Dr Vijay Joshi found himself on the horns of a dilemma a few days ago.
He'd just received an invitation letter, followed by a phone call, from Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, requesting him to attend Sachin Tendulkar's Order of Australia (AO) investiture ceremony in Mumbai. “How could I say no?” the 57-year-old says, before adding, “but I have work, you see. So I went up to my boss and showed him the invitation letter. And he just said, 'you should be on the next plane to Mumbai!'”
Joshi did just that. On Tuesday, the “proud Thanekar” was part of an elite guest list at the function where the batting maestro was conferred the prestigious honour “rarely awarded to non-Australians”. So why was Joshi there, you'd wonder. Well, he received the same honour some six months ago. For what? For his services to the Australian steel mill industry, and to the Indian community of New South Wales.
Joshi, who completed his civil engineering from VJTI, and later earned a PhD from the University of Woolongong Down Under, pioneered the use of slag for roads and runways in the early 1990s. He was employed by Australian Steel Mill Services in 1991 and was asked to find a use for their large accumulation of slag — a natural by-product in iron and steel manufacturing.
“First, they laughed at me. Then they grilled me, literally. I was asked some 100 questions about the feasibility of constructing roads with slag. A year later, they agreed. And in 1993-94, I built Sydney airport's third runway using slag. Now, every road in Australia is constructed using the same raw material,” he says with pride.
So what did he tell Tendulkar? “Welcome to the club! That's the Aussie way,” he says. Expectedly, Joshi is a cricket nut. He always treats the Indian players to varan-bhaat and other delicacies when they tour Australia. “I have watched every Indian team since 1991. And believe me, they just love Sachin there.” True.