March 06, 2005

On Electrical Labs

Following is an anecdotic set-up of what happened to us (me and ...) in last sem's Power Systems Viva. Obviously, many anecdotes from other such vivas have been borrowed to make it a concrete story. Read on...

On being Thrown Out…

*Names mis-spelt to protect identity

Two-thirty in the afternoon. And it is dark…my brain. I am trying to console myself-‘you have gone through this before. But…but have you ever before dealt three heavyweights like TKB, AKS and NKK at the same time?’ I looked around for help. None. Relay lab at that hour was more sickening than a government hospital, even though it doesn’t smell, nor does it have the visual impact patients and syringes produce.

There are, as critics believe, four kinds of students who do experiments in an electrical lab- 1. Those who know and have the enthusiasm to do 2. Those who know but don’t do anything 3. Those who don’t know anything but fiddle with something or the other (leading the group into a repeat lab) and 4. those who neither know anything nor do anything. And ours was a group that had a representative each from the four above mentioned categories- Mahish*, Khadia*, myself and A.Lal*- in the order as introduced.

On that fateful day, A.Lal and Khadia were sitting to my right- both as uncertain as me- and Mahish to the left. There was but a small consolation- A.Lal can’t perform better than me. We were sitting face-to-face with three professors, the protagonists of this plot, Prof. AK Sinha, Prof. NK Kishore and Prof. TK Basu. Also seen in this scene are two research scholars, who don’t seem to pose any threat.

NKK, as mirthful as ever, asks: ‘Good afternoon students. So, let us know what you have learnt in this course
A.Lal, always in a hurry to impress : Sir, we learnt Power Systems
Think before you answer idiot. The course name is Power Systems.
AKS, in his scornful tone: ‘Power System! So can I take the liberty of asking anything from power systems?’
‘Sure sir. But we believe, we learnt the most in High Voltage lab’ Khadia says, trying to protect us from two calamities namely Relay Lab and Machines Lab.
‘HV Lab. I see! It seems every group understands experiments done in Instrumentation Lab or HV Lab. So, why don’t you take over prof. Kishore’ AKS says, in a dry satiric tone.
NKK is overjoyed and in his excitement, asks a question on high voltage engineering that leaves us clueless.
A short silence. I was tempted to give an answer but drew back in the last moment as I recalled my strategy- Its relative grading Smarak. Let them give wrong answers.. Just nod your head and wait for the perfect question. They are bound to give an easy question. Grab it as and when it comes your way.

AKS, in the same dry tone: ‘We are expecting an answer’.
Mahish (who else?): ‘Sir, the CORONAA discharge…’ I could feel his throat go dry, ‘In sphere to sphere…better than plane to plane. Like sir, it is…’
We gather the hint and start off. ‘COROONA’ popped out of my mouth in a heavy Oriya accent, but I controlled myself before anything else could slip off my tongue. A.Lal, always eager to tell something, says, ‘Sir, actually what happens, KARUNA discharge takes place because of…because of impurities like moisture and dust particles’ A.Lal’s eyes turn around appealing for a backup but I resolve not to give any. Finally, Khadia starts off. The strong point of Khadia is that he can say anything bogus in a convincing manner and repeat the same thing in multiple gramatically correct sentences. His hands are in mid-air, trying to explain something neither we nor the professors can decipher- ‘The planes are like this…but in case of a sphere-plane alignment, we see that…we find that…”

NKK: ‘Hahaha. So is this what you learnt in High Voltage Lab?’
AKS: ‘You people…you people don’t read books, don’t ask doubts. We give you internet and you start misusing it. Have you ever used it for any constructive purpose? And yes. There is a huge library at the entrance of the main building. Have you ever been there?’
The Library. Oh yes. What better place than journal section to beat the summer heat? The internet thing was limited to a sentence, given the fact that these events took place much before the disclosure.

TKB (at last!): ‘I don’t understand why you are a passive lot. First I thought it is the drudged ness of the campus. But no. You have all sorts of cultural and sports events going on. You have such good facilities. I don’t understand what goes wrong. Do whatever you find interesting, but do something. We can’t force you, but for the time you are here, do something’
AKS: Prof. Basu, these people should be thrown out of this lab
NKK: Oh no! Lets give them another chance. Prof.Basu, why don’t you ask something?

TKB: Ok. What happens when we supply fifty hertz AC instead of DC to a DC Motor?
And Mahish scores! The armature doesn’t rotate due to inertia. AKS gets excited, now that a team member has opened the account and we are expected to follow suit. But alas! That was the last correct answer. They ask us about the armature and field, about the stator and rotor about series and shunt connections and about AC and DC motors, but no pausible answer comes out. Frustration is ripe on the professors’ face, and a hope dawns on me that they may leave us now…

TKB is expected to give a concluding remark. He starts:
‘Is there anyone from Azad Hall here’
I spring up after maintaining a low profile all through. May be I could get some marks on Hall sento. But hey! TKB is a Patel alumnus. Isn’t he?
TKB doesn’t acknowledge me and continues: ‘This happened around ten years ago. A Prof. Mitra was the warden of Azad Hall. A complaint came from DBC substation- at that time, DBC used to supply power to campus- that the halls were consuming more power. The director forwarded the letter to the dean of students’ affairs. The dean sent a circular to wardens of all halls of residence, which included Azad Hall.
‘Prof. Mitra sprang to action and declared that anyone found using items other than one bulb and a ceiling fan would be fined Rs. 5. In a short period, he made many raids and captured many students.
‘This incident happened on one such raids. While checking the rooms, they found a student in possession of a peculiar fan. On being queried, the student replied that the fan was an AC/DC fan. Prof. Mitra said, “You will be fined Rs. 10. Five for AC and five for DC fan”’

Everyone is enlivened by the anecdote, everyone but the four victims. NKK never looked this happy. The research scholars, frust spirits that they are, also chuckle. A smile escapes even from the lips of AKS, who otherwise always puts up an expression similar to prof. Snape of the Harry Potter series. Was Rowling inspired by our AKS? Not very improbable.

TKB: ‘And now the question’ What?Another one ‘What is this AC/DC fan?’
And Khadia scores! AC/DC fan is a series DC fan. Both field and armature voltage change from +ve to –ve on polarity change when AC supply is given and so DC motor behaves like AC! Oh God! Khadia has scored. Even A.Lal, though never correct, has participated in the discussion. I can’t take any chance. If there is any question coming up, I have to answer that.

NKK prompts a research scholar to ask us something. The research scholar starts: ‘You see, in a synchronous machine, I hope you know what power angle is? So…’
Of course I know. I have to answer a question and this is it. I interrupt before he completes his question…
‘Yes. Power angle is the angle between V and I’ I stated.
Immediately, five pairs of eyes rest on me. AKS’s eyeballs are protruding dangerously out of the socket and it seems will fall on me any moment. Hey, what has gone wrong? Ok guys, I repeat my answer…
‘Power angle is the angle between Voltage V and current I’

I know I am a student of immense caliber. A renowned astrologer in Cuttack had said that. But I never had realised I could leave three senior professors of electrical engineering department SHOCKED. There is a half-a-minute silence, sounding more melancholic than a thriller, and A.Lal opens his mouth.

A.Lal is never certain about anything, and starts with a shaky tone: ‘Sir, power angle is the angle between E and V in a synchronous machine’. ‘YES’, NKK yells, and I swear it’s the first time I have seen him yell.
There seems to be a crowd applauding A.Lal’s victory over me. And I could see A.Lal waving back at the crowd. You bloody A.Lal. You opportunistic swine. How come you know the answer?And look…you have devastated me.

TKB, in a resigned tone: ‘Go and call the next group’.
All the same, we are eager to. We rise from our seat and are about to leave the lab when NKK calls back.
‘What is power factor?’ he asks me, but I act as if I haven’t listened.
A.Lal, confident that he is in lieu of his previous victory, answers, ‘V-I-cos-thita is the power and cos-thita is the power factor’
TKB: And what is thita?
A.Lal: ‘It is the power angle. The angle between V and E’
Another silence, this time extending beyond half-a-second and more melancholic than the previous one.
NKK, regaining his composure and sense of humour, says: ‘You were wrong Prof. Sinha when you said these people should be thrown out of this lab. These people should be thrown out of the institute’


manolin said...

nice style of writing...and brilliant humor...i hope you do write short stories..

srikar said... reminded lot of things :)

Ishan said...

just awesome :)