(This article is excerpted from the book, The Pioneers – Story of the First Batch of IIT Bombay, 1958 – 1962, by Dr. Sudhir K. Sharma)
Earlier this year (2012) Times of India published an article about modified words, called slanguage in use at IIT Bombay which included some comments about TOPO, a practice of copying homework and machine drawings from classmates. Feeling somewhat slighted by not being acknowledged the inventor of the practice at IIT Bombay, the following exchange took place among some of our classmates.
I wrote to all on February 24, 2012
An interesting article appears in today’s Times of India about IIT Bombay lingo inventions. May be interesting to read.
Our batch was the original inventor of topo, glass topo and everything else associated with topo. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any credit for this invention
The word topo (remember it?) still lives on among students in the halls of hostels of IITB. Maybe the art has been taken to new heights!
I reproduce here treatise on topo from this article:
“Also consider the concept of topo karo or topo maaro, which might emerge as the student invention of the sixties to beat all others, says a student. The term glass topo was IITspeak confined to the lonely, far-flung Powai campus of those years. The underlying funda: An invented wheel needs no re-inventing. So to topo maaro a design sheet or flowchart, one needed two chair frames, a square piece of glass that fit between the two, a lamp lit at the bottom of the chair, one finished product on top and the unfinished product placed above it. An easy trace-over followed for a new wheel to be generated. The idea may or may not have been original, but glass topo, the name, sure was. Topo maar was a quick-fix done the night before submission. But make no mistake, fundas were duly mastered, only later. For there’s no escaping fundas at an IIT. No matter how maxed out you are.”
I feel probably we can claim the onus for Toppo. We had our class mate Venkatraman who nick was named Toppo by two of the eminent examiners namely O. P. Vyas and H. M. Srivastava. They are also our class mates only but were distinguished to award this patented name to Venkatraman.
Now let all the TOPOMASTERS of our batch come out and shed light on the art, science and engineering of TOPO!!! LOL…
Our batch was the original inventor of topo, glass topo and everything else associated with topo. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any credit for this invention in this article! Maybe this needs to be corrected.
Here are the responses received on Feb 25, 2012:
It is great to be reminded about TOPO as without that I would have still been in some corner of Powai Jungles. Topo as described in the article was brought forward from either VJTI or BHU. We might have mastered the art. But sure all of us jointly may apply for a patent and some Padma award.
I am suggesting we apply to Govt. of India for TOPORATNA award, the highest and the best, for everyone in our batch for the service to future generations of IITians.
What about the phrase “TC”? The phrase was very popular and there is no mention of it in TOI!
I feel probably we can claim the onus for Toppo. We had our class mate Venkatraman who was nick named Toppo by two of the eminent examiners namely O. P. Vyas and H. M. Srivastava. They are also our class mates only but were distinguished to award this patented name to Venkatraman. I only doubt as to why the Survey sheets published and distributed by Survey of India calls it Toppo sheet. This toppo sheet of Survey of India draws its name from its literal meaning. It has no connection with the Patent held by Venkatraman. GT is definitely the invention by Institutions which existed before IITB because my mathematics teacher Sri Raghubir Singh (who hailed from Aligarh in UP) used to refer to this term in as far back as 1950 when I was in 6th Class. Eventually Aligarh is legendary for starting all activities like copying, paper leaking, fake certificate printing, fake currency note printing, artificial milk making technique and the list is long enough.
With remembrance and love
As usual Mishraji has presented a masterly thesis on Toppo and the irony is he may be the only person in our batch who did not indulge in Toppo. Any takers?
Oh dear, dear Paddu,
There were a few of us who were topo enablers and not topo doers. They also deserve the same credit as topo doers/inventors. I am suggesting we apply to Govt. of India for TOPORATNA award, the highest and the best, for everyone in our batch for the service to future generations of IITians.
Not just TopoRatna – there should be TCRatna too.
We can’t claim any credit for GT because it was a patent of and rampant in Engineering Institutions before IITB was born. However we can take the credit for the word Toppo. We may recall that Sri Venkatraman, one of our class mates, in IITB (who I heard is no more with us) had personified toppo in himself and was popularly known as Toppo. I do not know what connection Survey of India has with us because all their Survey Maps are known as toppo sheets.
Fundamental and not Funda was definitely one of our proprietary. You may recall Bhagwan Sharan Vijayvargiya of our second batch hailing from Guna in MP recited a poem which read as under:-
“Patra paya Priya tumhara jaise kisi dhadhakti hui building ki aag bujhane ko,
bin bulaye fire bigrade ( not brigade) ki Gadi aa panhunchi ho”.
—————- ———–kintu milunga Director se,
joki bina fan wali ek sarkari kothari men baithata hai,
aur fundamental se ajab nata jodta hai.
(He was requested by his fiancée to come home for Holi for which he recited to meet the Director narrating his attributes and added further that he refused to grant him permission to go home. Vijayvargiya continues to console her by assuring that he will come whether whatever is told by the Director because—)
“Who cares ” “No lift” ka siddhant hai hum chatron ka—— etc, etc.
Bakul Desai (one of the editors of Fundamatics and a later batch Alumni):
I am glad that you have copied us in these emails. In the next issue of Fundamatics, we are running a set of anecdotes collected from various hostels. There were a couple of submissions on topos, but the explanation was missing. I would like to start the narration of anecdotes with your explanation and then bring in the specific anecdotes from other batches. (Would also like to mention that your batch deserves a “patent”.) I would like to mention both your name as well as hostel. Were you in H1 or H2?
I had included you and Damayanti in our emails so that you come to know what we did 50 years ago and the tradition just continues on and on. You have seen some of the responses from my friends on the topic and that should give you an idea of topo origins in our batch. I will send you any other anecdote that I remember later. Alas, topo is in public domain now and we have lost the golden opportunity to patent it. The patent would have expired after 17 years anyway, ha, ha… Maybe as Jugal says we should get some Padma award. I say we go for the highest of all awards: “TOPORATNA” award!
All of us stayed in the first hostel in our first year at Powai (our second year at IIT). In second and third years at Powai, I was in H3 along with Jugal Tandon, Venkatraman, O.P. Vyas, H. M. Srivastava and others (mentioned in Kailash Mishra’s email). Kailash Mishra was in H2. At that time hostels were assigned in alphabetic order of last names, I don’t know how it was done later and now.
I am sure now everybody is totally enlightened about the origins of TOPO at IIT Bombay and the contributions of the First Batch to perfect it are recorded in history for a well deserved place!
Sudhir Sharma joined IIT Bombay in 1958 as a member of the first batch and graduated with B. Tech. (Hons.) degree in Metallurgical Engineering in 1962. He obtained his Masters degree from McMaster University in Canada and Ph. D. in Metallurgy and Materials Science from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA. He spent his entire career in R&D and consulting in iron and steelmaking in USA and is author of thirty five research papers several of which have won best paper awards from the AIST. He is also the author of a coffee table souvenir book titled “The Pioneers, Story of the First Batch of IIT Bombay, 1958 – 1962” which was published last year on the occasion of Golden Jubilee Reunion of graduation of First Batch.