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Address of K C R Raja at the Life time Achievement... I am indeed grateful to you for conferring on me this prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award . I recall that this award was instituted in 1966 and the first recipient was Mr Arvind Mafatlal...

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THAT PENUMBRA OF APPROBATION THAT PENUMBRA OF APPROBATION "There is no penumbra of approbation round the theory of equilibrium. Equilibrium is just equilibrium." Discuss. Yes, this was a question we had in our Economics paper...

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Swami Vivekananda at Harvard Swami Vivekananda’s stay at Harvard , although well documented, presents many incidents that have been relatively unnoticed. This, the 150th year of Swamiji’s  birth anniversary, is an appropriate...

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Vishwanath’s First Century and a Kick start to my... It is amazing how a small incident can make a crucial difference to your life and career. This was what Vishwanath’s test debut did to me. I was a relatively junior official in my company. I knew I was...

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Meeting Satyajit Ray......and into Ashani Sanket (Satyajit Ray and I have had very little in common, personally and certainly not professionally. Most mornings I drove past Ray's house on Bishop Lefroy  Road and parked my car close by. I had, however...

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Address of K C R Raja at the Life time Achievement Awards Function of the Rotary Club of Bombay West on Wednesday , 24 May at at Rotary Service Centre, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai Asha

Category : Featured

I am indeed grateful to you for conferring on me this prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award .

I recall that this award was instituted in 1966 and the first recipient was Mr Arvind Mafatlal . Since then distinguished achievers from within the Rotary and outside have received this award. The number is not very large .We have had Chaturbhujbhai, Mohanbhai, the seniormost Rotarian in this Club today , Ramesh Oza who has so singularly and nobly devoted himself to a great cause and Sukdev Puriji whose knowledge and wisdom have been as much at the service of his profession as at social causes. Little did I dream then I would one day be considered worthy of entry into this select band of awardees .

For some strange reason, my own perception of this award was that this award would go to persons who are old and have nearly completed a lifetime of achievement. I don’t know about Achievement but I am not old! Specially in the midst of Mohanbhai who calls me a bacha and Madhav Mohan who introduces me to young audiences as the youngest man around. I am only 85!

I guess, on an occasion like this, I have your permission to indulge in some pleasant , romanticised recollections. I remember the day in 1984 when my wife and I met with a near fatal accident . That was neither pleasant nor romantic! But That gave me a rebirth in two worlds- the world of Rotary and the world of education…….. I remember the day when my friend Godrej Dotiwala insisted that I should join Rotary. He then took the phone and rang up three persons- Vasu Chabria, Dinshaw Sorabjee and Vasant Kalbag. For some strange reason, all three agreed to sponsor me. A short write up about me landed in the hands of Vasant Kalbag and it was Vasant who sponsored me. I am thankful to Godrej that it was this Club that he had chosen for me and to Bombay West for accepting me. Because I have had the privilege of travelling through Rotary on the shoulders of giants, of great, great achievers. Of men like Mohanbhai , Sippy Rao, Dinshaw, Shashi Walawalakar, Anand Sachdev,Keki Hathi . There are others with whom I have spent long years- ShashiWalawalkar, Dr Bhargava, Suresh Jasani, Uday Chande, Tushar Shah, Subhashis Bhattacharya , Rajinder Ruia , Prakash Shah and Firoze Dorabshaw. I have a long list which would take much of your time and many columns in the Flying Carpet.How can I forget the long evenings I have spent with them on board meetings, on projects and memorable get togethers? I have also watched with admiration the work of a new generation of leaders right up to Shirish, Aslam and Harminder – a new cohesive, collaborative and creative leadership system that speaks of the culture of this Club!

I was indeed fortunate that my two worlds, Rotary and Career Education often converged and reinforced each other . In 1985, I moved, after 20 years in industry, to become the Director of the only institute that a university had set up- the Garware Institute -to offer design and deliver career education, to deliver employable skills at graduate and postgraduate levels.The next year, I became Director , Vocational Service in this club.

If the Garware Institute gave me professional skills in education management, Rotary gave me purpose and perspective. This was a unique experience – of training scores boys and girls who would otherwise have gone into a blind alley like thousands of conventional BAs and. B Coms. They were not MBA students: they did not even have the means to do a degree course in a good college. They were aspirants from relatively low income families- the son of a post man, of a painter or carpenter, the daughter of a taxi driver or of peon. They are today in positions of authority : running own travel agency, or working in a foreign bank, or as a journalist or TV interviewer. To them or their parents, life has never again been the same.

I must recount some precious moments .

I remember one evening when one of our alumni took me to the wedding of his friend, a past student, in Thane. On our way back he asked me whether I would drop in at his home. I did. I met his father, a retired postman who was sitting on a charpoy in a rented home. He was surprised to see me coming in unannounced. He apologised to me for no reason.The son had completed our course in Paint Application Technology two years ago and was working in the paint shop floor of a well-known company. He had been put in charge of the complete modernisation of the paint shop, including the selection, import and installation of new equipment. Only because he had given a complete project during his job training as part of our course. He was simultaneously taking on painting contracts , as he was while studying at our institute . The father thanked me because the son had earned enough to marry off his sister and buy a Maruti 800 which then cost Rs 80000.

I know of another student who passed out and was without a job; he did not wish to join his father’s business in Baroda, instead stayed on and did the painting job of a temple in Vile Parle free and as a result got enough business to start a company of his own.

We have such instances-several of them-of students spread far and wide, as far away as New Zealand, New York and Vancouver and as near as Vile Parle and Vashi.

In a sense, that institute had foreseen and fiercely advocated what is now being implemented as a new national effort to promote skills- Skills India with a National Skills Foundation, a public – private partnership, national occupational standards, competency based curriculum , assessment and certification standards, that will be nationally recognised. We had developed a model and wanted it to be replicated. We had even worked with CII who had written to the then Prime Minister who responded readily but action was painfully slow and not visible.The task is daunting 500 million jobs by 2022 but at least a beginning is in sight.

This was indeed one of the most satisfying periods of my life. Another started when one evening I had a call from Mohanbhai saying that Kalyan Banerjee wanted to meet me and before I could ask me why, he said ‘ Kalyan is on his way and will reach your house in another 15 minutes”. He did. We met for the first time to talk about a dream project of his, a Rotary Club sponsored management institute in Vapi. I had never heard of such a project sponsored by Rotary. Two days later, we went to Vapi to a few sites where the Institute could be located. Finally we landed in the evening, in what looked like a huge haunted house. Lying unused for more than ten years. It was getting dark and we had to take a quick tour. There were no lights, there were lizards, cobwebs and bats flying over our heads. In the far distance we saw a lantern being lit and a long beard, a shrivelled face, a ghostly figure that befitted the haunted house. It was the lone watchman. I could not run away but thought I should never come back.

It is that place that has been converted into a management institute by months and years of labour- we have travelled together in search of faculty, of a Director , of donors, of a good Governing Council.

It was an adventure that was both instructive and inspirational.

We were joined by some of the most brilliant minds I have met. I had with me Mr Madhav Mohan right from the start, one who never accepted anything we said without questioning and analysis and giving an alternative , we had Professor Jahar Saha , then Director , IIM Ahmedabad with whom came some IIM faculty , Professor Chakraborty of IIM Lucknow and distinguished industry leaders.
House- visiting faculty- Binota

Above all United Phosphorus and Rajjubhai Shroff to back us with generous donations. I am grateful to Kalyan for the opportunity I had to go to great institutions like Kellogg Business School, the Weather head School of Management of Case Western University , to management institutes in China and Korea to learn of their educational system, curriculum design and development, teaching methods and educational administration.. I am particularly happy that this award is being given to me by Kalyan.

Finally, if I am old enough to settle in a retirement community in Bangalore, I am still young enough to learn painting and to register for on line courses of the universities of California and Yale. I am grateful to you for your good wishes. I do hope that this brief candle will remain lighted for a few more years without having to face storm or thundershowers.

Thank you very much indeed.

THAT PENUMBRA OF APPROBATION

Category : Miscellany

THAT PENUMBRA OF APPROBATION

“There is no penumbra of approbation round the theory of equilibrium. Equilibrium is just equilibrium.” Discuss.

Yes, this was a question we had in our Economics paper the year I joined the BA (Hons) Economics course. The answer is clear and simple: it is like saying 2+2=4 whether you like it or not : there is nothing you can do about it.

The quote is from Lionel Robbins’ book based on his lecture “ The Nature and Significance of Economics”. For Robbins, this may have been an esoteric way of bringing home a point to the Cambridge school, that economics is concerned with cause and effect , with actions and outcomes , with scarce resources that have to be deployed to achieve chosen ends ; that it is not the business of economists to give prescriptions. Yet that statement , out of context, sounds mystifying and non-communicative.

A few years later I had the privilege of attending Robbins’ lectures : the great man was anything but jargon: there was a flow that was easy, effortless and enjoyable. I admired the flow of his thoughts in lucid and understandable language- although my views on many of the issues he discussed had already been shaped by the ‘welfare’ economists of a different kind.

Economists themselves have been some of the worst critics of this style of communication.Listen to this, from the great economist Galbraith, “‘Economics is a subject profoundly conducive to cliche, resonant with boredom. On few topics is an American audience so practiced in turning off its ears and minds. And none can say that the response is ill advised.”

James Gingerly once wrote in the Guardian on economic journalism with the following extract from a report the Telegraph describing the Greek financial crisis:

“Late on Wednesday night, the governing council of the ECB decided that it would no longer accept Greek sovereign debt as collateral for its loans. Greece’s junk-rated bonds had been the subject of a “waiver”, where the central bank accepted sovereign and bank debt as security in return for cheap ECB funding.”
Gingerly adds,
“I’m a fairly intelligent man. I am deeply interested in foreign affairs. Yet I have only the vaguest sense of what the above means. Does “sovereign debt” or “junk-rated bonds” or, in this context, “collateral” mean much to the average person? Have any of these phrases truly entered the public consciousness? I would argue not. A recent survey of 1,500 University of Manchester students would agree with me. Only 40% of them could even properly define GDP. “

As a student of economics, I used to wonder why economists made simple things difficult by couching them in a language that most people would not understand. I don’t anymore. I have myself been guilty of that , while teaching management courses, preferring jargon that perhaps stifled more than stimulated thinking. We teachers often become slaves of jargons and cliches, of codes and symbols and fail to share meaning.

I have come across some explanations but none very satisfying: that economists talk largely to economists and when they do talk to others they use the same language: that while talking to politicians and policy makers at the highest level it is prudent to be ambiguous: that they are poor at predicting and excel in rationalising why their predictions did not materialise..

Perhaps teaching economics is very different today. There are even books on Commonsense Economics, But that ‘penumbra of approbation’ does pop up in my mind often, as it did when I first went in to teach managerial economics.

Swami Vivekananda at Harvard

1

Category : Non Profits

Swami Vivekananda’s stay at Harvard , although well documented, presents many incidents that have been relatively unnoticed. This, the 150th year of Swamiji’s  birth anniversary, is an appropriate time to remind Indian and American audiences of them. The Swamiji’s first visit to  Harvard was occasioned by the initial refusal of the Parliament of Religions, at Chicago,  register him as a delegate. On arriving at Chicago from Vancouver in    1893, the Swamiji was told that the Parliament would not open before the first week of September and that it was too late for the registration of delegates. Further that no registration will be accepted without official references.Requests to religious organizations in India  for sponsorship produced no response. Frustrated and almost penniless, Vivekananda decided to board a train from Chicago to Boston. In the train, his appearance and conversation struck a fellow traveler, Miss Katherine Sanborne, to strike up a conversation. On hearing of the Swami’s mission she was immensely interested in the project and invited him to her house. There she introduced him  to a Harvard professor, Prof J H Wright who was professor of Greek and (later became Dean of Undergraduate Studies). Professor wright was at once struck by the genius  of the Indian monk and insisted that Vivekananda should represent Hinduism at the Parliament of Religions. Prof Wright wrote to the President of the Committee. He offered Vivekananda a railway ticket to Chicago and letters of recommendation to the Committee for finding lodgings. Prof Wright remarked,” to ask you to ………….

In 1896, after a brief visit to England, Vivekananda returned to the U S and lectured at several places-in New York, Boston and Detroit, before the Metaphysical Society of Hartford, before the Ethical Society of Brooklyn and before students and professors at Harvard. At Harvard he was offered the Chair of Oriental Philosophy , at Columbia, the Chair of Sanskrit. At New York, under the presidency of Mr Francis Leggett, he organized the Vedantic Society which was to become the centre of vedantist movement in America. What Vivekananda represented at the Parliament of religions was more tha Hinduism: in the true spirit of Hinduism he represented a universal religion that seeks to unite and not divide.

Vishwanath’s First Century and a Kick start to my career

Category : Non Profits

It is amazing how a small incident can make a crucial difference to your life and career. This was what Vishwanath’s test debut did to me. I was a relatively junior official in my company. I knew I was being trained to take over the Market Research Division. But that would have depended on my success in one or two difficult assignments . There was no dearth of competitors!

One such assignment came up in 1969- a survey on a new type of decorative closures. The liquor companies were the principal prospects. There were only three major groups and I could therefore approach each of them to conduct personal interviews.

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Meeting Satyajit Ray……and into Ashani Sanket

Category : Miscellany

(Satyajit Ray and I have had very little in common, personally and certainly not professionally. Most mornings I drove past Ray’s house on Bishop Lefroy  Road and parked my car close by. I had, however never thought of meeting Ray, let alone, discussing his films. Yet I did meet him once…)

I had seen most of Satyajit Ray’s films, many without subtitles, in Calcutta’s theatres and had just started going to the Sunday morning shows of a film society. The film society movement owed its existence to Ray; it was pretty active in the 1970’s and 80’s and had   produced renowned directors like Basu Chatterjee, Kantilal Rathod and Shyam Benegal. I had heard something about Ray’s shooting style and schedules from my colleague in Metal Box, Dhritiman Chatterjee, who had an offer for the principal role in Ray’s film Pratidhwandhi and had just finished shooting. Dhritiman was a management trainee and it took a great deal of pleading and the intervention of a Director, for the British company to bend its rules and let him take two months off for shooting.

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AMRITABHASHINI and its Fading Footprints

Category : Non Profits

In the Wikipedia pages on Kottakkal, there is a mention of Amrutabhashini . I quote ,” The development activities of women included modern publications such as Amritha Bhashini and Bala Chandrika, published by Kovilakam”. I do not know about Balachandrika but I have gained, while going through my mother’s papers, two volumes of Amritabhashini. (I am trying to digitize them)

These two volumes were produced by the Thampurattis of Kizhakke Covilagam more than 70 years ago. The fading pages of the handwritten journal are the fading footprints of a laudable literary effort!

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Another Family Reunion

Category : Miscellany

Family Reunion-May 11, 2014

The Kizhakke Covilagam family reunion I attended in 2010 was my first experience of attending the annual family meet, started ten years ago. I attended it a second time the following year and then again this year. For the first time a Zamorin was present. → Continue

Medical Education: Is Ethics part of it ?

Category : Non Profits

July 31, 2014 diagnostic tests
It is high time that a formal course in ethics is made an integral part of medical education.

An administrator of a leading hospital in Mumbai, herself a doctor, told me once that the general practitioner was on his way out. I asked her how much a practitioner would be earning in Mumbai. Rs 20,000 a month, Rs 25000? Her reply was stunning! An average general practitioner would, she said, be lucky if he earns Rs 10000 from consultations. Many , she added, are packing up and looking for alternative avenues of employment. My own doctor packed his bags two years ago and shifted to his home town.

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Swami Vivekananda and John Rockefeller- The Sanyasin and the Billionaire

Category : Non Profits

Swami Vivekananda’s  meeting with John Rockefeller is one of the lesser known facts about his stay in Chicago . The meeting has been documented although neither Vivekananda nor Rockefeller has written or apparently spoken , at least in public,  about it.  The impact of that meeting can only be inferred from subsequent actions.

It is  said that opposites attract each other and that  pairs of opposites produce great results. One could not have imagined a pair more unlike each other   than Swami Vivekananda  and John  and Rockefeller in temperament, life style and social and cultural backgrounds. Rockefeller had brought up Standard Oil and  was considered the  richest man in the world and had all the  material comforts he could have wished for. Vivekananada, on the other hand, was a penniless sanyasin  who had renounced all material comfort  but was in a position to give  great   spiritual  energy  to anyone who met or heard him. → Continue

Address of Shri C. B. Garware, Garware Foundation, at the First Abasaheb Garware Memorial Lecture, on 8th December, 2004, in the Convocation Hall, University of Mumbai.

Category : Non Profits

[This is a speech I have preserved because it reminds me of my good old days at the Garware Institute and of the educational adventure the institute is in. I reproduce it in full below.]

This year the UNIVERSITY OF MUMBAI’S GARWARE INSTITUTE FOR CAREER EDUCATION & DEVELOPMENT has attained the ripe age of twenty years, and we as a family and the GARWARE FOUNDATION take great pride in this achievement and the fact that our Late father Dr. Abasaheb Garware would have completed 100 years of his life. Unfortunately he is not here to share this proud day, but as his second son I would like to remember his dreams and his vision in establishing this Institute devoted strictly for vocational/skill-based education.

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