Friday, 12 November, 2010 http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20101111/himachal.htm#8
The news in the Tribune dated 11 November, 2010 about Prof deSouza getting another term as Director of the prestigious IIAS, Indian Institute of Advanced Study made me really happy. The detailed news speaks about Peter writing to Ministry of HRD much in advance to appoint someone as the new Director so that the work at the institute does not suffer owing to vacuum created after his term came to an end in December, 2010. Now this particular aspect is very important keeping in view the kind of pressure that is exerted by some other “Directors” to have an extended tenure at some other Institutes. I believe that this is an appropriate time to write a few words about my first meeting with Prof Peter Ronald deSouza at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla!
It was in December, 2009 when Prof deSouza shared with me the good news about my selection as a Fellow at the Institute. I was so overwhelmed at the news that I must have uttered a few thank yous and the stuff but making little real conversation. What I remembered later on was only the tone and the quality of the voice which I found to be very genuine and humane. Perhaps the teacher of Communication Skills was assessing a person through his voice! If I remember correctly, it was on Monday the 28th of June, 2010 when I had the first opportunity to meet and converse with Peter, as he is affectionately called by all the Fellows and friends of IIAS. Though, I have talked much about this meeting with many of my friends but I think this is the time to share with my readers how this meeting went as it would show certain qualities that make a person a good “Director”. And don’t we all aim for excellence, may be even in words and logos perhaps!
I was in very bad shape physically, mentally and psychologically at the time when I went to Shimla on 27 June, 2010. The Institute I had worked at, whole heartedly, had shown me the door by making a peon deliver a paper at my door saying that I was not fit to be retained as an employee of that Institute. The last date to join my tenure as a Fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Study was over, Rather, looking back I can see more objectively how some people had meticulously worked to see to it timed liked that. I had, simply, nowhere to go. The Institute I worked for, had done away with my services and I could not join at the Institute that had offered me Fellowship because it was late! I
I wanted to make another request to IIAS to give me some more relaxation keeping in mind the special circumstances that unabled me from joining in time. So it was under these circumstances I was to meet Prof deSouza. Ashok Sharma Ji was so very kind and helpful in arranging the meeting. I had a long talk with Sharma Ji and apprised him of all that had happened at my parent Institute. He was very sympathetic and advised me, when I was about to go to meet Prof deSouza, to not to speak about the allegation I was implicated in. Honestly speaking, I myself was not very comfortable as my self-esteem had come down to ground zero level.
Finally at the designated time, the PS to the Director announced my arrival to him and made a sign to me to go in. Woh! the spectacle that greeted me was wonderful. Deep blue patterned, two inches thick, carpet sprawled in a similarly elegantly decorated spacious room! I looked around to see where the Director is, and I saw another spectacle that took my breath away. In a sunny beautiful small office, at the west end of the sprawling room, was another room and there stood a man whom I had seen during my presentation at Delhi. What had taken my breath away was not the grandeur of the room, which once upon a time used to be the office of the Viceroy of India, but the unassuming simplicity of the man and that he was according welcome to me by standing from his chair! Now, those of you who have any inkling about how some of us the children-of-the-lesser-god are treated at most of other places, it was nothing short of a miracle to me. To my soul, starved for some esteem and dignity, it was a very pleasant surprise. Extending his hand to take mine in his, he said, “Welcome to the Institute!” I was shaken to my very being. I was on verge of crying as such compassionate treatment and that, too, from a person I barely knew, was enough to shatter the semblance of indifference that I had tried to mask myself in. Prof deSouza asked me in a very kind voice, “Sharma ji has told me about you,” and added, “I would like to help you.” These words opened the barrage of all that was lying so heavily on my soul. I told him plainly what I have been accused of. “I have been allegedly said to have caught my Director from his collar,” I said in non-challant manner. When I uttered these words, I was fully in control of my emotion though before this moment I would start crying at the allegation that was levelled against me. I don’t know where I got all the strength from but I felt so strong. It was Peter’s comforting presence, his warmth and succour that transformed me into an epitome of strength. I told him all that had happened. The expression on his face changed from disbelief to anger for the blind system and empathy for my situation. He didn’t sympathise but he empathised. And this was what I needed at that time. “I am with you,” he said. “Fight your case and don’t ever give up,” were his words to me. He promised to take the matter of my joining at IIAS with the higher-ups and assured me of all his help.
When I had gone to his office, I was a shattered, broken and bruised person. I had lost all faith in humanity but when I came out of his office, my faith in humanity and human values had revived. I felt stronger and empowered. I knew that I had reached a place where I would get support instead of sneers. I was, suddenly, among people who seemed to be my own though I had never known them before.
So the news in the Tribune that Prof deSouza had got another term as Director of IIAS made me so happy. I am happy for the Institute as it is in good hands, in able hands that would nurture it with love and care the way they extended warm welcome to a bruised person. Thank you Kapil Sibal for this brilliant decision!