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September2012

Remembering Prof. M N Fauqui

What can I say about someone who has been a teacher, a guide, a friend, a philosopher, an elder brother, a father figure for me for most of my adult life. It seems to me like “mere sirr sa haath uth gaya hai”.

I joined IIT Kharagpur when I was 16. I met him probably when I was 18 and he has been a key part of my life since then. I remember walking into the line communication lab in my 3rd year with Prof J Das, Prof M N Faruqui and Prof Maskara. I (and a lot of my class) had gone to Kharagpur to become Electronics Engineers and this was one of our first classes in the department. The Professors dismantled the Teletype machine (I think it was an ASR 33) into its approx. 1500 parts and asked us to put it together again and make it work. Obviously this did not happen. We could not even put it together. Prof J Das really ticked us off. He said we were wasting his time and we would never become engineers. I remember Prof Faruqui consoling us after that and telling us not to take it to heart and that these failures happen and we should work harder and smarter next time and surprise everyone. A simple lesson, but something as an 18 year old I have never forgotten and still try and treat failure as my stepping stone to the next achievement.

You may remember that to graduate in ECE, in my time, you had to have read the “Old Testament (Radio Engineering Handbook by Terman) and the “New Testament” (Switching Circuits by Millman and Taub). It has been over 42 years since I graduated but I still remember these books like it was yesterday. Prof Faruqui took our Switching Circuits classes. At that time it was another course that was taught well. Only when I went to work at DCM and got involved in their Electronic Calculator group in the commercial area, that I realized that I knew as much or more about the circuits and design of these switching circuits (that were the core of those machines) than my friends in R&D. This put me in a unique position with the Executive Director of that division as I could demystify the electronics and also give him a commercial view of the matter. I realize now that it was the Switching Circuits classes and knowledge that allowed me to be in this position. In fact, that exposure to strategic decision making at a large company, when I was 22 years old, probably played a vital role in my having the confidence to start HCL as a 25 year old some 4 years later in 1975.

When we started Microcomp (the forerunner to HCL) in 1975, we initially decided to trade in calculators, make some money and invest it in developing our own computers. You may remember those were the days when the word entrepreneur did not exist and we all lived in a socialist license raj. Job security was the most important thing. I am not sure Prof Faruqui quite initially approved this change I had made. He rightly felt I should have pursued an academic career (which is what I had planned in Kharagpur). But as the business progressed and HCL grew I saw not just approval but also joy in the success of his student. You do not very often see teachers happy about the success of their students but I have to say that not only did I see this but I received a lot of advice and encouragement. I remember visiting his lab in Kharagpur 5 or 6 times a year and he would always have me see the work that was going on and invariably pull me into some technical discussion. I used to always wonder what value I was adding as I had been away from the technical field for many years. I realized later that he was trying to make sure I did not just become a “salesman” but had my “fundas” clear.

I know he has done this not just with me with a number of his students over time and I have them tell me about this. It is these things that made him a great human being. Someone I (and I am sure many others) will sorely miss. I could go on and on about what he did when he was Deputy Director at IIT Kharagpur, at IMT, at AMU etc. sometimes I really feel as a country we do not recognize our real role models. Then I feel I was fortunate not to have to share his time and wisdom with so many other people and was able to spend time with him when he came to Delhi over the last few years.

His passing away has left a void in my life that I know cannot be filled. The circle of life says that all of us who are born have to go at some time. We know this deep inside us. It just does not make it easier even knowing this. My deepest condolences to everyone in his family. Even now somewhere inside me the fact that he is not with us has still not sunk in.

– Arjun Malhotra (1970 ECE RP)

Prof. M N Fauqui was an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur (1952-1956). From 1958 to 1990, he was a member of the Faculty at IIT Kharagpur (including a few years as Deputy Director), after which he became the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. Prof. Faruqui recently passed away in Kanpur. Prof. Farqui is survived by his wife and two children.

More about Prof. Faruqui:

Posted by: Arjun Malhotra @ Sep 11, 2012, 1:05 pm PDT    Filed under: Alumni    Add Comment »