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Syed Tanvir Wasti. Reminiscences and Perspectives. STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS MUSINGS By Brian Stott. TANVIR, MANY APOLOGIES FOR MY ABSENCE AT THIS CELEBRATION. NEARLY HALF A CENTURY AFTER YOUR FIRST ARRIVAL AT METU.

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Reminiscences and perspectives

Syed Tanvir Wasti

Reminiscences and Perspectives

STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS MUSINGS

By

Brian Stott


Tanvir many apologies for my absence at this celebration
TANVIR,MANY APOLOGIES FOR MY ABSENCE AT THIS CELEBRATION

NEARLY HALF A CENTURYAFTER YOUR FIRST ARRIVAL AT METU


THE CIVIL ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT MUST ALSO BE CONGRATULATED ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

FOR HAVING KEPT SOMEONE WITH YOUR AMAZING ABILITIES IN ANKARA ALL THIS TIME


I met tanvir at metu in 1965
I met Tanvir at METU in 1965 ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

  • I arrived from Manchester for 3 years

  • He returned with his Cambridge PhD

  • He was a brilliantly-intellectual, super-cultured, energetic, fun-loving, witty, charming person

  • His command of English language and literature was encyclopedic

  • In spite of this we became firm friends


BUT, WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

IT IS SURPRISING THAT SUCH AN INTERNATIONAL “HIGH-FLYER” DID COME BACK TO METU FROM CAMBRIDGE


SO, WE WILL HAVE A SHORT QUIZ ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

LET US SPECULATE ABOUT WHY TANVIR RETURNED TO METU

  • Yıldız

  • Wasti generations & Cambridge –“been there, done that”

  • MIT, Berkeley, Caltech –places for monomaniacs

  • Pakistan and its food –too hot

  • Turkey and the METU civil engineering challenge attractive

  • Turkey was a good base for multi-cultural interests

  • All of the above


Silifke ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

Turkey, 1966

1965-8, Elec. Eng., METU.

What a wonderful life it was in Turkey!

Arizona

USA, 2006

38 years later, after UK, Canada, Brazil and 25 kg

Perhaps I should introduce myself


Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of Tanvir from 1965 ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

He does not seem to have changed too much.

But now he is more distinguished, resembling …

An international banker?

A university president?

A top-level diplomat?

A Nobel laureate?

A billionaire industrialist?


NO DOUBT, ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

IN THIS SYMPOSIUM,

TANVIR

HAS ALREADY BEEN ACCUSED

OF BEING…..

ALL KINDS OF THINGS

SUCH AS…..


Renaissance man ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

Cultural bridge-maker

Speaker-debater

Bridge player

Educator

Accomplished

engineer-researcher

LITERARY CRITIC

Warm, considerate friend

POET-WRITER

Historian

Family man

Multi-linguist

Internationalist


So i imagine that at this point tanvir is either
So, I imagine that at this point, Tanvir is either …. ON YOUR RETIREMENT….

  • Suffering his apotheosis with resignation, or

  • Mentally rehearsing a bi-lingual speech, or

  • Feeling slightly ill and looking for the exit


TO TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF TANVIR, HERE ARE A FEW IMPRESSIONS ABOUT THE YEARS THAT WE SHARED AT METU


Our metu 1965 8
Our METU, 1965-8 ABOUT THE YEARS THAT WE SHARED AT METU

  • These were the “golden years” of METU?

    • METU was a national hope and symbol for technical progress

    • It was directly responsible to parliament

    • It had top US-Europe trained Turkish faculty

      • Plus 10-15% foreigners

    • It attracted the brightest and best students

    • Everybody’s enthusiasm was infectious*

  • * Few signs of the world-wide student unrest that reached Turkey in 1969


Our metu 1965 68
Our METU, 1965-68 ABOUT THE YEARS THAT WE SHARED AT METU

  • Rector Kemal Kurdaş

    • A great leader (and what a tree-planting legacy)!

  • Engineering Dean Mustafa Parlar

    • Inspirational, forceful, intimidating but often a “softy”

Side note: the Vice-Rector was Orhan Alsaç, whose son Ongun has remained my research and business partner since 1970


Our metu 1965 681
Our METU, 1965-68 ABOUT THE YEARS THAT WE SHARED AT METU

In Electrical Engineering, the twice-daily faculty tea breaks, often attended by Dean Parlar, took place at a long old table in the dark, damp, uncomfortable basement of the building. The çay had been brewing for hours and was “mature”

  • Campus in the middle of nowhere

    • Quite near Eskişehir, or so it seemed

    • No neighbors, except Maden Tetkik Arastırma

  • Few “people” facilities

    • One horrible cafeteria

    • One snack bar in Architecture

    • A few improvised volley ball courts in the dirt

    • Air conditioning almost non-existent

    • Few refuges for faculty or students


Our metu 1965 682
Our METU, 1965-68 ABOUT THE YEARS THAT WE SHARED AT METU

  • Technical facilities

    • Lab. equipment often on international par

    • One IBM 1620 computer for all of METU

      • Only punched card input, line printer output

      • Much slower than a Palm Pilot today

    • Very good technical library

    • Fairly modern copying equipment


Our metu 1965 683
Our METU, 1965-68 ABOUT THE YEARS THAT WE SHARED AT METU

  • Civil engineering had some of METU’s strongest faculty members

  • Electrical engineering (my department) was also good

    • But the quality of the undergraduate students was superb

    • Sadly, many of the Elec. Eng. class of 1968 now hold high positions in the USA!


Our ankara 1965 8
Our Ankara, 1965-8 ABOUT THE YEARS THAT WE SHARED AT METU

  • A large small town

    • No international class hotels or restaurants

    • No bars, few clubs, one modern café (Piknik)

    • No shopping centers (Gima opened in 1967)

    • All packages from abroad had to be personally picked up at the Ulus post office

    • No imposing edifices along İnönü Bulvarı

    • Kocatepe was not even thought of 


Our ankara 1965 81

We envied Tanvir’s rear-engine VW Beetle, because of its handling on the snow and ice

Our Ankara, 1965-8

  • Summer – bone dry, roasting

    • Air conditioning yok

    • Frequent water cuts – the bath-filling ritual

  • Winter – colder then, deep-freeze spells

    • Award-winning air pollution

    • Car snow-chains often needed for places like Çankaya, Kavaklıdere, even METU


Our ankara 1965 82
Our Ankara, 1965-8 handling on the snow and ice

All this sounds as though the old Ankara was a really unpleasant place

Absolutely not! We foreigners at METU loved Ankara and Turkey

Why? Perhaps because:

  • Turkish people everywhere were so kind and friendly

  • There was a general spirit at METU of being involved in something new and important

  • The country as a whole was so historical and magical


Our turkey 1965 68
Our Turkey, 1965-68 handling on the snow and ice

  • Relative political stability

  • Atatürk ethos still alive – strong public secularism

  • The biggest national project was the Keban dam

  • Much more American influence, then


Our turkey 1965 681
Our Turkey, 1965-68 handling on the snow and ice

  • A wonderland of history and nature

  • Very little tourist industry, e.g.

    • We slept in tents on the beach close by the Marmaris kalesi

    • Göreme was a novelty - we had to find a local bekçi to show us (with an oil lamp) the recently-discovered underground city

    • Kuşadası was dominated by camping

  • Everywhere was extremely safe


Our turkey 1965 682
Our Turkey, 1965-68 handling on the snow and ice

  • Road travel was a constant adventure

    • Inter-city roads two-lane only

    • Kamyonlar were deadly (better now?)

    • Bosphorus crossed only by ferry

    • Incredibly skilled Turkish car mechanics

  • Air travel was good

    • We got a nice new Esenboğa, but

    • Changing terminals at Yeşilköy was something else


Our turkey 1965 68 perhaps one of the best things of all was

THERE WAS NO TV handling on the snow and ice

Our Turkey, 1965-68Perhaps, one of the best things of all was….


The main middle-class pastime was visiting and receiving people at home – several times a week

This was a wonderful “people oriented” lifestyle

Turkish people clearly gave friends and relationships very high priorities in their lives

This was an important lesson for us British


Back to Tanvir - people at home – several times a week

man of equations and letters

I know little about his civil engineering work

But I have a thick file of his erudite historical and literary publications (including a book) in English – and this is a tiny sample of his output


Now, a little less adulation and a few random epithets people at home – several times a week


TANVIR THE EXHAUSTIVE people at home – several times a week

His historical research leads him down some mind-bogglingly obscure paths

Imagine, for instance, searching the world for the English translation from Arabic (only several in existence) of the diary of an unknown 19th century government official in Tunisia

Imagine, moreover, the utter serendipity of this turning up in my local university library!


TANVIR THE SCOFF-LAW people at home – several times a week

In 1966, while he was still inhaling Turkish literature like a vacuum cleaner, he forced me to smuggle a then-illegal Nazım Hikmet book from Bulgaria to Turkey


TANVIR THE HAZARDOUS people at home – several times a week

He has a memory like an

I am periodically shocked

by things he tells me about myself,

from 40 years ago,

that I had completely forgotten

(for good reason)


TANVIR THE GENTLEMAN people at home – several times a week

Despite a very slight tendency to enjoy a good argument, Tanvir is remarkably polite, measured, considerate and a perfect old-style gentleman. Here is an example….


At my parent’s home in Lancashire, England, my (rather sheltered) father tried to educate Tanvir on the meaning of some common English saying, such as

… “a stitch in time saves nine”


Embarrassment sheltered) father tried to educate Tanvir on the meaning of some common English saying, such as

Tanvir nodded seriously and gratefully for this information ….

… while I went green and purple with


Afterwards, I told my father (we do this kind of thing to our parents) ….

..…that was probably the only person you will ever meet in your life..…

..…who could tell you where that saying first appeared in Shakespeare, Milton, etc…..

..…and the same for most other sayings in the English language..…

..…and moreover could give you the etymologies of all the key words through Sanskrit and Old Norse

(maybe I exaggerated slightly … but only slightly)


TANVIR THE GLADIATOR our parents) ….

Did I say that Tanvir has a “very slight” tendency to enjoy a good argument?

Actually, I meant that he loves a good mental-verbal sparring session


On his return from Cambridge, Tanvir’s credential that most impressed us METU British was

Not his PhD – lots of people get one

It was his Presidency of the Pembroke College Debating Society

That was really SPECIAL


Debating, Cambridge-style, most impressed us METU British was

- is a form of bloodless modern dueling,

- using superb command of the language,

- rapid thought and fact retrieval,

- rapier-like wit and humor,

- psychology, and flexible logic.

It is sometimes called….

The shortest cut between two minds, or

Feud for thought


In 1967 we had a visitor to METU, Professor Colin Adamson, who prided himself on his ability to expound and argue on any subject, ad infinitum

We decided to teach this man a lesson

We arranged a small party at the Karadeniz Lokantası (then İzmir Caddesi), and invited Tanvir

Colin and Tanvir immediately locked onto each other like opposite magnetic poles


They discussed and argued for at least five hours nonstop, like the intellectual versions of old-style prize fighters

During this entire time, they remained oblivious to the rest of the party


At the end, Colin was reduced to a numb, silent, vacant, shell, with seized-up vocal cords and a glassy stare….

….while Tanvir continued to expound non-sotto-voce on the latest subject that they had chosen to discuss

I, Brian Stott, do solemnly swear that the above is completely true and not at all exaggerated

We took Colin home, put him to bed, and he was well recovered after several days


Well, Tanvir, it looks as if you have broken through the retirement barrier with flying colors

Though it’s difficult to imagine you just sitting on your laurels


Affectionate congratulations from retirement barrier with flying colors

me and Patricia,

and no doubt from all your many other friends and admirers.

Love to Yıldız, Nazlı (+) and Arzu


Tanvir, thank you for everything over all these years retirement barrier with flying colors

This ends my message


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