Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Monday, October 08, 2007

At King’s, Sri Aurobindo shone at classics more than a century ago

Front Page > Nation > Cambridge looks to PM telegraph AMIT ROY
Cambridge, Sept. 17: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ought to be ready to pitch in if called upon by Cambridge to help increase the flow of Indian students to his old university.
Vice-chancellor Alison Richard, 59, will visit India from January 3 to 15 to see if the pool of 170 students from India can be increased substantially.
Singh, an undergraduate at St John’s in the 1950s, returned last year to be conferred an honorary degree. As he met young Indians at a reception at the Senate House and mingled with resident Cambridge economists Sir Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, Frank Ramsey professor of economics and fellow of St John’s College, and Ajit Singh, professor of economics and senior fellow of Queens’ College, the Prime Minister looked both wistful and happy.
Richard, who was present when Singh was honoured, said: “Our Indian alumni are our best ambassadors.”
Her staff are busy updating the university’s database on Indian alumni who will be invited to a series of dinners, workshops and gatherings during her India visit.
She hopes that not only the Prime Minister but also Amartya Sen, who became Master of Trinity, the first Indian to head an Oxbridge college, will lend his support. Sen has revealed he got into Trinity as an undergraduate only because another English candidate, who had been accepted, dropped out at the last minute.
Trinity has many Indian connections. Jawaharlal Nehru studied here, as did his grandson Rajiv Gandhi, who often invited a pretty young Italian girl called Sonia Maino to his rooms for tea.
Srinivasa Ramanujan came to Trinity from Madras in 1887 and astonished G.H. Hardy, the leading mathematician of his day, with his number theories. The Indian baffled the Englishman by telling him that it was God who was revealing the mysteries of mathematics to him in his dreams.
As for Prince Ranjitsinhji, he cut a dash as a cricketer at Trinity but his English contemporaries would not call him by his Indian title but nicknamed him “Mr Smith”.
Next door at King’s, Aurobindo Ghose shone at classics more than a century ago, and P.C. Mahalanobis returned home to Calcutta to set up the Indian Statistical Institute. Years later, Jayant Narlikar was based here and worked with Fred Hoyle on the origin of the universe.
They would all have enjoyed the beauty of King’s College Chapel and the Backs along the river Cam, perhaps even tried their hand at punting. On the other side of Trinity, St John’s has also had many Indian students, among them the late Vikram Sarabhai, the nuclear physicist.
At Christ’s, the college of the poet John Milton and Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (to give the book its full name), Jagdish Chandra Bose experimented with radio waves, possibly ahead of Marconi, and also with “response phenomenon” in plants.
The poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan came to St Catherine’s more than 50 years ago to do an English PhD on “Y.B. Yeats and occultism”. His son, a film star today, wants in some way to mark that period to remember his late father, whose 100th birthday falls this year.
The vice-chancellor does not believe that students who receive financial assistance to come to Cambridge from India should be forced to return home.
“There is so much vitality and excitement in India today that it is unimaginable to me that students, by and large, will not return to India.”
She said a book called The New Argonauts, by American author AnnaLee Saxenian, had “merit”.
“The New Argonauts says we shouldn’t be thinking about brain drain or brain gain but rather brain circulation,” she said. “What makes Silicon Valley hum? It is these people who have moved across national boundaries. Many of them are from India.”

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