What was wrong (and right) with my early Indian education

This blog is primarily to complain about what was wrong with my early Indian education but first, what was right.

I was very fortunate to get a first-rate education at the oldest (and perhaps the best?) IIT. I credit this education to be able to pursue higher studies and be elected to the National Academy of Engineering that has less than 200 members nationwide in my field.  I have always felt guilty about not returning to serve India but derive solace in graduating 44 PhDs, and as it has turned out, most of them Indians.  Most have stayed on (helping to make America great again – without the rhetoric!) but many have returned and teaching at IISc and IITs; some of them have excelled in Indian industries – one of my students is credited with developing the first electric-hybrid bus in India.

Now what was wrong. Growing up, we children were never taught the achievements of Indians in arts, mathematics, science, medicine, etc. I never knew who J.C. Bose was and what he did – what a pity! For that matter, of those pictured below. One can easily google to determine what they did, as I have done.

These are scientists of our recent past. But ancient Hindus were equally amazing. I came to know much of it by reading the book by Dr. Alok Kumar: Sciences of the Ancient Hindus: Unlocking Nature in the Pursuit of Salvation. There is no point in my repeating the tremendous accomplishments of our ancestors as the following picture of the ancient astronomical observatory, Jantar Matar, from Jaipur shows:

Now a question: is it a good idea to be aware and proud of your heritage? Does that not lead to fragmentation of society rather than thinking in a global sense? My answer is absolutely not. When I came here fifty years ago, I had a great sense of inferiority and shame. If I had known what I know now, I would have held my head high and felt that I am some body. I don’t think that knowing your heritage, being proud of it, makes you arrogant.

I am not writing this to get others’ pity and whatever happened to me is “water under the bridge.” My appeal is that we make sure that our younger generation is aware of their tremendous heritage, something that I didn’t.




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