of video cassettes from which people could borrow video cassettes exclusively those related to curricular education in Indian schools. It was this interest that led me to meet Rajive Jain, the director of CENDIT an NGO involved in producing and disseminating information about non-commercial video pro grammes. They used to conduct a 20 week long training programmes in which they used to train activists the skills required for making a video program. I joined one such training program to get trained in production of educational video programme. At that time my age was over 36 and I was still unemployed. Anyway, after I successfully completed the training CENDIT received an inquiry for producing some educational videos. Since I was the only person amongst the trainees interested in educational programs I was entrusted with the responsibility of producing three such programs. I successfully scripted and directed these programs and in the process learned all about computer animation too. I was paid about Rs. 60,000 for each program. After that I got another opportunity to direct and script two more videos. Thus I shifted from Chemistry to designing Chemical instruments and then to Video production in a span of about 10 yrs. My foray into video production was indeed fruitful, in a span of about three years of completing my training I directed and scripted 9 video programs for CIET (NCERT)and NOS (now rechristened as NIOS). One of the the very many valuable opportunities that I had as a bonus was the opportunity to learn about Personal Computers. Although I had learnt programming at IITK (I did in fact successfully completed some postgraduate level courses conducted by the Computer science department and the mathematics department) but that was using mainframe computers like IBM 1620 and DEC computers that IITK acquired during my stay there, but those computers required submission of programs on

punched cards or through online terminals; I never learned DOS used in PC. So, when CENDIT acquired the hardware and software for PC assisted video editing, they had no one to install it. I therefore had an opportunity to get acquainted with Windows 3.1 and also DOS. Within a few months I was the expert around. I also learned to use database programs like DBase III, which really paved the way for many later opportunities. While I was exploring the opportunity to start a project for educational video library, I came to know that one of my colleagues at IITK. Dr. Madhu Phull had become a senior scientist at NCSTC. During my discussions with her, I came to know that NCSTC was interested in compiling a database of all resources (software and hardware) related to science and technology available in Delhi and Haryana. I submitted a proposal and the project was awarded to me. The total budget of the project was Rs. 6 lakhs, which included salaries for 10 data collectors. So, now instead of being an employee I was the virtual boss. Ultimately I completed the project compiling 11,000 instead of the 10,000 records originally planned and not using the entire budget either. I did so, even though the NCSTC consultant Rakesh Verma an employee of NIC tried his best to discourage me. In fact Mr. Verma had designed the project in the fond hope that he will ultimately succeed in getting the project alloted to someone known to him at a much higher budget (and in the proccess earn some benefits for himself too), but his bad luck was that I landed up at NCSTC (DST). It was at CENDIT that I learned the basics of multimedia programming and was enthused to register an evening course about programming in UNIX and C++, (I hold a diploma from ET&T in that), I also collaborated with MR. Ashok Singh in the production of a multimedia presentation on Humayun's Tomb (produced by INTACH) and coordinated the compilation of a database on media resources about rural housing and shelter for CAPART. t was at this juncture that I met Professor P. K. Srivastava, the first director of CSEC. He was very interesting in initiating multimedia training at CSEC. He persuaded me to join CSEC as a part-time visiting Fellow with a monthly honorarium of Rs. 6000. He is a thorough gentleman and the best teacher I have come across. Together we purchased a PC with multimedia capabilities and we tried to organize some teacher training program too, but not with much success. While at CSEC I came to know about the answering service, A project CSEC had undertaken with sponsorship from CSIR to answer questions that were posted to be answered by Professor Yash Pal in the TURNING POINT, a science magazine that were telecast by DOOR DARSHAN every week. Professor Srivastave thought that with a large population of research fellow and teachers in the DU science community it would not be very difficult to find answers to questions posed by layman, but that turned out to be a misconception. In fact, even after receiving a monthly honorarium of Rs. 500 ( for finding out answers

of about 20 questions of their own choice) hardly any replies came out from the research scholars (and those submitted were often hilarious and inaccurate), and ultimately it was decided to pay an honorarium of Rs. 25 per correct answer. Even that it did not entice students to submit any answers. Ultimately a database containing answers to about 1200 questions was generated, a very large fraction of these answers were submitted by me. The answers were sent to the questioners by post. After two years, several renewal of the contractual appointment and struggles to get the honorarium in time) I thought that perhaps my rich experience was sufficient to get me a faculty position in the university, so I applied when several positions were advertised for the Department of Chemistry(sometime in 1997) but that too was an unsuccessful attempt because by then I was out of 'academic' circle for too long and the university faculty does not recognize any extraordinary skills (it inly recognizes research experience, measured by the number of publications in a 'reputed journal', a recommendation by an established professor (preferably from a US university) and the proximity to any member of the selection board), in fact one of my undergraduate students ( I had taken tutorial classes for the Ist year BTech students at IITK) was selected. Anyway I accepted the verdict and continued training some of the top brass of DU (which included the Director South Campus (Professor Abhay Mansingh) the nuances of using PC's. After sometime Professor Srivastava realized that CSEC could not afford to keep me (It had no budgetary provision for it) So he being a really caring teacher approached Dr. Ashok Jain, who was then the Director NISTADs and was also officiating as the Director NISCOM to help, and indeed it worked, just a few minutes of an interview (conducted by Shobit Mahajan (whom I had got acquainted in CENDIT) and Dr Gauhar Raza of NISTADS, I was appointed for one year as a Scientist Fellow (grade 4)at NISCOM. (That was under a scheme of CSIR known as quick hire). Within a month I joined the Science Reporter team of editors under the stewardship of Biman Basu. It was the most lucrative position I have ever held, though I was appointed at a consolidated salary of Rs. 9000 per month, it was soon revised to be Rs. 18000 per month plus 30% HRA. Soon I won over Biman Basu, who was initially reluctant to take me in his fold, because of my certain comments during the interview, but I persuaded Dr. Jain to grant us the purchase of a new PC with a modem. Since a direct telephone line was available only in Basu's office, this PC was installed there. He turned out to be a very enthusiastic computer learner, and I taught him the nuances of web surfing within a few days and as I started a new monthly column in Science Reporter entitled CURIOSITY CORNER, in which I answered questions from the TURNING POINT database we had compiled at CSEC, all his reservations about me vanished. Ultimately, I spent three years as the Scientist Fellow at NISCOM (now rechristened to NISCAIR).

During this period I authored about seventy articles that were published in Science Reporter and Vigyan Pragati. Most of my articles turned out to be very popular among science students as was evidenced by the readers response and the enhanced sales of Science Reporter. I started four popular series of articles in Science Reporter: They were: Curiosity Corner: A column in which I asked questions from the TURNING POINT database and fresh questions from Science Reporter readers Computalk: A column in which I taught the readers about using computers. Science on the web: A column in which readers were informed about the URL's of the most informative websites related to a particular aspect of science. IT4U: A column to discuss the relevance of IT to a student. By the time I left NISCOM, (it was not really my choice) I had become very popular and I was earning a monthly salary of about Rs. 26,000 (somewhat close to the maximum salary any other scientist was drawing at that time). I had to leave because the maximum period for a scientist fellow is limited to three years and the maximum age limit is 45 years. When I was appointed I had already crossed the age limit, but because of the goodwill of Dr. Jain and his good relations with DIG CSIR Dr. Mashelkar, I was granted an exemption. Normally any scientist fellow, who has not misbehaved, is generally absorbed in the same institution, but in my case it did not happen, because when my term of appointment neared completion, Mr. V. K. Gupta had assumed the charge of NISCOM. Mr. Gupta was more of a politician rather then an administrator of a science organization. He soon realized that I was more knowledgeable in the matters of IT (the theme he professed to advance in NISCOM) and I would not be subservient to him, sufficient reasons for a politician not to allow a person in the organization who could be a future threat. He really expected me to beg him, but that's something I have never learned in my life. So, in June 2001 I was again unemployed, or should I say self employed. A few months before I left NISCOM, when I was convinced that there is no future for me there, I sent a note to the Director, suggesting that in view of the excellent response, the CURIOSITY CORNER had received from the readers of SCIENCE REPORTER the articles may be published in the form of a book, so that many more people could benefit. I did not receive any reply till I got relieved from NISCOM, but a few months later I was told, that I will need to redesign the content and that NISCOM will pay me Rs. 1500 for my efforts. Just imagine NISCOM used to pay Rs. 1000 for an article published in Science Reporter at that time, an offer of Rs. 1500 for the work on a 300 page book was definitely an affront. So I responded that since NISCOM had the copyright of the content, let the staff

of NISCOM come up with a draft and I will put in my minor contribution for free; an offer that was declined. Such is the nature of the prime national state institute established to promote science communication. Anyway, since I submitted a draft manuscript to the CBT, for a book entitled HOW IT WORKS- THE COMPUTER, (based on my experience in authoring the column COMPUTALK in Science Reporter) the manuscript was accepted for publication within a week. I am told it was a very successful publication (CBT has sold over 30,000 copies so far and has also published its Hindi translation). This led me to explore authoring books as a possible future career while I was looking for a new engagement. (more about that a bit later!) Last year I discovered this website, scribd.com, through my visits on an e-forum called Hypography. One can upload any article one had authored on to this site in a jiffy. I have uploaded all my articles published in CURIOSITY CORNER on this site. Anyone interested can read these articles through the links to the page entitled my docs on this site. The potential of the content can be guaged from the fact that within a couple of months more than 30,000 people have viewed the articles and they have answered the queries of more than 10,000 questions (through google search) so far. That indeed speaks volumes of the un-professional administration of NISCOM (now NISCAIR) in general and Mr. V. K. Gupta the former director NISCOM in particular. Besides attempting to get some work published, I also succeeded in getting a couple of projects from NCSTC courtesy my old friend Dr. Madhu Phull. In one of these projects I compiled a database of over 1000 quiz questions they wanted for their proposed website http://www.vichar.nic.in and another compiling some hands on activities for young science enthusiasts. Together the two work contracts amounted to Rs. 2 lakhs only. I could manage to get these contracts only because Prof. Vijay S. Varma, the director of CSEC at that time, supported the application for the projects. Anyway the ultimate result was similar that of most NCSTC projects, I submitted the work, got paid, but the work never ggot deployed and hence became useful for the people it was intended for. Then, I engaged myself in producing a CD for school students preparing for the CBSE higher secondary examination. I went around the various schools and approached their principals to purchase the CD for Rs. 300 only. I managed to sell about a 100. Later, the next year, based on my experience I produced a set of five CD's called Digital Resource Libraries for school teachers. I was also engaged with M/s S. Chand & Co. in their attempt to produce content for their website stepsindia.com. But none of these ventures were really successful, at best they were instrumental in giving me a useful

experience about the schools in Delhi and the attitude of school teachers. In 2004, CSEC was approached by the Director SCERT Delhi to help them produce science textbooks for the middle level students. CSEC consented and mainly because I was a regular visitor of CSEC and at that time unemployed I was allowed to be a part of the team that authored the content of the Chemistry component of these books published both in Hindi and English, they were titled as 'Karen aur Khojen' and Do and Discover respectively. They remained the officially prescribed text-books for almost four years for all middle school students of Delhi For the past few years, I have been leading an idle life, (maybe I was inspired by the essay "in praise of idleness" by Bertand Russell), because I did not find any job opportunity that would be to my liking. I spent time in compiling the text of a set of books "What, Where, When, Who, Why and How in Science (and Technology)" In these books I have attempted to answer about 500 questions. Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organization under DST (because of my good old friend Subodh Mahanti) consented to publish them more than a year ago. But, the is yet to be published. I also discovered an eforum called Hypography Science Forum, and started posting on it sometime in the last month of 2005. It has been a very satisfying experience. The company of many reasonable scientists was indeed exhilarating. It was this experience that led me to propose to Amitabha Mukherjee, Director CSEC, that CSEC should propose to the Delhi University an eforum for its science community. The proposal took its usual several months to get an approval. Till the end of my association, the approval had to be renewed every six months. Now, I have been without a source of regular income (job?) again for almost 16 months today on September 2011! Why? Sixteen months ago, the Vice Chancellor of University of Delhi, decided to strip Professor Amitabha Mukherjee of the charge of the post of Director CSEC. He handed over this charge to Professor H. P. Singh, as a reward for designing curriculum for M.Sc. Physics when all his other colleagues refused to do so. He was also entrusted with the job of writing off (selling to the waste merchants) many old assets of the Center. He, indeed did that job, but failed miserably to provide any new ideas for CSEC. I offered him several, but he is too self centered and egoist to accept. For several months he tried to pin me down to a 9 to 5 regime, on a monthly honorarium of Rs. 25,000 per month only, a pittance by any account, that is the honorarium I was receiving till he was successful in dismissing me from the post of the Coordinator of Science e-forum called Vimarsh that I painstakingly nurtured for 43 months. At the time of my last visit to CSEC he told me, that he needs a person who would very willingly follow his orders, that is act as an orderly for him.

That's something I can never accept! Now, a bit of my love story too. I think the first girl I loved, was my classmate, the smartest girl in class when I was just 13 years old. Then, it was again the smartest girl in my class while I was an undergraduate student at University of Delhi. Then I think it was my colleague, the other girl research scholar, while I was a graduate student at IITK. I almost had a heart break, but I am smarter, I got over it, after she went to US for postdoctora studies to join my other colleague, who had gone an year earlier. Around that time, the girl, whom I loved in my UG days suddenly reappeared. She came for an interview for a faculty position at IITK, while I was awaiting for the oral examination and final award of my doctoral degree. Our love story, this time quite mutual resumed, and continued for a year, I had my first sex experience with her, but was suddenly terminated because of an indiscriminate, immature remark by me, regarding VD, as I was told by her earlier that she had much sex in her life. The next pause was, perhaps with her friend, I got to know through her. She was in a relationship with another man, after she had divorced her first husband. She later got married to this man also, but their relation soured just about the time she got pregnant. She gave birth to a lovely girl, whom I held in my lap minutes after she was born. For almost 20 years I had a relation with the mother daughter family. Never a sex relation, but a love and care relation. That too came to an end, after an indiscriminate remark by mother. I then almost got settled with my bachelor life, till I met someone on fb, never in real life physically but only virtually in cyber space. I think. I love her, she is a divorced woman with a young son, and I am a bachelor still :) Rakesh Mohan Hallen