BPR – The Essential Being

BPR was an extremely private and sensitive person. Outwardly he left an impression of toughness and was often extremely frank and forthright in his comments that used to cause consternation to many. He was painfully aware of this trait of his and used to make amends if he ever felt that he had been unduly harsh on anyone. Everyone, who had worked closely with him, had experienced at some time or other this trait of his but were aware that underneath the veneer of his impatience and anger lay the high expectation he had from many of his colleagues and coworkers.

BPR possessed an impish sense of humour and when in one such mood in the company of a small circle, he would regale everyone with narratives of humorous incidents from his interaction with many talented and gifted individuals over the years. The child-like mischievous peels of laughter and glint in his eyes remains etched in the memories of many who had interacted with him closely. BPR felt that the Awards instituted by the Society and for that matter any Award or Honour should come as a surprise to the individual concerned.

He was extremely prompt in his correspondence and before the internet and the e-mail communication came into vogue, BPR would send out a postcard with unfailing promptness, whether to appreciate someone’s work or to express his view-point. He corresponded extensively with many people across the length and breadth of the country and also abroad.

Dr. Radhakrishna valued punctuality immensely and would curtly remark “It is not gentlemanly to come either early or late”, irrespective of whoever it was, even if there were to be a minor delay in the appointed meeting time. The unfailing regularity of the dispatch of the Journal to all parts of India and abroad is a testimony to this trait of his.

BPR rarely talked about his innermost feelings or personal grief. He lost his wife, when he was still in service, in his fifties. She passed away in Bangalore, when he was on an official trip to Delhi. He would occasionally recall this event and ponder about whether prompt medical attention would have saved her life. He bore the burden of inner solitude and grief within in a stoic manner and immersed himself in hard work. He had a rigorous daily routine, starting the day at 4 a.m. He did his most creative writing work in the early morning hours 4-7 a.m. He would be again in his study by 9 a.m. after his bath and breakfast. He rested only for 30 minutes or so after his lunch and he would be back in his seat by 2.30 p.m. till evening. He had fixed days and time to meet different colleagues and co-workers in the Society and the City. Even his telephonic conversations with outstation friends took place exactly at the appointed time if he could help it. It was amazing that he maintained this strict regimen till the last day of his life.

One of the last tasks he was engaged in prior to his passing away was, a lead article for the Journal on the life and work of Prof. Augusto Gansser, the well known Himalayan Geologist, who passed away recently at the ripe age of 101 years in Switzerland, his home country. He would collect information from as many sources as possible and cross-check details, sift and jot down points on his ubiquitous index cards for easy retrieval during the writing of the article/ editorial. Like a seasoned journalist, BPR always cultivated multiple sources of information pertaining to developments in Earth Science across the globe. Any earth scientist passing through Bangalore from anywhere in the world, would be invariably invited by him to the Society either to deliver a lecture or for an informal meeting with colleagues and all help was extended to them in planning their itineraries like field trips.

BPR’s attitude towards the Indian heritage is reflected in his statement:

“I am proud of the Indian way of life – a life of contentment, compassion for all living beings, respect for elders, tolerance, humility, service to others, belief in afterlife and rebirth, which has sustained Indian civilization for the last 3000 years and should not therefore be given up”. While he laid great emphasis on certain values bequeathed to us by our ancient civilization, he abhorred the evils of inequity, social oppression in the name of religion, caste or community and a feudal mind set insensitive to human dignity. While he believed in the highest vedantic philosophy of Indian thought, he was against narrow ritualistic religion, which he used to term humorously as “mumbo - jumbo”.

Till his end, BPR kept himself active in reading about developments in earth sciences, writing the occasional editorial for the Journal and meeting many earth scientists from all parts of India. Clad in his spotless white khadi robes, as he sat erect in his chair in his study room, BPR reminded one of the words of the poet Tennyson’ s Ulysses:

Though much is taken much abides: and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

BPR had strong reservations on the extremely interventionist modern allopathic medicine devoid of the “bed-side manners” of the earlier generation of family physicians, a species almost extinct now. He was very categorical, that if ever he fell ill, he should not be subjected to the tortures of a modern ICU, but life allowed to ebb away peacefully and naturally at his home amidst familiar surroundings. Almost as if he willed it, he departed on the afternoon of 26th January around 1.30 pm, rather abruptly without any fuss and with no time for any medical intervention. He died, working till his last day, as a true karma yogi.

His life and work will remain a testimony to his sterling qualities and many achievements. The best tribute we can pay to Dr. Radhakrishna is to strive hard with zeal and enthusiasm towards excellence in whatever field we are engaged in and by charting out bold, original and creative new ideas that would translate BPR’s dreams into reality.