Shri Satyapal Mayor was born on 27th May 1925 to Shri Satyapriya Mayor and Smt. Lilavati Mayor. He was the second of four children, the first being Shri Satyadev Mayor and the other two being Shri Satyakam Mayor and Smt. Kumari Sawhney Mayor.He was born at Queen Mary’s Hospital in London and the family lived in Ilford Essex. Satyapal, Satyadev and Satyakam were educated at the prestigious Mercer’s School in Central London. After completing his schooling he proceeded to win a scholarship to go up to Oxford University in 1945 (after Armistice day) to study Engineering.But in the interim the war effort was on so he decided to be a part of the war effort (2nd World War) and therefore enlisted in the Royal Navy. In hindsight this must be where or even before where his love for water and it’s possibilities lay. He joined the Greenwich College for Naval Officers Training (situated on the Greenwich Meridian) and passed out with flying colours as a Captain.
Captian Mr.Satyapal Mayor -Greenwich College for Naval Officers
In the photograph that we have of him, he is the only non-white face in his entire batch of sailors. He was sent to captain a ship HMML Ulysses which was a mine sweeper – a dangerous job but which he undertook with bravery. This involved identifying and spotting sea-mines laid by the Germans and shooting them before they got to the ships. He captured German’s and as the custom was in those days the capturers were allowed to confiscate the captive’s weapons. But, he abhorred violence and was known to dispense with Lugers by throwing them into the sea. At Oxford, which he joined in 1945 he made many friends which included masters of espionage, historians, anthropologists, art dealers, orientalists, businessmen and so on. After graduating from Oxford in 1948, he went on to study Hydraulic Engineering at the Imperial College in London.
Graduating from there in 1950 he immediately secured an internship with General Electric and was sent on a mission to India (his first exposure to what was to become his re-found homeland) to install the Hydroelectric Turbines at Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu. From his sailing days his love for WATER continued but there were some digressions along the way in the form of love, work and dilemmas. On his return to England after Mettur he realised that he wished to be of service to modern Independent India. He joined the Bombay Company – a relic of the East India Company – a trading commodity dealing with trade between the UK and Asia. He was posted to Chennai in 1952 where he lived in great style at an apartment in Pyecroft Gardens and very soon became a part of the a la mode of Madras society. His brother Satyadev by then was married to Gita Sarabhai whose sister in law Mrinalini Sarabhai famous danseuse (and sister of the great Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal) who was married to Vikram Sarabhai, was the cousin and close confidante of Vinodini Menon who was soon to become his wife. They married in 1954, April 5th in a simple Kerala style ceremony at Vinodini’s paternal home Anakkara Vadakath, Palakkad.
After two years in Chennai where they lived at the residence of Vinodini’s Aunt and putative mother Ammu Swaminadhan they decided to move to Baroda where Satyadev had started his unique business in the field of Fine Chemicals for Photographic and Film Processing – the only one of its kind in India. Satyapal was the Director of the company which grew to have a great reputation. But Satyapal, always being the INNOVATOR and FUTURIST decided to start another business which was as a derivative of his experience with the chemical industry. He foresaw the need for Fibre glass as a replacement for Chemical production equipment and in the year 1960 saw the birth of SILA Industries again yet another first in India.Once SILA grew out of his blood because of the unfair competition, he decided to start to pursue his first love WATER. Chemistry, Engineering and a deep love for WATER and nature underlies his vision of what we are today. (As an aside he had many other loves too, the arts, culture, music, architecture.He built most of our house Kamal Cottage which has been the home to many from all class, creed, vocation and fame or no fame, poetry literature, fine wining and dining, good conversation – this is what we grew up with and in an ambiance of a family filled with a multitudinous variety of people from different vocations,class and backgrounds). He became the PIONEER of Membrane Technology in India being first inspired by the research work of Dr. Sourirajan.”In 1976, he conceptualized the spiral module winding machine and the membrane casting machine, and by 1980 PERMIONICS had the capability to manufacture flat sheet Cellulose Acetate, Reverse Osmosis – RO and Ultra Filtration Membranes and spiral wound elements thereon. Since the technology was new and almost unheard of in India, so to use the membranes, complete systems needed to be built. And that’s what PERMIONICS did and became a complete solution provider.
The Gujarat government showed interest in the technology and in the photos below he is seen demonstrating and explaining the technology to the then Finance Minister Shri Sanat Mehta. This was put to use in several villages in coastal Gujarat to provide Drinking Water from brackish saline water.”Today he is known as the Pioneer of Membrane Technology in India and also the father of ingenious methods of producing membranes and was honoured posthumously by Indian Desalination Association with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Membrane Technology in India.