I belonged to the first batch of the course from 1975-77 started by the University and had chosen it because I thought it would improve my chances of landing with a good job and hence retraced from a course in Physics which I had planned earlier.
In retrospect, the decision was good at least due to one reason that I was to study under a great sage in the form of Padmasree Professor Dr.R. Ananthakrishnan. Dr.Ananthakrishnan was a disciple of the Nobel laureate Sir C. V.Raman and completed his D.Sc, in 1937, under the guidance of the great master, in the field of light scattering.
He contributed scientific research work in every branch of Physics, with special reference to various subjects in meteorology. His book titled, ‘Climatology of Himalayas’ is considered a major work in the field. His research papers in the international and national journals run over a hundred. He also wrote the book ‘An Introduction to Meteorology’ which is considered their “bible “by the students of Atmospheric sciences.
While his scientific works were monumental even by international standards, I thought of highlighting some of the personal experiences about the great master we students shared while studying under him.
Dr.Ananthakrishnan was a teacher in the mould of a Rishi. He was thorough in his knowledge of the subject he taught and had no confusion whatsoever. Probably he founded his path like the sages who wrote the Upanishads who said, “’Nethi, Nethi” (Not this, Not this) till they realized the Absolute. I found the inner meaning of many equations in vector analyzis by sitting in front of this great sage. He seemed to enjoy the analyzis of mathematical equations. Going at great length while deducing some mathematical calculations, he would often say, “You can actually play with these figures “. To this great master, it was quite a playful act to solve big mathematical riddles.
He always used to inspire us. He used to assert that the purpose of education should not be to get an employment. He always yearned for perfection through dedication and commitment. I remember his oft repeated statement: “’There is always room at the top. Only at lower levels you see all the rush”. It took me years to imbibe the real meaning of his words.
He was completely a no nonsense man. We had never seen anything superficial and flimsy about this man. He never indulged in petty talks, gossips, politics or even matters of daily routines.
He was extremely simple in his habits. He used to stay in one of our hostel rooms in the University campus in the Foreshore road, Kochi with only the basic infrastructure in place. This man who was the direct disciple of Nobel laureate C.V.Raman and who was a renowned scientist of national and international importance honoured by the Government of India through a Padmasree was so down to earth that he used to go by walk in the evenings with a cloth-bag to buy fruits, bread and vegetables which constituted his simple food habits.
I and some of my friends like Thomas (Dr.KV. Thomas is now a senior scientist with the Centre for Earth Science Studies, Kerala) and Jose Antony (presently a Dean at the University of New York at Brockport) used to play many pranks and often peeped into the room of the Professor. He, in his abundant peace and sophisticated ways might be seen applying butter to a toast using the knife in the gentlest way possible. Otherwise, we mostly found him reading scientific books or journals.
We had an occasion which threw light into his infinite compassion to the poor. It also showed how far way he lived with his lofty thoughts wandering away from the daily struggles of life. One day while he was taking classes, a wandering woman came with a child begging for alms. The woman came to the entrance of the classes escaping the eyes of a watchman. Suddenly, quite taken aback, the Professor asked us to wait and went upstairs to his room. He returned with a handful of small denomination currency notes, obviously not counted, and gave it to the begging woman who seemed wonderstruck at receiving a large sum and left immediately with folded hands.In those days, it might have been quite a sum and we all got bemused to great extent.
He was a man with exuberance, zest and total dedication to work. He belonged to a generation of our great ancestors who believed in pursuing greater ideals in life and never went after fame and monetary gains. Pursuit of knowledge was the sole mission in course of which they strived for self actualization. He had childlike innocence too as reflected through his spontaneous laughter.
I remember an occasion when another guest professor Wing Commander KK Ramamurthy came to our classroom when Professor Ananthakrishnan was taking classes. They were old friends and possibly were meeting after long time. Both looked at each other, came nearer and went on with their loud laughter born out of surprise which lasted several minutes. It reflected genuine warmth, purity of friendship and childlike reflexes.
Looking back, I realize that I was naïve enough not to have known the greatness of the master. If destiny provided another opportunity to meet him I would sit at his feet and take fresh guidance in lessons to pursue excellence and to be childlike in accepting the ways of the world.