Sir M Visvesvaraya, popularly known as Sir MV, was an engineer, statesman, and scholar who served as the Diwan of Mysore during the period of 1912-1918. The birth anniversary of Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya is celebrated as Engineer’s Day on September 15 every year. Called the builder of India, Visvesvaraya was born in 1860 in a small village to a poor Telugu family in Muddenahalli, near present-day Bengaluru.
There are so many lesser-known facts about Visvesvaraya who was knighted in 1955 as a Knight Commander of the British Indian Empire (KCIE) by King George V for his contributions to the public good, and hence the prefix ‘sir’ to his name.
In fact, September 15 is not only celebrated as Engineer’s Day in India but also in Sri Lanka and Tanzania in his memory. He is held in high regard as a pre-eminent engineer of India. He was recognised for engineering the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam situated in Mysore (Mysuru), and was one of the chief design engineers for bringing up a system for flood protection in Hyderabad.
At the age of 12, Visvesvaraya lost his father. He completed his primary education in Chikballapur. Then for his high school education, Sir MV came to Bangalore. In 1881, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in Arts from the Central College in Bangalore, affiliated to the Madras University, he pursued engineering from the college of Engineering, Pune. After his graduation in 1884, he found a job with the public works department(PWD) of Mumbai and joined as an assistant engineer. He designed and carried out the waterworks for the Municipality of Sikur in 1895.
He is credited with the development of the Block System which would prevent the wasteful flow of water in dams such that the automated doors could close in the conditions of overflow.
Sir MV was famous for his timeliness, intricate ideas, dedication and also played an important role in promoting the Kannada language.
India’s engineer prodigy breathed his last on April 14 in 1962, five months short of his 102nd birthday.
Here are some ineteresting facts about the pioneer.
1. Sir MV always gave importance to facts and figures and loved statistics. When he published a book Reconstructing India in 1920, he mentioned that India had 19,410 post offices at that point in time. It is also said he was unmoved by oratorical skills and laid emphasis on facts and facts alone.
2. Sir MV was asked to resign as the Dewan of Mysore in 1918 when he openly opposed reservation in government services as he was a strong advocate of meritocracy and wanted schools be opened for children of backward classes.
3. Sir MV had a peculiar habit of using two candles at his home — one for official work and another for personal use.
4. Sir Visvesvaraya used to indulge in healthy and constructive debates with the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The engineer felt that the Centre was trampling upon the federal rights. But Nehru empowered the capital and did not give much thrust to real autonomy to the states. Sir MV would also write many letters to the then Prime Minister.
5. Sir MV was never perturbed by the thoughts of death. Nearing his 100th birthday, when he was asked the secret behind his longevity, he is reported to have said, “Death called on me long ago but found me not at home and went away.”
6. It is said that in his last days, Sir MV had a bank balance of Rs 36,000 after he had distributed money to his workers including gardeners and his personal cook. He had a strong notion that his family should stand on their own feet.
7. Once Sir Visvesvaraya received a letter from his friend asking for a place to stay for a few days. Visvesvaraya made arrangements for his friend to stay at the government guest house by paying a month’s rent of 250 rupees.
Here are some inspiring quotes from the legend.
“Mental energy is wasted in caste disputes and village factions.”
“It is better to work out than rust out.”
“Self-examination not moral or spiritual, but secular – that is, a survey and analysis of local conditions in India and a comparative study of the same with those in other parts of the globe.”
“Remember, your work may be only to sweep a railway crossing, but it is your duty to keep it so clean that no other crossing in the world is as clean as yours.”
“If you feel that by giving this title, I will praise your government, you will be disappointed. I am a fact finding man.”