Getting the author's autograph on the cover page of his book is a rare opportunity - an experience that people wish to cherish for a long time. Just ask SrinivasDeshpande of EPGP-3 who had the author sign the book for 'Junior', Srinivas's yet-to-be named 3-month old son! If getting an autograph is preceded by an hour long conversation with the author, followed by high tea with the author, and the author happens to be none other than the Padma Bhushan award winning Dr. RamachandraGuha, then it is no surprise that some people call it a once-in-a-life-time-opportunity. Again, ask SrinivasDeshpande!
The event was a seminar organized by the EPGP Seminar Series on 10 August, 2011. Unlike most seminars, this sessionwasn't a one-way communication. Dr. Guha had initially specified that he was not inclined to give a generic talk. However, he was prepared to conduct a Question &Answer session on topics pertaining tohis critically acclaimed books, Makers of Modern India and India after Gandhi, if the audience came prepared with relevant questions.Initially we, the audience, balked at the idea. The books were voluminous and the idea of questioning the author, especially one of Dr. Guha's fame, on the books he had written appeared daunting. But we persevered; some might say, against our own better judgment. And, what a thought-provoking event it turned out to be! The audience got a glimpse of the author's mind, the rationale behind what was written and how it was presented.
Topics as far reaching as PanditNehru's role in the nascent politics of independent India, SardarPatel's contribution in shaping the landscape of present day India comprising of linguistic states, Mahatma Gandhi's role in developing the character of Indian struggle for independence and many such issues were explained, discussed, and argued upon. Of course, with it being Dr. Guha, there were questions on cricket (he is the author of A Corner of a Foreign Field, which was awarded the Daily Telegraph Cricket Society Book of the Year prize for 2002). Dr. Guha graciously talked about the subject even though he had stipulated that the interaction should be limited to the two books he had specified.
ShashiTharoor's famous, or infamous, tweets, Bangalore becoming Bengaluru were some of the topics that made it into the evening's agenda. Perhaps the best takeaway for the evening came when in answer to the question, 'You have mentioned that the book Makers of Modern India is based on your research and limited to available literature on people that shaped India, how can it be a comprehensive account' - Dr. Guha said, 'I agree and that is in fact why the book is called Makers of Modern India and not The Makers of modern India'. Just like Dr. Guha's India, we are also made by many influences and influencers - everybody is equally important and it is impossible to get an exhaustive list. To this end, the EPGP Seminar Series invites people from many walks of life - artists, scientists, politicians, journalists, authors, academicians, and of course businesspeople to augment the classroom learning and make us into well-rounded individuals. Dr. RamachandraGuha's talk went a long way in achieving this objective.
Born in Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand, India in 1958, Dr. RamachandraGuha studied at The Doon School and St. Stephen's College, Delhi. He graduated in Economics with a BA in 1977 and then obtained an MA from the Delhi School of Economics. He then went to the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, where he did a Fellowship (PhD) on the social history of forestry in Uttaranchal with a special focus on the Chipko movement. It was later published as 'The Unquiet Woods'.
Between 1985 and 2000, he taught at various universities in India, Europe and North America, including University of California, Berkeley, Yale University, Stanford University and at Oslo University, and later at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore as the Sundaraja Visiting Professor in the Humanities. He was also a fellow of Wissenschaftskollegzu Berlin in Germany (1994-95). Dr. Guha was appointed the Philippe Roman Chair of International Affairs and History at the London School of Economics for 2011-12.
He also has several best-selling books to his credit including 'A Corner of a Foreign Field', 'India After Gandhi' and 'Makers of Modern India'.
Awards and recognition
- Dr. Guha's essay, "Prehistory of Community Forestry in India", was awarded the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society for Environmental History for 2001.
- "A Corner of a Foreign Field" was awarded the Daily Telegraph Cricket Society Book of the Year prize for 2002.
- The US magazine Foreign Policy named Dr. Guha as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world in May 2008; Dr. Guha was placed 44th.
- Dr. Guha received Padma Bhushan in 2009, India's third highest civilian award.