Prof Yash Pal, who died Monday night, had a great mind. He always used to say the mind is like a parachute. It works only if it opens up. Prof Yash Pal’s mind was completely open.
We shared a very good rapport. I was introduced to him a couple of years after I came back to India in 1976. He used to treat me like a lad ever since then. Later we had several opportunities to work together.
Once he made me write a preface to one of his books. The topic of the book was the curiosity of children. It was a science popularization book, but of a different kind. He believed that curiosity leads to creativity and so there is a need to keep the curiosity alive in children. The book was his way of doing that. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it. When he turned 80, we felicitated him at the Indian National Science Association of which I was then the president. I said in my speech that INSA would like to celebrate his centenary at the same auditorium with him. I’m sad that we won’t be able to do that now.
Yash Pal wore several hats. He was a scientist, a communicator, an able administrator and a visionary. Yet education and educational reforms remained the soul of all his endeavours. He strived to reduce burden of school bags on the shoulders of students and at the same time he was constantly thinking of ways to make them learn things by by discovery, by creating, by doing. He had a great thrust on these three things, because these ways of learning makes the base of education very strong, he always said.
He also did a lot for higher education when he was at UGC. We worked on several projects together during this period. I would describe the period as the golden era from the point of view of educational reforms in India.
He liked to speak to me. He used to call and speak at length. The latest we spoke was about two-three months back. He used to call me to his home often. He once told me that he wants to change the education system of India completely. That is the thing that needs to be done. Through the numerous reports that he wrote, he has clearly defined a path forward to be able to do that and has presented a grand vision. If we are able to walk on the path he has shown to us that would be the true tribute to him.
(As told to Abhijit Mulye)
R A Mashelkar is a former director-general of CSIR