During the 80s, I first heard Dr. Mashelkar, when he had come to our establishment to deliver the keynote address for one of our DRDO symposiums. I was greatly impressed by the power of his speech. I found him to be an eternal optimist and his speech caressed me like a fresh breeze.
Recently, I read the transcript of one of his speeches and was impressed. The topic is `Mind Vs Mind Set : The Grand Indian Challenge’. He says that 21st century is going to be the “century of mind”. He predicts that 600 million young Indian minds will shape the destiny of our country. While India’s performance in the Olympic games is rather poor, we have done extremely well in the “Olympics of mind”. We have won many medals in the science Olympiads, which goes to show the power of Indian mind.
Dr. Mashelkar then explains as to why we are not progressing as a nation despite having wonderful young minds. When two Japanese come together, they become 1+1 = eleven and they form such a great team. When two Indians come together, they become 1-1 = zero as they neutralize each other! They do not form a team. That is mainly because of the Indian mindset.
He emphasizes that we not only need to develop clever minds, more intelligent minds, more observant minds, more analytical minds, but also mind sets that are positive mind sets, constructive, forward looking, mutually reinforcing mindsets that will make it possible for us to shape the 21st century India.
Dr. Mashelkar talks about his meeting the then Prime Minister Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee during a function. During lunch time, where some Nobel Laureates were also present, a question was raised as to why great teachers don’t exist today. Atalji said “Mashelkarji aapko pata hai aisa kyon nahin hota? Is ka kaaran yeh hai ki samaj mein aaj unko pratishtha nahin hai.”
Dr. Mashelkar goes on to say while the Indian mind says “Gurur Sakshaat Parabrahma” and the Indian mind set does exactly what our erstwhile Prime Minister said – now there is no respect and value for the teacher in the society. He then goes on to talk about his teacher Bhave, whose teaching had a profound impact on his mind and mindset.
He then talks about Parallel rays that never meet are brought to meet each other by a convex lens. He says the need for the hour is “Convex lens leadership”, that brings people together.
As I read the article, I realized that many of us who were born in the 40s and 50s have had similar experiences. I was fortunate to be taught languages by two gentle giants, when I was studying in college. Strangely these two teachers were actually my school teachers; they had vast knowledge to teach students at any level. For three years when I was doing my PU and degree, I took private tuitions for Tamil from Sri. Vijayaraghavachari and for English from Sri. Srinivasachari. While the teaching methodologies of these two teachers differed, there was a striking similarity – they both were utterly simple in their demeanor, soft spoken, clear in their communication and exactly knew what and how to teach.
They did not teach me a subject, they taught me what life is all about.
When Srinivasachari taught me the line from John Milton’s poem – “Lycidas is dead, ere his prime”, I understood the uncertainty of life and the need for one to do things when there is still time on his side. When he taught me “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray, I understood the meaning of true leadership from the line – “Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country’s blood”. When he taught me the essay “Dream children – a reverie” by Charles Lamb, I understood the true affections between siblings and the longing of a confirmed bachelor to have a family and children from the lines – “Immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bachelor arm-chair, where I had fallen asleep, with the faithful Bridget unchanged by my side” . Incidentally I also learnt English grammar and the meaning of a “transferred epithet”.
When Vijayaraghavachari taught me the Thirukural couplet “ Epporul Yar Yar Vai Ketpinum Apporul Meiporul Kanpathu Arivu” [ Whatever is said, whomsoever says it, pursue the ultimate truth in it ], I understood that one needs to think and not blindly go by what others say. When he taught me the couplet “Kuzhal inidhu yaazh inidhu enbatham makkaL mazhalai sol keLaadhavar” [ Speaking of the sound of flute and the harp as sweet tones are people, who haven’t heard their little children’s prattle or lisping], I understood that there cannot be anything better in life other than to spend valuable time with your children and grand children. The only prayer I say daily are from the lines that Vijayaraghavachari taught from Kamba Ramayanam – “Then Disai Seri Endran, Avan Arul Sithaivadamo?” [Hanuman says Rama asked to me to proceed South; Can His direction ever fail?]. This is the ultimate benchmark for acting with total conviction.
I last met Sri. Srinivasachari, when he came to bless me after my wedding.
I last met Sri. Vijayaraghavachari, when I went to introduce my son to him, before he joined IIT Madras.
Both of them are not in this world today, but they live in my heart, because …….
“They taught me life”.