LUCKNOW: Meet R.K. Rai, a scholar extraordinary. Over the years he has acquired MA degrees in 22 subjects, five PhDs and three D.Lits. But at the age of 65, he wants more.
Rai is a retired professor and resident of Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur district, some 280 km from Lucknow.
"I firmly believe learning is a life-long process. Just following this principle, I acquired all my degrees and want to continue studies so long as I am alive," Rai told IANS on phone from Ghazipur.
"I believe I haven't done anything extraordinary...Anyone having the urge for learning can do it," he added.
It seems Rai's urge for learning new subjects is unending as the retired professor from Magadh University in Gaya, Bihar, has now enrolled for another masters programme that will give him his 23rd MA degree.
"I am at present pursuing MA in astrology from a renowned and one of the most ancient universities of the world, Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya, Varanasi," said Rai, who lives in the Mohamdabad area in Ghazipur.
Rai completed his graduation in 1967 from Allahabad University.
He has acquired most of his additional degrees by appearing as a private candidate in several universities, including Panjab University, Chandigarh; Veer Kunwar Singh University, Ara, Bihar; Patna University; and Kanpur University.
Some of the subjects in which Rai acquired MAs include ancient history, modern history, sociology, political science, economics, education, Hindi, Sanskrit, geography and psychology.
Rai's PhDs are in education, ancient history, philosophy, Hindi and commerce, while he possesses D.Lit in three languages - Hindi, Sanskrit and Prakrit.
In a majority of his subjects Rai has scored a first division or a good second division (55-59 percent). For this Rai gives credit to his colleagues.
"I remember how my colleagues used to help me out when I had problems in the subjects...It was just like private tuitions...They also used to visit my home a day before the examinations to wish me good luck and give tips for attempting questions in their subjects," Rai said.
He is also thankful to his family members, who encouraged him to pursue studies.
"All my family members, particularly my wife and daughter, ensured I get enough time to study...For that they even used to do the work that I was supposed to do," Rai said.
He has now joined a private degree college in the Bulandshahr district, some 400 km from Lucknow.
"Though I have joined the college as a principal, I prefer taking classes to sitting inside my cabin and looking after the administrative work of the college," said Rai, who is principal of the Kaka P.G. Girls' College.
In Bulandshahr district and his home district Ghazipur, Rai is famous as 'mastersaab'.
"Most of us in the locality send our children to Raiji's home when he comes here on leave. During that period, Raiji's residence appears to be a coaching institute," said Sandeep Tayal, a resident of Mohamdabad.
Another resident Bhagunath Yadav said: "The best thing about Raiji is that he never gets frustrated when students fail to understand a topic explained by him. My son, who is pursuing MA in Sanskrit, told me of how Raiji explained a topic to him for nearly two hours."