Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Bold, Brilliant and Free: Devaki Jain's Memoir

 Bold, Brilliant and Free: Devaki Jain's Memoir.

Devaki Jain (2020): The BRASS NOTEBOOK - A Memoir. Speaking Tiger, New Delhi, Pp xi+215. 

Devaki Jain is the wife of late L C Jain, a renowned Gandhian Economist, mother of Srinivasan Jain of NDTV, daughter of Late M A Srinivasan, an highly exalted civil servant of Mysore Maharaja's era and who also became a Dewan( equivalent to present day Chief Minister) of Gwalior and member of Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution of India. Devaki herself is a highly regarded Feminist Economist and title of some of her books partially defines her: The Journey of Southern Feminist, Close Encounters of Another Kind: Women and Development Economics, Women, Development and the UN. Yet it tells very little of her as a whole person, her travails and struggles to reach what she is now at the age of 87 years. Her present book, a memoir, is an attempt to portray just that.

Devaki is in a way one of those who contributed significantly to the policies and programs of India immediately after the Independence in her chosen area. Her reach was equally global. Her painstaking work concern marginalised and exploited, so called, she hates that word, "informal" workers especially women of the world, the Southerner who is historically Colonised by the Northerner, a Coloniser. She went on to say the issues of a Southerner female is different from that of Northerner and hence different policies are required to meet them. In fact, she even said that the models of women that we have like the panchamahakanyas - Ahalya, Tara, Sita, Draupati and Mandodari - as the most ethical, dutiful and subservient persons is  not the only model, and there are also women like Gargi, an ancient Philosopher, Avaiyar, a Tamil poet and scholar, Amrapali, a cultured and worldly courtesan, and others. 

Her work took her to associate herself personally with the giants of that era: Jaya Praksh Narayan(JP), Vinoba Bhave, Ram Manohar Lohia, Julius Nyriere, Desmond Tutu, Iris Murdoch, Amartya Sen, K N Raj, ( Delhi School of Economics), just to mention only a few, leaving out many literary figures, social activist, educationist and others of the kind with whom she had close contact.

Early part of the book gives us a vivid picture of her growing up as girl in the late 1930's and forties under a towering and loving father as well as the bonding she had with the other members of the family. She travelled along different villages with her father on a horseback as that was the only mode of transport then. She herself learnt horse riding, cycling and riding on elephant unlike the girls of the era! Those periods are full of joy and freedom which she fully utilised and enjoyed. However, it soon came to an end when her choices made in her full freedom, especially in choosing a marital partner, was totally opposed by her father and all members of the family, and her father literally showing her the door; the reconcile, if at all, that took was after a much too longer time. 

Since then till the 1960's perhaps, it was a harrowing time for her. Alone in foreign land with no money but with a strong desire to study in Oxford, meeting all sort of people for funding and research, few of her contacts being mean and ugly, often no place to sleep even, eating namesake foods, and yet slowly inching her way with only her determination as companion, graduated from Oxford, getting great appreciation for her original works from all the teachers, mentors and  educational administrators. The world opened at last to unfold her talents. Her narration is very vivid, deeply touching, and some of her very personal and intimate events depicted

were brutally honest and candid!

My own brief acquaintance with her was when she was nominated by the Chancellor as member of the Bangalore University Syndicate during my term as its Vice Chancellor(2002-2006). (Incidentally, the composition of that Syndicate was unique and true to the spirit and letters of the University Act 2000 wherein only eminent educationist and professionals are to be nominated. I was one of the first VC under the new Act and I must compliment Sri. S M Krishna as Chief Minister, Dr Parameshwar as Education Minister and I think Smt. Ramadevi as Chancellor who sent such eminent persons as retired Professors, retired DGP, renowned business men, Head of an highly accomplished  NGO. Alas, that was the first and the last time, Syndicate of the subsequent years consisted nominated members who were party workers and the likes where eminence of any kind were never to be found!).

She used to attend every Syndicate meeting, once she even invited members to her house in Malleswaram, and yet I missed knowing her as much as her Memoir portrayed now. Our meetings then were purely business like. At the end of her term as Syndicate member, while she was leaving, she presented me her friend Amartya Sen's just released big book "The Argumentative Indian", a marvellous work dealing with Indian History, Culture and Identity; I enjoyed thoroughly reading that book. Devaki Jain's book "The Brass Notebook - A Memoir" too I equally enjoyed reading although it belonged to a different genre than that of Sen's. Her book reads like a fast paced Novel! 



Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mahatma Gandhi's 151st Birth Anniversary 2020.


Mahatma Gandhi was a man who walked his talk. A congruent person whose thoughts, feelings and actions were one. Even his physical appearance was a symbol of what all he stood for. He wore just a two sheets of cloth, one for the upper body and the other, the lower,  symbolising simplicity and self reliance as the clothes were woven by hand not using any huge machines that would undermine human labour and dignity. Same with his footwear: hand and home made. He holds a pole taller than him symbolising ideals that must be higher than ourselves on which to stand and move. 

A few talk of Gandhi's simplicity especially in food costed more than normal and even questioned his honesty  as he used to eat fruits aside while on hunger strike. It is an unfair remark, if not based on ignorance. There are several types of fasting depending on the purpose and celestial constellation, and one such type is fasting from grains which he always followed, i.e. fasting by eating only fruits. Similarly, the food he ate in normal times suited eminently the mission he undertook, the latter must be the priority. The nuts and beans, uncooked, containing high quality nutrients that can withstand the rigors of long walks and meetings, as it is convenient too.

It is indeed an astounding phenomenon that our country and the world witnessed a man like Mahatma Gandhi.

Friday, September 4, 2020



Role of Teachers:

Three T's characterise teachers role. 

The first T is to Transmit information to his pupils. This is undoubtedly one of the major functions of a teacher. But, if the teacher restricts only to the transmission of information, it would be poor teaching. In this internet age there are better ways and means to obtain information much better way than from teacher's in the class room. 

The second T is  Transact, referring to interaction with the pupils, establish two way communication through discussion, question and answers and getting frequent feedbacks from students about how he/she has received the information. For, it is not how well the teacher has taught, the preparations of material, presentation with modern teaching aids, the language and diction facility one has - of course they are all most important - but what is even more important is how it has reached the pupils, and that can be obtained through periodic feedbacks. Sustaining pupil's attention and interest, to reach out to pupil's level with different examples that suits the pupil, all comes into play here. This is far better than the first T.

The third T is Transform. This is the ultimate goal of the teacher. What use is the information, however well communicated if it does not change him/her for a better person in perception and action. Transform the pupil to what he/she truly is. It involves the teacher along with pupil to help discover pupil's real talents, his/her unique qualities, and develop them and help them to be it in life. This alone gives the pupil real competence with ease and fetches in the process joy, satisfaction and fulfilment.  Creativity and innovation comes naturally to them. 

Many have known their talents but left it undeveloped thinking that something else other than him/her true talent is better in the world or due to any other pressure. Many have discovered their true nature, developed them too, but not in it/practice in life. Perhaps they are last in what others expect of him/her. Misery and inefficiency would be the result in such cases. Lucky are those who know what they are, develop themselves fully in it and be in the same occupation in life.

There is an interesting say on pupils learning which the teachers in all their humility better know:

acaryat padamadatte padah shishya svamedaya

padam sahbrahmacaribhyo padah kalakramenaca

one quarter they learn from teachers, another quarter from his own intelligence; third quarter from co-learners, and the last quarter as the time passes.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Building Lasting Relationship

 How to build a lasting relationship:


"Which is more important", asked Big Panda, "the journey or the destination?"

"The company" said the Tiny Dragon.

Raise your words, not voice.

 Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.

Raise your level of consciousness, you see more to pick the ennobling words.

Words are the beginning, words capture reality, without words it is unconscious.

Wording brings to consciousness, awakening from the groping darkness.

Darkness to awakening through words is shabda Brahma. 

Monday, January 6, 2020

T N Chaturvedi: The Last Best of the Lot, is no more.


I had an occasion to relate to  three Chancellors, who are invariably the Governor of the State in State Universities. When I was a Registrar of Bangalore University (1996-2000), it was Kurshid Alam Khan, and when I was the Vice Chancellor (2002-2006) of the same University, it was initially V S  Ramadevi (who appointed me as VC) and later on it was T N Chaturvedi. All the three of them were excellent personalities, two of them were highly accomplished bureaucrats and Ramadevi was a Lawyer. They used to call us often, enquire about the University's progress, and even gave suggestions. On the whole, they were very supportive, had lot of concern, for the cause of higher education. They all were totally apolitical while dealing with the matters of  University. Once, Ramadevi even warned me to be careful about some people who are out to create troubles in the campus for their selfish ends! Perhaps it was the first, and the last, time that all the VCs of Karnataka pooled together and gave her  a send off with a fabulous gift when she retired. VCs had such a high esteem and regard for her.

 Chatuevedi showed such a lot of affection and respect that I was often moved by his gesture. He even wanted me to give my published papers that I think is important ones. One of the paper I gave was on drawing some insights from our ancient wisdom for the development of higher education, and he liked it so much that he said that he won't return it although I had told him it was the last reprint left with me! When he retired, he moved to New Delhi. Whenever he visited Bangalore I used to get a call from Rajbhavan, where he used to stay, for a chat. How I regret now that I did not make use of that opportunity most of the time owing to my prior engagements. We have lost him. May he attain sadgati.

All the three of them were totally uncorrupt and incorruptible as well.

How fast and rotten the things have turned out now. Subsequent men have sullied their office and the cause of higher education in karnataka almost irreparably lost . Most of the VCs appointed during the subsequent regime are facing several charges of corruption, facing enquiries and  in all the cases where enquiries are completed the VCs concerned have been indicted, and against some of them even FIRs are filed and are facing imminent arrest. Corrupt Politicians and others in Power select corrupt  VCs and the corrupt VCs select corrupt faculty and with the politicians in power joining hands fully in the mela, education is doomed in karnataka!  

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Human Par Excellence: A B Vajpayee(1924-2018)


My memory goes back to 2003 when I had shared a platform with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was the year in which Bangalore University in collaboration with ISRO had organized Indian Science Congress in the BU Campus. As is custom, the Prime Minister of India inaugurates the Congress every year. I as BU VC  along with the PM, Governor T N Chaturvedi, the CM Sri S M Krishna, Vasundararaje Scindia, then Central Minister of Science and Technology, ISRO Chairman K Kasturirangan  and  host of other dignitaries were on the dais. In my welcome speech I recited a few lines from Vajpayee's poetry, especially the one I have liked most: " Lord, do not take me so high that I cannot hug my people on the ground".

He was a tallest human being, a poet, a great parliamentarian, an extraordinary orator, and a debater with dignity hurting none, not even the opponents. His achievement as Prime Minister is too well known: Nuclear tests, The Lahore summit, Kargil War, National Highway Project, Foreign Policy, Economic Reforms, and so on, and faced difficult situation with calmness and dignity such as India Airlines hijack, attack on Parliament, Gujarat Violence. He was a real jewel of India-Bharata Ratna.

May he attain sadgati.