Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Was Gandhiji anti-technology?

Gandhiji has been hailed by many as a severe critic of Western Civilisation. But that does not seem to make him a Luddite. And this distinction is important.

I think this link here should lay such claims to rest. I found it interesting and felt it must be shared.

Here we are told of a Machine Contest that Gandhiji seems to have announced whose method and reach is something that can be used even today to see what best can be to solve the problems of our farmers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

President's Speech and Some Personal Experiences

I was writing this post for the past so many days that it will get to see the light of the day today.

President Kalam's speech on the eve of Independence Day this time has centered around "National Awakening" - pumping in some interesting thoughts as he shared his experiences from his tours to various corners of the country, by quoting different methods/models applied by eminent people across the country to provide solutions to issues of concern. I had the pleasure of witnessing two of the quoted methods/models myself - and I thought of sharing a few thoughts about them.

The first one - is about the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical Trust (MGMMT), started by Dr. M R Raju. President Kalam was referring to a Model of making young students enthused to take up study in an exciting way which he prepared along with Dr. M R Raju which is being implemented at the place. You may find more about it going through the link above. I would not be writing about this Model any more than this. The MGMMT also runs the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Cancer Research Institute (MGMCRI), Pedamiram, where state-of-the-art Cancer Research is taking place.

Pedamiram is a small village near Bhimavaram, a town in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. A more easy way of remembering Bhimavaram is to say that Dr. Ramalinga Raju of Satyam Computers hails from this place. The Rajus of Bhimavaram are very popular.

Getting back to MGMMT, Dr. M R Raju is an internationally known scientist in the area of radiation and cancer. He has published more than 125 research papers and is the author of the book "Heavy Particle radiotherapy" published by the Academic Press. He conducted research in pioneering research institutions such as MIT, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory Berkeley, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Massachusetts General Hospital. is an internationally known scientist in the area of radiation and cancer. He has published more than 125 research papers and is the author of the book "Heavy Particle radiotherapy" published by the Academic Press. He conducted research in pioneering research institutions such as MIT, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory Berkeley, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The story of Dr. MR Raju is a very fascinating one.

My father who used to work in Bhimavaram came to know of Dr. M R Raju through a newspaper report (some time in November) which said President Kalam was to visit Bhimavaram to inaugurate the new building of MGMCRI ( The function, if am not wrong took place on January 9th, 2006).

The next day he seemed to have called on Dr. Raju to enquire if he could meet him sometime, to which Dr. Raju agreed. My father met him a day later. On meeting him and introducing himself, my father said he was happy and surprised to know that something as big and important that attracted the attention of President Kalam took place in this remote locality. Dr. Raju remarked "These days it is unfortunate that we require newspapers to know of what's happening in one's own village" - and my father nodded in agreement informing him that though he saw the board of MGMMT, he never ventured to come inside to get to know more about it. My father called me that day and said - I want you to meet this man. It'll be a great experience for you.

On my visit to Bhimavaram in Dec'05, I accompanied my father to Mahatma Gandhi Cancer Research Institute. Dr. Raju was not in the Institute then. Upon a request for an appointment from Dr. Raju, we received an invite from him to his ancestors' home, a tiled-roof house - in Bhimavaram, for an evening chat.

Before I talk of the conversation between him and I, I must give some background.

Earlier in the day, my father took me around Bhimavaram - to show me the places of interest. He has this habit of marking all the queer things that are unique to that place. The Godavari Districts have a very rich heritage and one can find those traits through the names of the villages. Take this name for instance - "Srunga Vriksham" - a village right at the outskirts of the Bhimavaram town. My father took me to this place just to show the name of the village written on a board! There are many other things he told me, which I don't quite remember. Now, in the process, he took me to this Ashram which had an Old-Age home in the name one Swami Jnanananda.

Swami Jnanananda happens to be one of the first greats to have come from this land. His life sketch is quite amazing.

Born in the village Goraganamudi in 1896, Swami left for the Himalayas when he was 21. Out of the blue, he felt an urge to go to the Himalayas. He spent around 10 years in the Himalayas where he practised Yoga, studied Vedic Literature, and became a saint. He wrote poems, commentaries on Vedic Philosophy etc. During this time, his interest turned towards Physics, and he traveled to Germany where he lectured on Vedic Philosophy. He studied Mathematics and Physics at Dresden. He took up research in High Tension and X-Ray Physics at Charles University, Prague where he was awarded DSc.

At the beginning of the WW II, he moved to England where he joined University of Liverpool under Sir James Chadwick (yes, the same man who discovered the Neutron!), where he researched in Nuclear Physics, Spectroscopy of Beta Radiations and received his PhD. He then wrote a book called "High Vacuum". He came back to India and held a number of important positions before ending up working on pioneering work in Nuclear Physics at the Andhra University.

If you find this interesting and want to read more, click here.

So, this man, Swami Jnanananda had a number of disciples - his students who were highly influenced by this man, and who became great men. Dr. M R Raju is one of them.

The context of my discussion with Dr. M R Raju was pre-decided. I wanted to talk about a project of mine, which I have been doing, as a part of which I happened to go to Gandhi Ashram at Sewagram, Wardha to meet this great man called Shri Dharampal. The project is aimed at thinking ways and means through which History teaching can help enable students form perspectives about the world around.

With this background let me write about the conversation that took place.

My father and I went to Dr. M R Raju's place, we found Dr. Raju sitting in the front room work reading some papers on his desk. He invited us with a smile. Having introduced myself to him, I set out the agenda for our discussion - telling him that I have been working on this project and so on. Having inquired about some points about the project - he set out to tell me some of his experiences. Snippets from the discussion are as follows:

"I have never been a great student - was never among the toppers. If you are interested in research - then remember one thing - it is more about your perseverence than your intelligence."

"Those were days when all of us in the town were swayed by the success of Swami Jnanananda who was the one to make it Big from our place. So, most of us took his guidance. I was one among them. I started off with a great deal of enthusiasm of the youth - set out to find a cure for cancer. Went to the US to study Radiology, taught there, worked in Research Labs, published a lot of papers. But after some point I realised, there is some thing more to be done. My hopes of finding that cure for Cancer have not materialised, and I realise more of the complexity involved. I am now here, back in my ancestral home, in my home town doing this work - which is a lot more pleasing"

There was a discussion about Public Service:

"If you talk of Public Service - remember some of these things. It is never easy to dedicate oneself to Public Service. Understand that you are in Public Service only when you can think of "Public" and never about the notion of "Service". I was under the impression for a long time that Doctors, Scientists, Engineers all these Professional people are all doing public service, and I also felt that I used to be doing a great service doing my research and so on. As I look back, I realise that I am gratifying my personal self as I did those things more than with an intention of service. Today, I am here, doing this work - with the Trust, I see this work of mine having a great impact than all that I have done in the past - yet, I cannot still claim that I am doing public service. I am still satisfying my own urge. The moment you realise this, that is when service truly begins."

That was a long and memorable conversation. Some time down the line, I shall write of the other experience - on Jeevan Vidya.