Deceptive eyes, a cricket ace & belated degree!

Deceptive eyes, a cricket ace & belated degree!

It was the year 1982 and, as part of the Asian Games that were being conducted in New Delhi that year, India and Pakistan clashed in the finals of the hockey tournament

It was the year 1982 and, as part of the Asian Games that were being conducted in New Delhi that year, India and Pakistan clashed in the finals of the hockey tournament. Even by half-time, it was evident that India would get a drubbing – so big was Pakistan's lead by that time.

While the crowd was trying to recover from the blitzkrieg carried out by Pakistan, a young girl was seen running around the stands, waving India's national flag in her hand, and shouting "India! India!" Priyanka Gandhi! Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was also watching the match.

When the match was over, she got up from her chair, and my wife pointed out to me the manner in which she neatly folded the shawl which she had been covering herself with all the time, before she moved away.

I am almost colour blind. I understand that the politically correct way of describing the condition is that I suffer from "defective colour vision!" I have described in my book "Trekking Over Pebbles: Life Through a Hyderabadi's Looking Glass", the manner in which I nearly missed selection to the civil services on account of that defect, but managed to scrape through, thanks to my brother-in-law Yechury (father of Sitaram Yechury, the CPI(M) leader), whose cross examination of those who were conducting the test revealed some defects in the procedure which worked in my favour. I was, therefore, given the benefit of the doubt and declared fit.

To this day, somebody has to nudge me and tell me which colour light it is that is on, when I am at traffic signals, so that I can decide to stop or go! I recall with great amusement (now that it's all behind me!), my experience with a chemistry experiment as an undergraduate student at Hindu College, Delhi. We had to pour a specific reagent into a tube containing a certain chemical and stop when the mixture started turning pink. I still remember Dr Mehra, the chemistry lecturer, shouting from the raised platform where he sat, "Mohan, for God's sake stop! Your mixture is turning almost purple!"

Another memory that keeps coming back from Hindu College days is of the Nawab of Pataudi playing a friendly match in the grounds of the college. Where all gathered in small groups all-round the ground. And whenever we clapped, then what would hit a six which fell precisely at the spot where we were standing!

And he did all that, soon after a surgery had robbed him of vision in one eye, over which he wore a patch! And the way he spotted the ball and attacked it, he could well have been the Jam Saheb of Nava Nagar, describing whose shots the inimitable A G Gardiner wrote that they reminded one of the stillness of the panther, and the suddenness of its spring!

After the completion of my post-graduation in Osmania University (OU), I registered for a PhD in the subject of the Theory of Relativity with Dr Vanaja Iyengar as my guide. I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship by the University Grants Commission which, in those days, was a handsome Rs 250 per month! Work got underway soon and I produced two papers which were accepted for publication in journals, one in India and one in France.

It was at that time that I had to decide between pursuing my research work and preparing for the civil services examinations. While my guide was hell-bent on my continuing the work and had even arranged for me to go to Sorbonne University in Paris to do so, my father was clear that I could choose a career only after first having a crack at the civil services exam.

I decided to respect my father's wishes and started preparation in right earnest. In the meantime, I got selected as a Probationary Officer in the State Bank of India and trained for about four months in a branch of the bank at Machilipatnam. Then one day, came the news of my selection to the IAS.

It was some 25 years later that I set my mind to the task of obtaining a PhD. There was no way I could have continued my work in mathematics so I chose the subject of agriculture credit, a field in which I had worked intensively in my days as the Registrar of Cooperative Societies and Secretary (Agriculture and Cooperation) in Andhra Pradesh State as also as Joint Secretary (Credit and Cooperation) in the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation in the Ministry of Agriculture of the government of India.

I worked under two different supervisors, Dr Upadhyaya of OU – to begin with, and Dr Choudhary, of the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University, later on. By the time I completed my thesis, I had proceeded to Delhi to work as a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture of the government of India.

Although I waited for several years, the call from the university, asking me to defend my thesis before a committee constituted for that purpose by the university, did not come. And when I made enquiries, I was told the strangest possible thing that my thesis had not been submitted at all according to the records of the university!

Totally aghast at the devastating news, I wrote to the university, and went there in person, and met several of my friends who had, by then, risen to senior positions in the university.

A thorough search was instituted and, finally, my thesis was recovered from the papers lying with the Business Management Department of the university. Finally, I was called to defend my thesis and upon doing so successfully, was awarded a doctorate in due course. A close shave that, which had me with heart in mouth for a few anxious moments!

(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)

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