Travails and Triumphs at UNE
arrived in Armidale in June 1964, to take up a Research Scholarship in Physics at UNE. Prof Somerville, head of the department, met me at the airport and enquired about the attire I had with me to combat the winter’s cold. On listening to the contents of my wardrobe his comment was; “Let’s first get you appropriate clothing; only then research”. He arranged to credit the scholarship money for the first month into my account. Next day he sent me with one of the research students to buy winter clothing like thick sweaters, woolen gloves and an overcoat. It was only after I started wearing warm clothing that I was able to take stock of my surroundings and the winter spectacle outside the centrally heated faculty building. The picturesque beauty of the landscape and its slow transformation from stark winter to green splendor of spring is still very vivid in my mind. Prof Somerville had arranged for me to stay in Wright College as I was going to be by myself for the first year. I met the hostel warden, Prof A Treloar, who was a veteran of the Second World War. He
taught Greek at UNE and had a deep understanding of Indian Mythology. I was surprised to see several pictures of Indian mythological figures like Rama, Krishna, Seetha, and Hanuman on his table. I still remember Prof Treloar in his full military uniform participating in the ANZAC Day celebration in the Armidale Central Park. The kitchen staff in the College were unused to catering for vegetarians. They could not understand how an individual could survive eschewing meat: for me this was not only beef, pork and lamb but chicken and fish were also taboo. After my wife Swarna joined me, and we moved to a house, the kitchen staff of Wright College was finally spared from the yea-long sentence they were serving! During the course of my studies in Australia we didn’t have much opportunity to travel so, once finished, we decided to go by train across the continent and sail from Perth to Madras (Chennai) on our way back to India. We were quite excited about the ten-day train journey from Sydney to Perth across the Great Victoria Desert and the boat journey that followed. We
shipped our belongings to Perth for onward shipment to Madras and then by surface to Hasana (our home town) but, barely a couple of weeks before our departure, the Middle East war of June 1967 between Israel and Arab countries ruined our travel plans! Egyptians had deliberately sunk two ships at the entrance and exit of Suez Canal and hence, boats from Perth sailed via the Cape of Good Hope bypassing Singapore and Madras. Thus sank our magnificent travel plan by train and boat. When we left Sydney by plane, we were unsure as to when we would receive our luggage in India. It was eventually taken by cargo boat from Perth to Singapore and then to Madras. Our luggage had the exciting boat journey, which was denied to us! Beginning with studies on ionosphere D region at UNE, Professor Prasad has conducted research on such topics as atmospheric aerosols, solar UV radiation, atmospheric electricity, and greenhouse gases, mostly at universities in India.