After Balaji Vishwanathan probably Gopalkrishna Vishwanath is now the most admired Indian on Quora, an online portal for knowledge givers and takers. In such age when we see old men seeking nirvana with holy scriptures or enjoying their post retirement lives this Engineering veteran is scattering his valuable Insights with the youth of this generation. He is known for his skills of amalgamating his bold thinking with the life experiences he gained through years in a very interesting manner through his answers. Gopalkrishna Vishwanath: The ‘Indian Grandpa’ of Quora
It’s a matter of immense pleasure and honor for Gyan Please to publish his interview in completely his own narration and o be true we really don’t have words to describe this amazing man. So, with this Interview, we tried to consolidate some insights of his seasoned mind that evolved so beautifully with time.
Tell Us Everything about Gopalkrishna Vishwanath that anyone wants to know? Except Writing what are your other interests?
In India, I have lived in North India, South India, and West India. My mother tongue is a dialect of Tamil with a knowledge of Hindi, Gujarati, and a bit of Marathi too (I have now forgotten them). After settling in Karnataka, I picked up Kannada and can manage to engage in routine day to day conversation in it.
Left to Right
1. As a student at BITS Pilani 1970
2. On the Day of Marriage
I was born and I grew up as a South Indian Hindu Brahmin in a village of Palakkad (Kerala) but moved to Mumbai with my family. I studied for 11 years at Don Bosco High School in Mumbai and later for a year at Elphinstone college. At the age of 18, I moved to BITS – Pilani for engineering, in Rajasthan (1967-72). For the next two years, I was in Roorkee, in Uttar Pradesh (now Uttarakhand) doing my Master’s in Structural engineering at the University of Roorkee (1972-74). My first job posting was in Bihar, at Bokaro City at the steel plant (now Jharkhand). I later moved to Bangalore City in Karnataka, settled down there and built a house.
from Left to Right-
1. In his thirties, at a construction site office 1989
2. At the peak of career as Structural Design Engineer, 1995
I used to be a voracious reader but now read on the computer screen mostly. Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two books that I have read the maximum number of times and sometimes still do. I have also closely followed RK Narayan’s work but at the same time, I found novels of Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes stories, Dickens’ literature, plays of Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw and modern classics equally interesting. In Hindi, I developed a taste for Premchand. I also read the popular pulp literature from Gulshan Nanda and plays by Mohan Rakesh.
Undoubtedly I am a crazy movie buff! I watch movies in all those languages that I can speak and comprehend!
The only permanent hobby I have had is writing but at various stages, in my life, I have dabbled with much more.
During my boyhood, I used to read a lot of comics and cut out and pasted every day a comic strip (Batman, Tarzan) from newspapers at the end of the day and over a period of time it turned out to be one single album. My most precious such collection was Laxman’s cartoons.
I dabbled with musical instruments and went to a local Ustaad for training during my free time when doing my Master’s degree at Roorkee. Now my only hobby that has completely bull-dozed all other interests is answering Questions on Quora.
With around 38 years of professional experience, it won’t be wrong to term yourself an ‘Epitome of hard work and dedication’. How was your working experience as a Structural Engineer? and more importantly were you satisfied with your profession? Steel Industrial buildings designed by Mr. Gopalkrishna
After obtaining my Master’s degree in Structural Engineering from Roorkee, in 1974, I joined MECON Ltd. at Bangalore.
For the next 28 years, I was totally involved, in analysis and design of steel structures in heavy Industrial buildings. The work included preparation of technical specifications, project reports, cost estimates, preparation of design drawings, approval of fabrication drawings, tender scrutiny, inspection of fabrication and designer’s supervision of erection at the site, checking and certification of quantities and bills and finally conducting preliminary and final acceptance tests. I have also traveled abroad and was posted in Korea for 3 months and visited Finland.
Starting as the junior-most executive, I rose to the level of the head of the department in the 28 years of my career. My job satisfaction was total during these years.
Steel structures detailed by his team -1 Steel structures detailed by his team -2
I resigned my job as Deputy General Manager in 2002 and worked as GM in a private company for the next 2 years.Then I quit that too and set up my own design and detailing firm in 2004 and for the next 9 years was involved in preparing fabrication drawings of steel structures and doing connection designs for overseas clients using 3D modeling software.
I sold my company and retired for health reasons in 2011.
You’ve been to places in India and overseas both. What unique things did you observe that you want to tell our readers?
Yes, I have been in Korea for three months, and spent a week in Helsinki in Finland, spent a few days in Singapore and spent 2 and half years in the USA in five visits so far.
Boarding the Samsung Bus at Korea -1995
All the trips to the USA were private family trips and my experiences there are so numerous that it may need a book to record them. Still, I would say spending more than 2 years in America changed me a lot. I now believe I enjoy the best of both. Modern America and traditional India.
At Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Korea was a completely new and fascinating experience. I worked in the Shipbuilding yards of Samsung Heavy Industries there. The highlight was the food problem for a vegetarian like me and my total inability to speak the language. Outside the office, I managed with gestures and sign language to communicate.
The Singapore visit was a private one while transiting back from Korea to India.
I visited Finland for a project kick off meeting and finalizing parameters. All that I remember now is that it was the coldest place I ever visited and the loneliest and sparsely populated. I hardly saw any people on the streets and markets and shops and offices there and the contrast was stark for a person coming from India.
In Helsinki Finland for a project meeting
I am looking forward to a trip to the UK soon.
As you’re now very famous on Quora, we would keenly want to know how were you introduced to Quora, especially when you didn’t have any distant connection with Social Media? Also, how is your experience with Quora till date?
Before July 2015 I had not heard about Quora. I happened on Quora when in a Google search, the first link thrown up by Google was an answer from Quora. I did not think too much about it but I did find it useful. A few days later I had occasion to do a similar Google search on some other subjects and I found that invariably Quora answers were among the top few that Google indicated. I got curious and then decided to check out this site. I fell in love with it immediately. That was how I started my journey on Quora sometime in July 2015.
His Quora Profile
I answered my first question on July 15, 2015. It was ignored by everyone. Two months later, I tried again and answered two more questions which met the same fate. I tried again a month later in October and this one was noticed by a few and that motivated me to keep trying with at least one answer every day and the results showed some improvement. My first big success came on November 9th when an answer of mine got around 41 K views. That gave me some exposure among Bangalore based Quorans and thereafter my figures improved gradually
After being declared a Top Writer in March 2017, my figures have increased significantly and today I am adding nearly 250 followers a day on an average and my monthly views number close to 3 million. I have accumulated 23 million views so far in two years and I have over a million upvotes. I have been adding followers steadily day by day and today I have about 70.5K followers and still counting.
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Being such an experienced person, what are the major differences you noticed between your time of youth and the current Generation? How do you see this transformation?
A few differences that I can readily list are:
- The current generation is more tech savvy than we were but that is because there was very little to be savvy about. We didn’t have computers, calculators, TVs, smartphones etc.
- Our generation was better in the use of our native languages than the current generation. We read a lot more than what the modern generation is doing.
- Hardly used our thumbs unlike any youngster of today who is busy texting with his thumbs.
- We were healthier than the current generation. We went out of the house more often, breathed more fresh air, played more outdoor games.
- Our generation consumed less junk food than modern youngsters. So many foods were not available as now.
- Also, socializing was a real life thing, unlike today being friends on Facebook.
- We wrote letters using pen and paper, not type text messages on smartphones in SMS lingo
- Reservation was never such a hot and emotive issue for us as it has become for modern students.
- Peer pressures and parental pressures to excel in academics were not so severe. The tensions that modern youngsters go through just to get that extra one percent that can make or break one’s career did not exist and crush us like they do the modern youngsters.
- And finally, the mixing of the sexes was rare. We were conservative. Boys had boyfriends. Girls had girlfriends. Dating, making out, and pre-marital sex was far less common than today.
At Such age when people prefer to chant at home and read only holy books, you’re writing answers online and guiding people, what makes you write and that too regularly?
With Cricketer Venkatesh Prasad
I was never an over religious person. While I do believe in God, I am not hidebound about religion and rituals. Today I identify myself simply as a Cosmopolitan Indian. I mix freely with people of all nationalities and races.
Although I don’t routinely do ‘pooja path’ I have no issues with anyone else who does.
I respect the scriptures and follow whatever appeals to me and discard what I feel is irrelevant today. We visit temples on occasion and participate in group worship. I also join the family in observing the festivals without doing the rites myself.
The only thing today I have in plenty is time and my knowledge in some subjects and my memories of life and all types of experiences which I can share. Sharing these experiences and my knowledge enables so many people to benefit without my losing them. Knowledge is a great asset.
Once I got introduced to Quora, the sheer pleasure kept me going. It was not the recognition from my followers that makes me addicted to this site. I have an addiction for the same even before. I believe I will be here as long as Quora exists or I exist and am physically able to participate.
Finally, my choosing to spend so much time here does not deprive me of opportunities to chant or read holy books. I do that also occasionally. Doing social work was an option but even now I can claim to be doing some social work on the internet.
May be others feel I am not outgrowing these interests and am still materialistic. I don’t believe so. There are no material rewards for answering questions on Quora. The love of thousands of young Quorans for me gives me the pure satisfaction and that is actually my reward.
How does your family deal with your writing addiction? Do they get upset or irritated with this habit, especially your wife?
If anyone is likely to be affected by Quora it will be my wife and there is an uneasy truce on this issue between the two of us. I don’t neglect household responsibilities. I attend to all domestic chores assigned to me. In fact, I am always ready to interrupt my Quora session and chauffeur her around whenever she wants it. But the rest of the time I choose to spend on my laptop and I tell her that as long as I discharge my share of the household responsibilities she should leave me alone and not interfere in my hobbies. The only restriction on me is that I must not sit late at night.
I don’t interfere in what she does with her time. My wife is an office bearer of our Apartment Residents Association and also in charge of garbage segregation. She played a leading part in enforcing this in our apartment complex of 220 apartments. She attends to other household responsibilities and only uses me as her kitchen assistant.
My son and daughter pass on a constant warning of not revealing any information about them on any public platform, saying that they value their privacy. I respect their preferences and do not talk about them much except in General terms.
As regards relatives, very few are aware of my activities on Quora. Those who know show no interest at all. Ghar Ki Murgi, Daal Baraabar, as the saying goes, in Hindi!
Some of them read some of my posts accidentally and messaged me about them.
We do come across the stories around us where the younger generation does not agree with the thought process of their grandparents and vice versa. Was it also challenging for you to keep up with the pace of the current generation?
with fans at Cuban Park
This is true of any generation. The Major ones I noticed
- Our previous generation did not approve of intercaste and love marriages but we are much more tolerant today.
- Beliefs in customs and things like astrology were stronger and the next generation always believes less or not at all. That trend is continuing.
- The previous generation was more religious and the next generation was less so. That trend is continuing. Soon there will be more atheist than theists.
- There has always been a clash in the matter of dress styles. That continues today. The dresses, particularly for girls, are becoming less and less conservative these days.
- The biggest change in thought process I have noted is that parents are now no longer assuming support from their children during old age and are increasingly taking steps to protect their assets and not gifting them to their adult children assuming that their needs will be taken care of by the next generation. But at least they are still funding the education of their children unlike in foreign countries.
I foresee the next generation leaving their children to fend for themselves and earn their own money or borrow to fund their studies. Parents will no longer bankrupt themselves pledging their houses for spending on Engineering/Medical education or sending them abroad.
You seem years behind your age because your thought process( that we see in your answers) indicates about a person in his thirties. How did you condition your mind so well?
I really don’t know. I think I am like this by nature because I conditioned my mind by reading, traveling to different lands and observing how people in other countries live and what they think of us.
It’s really hard for me to share interests with average 60 or 70-year-old and many in my age group consider me perhaps a little immature and not being dignified and acting my age. I just shrug it off.
I am unable to continue a conversation with most of my peers (in age) in the apartment complex I live in. The topics soon veer around to ailments, whining about the government rules, falling interest rates, inadequate pensions, rising prices, and the rude behavior and lack of manners from the youngsters around them, talking about their past achievements and wondering how the world will survive after they are gone!
Very few are truly techno savvy and most don’t even want to enter this new world. Somehow some of them have managed to use a smartphone but they use less than 10 percent of its capabilities and seem satisfied and don’t even want to know more.
My worst experience was with a person in my age group bitterly criticizing me for ‘misguiding’ the younger generation and my inability to convince him that I was right in siding with the modern youngsters in some matters.
I now live with it and don’t expect to convince them
Any life changing incident that transformed your life? If yes, what was it? What changes did it bring for you?
Yes. My heart attack in 2010 followed by another mysterious ailment that kept me bedridden for nearly 6 months. Till then I thought it happens to others only.
I had lived a clean life. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. How can anything like this happen to me?
But it did. It changed my life style and food habits. It ended my career and forced my retirement from my profession after I ran into some more problems and realized it was foolish to fight both serious health setbacks and other circumstances over which I had no control.
Life improved in quality, drastically when I stopped working and planned to live with what I had and adjusted my lifestyle to suit. The mysterious ailment vanished as mysteriously as it appeared and I am sure it was not due to any medicines or doctors/specialist’s advice. They were as clueless as I was.
What are the most annoying habits you noticed in this generation that you really want to correct?
The ones I noticed most frequently are:
Using their cell phones while driving particularly two-wheelers. They keep the instrument on the shoulder and hold it pressed against their ears and their shoulder by tilting their heads sideways.
Walking and texting at the same time.
Their obsession with social media and keeping their smart phones near their pillows and checking at nights, early mornings and all unearthly hours and even when sitting on the toilet seat for reactions for anything and everything they may have posted on social media.
You’re happily Married since last 41 years when people these days fail to touch even a double-digit mark after their wedding. How did you manage your relationship so well? Any Important lesson you have for newly wedded couples?
Recent Pic with Wife and Grandson
Here is a joke.
What is the secret of long and successful marriage?
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays let the husband do exactly what his wife wants.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and Sundays, let the wife do exactly what the wife wants.
She will be happy. He will stay married and together they will live a happy married life.
And now seriously:
My message to newly married couples:
Don’t expect a life of continuous bliss after marriage. Just as you did not expect one before marriage. Honeymoon periods are notoriously short.
Marriage is not a solution that brings you happiness if you did not have it before.
Marriages never fail. The married people fail in working out a satisfactory relationship.
It is true for both a love marriage and an arranged marriage. Both have equal chances of success or failure and it depends on the couples themselves. You have to put in a lot of work to make your marriage work out well for both of you. One hundred percent success is an impossible task if you get 70% or more in your marriage, It’s completely normal. Between 50 and 70 percent satisfaction, you both need to work on your relationships and make suitable compromises. But you can still make it work.
If it is less then be ready for a lifetime of unhappiness.
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