Monday, December 13, 2010

Inspirations: Girish Bharadwaj ;The Bridge Builder.

I came across an article in Economic times sometime back about an engineer Mr Girish Bharadwaj building low cost suspension bridges in villages of Karnataka. Last week me and another engineer friend of mine Girinath M Reddy decided to meet him. He was very warm in our E-mail interactions and asked us to meet him on 11 of December 2010.

Mr Girish Bharadwaj is a mechanical engineer from the coastal town of Sullia in Karnataka. He runs his own Fabrication workshop Ayas Shilpa, meaning Sculpture in steel at sullia for his livelihood.
He is better known for his untiring work in building Bridges. He specializes in low cost suspension bridges.It all started in 1975 when Mr Bharadwaj started his fabrication shop. He was approached by the local villagers of Alletty to build them a bridge. He outrightly rejected their request saying that he does not know anything about Bridges. But the villagers persuaded him so much that he had to yield. So he started referring structural engineering books and finally he came out with a suspension bridge design. He somehow erected the bridge but as he says "I could not sleep properly for the 4 months that it took to construct the bridge and i stood at the middle of the bridge during the inauguration so that i am the first person to fall down if the bridge collapses on the load of hundreds of people who had turned up for the ribbon cutting".

He has not looked back from then. Till now he has designed and built 96 suspension bridges. He has a lot more in the pipeline.Girish takes lot of satisfaction in his work of building Bridges. He says the work is all about "Connecting villages, Connecting Lives and connecting hearts". He has had his share of problems with the bureaucracy, with the professors at NIT proof checking his designs.But all that is not deterring his spirits. He says "People in cities do not understand that connectivity is a problem in villages". He put his commitment towards his work very well by quoting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's complete poem "Psalm of Life"

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing, 
With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing, 
Learn to labor and to wait. 

Our conversations were very good and educative. He was very very down to earth. He explained to us the nuances of bridge building particularly in remote areas,the bureaucratic system within which certain things have to be worked out. He was very candid and humble.

My friend is a structural engineer from IIT. So Mr Bharadwaj took out a few designs and drawings to get help from him. We were fascinated by his attitude. Mr Bharadwaj has designed and built about 100 bridges and he was asking our opinion about the next bridge. He kept on saying that he is still learning the art of bridge construction and he was exploring different designs and methods to cut costs. He asked us to study his designs and drawings and to give him feedback.

We ended the day with a visit to one of his foot bridges connecting the village dodderi to the town of Sullia where we could meet a few users. One chap walking over the bridge told us that "Sir, the road to sullia from Dodderi is 8 kms and it is very bad. It was very tough for us to get to the town, the bridge has made it just 2 minutes walk, we can get our daily domestic supplies very easily".

(Pictures of the trip are here )


  1. Nice effort for the villagers !

    I am sure he is revered by the locals for bridging the gap ! Well covered, Sunil

  2. can i get mr. girish contact details??

  3. Thanks a Lot for this Great effort sir and I wish many more successes in Life.