Basking in reflected glory – as usual

Posted: October 9, 2009 in Nobel Prize
Tags: , ,

The dumbest headline I’ve read in years was the one that appeared in a national newspaper the other day. The story on the awardee of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan said “He liked idlis as a kid”. Maybe I am stupid, but how many Tam Brahms have you heard of, who did not like idlis? If he didn’t, it would have made a great headline!

What no publication has bothered to ask Ramakrishnan or write about is why he left India for the US and never thought of returning. Don’t think for one minute that I am talking patriotism here. It’s a question I would ask him, just to see his response, instead of fawning over him and trying to kiss his ass, like everyone else is doing.

And look at the way the Bongs and the Tams fighting over how many Nobel Prize winners came from their respective regions! The score is level at 3-3. Have you heard of anything more parochial? People, the guy is not an Indian, but a US citizen and has been one for years. More importantly, he is from Gujarat, where, interestingly, he funds the education of Muslim girls displaced in the riots, thankfully not out of some misplaced sense of guilt, but because he is upset with the events. Have any of you heard Narendra Modi calling Ramakrishnan a son of the soil?

Personally, I don’t really blame Ramakrishnan for leaving India and never returning. Look at what’s happening in the IITs and IIMs, where poorly paid professors are fighting for a better deal. A lot of those ‘bhoole bhatkes’ who come back to India from the west are the ones who have accepted the bitter truth that whichever country they go to, they’ll always be second class citizens, and the only people around whom they can throw their weight (and money) is at their Indian brethren because we love to ingratiate ourselves to anyone who is ‘phoren.’

I remember how frustrated my elder brother would be, while working in Dubai for over a decade and a half. He knew a lot more about advertising than anyone else in that place, but when it came to promotions the idiot Arab would bring in some half-wit Brit, who knew as much about advertising as a dumb journalist knows about information technology. It was only when the ownership of the agency changed hands that big brother got his due. And guess who the new owners were – Pakistanis!

Of course, my brother migrated to Canada over a decade ago from Dubai and does occasionally state that he never wants to return to India, except for a holiday! And lately not even for that!! But does he feel like a first class citizen in Canada? That’s a question only he can answer.

But coming back to the brain drain, during my days with Hindustan Times in Lucknow, at a party in October 2004, I met a retired IIT professor who mentioned to me that IIT Kanpur was going through a crisis of confidence. He said that a lot of professors, fed up with the government’s attitude towards them, were heading west.

His story was that very interesting and innovative inventions were catching dust in the laboratories because neither the government nor the nodal agencies were interested in finding buyers. He described some of these to me and, believe me, they would have been a boon to people.

But the thick-skinned government officials couldn’t have cared less. And this was during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who wanted IIT’s scientists to do more research which would benefit the nation. The poor scientists were left wondering what use was their research when their inventions would be left to rot in the labs.

The happy ending to the story was that GP Varma, the reporter who did most of the legwork for the story, and I, were delighted to hear that our story was raised in Parliament and the government admitted that there were lapses at IIT Kanpur that would be corrected.

So while I have no problem with Ramakrishnan buzzing off to the US in search of greener pastures, I do have an issue with people basking in the reflected glory of an achievement that is not theirs – not by a few billion molecules

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Comments
  1. Rajiv Sinha says:

    Big brother does indeed feel like a first class citizen in Canada – because unlike the US – Canadians seem to bend over backwards to be accomodating to the strangers in their midst. From where I sit, it is now the "ethnics",who, emboldened by this accomodating attitude, seem to want to impose their cultural fetishes by force or the law on the rest. Witness the fierce debate about Shariah laws being made legal, the wearing of the niqa'ab, honour killings being treated gently and polygamy.We've migrated like lemmings to the twin centres of Montreal and Toronto and turned whole areas of those towns into ghettoes – much like Queens, New York or Southall, England. More and more of the gangs – much like the US – are African, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Jamaican, or Indian.So pretty soon, once we have completely overrun this fair land and turned it into a mini-India, corrupted anything and everything, I'll feel right at home.

  2. apu says:

    Great piece. Came here from blogbharti. I always wonder why we are so eager to claim their achievements, when really, it is the countries that they live in which can claim to have actually encouraged and nurtured them.

  3. Keshav Kulkarni says:

    came her from blogbharti. "What no publication has bothered to ask Ramakrishnan or write about is why he left India for the US and never thought of returning. Don’t think for one minute that I am talking patriotism here. It's a question I would ask him, just to see his response.". I agree with you that you cannot interveiw the Ramakrishnan.But you write…"Of course, my brother migrated to Canada over a decade ago from Dubai and does occasionally state that he never wants to return to India, except for a holiday! And lately not even for that!! But does he feel like a first class citizen in Canada? That’s a question only he can answer." what prevented you from asking the question to your brother and put it in your blog? That would have given some insight to the article. – Keshav(www.keshavkulkarni.blogspot.com)

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