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Lessons Learned: An Appreciation - Emeritus Professor S. Mahalingam

Original Article: An Appreciation - Emeritus Prof. S. Mahalingam


I thought the above article written by one of our Past Presidents, Eng. Newton Wimalasuriya carried many lessons for us that are timely. Our respected teacher still has something to give us and Eng. Wimalasuriya was brilliant in highlighting them, allowing the reader to infer! So what is that I inferred:


Prof. Mahalingam's dress: I find it amusing when we harp on wearing ties in this humid country ( a colonial boondoggle) Our teacher knew what to wear, wear it well, and clean. A pleasing site to the eye than an unmatched dirty tie and a sweaty long sleeved shirt with body odor trapped inside the covered up body. Eng. Wimalasuriya was astute enough to show case how our late Professor was dressed inside his coffin; same elegance, simplicity, and beauty. We should be proud Sri Lankans who should know how to dress for the country's environment. The idea is not to debunk any attire but know when to wear them "well" and "related to the environment" because a dress is to protect from the environment, the rest is secondary.


Debunking the myth about the "jet engine" All those yarns we weave in normal lives to glorify ourselves. An apt lesson from the great man and I salute Eng. Wimalasuriya's wisdom to bring out the real story boldly!


The Professor was a Civil Engineering graduate. Yet the Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department! I firmly believe there is a lesson here for the IESL members to consider. Our traditional silo approach - by undergraduate degree that defines our Charter - towards the operational affairs of the institution should be reconsidered in this day and age of fusion engineering. As an example of this I like to highlight the bylaws that prescribe degrees to be a Sectional Chair instead of the actual engineering work done by a candidate after graduation. Look at an electric car, a fusion of material, electronic, mechanical, IT, psychology, biology, economics, etc., and not the bastion of mechanical engineers anymore (even the combustion engine is gone!) At IESL we must look at the engineering work done by our engineers over a period of time ( today we work in many fields) and based on their accomplishments should decide their suitability for various roles. The unstated assumption that we have stopped learning ( new disciplines) after graduation or continue to learn the same discipline is not very accurate in this day and age! Also, a formal degree is only one way of establishing credentials. Years of field accomplishments in other areas do not come with luck, they come with lots of real learning and education. I think the younger members could easily see my point because even the stagnating Sri Lankan job market has changed over the last decade or two. Public Lectures should not be organized purely on the basis of what we know, instead, they should be organized to learn things we don't know. All engineering topics are fair game for any sectional committee. Professor Mahalingam was a great example of how a curious mind can explore anything and get great at it!! That's what engineering is all about.


Professor Mahalingam's hands on approach to engineering and respect for the dignity of labor - Funny we even talk about it because that should be the only approach to engineering, get things done rather than writing about it or talking about it. Yes, may be after doing something of value we can write or talk about it. What really came out from Eng. Wimalasuriya's article is our respected Professor's inspirational leadership among rank and file. Today in our day to day circles (offices, institutions, etc.) we use humans with talent to read our emails, bring tea, carry bags, serve food, etc. Only handicapped people do that in developed countries ( even they have means to get things done now) or developing countries. We must move with times through our lessons, newly acquired skills, tools, and knowledge. What is amazing to me is that some of us with worldly exposure wonting to maintain what our conquerors ( British) left, long after they (conquerors) changed for the better.


Eng. Arjuna Manamperi
IESL Council Member
Chairman IESL - Mechanical Engineering Sectional Committee - MESC
MESC Twitter : @iesl_mesc

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