tete a tete with j n tata.

It was Mar 03. bhOndOO went through the nostalgic letters and photos of the history of IISc arranged by the Archives and Publications Cell at the Reception Hall. He was feeling wonderful to read Raman’s words about the Nobel Prize distribution ceremony. Being in the third year of his PhD without a paper, however, bhOndOO had already passed the desire for winning any prizes. He, at once, realized the importance of celebrating Science Day on Feb 28, and hated the Rhythmica performer for funnily declaring “I don’t know what that means” in the Rhythmica program arranged on the same day.

He came down to the open area in front of the Main Building and saw it unusually colorful. He suddenly realized that it was the floral decoration done on the occasion of the Founder’s Day. bhOndOO looked at the steady statue of J N Tata, the founder, erected opposite to the Main Building. Already amused with Raman’s spectroscope kept at the Reception Hall, bhOndOO felt like bowing down and touching the feet of this another visionary. He came near the statue and exclaimed, “Tataji, you are great!”.

“Thank you.”.

bhOndOO’s smiling face turned to witness fear and his legs stumbled to move back. With wide open eyes, he kept looking at the statue that had suddenly started speaking.

“Tataji, … Sir, … you… you are… alive? I mean… you can talk? No… Sorry.”.

“Of course, I can. If I could lay the foundation of this institute, do you think talking would be difficult for me!”.

“No, of course not.”, bhOndOO looked unconvinced.

“What is your name?”.

“My name?… I am … Sorry, I… forgot… Ya, my name is bhOndOO.”.

“Hello bhOndOO.”.

“Hi… Hello…”.

“So, tell me. What year is this?”.

“It is… 2009, Sir.”.

“Oh! It’s been 105 years!”.

“No, Sir. It’s been only 100 years.”.

“For what?”.

“For the institute.”.

“I see. I was talking about my death.”.

“Oh! Sorry, Sir.”.

“Never mind. But I am glad this institute is still in existence after 100 years.”.

bhOndOO smiled and relaxed.

“Tell me, what flag is that at the top of this building?”.

“It is our Indian Tricolor, Tataji.”.

“Oh! We got independence?”.

bhOndOO looked puzzled, but then realized, “Yes, Tataji, in 1947.”.

“That’s wonderful.”.

bhOndOO got excited. He proudly added, “Tataji, this is the best research institute in India.”.

“Oh! So not yet the best in the world?”.

bhOndOO kept silent, looking down. When he raised his head and his eyes met those of J N Tata, he tried to reason, “We do not have enough facilities here. We still have problems of poverty, corruption and unemployment in India.”.

“I see. Can you tell me what all research is done here?”.

“We do research in all kinds of things, Tataji, starting from DNAs to Aeroplanes.”.

“Hmmm… I do not understand these terms. What is a DNA?”.

“It is an abbreviation of Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid. It contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms.”.

“Well, that sounds impressive. Can you explain it to me in a layman’s terms? You understand that my knowledge dates back to 1904.”.

“Well, … Tataji, I don’t know much about this area really. I don’t work in this.”.

“So, what area do you work in?”.

“I work in pointer analysis.”.

“And what is …”.

bhOndOO answered without any pauses, even before J N Tata completed the question, “It is a static analysis using which we can find out which pointer points to what variables.”.

“Okay. I understood nothing. Let me try to understand it this way: How does your pointer analysis help in eradicating poverty, corruption and unemployment in India?”.

“What? Sorry?”.

“How does your pointer analysis help in solving the biggest problems in the country like poverty, corruption and unemployment?”.

bhOndOO laughed, mockingly at the question, “No Tataji. They are not at all related. Pointer analysis is a mechanism for enabling certain optimizations in compilers. This is related to Computer Science.”.

“I think I understand Science a bit. But what is a Computer?”.

“It is a computing machine that can be programmed by a human.”.

“That’s excellent. But how does your research help India?”.

“Well, … Tataji, … Ummm, … it doesn’t really.”.

J N Tata kept looking at bhOndOO, then replied, “You mean you are working on something that does not add any value to the country?”.

“No… I mean, … it may. But I don’t know how.”.

“That’s interesting. Are you alone of this kind in the institute or are there other souls who do not know whether and how their work helps India?”.

“Well, … Tataji, … I… don’t know…”.


There was a silence for a few seconds and J N Tata continued, “Tell me, some days ago I saw some students protesting in this open area? What was it?”.

“That! That was a protest against some issues that students had in campus.”.


“Like not getting hot water in hostels, not getting water at all, more number of years taken to finish PhD, scholarship after 5th year of PhD, etc.”.

“This matter was internal to the institute, right?”.

“It came in newspapers along with photos.”.

“I see. It tarnished the image of the institute or is it a regular theme for readers?”.

bhOndOO kept quiet.

“And this happened during the 100th year of the institute?”.

bhOndOO kept quiet looking down.

“Alright. Lets discuss something positive.”.

bhOndOO looked up with hope.

“What is the biggest award in science in the world today?”.

“It is called the Nobel prize, Tataji.”, bhOndOO said enthusiastically.

“Ah! I recollect. How many Nobel prizes have the students of our institute won so far?”.

bhOndOO’s smile vanished and silence prevailed on his face.

“Your silence tells me that it is not a big number. Never mind. How many?”.

“None, Tataji.”.

There was a silence for a few more minutes. bhOndOO continued looking down, he was representing the institute. Then Tataji spoke.

“When I died, I was sure that I was creating an institution that would help our nation progress. I had a dream and it came into existence. Of course, my dream was not to make this institute number one in the world. But the account of this campus you gave me was not very hopeful. Students are the building blocks of this institute and it is them who are going to make it or break it. If you spend your energy in protesting, cribbing, and shouting, I am sure we will have zero Nobel prizes even after 1000 years.”.

bhOndOO felt sad, but did not dare speak.

“Thanks bhOndOO for your time. I think I am better off as a statue.”.


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15 Responses to “tete a tete with j n tata.”

  1. Sudhira Says:

    Excellent piece, Rupesh!

  2. Arun Says:


  3. Prithi Shetty Says:

    Kindof sad. But sometime we need to cover some true stuff too.

  4. Kiran Tikare Says:

    True, we continually destroyed visions of our forefathers.

    Can i post it too on Akhanda Bharat ?


  5. iisc Says:

    Kiran, please feel free to post anything from this blog to Akhanda Bharat. You don’t have to ask for permission.

  6. Vamsi Says:

    hmm, many times we forget things if there were no occasional reminders about those things, thanks for reminding.

  7. Kiran Tikare Says:

    Thanks, I have posted them.

  8. Siva Says:

    A nice thing that should be in all our notice boards (especially in our mess student council notice board’s)…Thanks

  9. nitin Says:

    Thanks god there is no Nobel Prize for Engineering 😉

  10. Adithya Says:

    Fantabulous article! i happened to come across your blog when i was searching for something else! now i am so glad i did!
    Keep up those amazing writings!!

  11. Prashant More Says:

    I’ve been following your blogs (though not so regularly as you can see) for about 4 months now. And whenever i’ve visited this bolg something interesting is there.
    But this blog made me to write this feedback. This is an amazing, though bitter, introspection (but aren’t the introspections always bitter?) for all of us.
    Thanks for this wonderful writing. Keep them coming.

  12. bhOndOO getting famous. « iisc life. Says:

    […] both the letters mentioned bhOndOO! Looks like they are not happy with bhOndOO in general and his tete-a-tete with J N Tata in […]

  13. Dawn Thomas Says:

    I hope reading this post changes the actions of at least a few people even if for a day. Though i have a cynical view that people never change.

    Am sure that IISc will scale greater heights in the future. But I don’t think time is a luxury we should take.

  14. Anil Says:

    …….at least in voices

  15. iisc Says:

    Anil, thanks. This was published in April 2009 issue of Voices. Check out Achievements.

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