Naren Bhatia was a familiar face before he rejoined the Club this Fall as he is the husband of Past President Nishta. You will find him one of the most interesting people you will ever meet, not only because of his life story but because he is a riveting story teller.
Naren was born in the part of India that is now Pakistan but, in the midst of the pre-partition violent riots that broke out in the area when he was ten years old, his family escaped in early 1947 to what continues to be India. During India’s agitation for freedom from the British rulers, he vividly remembers demonstrating against the British, shouting, “British Go Home”, and even chunking a few rocks at the British police with their pointed guns at the demonstrators.
Naren earned a degree in Physics, Mathematics, and English Literature at age 18, and another one in Civil Engineering in India. He is a very curious person who wanted to travel and learn more about the world. But because of his disdain for the recent Imperialist rulers, did not wish to the follow the prevailing practice of studying in England. He and a friend talked about applying to the universities in the United States – he had not forgiven the British – and in 1962, the year after the friend came to California, Naren followed. He left India with twenty two dollars in travel allowance, attended the University of Minnesota, surviving its thirty four below zero temperature with essentially no warm clothes! He earned his Masters’ degree in civil engineering in 10 months and moved on to the warmer Los Angeles to work in the newly emerging aerospace industry, on designing the tracking system for the planned first U.S. space shot.
In 1965 Naren was invited to a gathering in Los Angeles to meet with the Indian Counsel General from San Francisco, and there he met Nishta, one of the handful of young Indian female students in the United States. They travelled to India to be married in the presence of their families in 1966. Their honeymoon took them around the world from East to West with stops in Moscow and Leningrad in Russia, and in most of the other Iron Curtain as well as the Nordic and West European countries. There were very few Indian travelers then, so Naren and Nishta were subjects of great curiosity.
After working in engineering and construction of papermills on the west coast, Naren landed a job with Bechtel in their Maryland office in 1967. He and Nishta came to Ann arbor to open the Ann Arbor office of Bechtel in 1972. His work took them to Spain in 1975. Their two children were born in Maryland and in Madrid, Spain. The son now lives in Norway and the daughter lives in San Francisco. When Bechtel closed its Ann Arbor office in 1995, Naren and Nishta decided to stay in Ann Arbor. Naren went to work for CMS Generation, a part of the Consumer Energy Group in 1996, until his retirement in 2002. His projects as owners or contractors were spread over sixteen countries in six continents: the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, i.e., every continent except the Antarctica.
Naren heard about Rotary as a teen in the newly independent India. He respects Rotary for its international humanitarian work. He was a member of the Ann Arbor Rotary for a few years in the seventies. His decision to re-join us completes a circle for him. He has not yet decided where to apply his talent and interest in Rotary, but you can be sure his input will be thoughtful, pertinent and valuable.