THE HAND OF GOD My Life and Times: H. S. S. Lawrence; Om Books, P.O Box 2014, Secunderabad-500003. Rs. 149.
THE BIBLE repeatedly refers to the phrase "the hand of God." Whether in the Book of Peter, Psalms, Job or of John, the phrase is used to connote the "power of God." It is no coincidence that the author, former Director of School Education, Tamil Nadu has chosen this phrase for the title of his autobiography. In the preface he reveals the reason, "I wish to present my life as a record of faith and surrender to our Lord God... "
This book presents a vivid picture of the life of a bureaucrat. But, it is also the story of the transformation in content and quality of school education in the State. Born into a Christian community of Kanyakumari in July 1923, Lawrence completed his formal education with a doctorate in education from Columbia University in 1950 and joined government service in 1951.
A striking aspect of his autobiography is his keen sense of history and geography as he narrates every incident with a timeline and a description of the place. Even while recalling his school or college days, the author evokes the history of the institutions he studied. His account of his journey to the U.S. for higher studies too carries on in this fashion.
As the first principal of the State Institute of Education and as the one who presided over the introduction of the 10+2+3 pattern of education in the State Board, Lawrence had the role of initiating and implementing radical reforms in school education. Perhaps, his most satisfying tenure was in the UNESCO when he also got an opportunity to work in Afghanistan (1969-75), where he helped in setting up a teacher training college at Charikar.
`A grand holiday'
Another interesting part of the book is his recollection of the 10,000 km journey by car from Kabul to Kanyakumari and back with several halts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and across 11 states of India. After his return, Lawrence soon became the Director of School Education. Later, he also implemented a new vocational education pattern.
"After retirement, I did not go into oblivion. For nine years, I was engaged in recruiting bank personnel in the southern states and the North-East. I was also chairman of a high level Committee on Vocational Education in Tamil Nadu. Many were my voluntary services to social organisations. My life was also a grand holiday around the world under God's guidance," the author notes.
What comes through in the book is certainly more than a life story. The author's firm faith stands out.
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