Can we go beyond politics, Bollywood and cricket?

Posted: September 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Read a very interesting piece in the Mint Lounge, by Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, referring to some people beyond the realm of politics and Bollywood and cricket, who have been hugely impactful in making India what it is today!

One of the persons he talks about, and about whom I had also written a bit few days back, is Verghese Kurien, the man behind India’s white revolution, and self-sufficiency in milk, farmer empowerment, etc.

As Rajadhyaksha puts it really well, “There are three ways to judge the impact a person has on his times: the number of lives he touched through his work, the strength of the institution he built, and the team he left behind to carry on the chosen task.”

And even as we feel good about the little we may be doing in life, when you consider these benchmarks, we would realize that we are nowhere. While it is very tough to rise on all of these aspects, we can attempt to do our best in touching more live, creating a strong institution, and leave a strong and empowered team when we choose to move on.

Institution building is not something that only happened in the early years post-independence. While Rajadhyaksha talks about personalities like Kurien, Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai, it is interesting to see him list current day personalities also, such as E. Sreedharan, the man behind Konkan Railway and Delhi Metro, or R. H. Patil, the force behind the National Stock Exchange.

But it is also a fact that being an institution builder is an attitude that is not commonplace. Can you look at a 20 years horizon? Or you are worried that you don’t know what will happen 3 years from now, and hence think in the short term? I remember vividly, an old gardener, at a nursery in Coorg, where he was painstakingly, but lovingly, putting together, the saplings that would go out to create trees. And on the outside of the nursefy, I saw the humungous trees that would have come up in 20-30 years. Clearly, the gardener may not see the saplings flourish into those large trees, but that did not deter him from putting his most into the effort, and lovingly too.

The institution builder thinks of a bigger picture, the grand vision. And that’s what makes a Vikram Sarabhai or a Homi Bhabha.

Interesting words from M.G.K. Menon, who succeeded Bhabha as director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, about Bhabha: “The legacies he left behind are not only the tangible programmes, buildings, equipment, gardens and the like, visible creations of his scientific and artistic abilities; but even more important is the legacy which is in some sense intangible—the large number of trained personnel, who have embraced the vision of a new India and who have acquired confidence in their own abilities. (Patrick Maynard Stuart) Blackett has often stated that a first-rate laboratory is one in which mediocre scientists can produce outstanding work. Homi Bhabha … understood this well and this is what he sought to create by the right environment and the right conditions of work.”

When we think of the nuclear program we have in place today and the strides that we have made as a country, the paragraph above brings the goosebumps. Imagining those days when he must have struggled to get the program going, and kept going forth relentlessly, so that we can see his legacy now.. how awesome!

Towards the end of his piece, Rajadhyaksha asks very pertinent questions. Are history books today filled with freedom fighters and (worse) other politicians, or even perhaps, sports personalities or iconic film stars, but do not have a mention of some of these great men and women, who built the real India?

Will the young generation have the understanding of who built the India that they now enjoy and take for granted? Isn’t it the duty of today’s generation to acknowledge these deeds?

Also are there any in our society today, who can be considered such institution builders? Are we encouraging them enough? There is still a lot to do, and we need today’s Bhabhas and Kuriens and Sarabhais..

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