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A teacher’s tribute

sign A plus grade written on line paper with red pen.

sign A plus grade written on line paper with red pen.  

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On a researcher with conviction and courage

One of the thousands of students I had the good luck to teach, Arunachalam Kumar was the best researcher who followed my advice that knowledge advances not by repeating known things but by refuting false dogmas.

He was a junior teacher in Anatomy, but the best, and the students loved him. Incidentally, he was labelled a poor student as he had failed in some MBBS subjects many times over! That was because he was a thinker and did not relish repeating known things, which is the hallmark of our learning and conventional science research based on grants, paper-writing and citation index — the usual yardsticks for teacher promotions in universities where the powers-that-be have no clue what research is. Dr. Kumar couldn’t care less. When I spotted his brilliance and promoted him there were some disgruntled voices. He was a non-conformist even in his personal life and marriage. He took life as a challenge and faced it.

One day he came to my house in tears. He had no money even for food. He did not want financial help but needed a job where he could save some money. The Vice-Chancellor of Kuwait University was a friend; I used to be a research referee there.

There was one hitch, though. Dr. Kumar did not have a PhD, a prerequisite to be a professor there. It took me a good week to convince Dr. Hussain Dashti that he was better than several run-of-the-mill PhDs put together. He got the job with good pay, house and transport.

He saved enough to pay off all his liabilities. With his financial worries gone he was free to think and experiment on, which is what I call true research.

Clues for the cricketer

He had told me that Sachin Tendulkar, the cricket great, was using too heavy a bat for his size (anatomy)! I used to ignore it. Researching Sachin playing from TV footage, he predicted damage to his back muscles, which would sooner than later give him trouble. He wrote about it in a research article. Months later, Sachin had backache that left him bed-ridden. His consultants got the clue to the diagnosis and future management from Dr. Kumar’s research.

Observing abnormal fish-kills in the coastal areas including Mangaluru, Dr. Kumar realised there was an earthquake-like disturbance at the bottom of the sea, which could result in a tsunami. His paper on this subject was appreciated.

In my first book, titled Doctor Speaks, I had mentioned that god as a concept was a creation of the human mind as a good placebo healer, and that the human mind was not in the human brain. It was a fatal mistake to use reductionist chemicals for mental illnesses; the latter only ends up damaging the brain while the mind that is not at peace remains as such! While the whole world laughed at me, only two people thanked me: the publisher of my book, the late Dr. H.K. Ranganath, PhD, at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and Dr. Kumar, my student.

Dr. Kumar proved that smoking kills for sure, by example. He met the disease head-on with dignity and courage. Dr. Kumar was the true face of good research which, in essence, is having a question in the mind and then going as far away from the mind as you can to get an answer. That should be true science. Enquiry is getting shackled and is not free any more (Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery, by Rupert Sheldrake).

The most courageous thing that Dr. Kumar did was to donate his body to his own department of anatomy where he had studied and taught for decades! Indeed, he walked the talk.

hegdebm@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 5:07:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-teachers-tribute/article22267846.ece

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