My Scientist Mentor

As a student I was captivated by Einstein's theory of Relativity. I read versions of it. Some of it made sense and most of it did not. I hoped he could have explained it a bit more simply. Until finally I found the explanation he had given his grandmother. "When you sit next to a hot oven, a minute seems like an hour. When you are with a beautiful girl, an hour seems like a minute." I revelled in the simplicity of his words and hoped to someday meet a Scientist in flesh and blood who could explain complex things with this beauty of simplicity.

I happened to meet Surendra Shah through a common friend at IIT Bombay. I was searching for cost effective methods of cooling buildings as an alternative to conventional air conditioning. Surendra bhai is a USA educated engineer working as a pioneer in innovative energy saving products several of which have been patented. He combines the techniques used in cooling of heritage structures such as the Taj Mahal with modern technology, resulting in an incredibly energy efficient cooling systems and has won awards by Emerson and BryAir.


He showed me one of his presentations on Structure Cooling and summed up his years of research in few simple pointers.

  • If the temperature of the walls, roof and floor is less than the body temperature, the body will radiate heat to the building instead of absorbing heat from the building.

  • Water can hold twice the amount of heat as same volume of masonry.

  • Instead of pumping heat out of a building through the medium of air, drain heat out of a building through the medium of water.

After the first meeting I felt that I had tasted a drop and an ocean of knowledge remained unexplored.


He designed a system for me using the Radiator of a truck ! which I implemented at Sharanam. During my interactions with him during the design and implementation process, I understood the difference between a teacher and a Guru.


A teacher imparts his Knowledge unto you.


A Guru awakens your own inner Knowledge unto you.


After completing the project, I expressed my wish to learn more from him. I returned to Bombay and walked into his office with this idea. Since I had no background in mechanical and electrical engineering, I thought it would take me 3 months only to get started.  


He handed me a paper on which he had hand-written the following words in Sanskrit :


"Jivo Jivasya Jeevanam"


Life is life of life.


My first class had begun.

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