Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Tribute to a Mentor: Dr. H. N. Murthy

Dr. H. N. Murthy, former Professor and Head of the Department of Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences ( NIMHANS ), Bangalore, passed away on 22 August 2011.

The three professors who influenced me greatly during my eight plus years of stay in NIMHANS were Professors S. K Ramachandra Rao, a teacher par excellence, Dr. R. M. Varma, a great neurosurgeon and a genuine person(was Director, NIMHANS too) and Dr. H. N. Murthy, a mentor extraordinary. We all became fond of each other  as we moved along in time.

When I entered NIMHANS in January 1965 to do my M.Phil in Clinical Psychology Dr Murthy had just joined  as Pool Officer having  returned from Europe after successfully completing his doctoral degree in one of the most difficult topic in Psychology, Causality, that too in Experimental psychology. Soon he became Professor and Head of the department. He was my Guide to my M.Phil thesis as well as to my PhD thesis which I did soon after my M.Phil. Thanks to him, I took up for my research difficult topic in Experimental Clinical Psychology - relating physiological process to mental states. He along with Dr. Varma were responsible in navigating through my research and clinical work as well as selecting me after my studies there to the post of regular lecturer. Yet, it was Dr. Murthy again who perhaps saw restrictions in my career growth in NIMHANS of that time, in 1973, provided an opportunity to progress in a vastly broader arena and helped me move to Ahmedabad, leaving a "permanent" job at NIMHANS.

Dr. H. N. Murthy was a man of great character with unrelenting resolve and firm determination in his pursuit. He remained a bachelor, had deep philosophical interest, ever eager to see or make fresh interpretation of our ancient scriptures in tune with modern scientific discoveries, which we had umpteen number of occasions to discuss forgetting time and space, in and outside the classroom. We were drawn so close together, hours of debate on vexing topic done with such cordial, intimate and intense manner as equal friends than teacher-student relationship would enjoin. He would take me, a student, driving in his Fiat Car to Brigade road to eat crispy bonda. My whole family loved and revered him. I do not know how many times he enjoyed talking to people how much he relished the tasty kobbari mitai, prepared by my wife and mother in law during  a krishnashtami day! He was a very talented photographer, an amateur free lancer though, what with other professional work crowding him. The photos he took of my daughter in my house during her first birth anniversary, face up in glee, lip pursed, squatting, palm pressed to the ground is a classic that we all savored time and again looking at it although now losing her and all of my family would be an intensely moving, almost unbearable, experience to look at the photo and yet it adores in my collection prominently as a stamp of Dr. Murthy affection to us.

Time and profession took me far away from him subsequently, I hardly met him ever since. He lived and loved secluded life, devoting himself to studies and interaction with a very few revered and loved ones, never expected anything from any body and would prefer others too that way. A true teacher, a true guru, is the one who shuns dependency, he always empowers and sets pupil free and takes pride in their independence. Dr. H. N. Murthy was one such teacher. I felt a gasping emptiness in my heart when I heard his death. How I missed such great persons in my life, one by one, and yet I live nurtured by their empowerment and love within me. May God Bless his Soul!


dmanuradha said...

My deepest sympathies to you Professor. Nothing can be more painful than to endure the passing on of your mentors. There is no doubt that Dr. Murthy was a man on calibre and integrity as clearly evidenced by you who imbibed the best from a teacher. May the soul of the great teacher rest in peace. Our prayers are with you and the whole host of students whose lives were shaped by his divine presence.

Shama Sundra S.K. said...

I stumbled on the blog to read your this letter today, Teachers Day. What a coincidence.

Kindly drop in to my office in your leisure. We are put up in Jayanagar, Bangalore.

Regards, Sham.

Prof.M.S.Thimmappa said...

Thanks Anuradha and Shama Sundra for your sympathies and kind gestures