There and back again. Well, that's that, that's what. We've been there and come back again. Oh yes, I am talking about our trip to the Neyveli Lignite Coroporation Thermal Power Station -1, which is what my title for this post says. This was an Industrial Visit to a power station for us budding computer science engineers. Very much related to our area of study.
A couple of days ago, our AHOD barged into communications class and mumbled something about an Industrial visit to Neyveli. All the students were roused into excitement from their stupor, and started making plans for the trip, but a few sane ones like me worried that we'd not be able to watch the second India v England LOI.
On the day in question, I woke up a little later than usual, intending to flag down the bus on its way to Neyveli when it passed via Tambaram. The mistake I made here was to not rely on the fact that outstation trips never start on time, and wake up later than "later than usual", and not to have completed my breakfast. After waiting for approximately forty minutes watching the peak hour rush wax, I atlast spotted the bus and stopped it...well, not exactly stop it, but at least slow it down so as to facilitate my hopping in.
Neyveli being four hours of travel away, we settled in, and my idea of catching up on some of the sleep I had lost over the past week(I loose tremendous amounts of sleep in waking up early, bathing, eating, and running to catch the bus each day) were shattered by my classmates deciding that this was a time for some fun and starting to scream their guts out. An hour later, we arrived at a small food stall in the middle of nowhere that offered food so sub-standard that even the flies neglected it. The one good drink which I found was a badam-mixed concoction, which I drank with my nose pinched. Of course others who had other things in mind found quality cigars and quality bushes in which to hide and puff away.
Three hours and a couple of deaf ears later, we arrived at Neyveli an hour late for our appointment with the Lignite corporation. The next slot for visitors was another ninety minutes away, and we decided to have lunch-at the bus-stand hotel. Those who had not been satisfied with their cigarettes sniffed out the bars, and the rest is history.
At last the time to visit the real thing came by, late in the afternoon. At the entrance, watchful eyes scanned the visitors for signs of mobile phones, and Raja Deepak was specifically taken aside for questioning. The way this man makes himself noticed at any place is astounding. At the thermal power plant, an employee took us over two flights of stairs, and we entered an innocuous looking door, but we encountered a room so large that it took my eyes some time to get adjusted to the massive dimensions of it. We were standing on a platform, some four stories above the shop floor, which ran all around it. And the noise -oh, the noise was unfathomable. It created an almighty crescendo. Huge signs proclaimed such inspirational messages as "One lapse, life collapse" to the workers. We walked some way around the platform and then entered among the machines, where walk-ways had been provided. Some machines made clanking noises, some whirred, some puffed smoke into the air. It was nice to see a few working voltmeters and ammeters for a change. The walkways were sheets of corrugated metal suspended on flimsy hinges that vibrated like hell. There was nothing more to protect you from crashing into the concrete floor below at a rate of 32 feet/sec/sec. Raman spotted a cupboard and opened it to find a maze of criss-crossing wires, junction boxes, resistors, transistors and what-nots buzzing with high power. After inspecting it(or pretending to) he lazily closed it and sauntered back to join the group.
We next entered the control room, which was a huge relief because it was air-conditioned and was sound proofed to some extent. Where I had expected people hunched over computers making quick decisions and constantly preventing the plant from exploding, I found a few middle-aged men with paunches with their feet on the table. Raman pointed out to the people in-charge that a light called "Alarm" was blinking. The man promptly shooed him away. The operators then started explaining the control-monitoring process to us. Arun asked a few questions which were either terribly silly or extremely geeky. I asked the guy if he knew of any bugs in the system, and was asked to please bring the next few people to the terminal. One of our guys produced a piece of black rock and got it verified that it was a piece of lignite. He shrieked and did an inpromptu jig that would have put the gold prospectors of the American gold rush to shame. We then made our way back out the same way. At this conjucture, Gopinath asked a particularly irritating question about how powdered granite was fed into the furnace, and it was with great will-power that I restrained myself from stuffing him head first into a hole in the alternator-generator. Barath dramatically pulled down a lever at random, to the astonishment of the guys and shrieks from the girls, and a tubelight promptly flickered into life somewhere above.
Next thing we did was visit the mines. We were herded into the bus and were taken to the mines. We were asked to get out at the entrance and walk through the gate. Then the gate was lifted and the bus was allowed in. Then, all of us were asked to get into the bus and were driven away. I still do not know what the idea behind the whole exercise was. We stopped at the view-point from where we could view the massive hole in the ground they'd managed to make. Prashanth made the mistake of remarking that the spot was ideal for bungee jumping, because Raja Deepak promptly launched into an explaination of how the vapour pressure above lignite mines has the tendency to gnaw through nylon ropes. We'd been there barely two whole minutes when we were again asked to get the hell out because some "VIP" and her hen-pecked husband were visiting.
After pushing the bus to get it started,(me standing behind watching, providing moral support) the bus finally roared into life, and all of us jumped in. We stopped at the entrance(without switching off the bus of course) and filled all available water bottles, and started off on our journey back home. The water bottles all ran out ten minutes later.
The guys all felt it was time for fun and began praising our professor-in-charge and started proclaiming him future HOD, Chief Minister, Prime-Minister and even American President in high decibels, while brutally attacking the whole of his ancestorage in lower ones. We stopped three kilometers away from Tambaram, much to the chagrin of me and another classmate of mine who lives there, to wait for the other bus which had a rated engine RPM that was one-tenth of ours. Meanwhile news reached us that the current chief minister was on her way to some of the southern cities on her election campaign, thereby blocking all traffic. With this in mind, Barath got down at Tambaram and with the intention of catching a train to Kodambakam, and the last I saw of him was when he was buying a ticket at the counter.
I reached home, plonked into bed and slept twelve hours(India had won the match-I missed a great half-century by Suresh Raina). Some called the trip a grand success, while others called it a complete fiasco. I do not know where my stand is.
P.S.: ____________ You know it...do I have to say it every time?