The fourteenth convocation of the University (held like last year, on October 1) was academically very satisfying. Having Romila Thapar as chief guest was a privilege and we were particularly happy to have awarded honorary doctorates to a number of distinguished personalities for their contributions to academics and to public life.
What was special- as a colleague pointed out- was that the prolonged presence of three academic stalwarts on the campus was a big shot in the arm for all of us! Having these sources of inspiration, being able to see them and talk to them- what can be better!
Mahasweta Devi, activist, writer, and spokesperson for India’s tribes was awarded the D. Litt. (h. c.). At the convocation her speech was brief, but later in the afternoon she came to the School of Humanities where she interacted with students and faculty. And Gadar. The Hindu reported:
Renowned writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi termed Adivasis as “the most civilised people” to whom Indian forests, rivers and mountains owe their survival. She praised their egalitarian social structure where nobody is greater than anybody, and where social evils such as dowry do not exist. Addressing students at the University of Hyderabad here on Monday, she attributed whatever natural balance left to survive in India to the presence of Adivasis.
M. S. Narasimhan, D. Sc. (h. c.) is a man of few words and much mathematics. He made time to meet and talk with our integrated masters and mathematics students, and has promised to come back to spend a longer period of time with us. Much of his work has been done in India, and he spoke feelingly of the importance of context, and the improving conditions that make it increasingly possible to produce quality work in the country. He should know. He was one of the first members of the TIFR School of Mathematics.
The D. Sc. (h. c.) was awarded in absentia to C. S. Seshadri, the mathematician who could not be with us owing to poor health, but he will hopefully come to the University in the not too distant future, as will the Chemistry Nobelist, Rudy Marcus who is planning to be here in November.
A real treat was provided by convocation speaker and chief guest, Romila Thapar, who had “an interaction” with the students and staff on October 3. As one commentator put it, the programme was a most enjoyable one, especially for the students of social sciences. They will remember and cherish it for ever. Another message I got on FB said: It was wonderful to hear Prof. Romila Thapar at our University… Her talk was as powerful as her writings are, and we students all benefited from it.
In her Convocation address (the text of which is up on the University website) she had been generous in her appreciation of the University. Her talk was hard hitting, brave, and blunt: It isn’t often that Universities invite an academic or an intellectual to be the Chief Guest. The preference is for politicians, bureaucrats, or cinema celebrities.
I hope that this is a tradition we can keep at the UoH, that our Chief Guests will be academic superstars.