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Updated: September 3, 2011 22:57 IST

The Vice-Chancellor who treated me like his son

P. Ramalingam
Comment (54)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, a teacher par excellence
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, a teacher par excellence

For me, it is an occasion for recollecting this grand personality standing in his immaculate long coat and dhoti worn in typical South Indian panchakatcham with medal and turban, without which he does not meet people.

I was admitted to B.Sc in Benares Hindu University in 1945. I had got admissions in all the three colleges in Madras — Loyola, Presidency and Tambaram Christian. But due to father's ‘ziddi' (it appeared to me as a stupid idea at that time), I landed at the university main gate three days ahead of reopening. At 16 and with no knowledge of a single word of Hindi, it was all a world lost for me. I was dispatched by train to Benares via Howrah. I had a first class railway pass as my father was a medical officer in the then M&S M Railway. I was timid by nature. My father had got my admission card from Principal Godbole from Shimla and I was told that I would be allotted a hostel room on arrival. When I landed at the imposing (to me) university gate, the security people had a hearty laugh and, in their broken English, told me that I would not find a crow on the campus and the offices would open only after three days. It looked as if I should go back home and face my father's ire.

Then I remembered that I had a letter from a friend of my father introducing me to his father at 80, who was living in the Hanuman Ghat area, where elders like him stay till the end of their life. He dips in the Ganga three times a day and, after Sandhyavandanam, goes to the Viswanath Temple in wet clothes. I had and still have a lot of reverence for such people when I see them. With this letter as my only hope, I asked a cyclerickshaw driver to help me find this old man at the Hanuman Ghat. The rickshawwallah was a Muslim, very courteous to me. He offered to wait until I spotted the old man. He is still a model of human behaviour. On enquiry, the local people told me that I should wait at the ghats and the old man would definitely come at 12 noon sharp for his rituals.

At the stroke of 12, an old man came running down the steps and, after a dip in the river, ran up the ghats in wet clothes. I ran after him calling “Mama, mama, I have a letter for you.” He quickly read the letter and asked me to hurry up and follow him after taking a dip in the river. By the time, I paid off the rickshaw driver, who was happy to have put me in safe hands. After my first visit to the temple, we went to the old man's small accommodation. He had a very hospitable group and neighbours, unlike the present day neighbours in flats, who just do not know who is living the next door.

The next morning, he went with me to the university gate and said he wanted to meet the Vice-Chancellor. The people at the gate did not probe why he was meeting the Vice-Chancellor, unlike as employees would do nowadays. On getting OK from the Vice-Chancellor's residence, we were ushered into the drawing room and offered coffee and asked to wait. Sir. S. always meets people only after 10 a.m. unless he is dressed up. He was in the room upstairs.

When he came down, the Vice-Chancellor met my local guardian, the old man. Coming to know of my problem from this guardian that the boy did not even know Hindi and had to stay with him without any facility for three days, he called up the hostel warden Pande on the phone and asked him to accommodate me in a room close to his residence. He advised the warden to take care of my food requirements, treating me as his guest until the hostels opened after the vacation and I was allotted a room.

Can you imagine a Vice-Chancellor going out of the way to help a newcomer student! How can I forget this rare specimen of human understanding? Today at 83, it is my privilege to recall him. To Sir, with love.

(The writer's email id is:


Tribute to students... on Teachers' DaySeptember 3, 2011

A mess called teacher educationSeptember 3, 2011

Mr. Ishrat Hussain has said everything so very succintly. Those sage words seem to be foreign to our present day politicians.

from:  K. Dorasami
Posted on: Sep 20, 2011 at 01:19 IST

The speech of Dr.S.Radhakrishnan on value at the Ottappalam sahithya Parishath is still ringing in my ears, He called upon the writers and poets to cling on to values and his appeal electrified the entire audience. Late N.V Krishna Warriar in an equally brilliant manner translated his speech. He was a role model and will continue to inspire many in life.

from:  C.p.Chandra das
Posted on: Sep 8, 2011 at 13:26 IST

old is gold!!!

from:  sharath
Posted on: Sep 7, 2011 at 18:32 IST

Teachers in village schools play even more important role in studens' lives. Typically parents are not educated and don't know how to guide their children. I had the great fortune of studying under one such great teacher, who is no more now. His name is Penumadu Venkata Subbaiah, who taught in several schools in Cuddapah district, AP. His passion for teaching is second to none. After my mother, he is the person i credit most for my education (i have 3 master degrees). For every known great (teachers) like Dr.Radha Krishnan, many other greats go un noticed. My head master was one such GREAT teacher. I will be even indebted to his help.

from:  Vishnu
Posted on: Sep 7, 2011 at 08:59 IST

Worthy recollections of a great soul indeed! In addition to admiring him as a great philosopher,administrator, a tower of humane qualities, etc., I always remember him for his great wisdom and wits -- when an almost awkward question was put to the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the Parliament,(I think by Mr. Feroze Gandhi) "Does the Prime Minister believe in God?", and the PM was in a fix to answer that delicate question,Dr. Radhakrishnan promptly came to the rescue of the PM and answered "If God is the symbal of the mystery behind the universe, the Prime Minister believes" and was greeted with cheers!

from:  K.K. Raman
Posted on: Sep 7, 2011 at 00:13 IST

Impressed by the article, and more impressed by the gesture shown by the Rickshaw-wallah, the old man at the Benares Ghat, and Mr Ramalingam - truly those days were golden in terms of ideals and values - however poor were they in terms of money.

from:  Sagar
Posted on: Sep 6, 2011 at 18:03 IST

Truly amazed by the simplicity of the people in those days. Great article sir, many many thanks

from:  Lakshmi Peri
Posted on: Sep 6, 2011 at 06:43 IST

The Muslim Rickshawala, the old man at the Banares Ghat, Dr. Sir S. and Mr.Ramalingam - they represent value based lives worth emulating. I am sure there are still a few gems like them- we shall be lucky to come across such great people. They represent real customer care.

Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 23:36 IST

Actually,values will be infused in the students by their parents and teachers, but they have to cultivate them. It is upto them to nurture the values that their parents and teachers have ingrained in them through years of toil.Really, what a gratitude towards his master(GREAT PERSONALITY) at 80!!!! Every student has to read this great article and cutivate the values which are given by their masters

from:  dasika kalpana
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 19:57 IST

Compare today's BHU with BHU of those days. Increasing politics in selection of Vice-Chancellors has made the holy temple of learning a shell. Now its famous for its IT and Medical. Its no more than a relic in Social Sciences and Arts. Today's Chancellor would never meet you until and unless he is on an inspection. The University administration has built a hierarchy where student doesn't have a place or if there is some place, it is at the bottom of the hierarchy like Indian caste system. The university has forgotten the values of Malviya and Radhakrishnan. What is remaining is the idols and portraits of these great people in the offices of so called Administration of the University

from:  Aditya Singh
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 19:28 IST

Compliments to Mr. Ramalingam for sharing his experiences with good human beings. Parents and good teachers can only mould a good society Contemporary India has become greedy and the result is grief to many whether in the form of BPL or illiteracy as we see it now. To improve the situation, teachers must be selected on merit and their interest in the profession and not otherwise. If RTE is sincerely implimented for which it is designed, India will be free from illiteracy in a decade. Let us make 'Our Bharat Mahan'.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 18:11 IST

Teachers do not reap the respect they deserve now a days. It has lost this continuity somewhere down the line. The student teacher ratio is a contribution to this mess. Secondly every Tom, Dic and Harry, without any inclination towards teaching, choose the teaching line due to poor job opportunities in other fields.

from:  Gururajan Ramachandran
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 17:25 IST

We are all made by our TEACHERS - MATA, PITA, GURU - GURU who leads us to knowing all subjects & elevates us to understand GOD. Even today such teachers are there - though with heavy heart I have to admit in less numbers - leading to current situation of Students seeking other sources for their LEARNING ON LIFE.

from:  Venkatramani
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 17:25 IST

Excellent piece. Moves like a samll stream over pebbles on a coll summer evening. More of such articles will be greatly appeciated.

from:  Mani Sandilya
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 16:58 IST

Nowadays Is it possible to see a old man like this.Hospitality they had in their days.Even now,our young minds are not even respecting their elders and parents.It would be very happy if those days returned in our life.

from:  Nafeshafi
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 15:06 IST

I was blessed with wonderful teachers while I was a student of Sri Ramakrishnan Mission Boys High School, Chennai. I remember the words of my teacher Mr.Natrajan "Remember, you have been sent to school to learn values". All our teachers were simple people who walked their talk. They were living inspiration for all of us.

from:  R.RAMESH
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 12:19 IST

More than parents, our teachers were the focus of our attention. Teachers are the heart & soul of any educational system. We might have the best of buldings but witout a conscientious teacher it would not inculcate the right values.

from:  chaitanya sompura
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 11:06 IST

I have read that when Dr.Radhakrishnan had to leave Madras for Calcutta,his students were so heart broken- they removed the horses from the carriage which was to take him to the railway station- and all the students themselves pulled the carriage to the station.
Truely a teacher who cares for his students will always gain their love and respect.

from:  reshmi
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 10:05 IST

In those days people were of helping others which is conspicuous by its absence now-a-days. It should be inculcated in our youths along with their education in schools.

from:  Sravana Ramachandran
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 08:55 IST

Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was a human being par extraordinaire. A true friend, guide, mentor, philosopher and able administrator. On the eve of Independence, he was the natural choice for filling the time slot hours before the clock struck 12 midnight on 14th August 1947 to address the galaxy of personalities before ushering in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to adddress the nation. His eloquent speech kept the audience enthralled without experiencing the dreariness of awaiting the glorious moment when the clock would strike midnight. It was a measured speech and no sign of anxiety or haste over the interrugnum for passing on the baton. A great feat indeed ! He did not indulge in politics as those who followed him as President of our nation. He did not take it to heart when he was passed over by Nehru to instal Dr Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India. Upon retirement he shunned airing political views even when Smt Indira Gandhi approached him in a time of crisis.

from:  V. R. Vedula
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 03:42 IST

Nice piece on Dr. Radha krishnan.This anecdote must serve as morals to people at large.With deteriorating condition of values,it is all the more necessary to maintain the piety of teachers-who hardly leave any stone unturned in shaping carving the mind of students.Dr.S Radha krishnan was orater, writer,statesman and above all a teacher par excellence, who will ever keep reminiscing us on every 5th september.Given the prevailing sad state of affairs,we must instill the values in to the mind of students.Education should be in tune with value and ethics so that a guru shishparampara could be evolved in the society.

from:  Wakeel Ahmad
Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 02:06 IST

My Late Father, Maj Gen R Z Kabraji was an ADC General to this great man and I had the privilege of meeting him in Rashtrapati Bhavan in December 1965 when I was just 9 years old. He was a tremendous personality, very humble, very learned - the likes of whom this country dearly misses.

from:  Zubin Kabraji
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 22:52 IST

BHU is looked upon very highly by people of the baby-booming generation. It's only Hindu by name, it's a secular university, even my father can't stop talking about their excellence in academics. It is a rather selective university still, I remember meeting BHU alumnis who are now a couple of CFOs in New York during my business trip. That's quite a long ride if you ask me but the reputation of that university precedes our knowledge of it.

from:  Raj
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 19:20 IST

Word by word I enjoyed reading the article & there was a special reason:
On those days I was working in Delhi & my boss knew my flair of seeing great personalities in close proximity ( deliberately avoiding the word 'meeting' due to my limitations)And my boss gave me chances to 'see' some luminaries. One day he casually asked me to whom else I wanted to see .When I expressed my desire to meet Dr.S (who happened to be his in-law) he just nodded.A few days later I was invited to join an informal family get together at his residence. My boss took me to a room where S. was sitting and after talking in Telugu for a minute,he left the room! I was in a fix & noticing my plight Dr. waved his hands asking me to sit but I was hesitating.Soon I heard a thundering voice" I say, sit down" .Slowly I mustered my strength and when I said 'reading' was my past time he said 'yes reading maketh a man, keep it up' I am religiously following his words & I could visualize his face & the big turban !

from:  p.mgopalan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 19:04 IST

Thank you for writing this piece. Your article invoked an era where people practiced good manners and gave respect where its due. Of course it would be naive to imagine that everyone was perfect in the past, and now we are all flawed, but I think it might not be wrong to assume that the percentage of people who hold on to certain values are now drastically lesser.
Your article reminded me of people who did the right thing, rather than the correct thing fenced by rules.

from:  Dileep Cherian
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 17:50 IST

This article is beautiful! I don't see such humanity in common man these days. I am, presently, studying at IT-BHU. Things have certainly changed, a lot. I wish I were there in your times, sir.

from:  Saurabh
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 17:37 IST

A teacher has to understand the pupil and his needs not just education and he has to be role model. Dr. S Radhakrishnan is a stellar example of what humane behavior is to someone whom he did not know from Adam. As of date, any such situation will be handled without sensitivity as we are full of ourselves and have no space or time for others - Something to learn even in this so called jet-set lifestule. On the eve of teachers' day, it is an eye opener for educationists.

from:  Siddhan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 16:18 IST

What a personality he was !on reading your experience ,i was reminded of my school Principal, Late.Rev Fr,George Pathyil, of St.Joseph's Boys High School Of Tellicherry,Kannur,Kerala.Those days there were no parent teachers meeting programme as you see these days.It was a practice by the Father, to visit the house of students in X std and talk to their parents about their progress and performance.Every year he ensured that the school gets 100% results.He promoted not only education but also all round development in students.The school stood always first in all sports & games events too.
We miss those type of dedicated people who really served the society in spite of all constraints.

from:  sreenivasan.R
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 15:58 IST

The quality of people has changed from the past. now a days to give shelter to the unknown people is far beyond the thinking as the people don't give shelter to their relatives. And the student-teacher relationship is also lost somewhere. that's why students don't respect their teachers and respect is become formality now a days.So i don't understand that are we developing or lacking behind from the past.

from:  Dinesh
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 15:08 IST

'' The rickshawwallah was a Muslim, very courteous to me. He offered to wait until I spotted the old man. He is still a model of human behaviour. '' I wonder has this sense of humanity vanished in our times or just overshadowed by greed?

from:  Saurabh
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 14:57 IST

Quite contrary to the writers experience, many educationists of today, lack such virtues. I am reminded of my days in Agra University in 2006-07 when meeting the then V.C was more difficult than meeting the Governor of the state. An example of arrogance and ignorance, he did not even entertain final year students requests of timely conduct of examinations, result deceleration and distribution of mark sheet, who had secured placements subject to timely course completion. Single handedly he ruined the careers of many aspiring graduates. It is a travesty that appointments to senior positions in universities today have become politically vested. If education becomes a horrible experience, virtues of good citizenry, innovative thought, respect for culture can hardly be expected from students of today.

from:  Akshay Kumar
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 14:50 IST

Good teachers inspire the behavior of a Child/ Student in more ways than his parents / relatives. Its to all those teachers we owe all the progress of the Humanity.

from:  Vijay Anand
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 14:39 IST

i m realy inspired this great teachers n feeling proud that i am student of banaras hindu university and and residing in dr.s.radhakrishnan hostel fortunatly n rely very happy that tomorrow we will celebrate this great man birthday with great entusiasm.i will must convey this story tmrw in function.happy teachers day in advance

from:  Ranjan Tiwari
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 14:17 IST

The quality of people those days were rich with humilty, humbleness and sincerity though it is a VC or a rickshaw puller. Our country by becoming a developed nation has slowly lost the intangible richness to the tangible richness

from:  Surendranath
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 12:06 IST

Yes.Those were the times.Those were the men and women.Compassion ruled supreme.Dignity was in the air.I salute this great son of India and would thank Shri Ramalingam for sharing this.This may have been normal for men like Dr S Radhakrishnan but in today s times,such recollections are so precious and strengthen our faith in the supremacy of human virtues.

from:  Ganesh S
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 11:40 IST

Respected Shri Ramaligam: I felt like I am meeting Your VC,both of you are equaly hounarable to me as he was 100% to his duty ,you are 101% in still cherishing those affectionate moments. We have lost our culture some where in the race of development or dishonesty very difficult to distinguish. Whatever we have lost still loosing ...You have obliged us by sharing this thanks a lot with regards.

from:  Vickram Singh
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 11:38 IST

Then was a time when wisdom was respected and considered a dignified need for being a human being. Now is the time when wisdom is bought in seats of learning and dignity is the capability of exacting business deals with interest. Everyone is a Shylock but where does one find a Portia today?

from:  Swapan Chakravarthy
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 09:11 IST

These were indeed great and honorable people. In this connection I would like to mention an incident which inspired me throughout my Army service. It was the practice in the British days that a Commissioned officer received a 'Parchment of Commission ' signed by the King. I was surprised one day when I received the Parchment signed by the then President - S Radhakrishnan. I wonder whether the practice still continues. It is my most treasured possession and inspired me to serve the Army even when I found that my pay and promotion prospects were quite poor and insufficient. This was the man who inspired me all my life and I will remember him fondly tomorrow - it being his birthday.

from:  S N Iyer
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 08:53 IST

Very touching story indeed! Yes in those days teachers were acting like Ancient Gurus of Gurukulam. I attribute my becoming a Successful Engineer to two of my secondary school teachers in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh -viz- Sri Naduri Venkateshwara Rao & Sri Parimi Anjaneya sharma. I was a Tamilian studying in AP. They used to show extra attention to me. They both identified & recognized that I was a natural with Maths & science and pushed me hard to excel in those subjects. They both used to talk about Dr.Radhakrishnan - on teacher's day every year! Dr.Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was probably the most respected President of India - in our History so far.

from:  MSR Ayyangar
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 08:42 IST

It is so heart warming to read and feel such gratitude narrating anecdotes.GOD bless such teachers, they must exist even today, for God exists and guides them to do good! More importantly, such pupils that carry the torch for they then light another and another and yet another! Very pleased to read this prayer!

from:  Sudhir Chaitanya
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 08:41 IST

The same kind of benevolence was showered on me by the then Vice Chancellor of Rajasthan University forty years ago. I went from Chennai to write my post graduate examinations. I directly wanted to collect my admission card and found to my dismay due to bungling in the administrative office of the distance education the hall ticket was not ready. The exam was to start within an hour. I had the only option of returning to Chennai and write the exam in the next attempt. Somebody suggested to me to see the Vice Chancellor. I rushed from the Distance Education Dept. to the University buildings. The Vice Chancellor, an elderly gentleman listened to me for a few minutes, and asked me to calm down as I was almost in tears (because of spending so much to reach there and forced to return at that time), wrote a letter to the Examiner to admit me write the exam without hall ticket and made me rush to the exam center. I recall the genuine efforts to help a student by that Vice Chancellor.

from:  Chandrasekaran
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 08:38 IST

I would definitely cherish the feeling of the writer because he had the greatest opportunity to be associated with a person who was an embodiment of love, peace, education, philosophy and what not. A person of humble and simple feeling and language Sir Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan attributed his whole life for spreading knowledge and education to one and all of this country. It is a great feeling for verybody who have seen Dr. Radhakrishnan talking to one and all even in a small gathering. His views on Indian Democracy and his association with Mahatma Gandhi during the pre Independent India were cherish-able.

from:  K.V.Balachandran
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 08:28 IST

Today under a same situation if a boy, even a girl who arrives in a distant town and finds the hostel not opened will take it as a blessing in disguise, as their lifestyles are entirely different. The boy or girl will have so many options….go for a two-three days’ package tour for sight-seeing and stay in a resort; just stay in a guest house to roam around; join with a net-friend in the area or fly back to native town.
He or She will have an ATM card facilitating money withdrawals while parents transfer enough money into the bank account by just a click from the mobile phone. Few may even have a credit-card. No hassles and thus no expectations!

from:  Madan Menon Thottasseri
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 07:41 IST

This type of stories encourages mankind to preserve values.Thank you author and The Hindu. Now a days it is greatly needed.

from:  Ankan Pal Burdwan W.B.
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 07:39 IST

An apt tribute to a teacher whose birthday is celebrated throughout the country as Teacher's day. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan the philosopher president of our country was indeed a jewel among human beings and all present day teachers should treat him as a role model. Besides being a teacher and later an administrator par excellence as Vice Chancellor he is also the author of several enlightening books on philosophy. He was also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as Vice President for two terms before being elected as President.

from:  R.Vijaykumar
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 06:15 IST

Really it is a pleasure to read and to know about such human touch personalities.Great men will always be remembered for their actions and deeds. One such personality is our Dr.S.Radhakrishnan,a Friend, Philosopher,and Guide.He will always be remembered.

from:  N.Srinivasan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 04:46 IST

Even today such things possible in US; this I am telling my son's experience there while studying. We were astonished to see that culture, since in India, such people are a rarity nowadays.

from:  gopalan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 02:48 IST

Lovely article Sir. Makes one want to meet this great man in person.

from:  Nitya
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 02:12 IST

I very nice to read such a intersetings moments of olden days,especially i like the quotes"He had a very hospitable group and neighbours, unlike the present day neighbours in flats, who just do not know who is living the next door".

from:  prasanna
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 01:47 IST

thank you for posting this.

from:  Prateek
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 00:57 IST

Such morality in human behavior which is very human in nature, whether it is of muslim rickshaw-wallah or the old man or of Sir. S, seems to be decaying as a result of ruthless approach to life in modern day India (reflecting pseudo-westernization).

from:  Dilip Athreya
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 00:48 IST

There is a piece of wisdom in the Ketopanishad. It goes something like this "when a man dies all his wealth stops at his home,all his family stops at the funeral ground.The only things that go with him is the good or bad memmories that others have of him". How true!

from:  vijay sankar
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 00:27 IST

You cannot find a single person like him.You are really blessed.

from:  C.S.Venkatsubramaniam
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 00:07 IST

It put me back to mid 50's to rejoice this piece of warmth remembrance for the teacher of his time. Also it reminded the captivating serial of ,MALGUDI DAYS OF MR. NARAYAN!!!An hour back my daughter from Chicago was talking me to such values which she enjoyed listening during her childhood from us, and her to embodying such values of life. I am not belittling any other values in terms of that by this mentioning but giving impetus to that values. I pray Allah for your health and happiness. It so happend that I had seen Dr. Radha Krishnan during 60's,remaining as one of the cherished moments of my life. I very vividly remember his words in a message to the nation on radio-"OUR ENEMY IS NOT ALWAYS WRONG AND WE ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT." What more to say!

from:  Ishrat Husain
Posted on: Sep 4, 2011 at 00:04 IST
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