Sachin Shardul, his blood group was print positive

Sachin Shardul, 43, is no more. He passed away on 5 October at Lilavati hospital in Mumbai due to Covid-related health complications. The print technologist, who was technical editor at PrintWeek from 2008 to 2014, is survived by his parents, wife, daughter and son.

09 Oct 2020 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Sachin Shardul (1977- 2020)

My last conversation with Sachin was when he called from Dhule, where he had settled down, to tell me he had planted the Leucaena Leucocephala ("su babul" in Marathwada). Apart from the leaves, every part of the tree is used for making paper pulp. He said, "Sir, it is similar to what the paper giants are attempting at an industrial scale in Andhra Pradesh."

That was Sachin Shardul. He loved to say things like "Johannes Gutenberg would have never imagined that atomic number 13 in the periodic table would revolutionise print". He was not a journalist or a writer. But he had the gift of the gab. He conducted print yatras and lec dems and students training with ease. No PPT, no notes. He could speak in front of hundreds of printers at a moment's notice.

Besides having a keen awareness of all things print, he ran a print help-desk column along with our print production head, Sanjeev Govekar. It was very popular among the technicians and operators and shop floor workers. We received innumerable calls from nooks and corners of the country. The reason? Besides being very helpful, Sachin's knowledge was hands-on. I remember how he changed the plates of a web press in Navi Mumbai at 2 am because of a worker emergency; or how he decoded the tech specs of a calendar or a diary when it arrived on my desk. But beneath the print passion, his heart was that of a farmer.

(l-r) Sachin Shardul and Sanjeev Govekar

His great grandfather was a visionary and dug wells in dry, arid Marathwada. Even today, those wells supply water non-stop for a year. This meant the farm land in Dhule could manage a crop on time, as well as supply water to the village in case of scarcity. This, he pointed out, is not the case with everyone. "Most of the farmers in the area depend on the natural rain. Simple saving of water will be a boon. Every year, millions and trillions of litres of water is wasted after the rains."

When I asked him about the government programmes, he said, "All the yojanas are good theoretically, but useless practically.” Once he had applied for a scheme, which promised seeds and fertilisers at a subsidised rate. The bribe was 50-60% of the value of the goods, which would wipe out the profits. How so, I asked? He replied, "While transporting the crop yield to the market, I pay octroi, the market tax and chiri miri (bribe) for selling my product or yield. Basically, the system is anti-farmer."

His favourite quote was, "A civilisation that does not look after soil is a doomed civilisation. We're on borrowed time, because we're not looking after the soil properly."

Other than his popular print yatras (his most important contribution to the print industry), he had a crazy idea for a library yatra. He shared with the team in an edit meeting that the state of Maharashtra has more than 83 libraries that are 100 years old and more than 9,000 libraries, which are affiliated to the government.

He smacked his lips and shared a short gem with us.

Ratnagiri District Nagar Library
Jaysthumb Khareghat Road, Ratnagiri – 415612.
Tel: 02352-222570

Founded: 1828, No. of Books: 81,000

History: In 1828 some government officials and citizens of Ratnagiri founded this library. In those days it was known as British Council Library, Native General Library. Britishers closed the library for some time, as they thought that the library was supporting the Indian independence movement by providing a meeting place. However, it was through the initiative of the District Judge Khorghat who spoke to the officials and had the library reopened.

Today: The library is in a good position with a lot of different books. Different types of seminars, book exhibitions, debate and various educational programmes are organised in this library. The library undertakes two schemes: first, students who secure more than 80% in their SSC and HSC exams can use the library at free of cost for the next two years; second, during the summer vacation, books are delivered to their homes and students are expected to submit the essay on the same.

We got a green signal from the top management. Sachin travelled to Nashik, which in 1840, got its first library and "the movement of public libraries was born in Maharashtra."

Unfortunately, these are not saleable ideas and we were not able to "monetise" these travels. The series was discontinued.

When I shared the "closure news" with Sachin Shardul, he said, "I am stuck with lost causes: farming, public book libraries and starting print firms in small villages across the country."

He used to say, “Mine is a Khede Gao (tiny rural village in Maharashtra). I see a lot of similarity between the plight of printers and farmers.”

How so, I, once again, asked him.

He replied, "The government and market decide the price structure for each crop. Does the farmer benefit? Does the printer benefit? Never!"

The print ecosystem like the farm lifecycle is a chain. The farmer will produce the crop with the help of all the resources and tools. We, the educated urban people, will not care where the vegetables, grains or fruits are coming from. But ultimately, it is the farming industry (like the print industry), which suffers, and the farmer (like the printer) is the main sufferer.

He said this in 2013 from the public stage. I wish more of us were paying heed to this important lesson.

We shall miss you Sachin Shardul, especially your Ashok Saraf mimicry and ability to explain complex technical jargon in a simple manner. Too soon, my friend, you exited too bloody soon.

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