M. BABA PRASAD

Some memories don’t die, not even when you are separated by three long decades. Moreover, Prof. G.T. Narayana Rao, who passed away in Mysore recently, was not a man who could ever be forgotten

It was in early 1966 that G.T. Narayana Rao (Prof. GTN to his students, friends, colleagues and admirers) came on a transfer from Kodagu to the then Government Arts and Science College in Bangalore, where I was in my second year of B.Sc. He did not teach me that academic year, but my admiration for Major GTN, Second-in-Command of 12 Mysore Battalion NCC, and his affection for me were instantaneous.

The following academic year, GTN, professor of Mathematics, taught us Dynamics all of which I have forgotten now, but the teacher has had a special place in my heart. He left Bangalore in 1968 quitting teaching profession in preference to becoming an avid propagator of science. He took over as the science editor of the monumental Kannada Encyclopaedia, the brainchild of the then Vice Chancellor of the University of Mysore, Prof. D. Javare Gowda.

Unfortunately, I was unable to meet him for many years, although, during the last five years, we spoke on telephone frequently. The last he spoke to me was a week before he died askingme to have a look at a book on a good but little known Kannada writer and, if possible, have it reviewed in The Hindu…..

Major GTN was the senior most of the NCC officers then (1966-67), and we spent almost everyday together discussing various training programmes, courses, camps and even an expedition. I distinctly remember an incident that occurred during one of those training exercises. It was a moonless night; we were on a night field craft exercise. A combatant non-commissioned officer was leading us, a group of specially chosen cadets, under the overall command of Major GTN. The NCO faltered several times, and I thought he was leading us nowhere. Exposing my inexperience compounded by arrogance, I said to GTN: “He doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. I think he has no experience in this.” Livid with rage, GTN replied: “You think he has no experience?! He has fought two wars for the country. What the hell have you done? Follow him without a word.”

It was GTN’s lesson in life to me. I have recalled it whenever I have faced crisis of judgment…

A man of unquestionable integrity and exemplary self-discipline, GTN had contempt for the foolish and the incompetent, and his hatred for the dishonest and the indisciplined was legendary. At the annual training camp in Bangalore’s Beggars’ colony (as it was then called) in early 1967, we had a few uncontrollable thugs with political links who were under the impression that stern discipline, order, and rigours of the camp did not apply to them. As camp adjutant I was disturbed at their behaviour and told GTN that I could no longer tolerate it and sought immediate action against them. GTN asked me and half a dozen combatant NCOs to follow him to the tent where those ruffians were put up. We barged into the tent and dragged them away to the quarterguard and lodged them there. The thugs did not protest; they willingly made clay bricks as punishment for the next three days. Let alone committing another act of indiscipline, there was not even a murmur from them after they returned from the quarterguard…

GTN feared none, not even god, for he did not speak of one. An upright man, he had nothing to hide either.

For 30 or more years I had no contact with GTN. One evening when I was at work, he called my residence and told my daughter that he wanted to talk to me. Before hanging up, he told her that I was his “most disciplined” student and the “best cadet” he had known. When my daughter mentioned this to me, I rushed to my study and pulled out the carefully preserved “Part I Orders” of the 10th day of the annual training camp of January 1967 which had recorded that I was the best cadet of the camp which had over 1,000 participants from several colleges. This honour bestowed on me had been enshrined in the “Part I Orders” in GTNs handwriting.

During his last years, GTN called me several times and on many occasions expressed his desire to meet me and even asked me when I would visit him in Mysore. I always told him that if I visited Mysore I would most certainly have his “darshan”. And that was not to happen…

For me, some people don’t die.