… very Heaven!

My Independence Day speech, 2012:

Members of the University family, students, faculty, officers, staff, colleagues. Greeting on the occasion of our 66th Independence Day.

Every year this day we look to a new year of our Independence with renewed hope. Hope for a better future for our children and ourselves.

During the last few days, seeing the physical beauty of our campus- its greenery and its lakes- I have repeatedly been drawn to a fragment of a poem by Wordsworth, written at the time of the French Revolution- a time of hope and expectations. The poem captures the idealism of a time, and one that is good to recall today, particularly given the large number of young people here.

Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!

For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood

Upon our side, we who were strong in love!

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,

But to be young was very heaven! Oh! times,

In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways

Of custom, law, and statute, took at once

The attraction of a country in romance!

Our freedom has brought us huge possibilities, but it has also come with a huge responsibilities. And huge challenges. One responsibility that I am especially sensitive to comes from our privileged position on a campus of such beauty, in a University where the major part of ones day is devoted to intellectual pursuit. We are blessed to be in this learning environment, blessed that we can enjoy the several freedoms we have. Blessed, one can say, to be allowed to do the things that we care so deeply about.

But with this privilege comes responsibility, in particular, the responsibility to contribute at the highest level that we can. As members of the University family, we represent a vanishingly small fraction of the population of this country that has this privilege. The privilege of being educated, of having the resources that we do, of being able to think what we can, how we can, and when we can. The investment that our country has made in us, both implicitly and explicitly is tremendous, and the hope they have that we will deliver is also ever present, and something we need to acknowledge. The country has invested in itself by investing in us, it has invested in its future by investing in us now. The important thing is that we do the very best that we can to keep the faith, and that we strive to deliver our very best- in any field of intellectual endeavour.

This is not always easy. We live, regrettably, in interesting times. Each day brings new and unexpected challenges, particularly on matters that relate to governance and policy. The past year has seen our fortunes fluctuate, especially on matters relating to funding. The economic downturn has meant that the funds that will be made available through the UGC for the 12th plan will not match the promises that were made, but nevertheless it should be possible for the University to consolidate, to improve the infrastructure and to strengthen our various academic programs. The lower funding levels, though, come with the need for sacrifice. Well, if not quite sacrifice, this comes with the need for fiscal discipline and a leanness in spending. We have to make our funds stretch to help us reach the goals of excellence that we aim for, we need to spend wisely, and to use our grants well.

While new infrastructure will slowly become available, it is also true that what we have built up over the last 40 or so years is now in sore need of maintenance. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the facilities that have been developed be kept functional. Likewise this campus of ours- blessed are we that live here, but more blessed are those who can preserve it! I have, over the past year, been particularly sensitive to matters relating to the environment, to water, and to the campus fauna and flora. With the Hyderabad Metro Rail, we have undertaken a massive tree plantation drive, and with the GHMC, an ambitious plan to improve the water bodies on campus, to increase their number as well as their carrying capacity. This will, I hope, serve us well in the future. Similarly, our recent drives to clear the campus, manage the waste and build a sustainable program for its ongoing maintenance are in this same direction. It needs all of sections of the University to participate, and I look forward to your contributions in this endeavor.

This campus is ours. Ours to enjoy, ours to nurture, ours to nourish. We need to know it well- this is the only way in which we can know well what it needs. Walking through it- as we did earlier this year, and will do again this afternoon- is one way. Caring about it and caring for it, is another. Beyond the slogan, “Mana Campus, Mana Hridayam” we need to develop a sense of ownership of this campus.

Our university- while being central- is also an integral part of our local environment. I have often stressed that we are not just a University of Hyderabad, we are a University for Hyderabad… I hope that we will see more efforts in the coming year to integrate us in the city. Our campus radio station is a year old today- this is a very important way in which we reach out to the communities that sustain us, and an important way in which we can give back to those that sustain us. But there are other ways in which we can and should integrate. We need to have more engagement with the city, with issues that are current and relevant, with discussion and debate. Some of our campus events have been shared with the city, music, theatre, lectures, but we need more.

Let me close with reiterating what I said last year, that we need to carve out a set of freedoms for ourselves. In particular, we need to hold dear to the freedom to excel. Too often, we perform to the levels set by others and achieve goals set by governments. As academics, we know that the best standards are internal, set by the disciplines themselves. We need the freedom to pursue such ideals, without fear or favour, without interference from anybody else. Be Excellent!

Once again my greetings on the occasion of Independence Day to all of you. Jai Hind!


2 thoughts on “… very Heaven!

  1. I am particularly pleased by your statement ‘to carve out a set of freedoms’. Indeed, for if a university doesn’t do this, what will? To respond to your quote from WW on the French Revolution, ‘a university is a place where nothing is beyond question, not even the very idea of a university’…

  2. I am inspired by your statement “the country has invested in itself by investing in us, it has invested in its future by investing in us now. The important thing is that we do the very best that we can to keep the faith, and that we strive to deliver our very best- in any field of intellectual endeavor”. I do feel that “the University is something where we have the responsibility and freedom to think and act “. I am inspired by your message on Independence day…..

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