We make decisions every day, large and small, some of which have life altering consequences. Yet our choices are not irrelevant. The question always has been: how can we discern the course to be run? The values of family, friends and mentors and Faith point us to the realisation that what matters most in life is all wrapped up in people.
The ability to look beyond our disappointments is essential for our life and living. The way we discern our course of action - irrespective of the area of our vocation - can leave a deep imprint in the minds of some people and in the hearts of most people. The way I perceived, understood, practiced, taught and conceptualised social work revolves around this life changing choices. The lesson from my parents has always been ‘get involved where ever you are and in whatever condition you may enter into’.
While, I was oscillating between joining postgraduate course in Economics at the University of Madras and attending the TISS interview, my two elder brothers saw to it in just six hours’time that I board train to Bombay for the interview. I just got into the train with a shoulder bag only to return home after oneyear for vacation. Puzzled and unprepared to join TISS with in four days, the Registrar Mr. Subramaniam worked out a solution for me to stay and join the course. We had best teachers-cum-practioners at that time. I was deeply attracted to Prof. Ramachandran’s Research Methodology classes- a meticulous course planning, and ‘involving’ teaching methods. His teaching approach had a triggering effect on my way of looking at social issues. I fondly recall Dr. Vahia’s humorous classes on Psychiatry and passionate teaching of law by Prof. Balsara. Though both were visiting faculties, no student will ever forget both as teachers and impressive personalities. I learnt PR skill from Prof. Kaikobad than the subject matters. The faculty and TISS provided an ideal ‘environment’ to learn, internalise and contribute.
Bangalore University and Karnataka gave me an excellent atmosphere to GROW. The National Institute of Social Sciences was a hot spot when I landed. I was amazed the way students had a strong bondage with Dr. K.V.Sridharan, the then Director of the Institute. When I almost decided to quit teaching as we had so many invitations for work in those days, Dr. KV’s affectionate persuasion made me to stay on. The bottom line in his approach was “let the profession survive”. His exit from social work was a great loss to the profession. Dr. Punekar and Ms. Indra Patel who came for my selection as lecturer at the newly formed social work department at the Bangalore University pointedly expressed what I can do to rebuild the profession: Large number of TISSians in Bangalore and alumni of NISS together supported the new department with unreserved enthusiasm. That was the visible second foundation for social work in Bangalore.
I considered always a rare privilege that learning was made easy through series of contacts with senior educators at that time. Dr. Moses and TSN Pillai taught me with great interest how to frame questions for examinations. Even, today, I stand out in that. Prof. Rajendra Prasad of, University of Agra, from where I did my doctoral degree, was a multifarious personality. Professors like M Z Khan of Jamia, and Mirza, Goel and Surendra Singh from Lucknow were regular visitors to NIMHANS. Dr. I.A.Sheriff had a ‘style’ of facilitating interaction with them. Perhaps Dr. Olinda Pereira of Roshni Nilaya, Mangalore is the most passionate person I met. Even today the best functional Alumni association in the country is in ROSHNI. They have branches too. All of them hold Dr. Pereira with ‘affection and esteem’.
Bangalore is a home for many educators. Apart from Dr. K V Sridhran, Professors M V Moorthy of TISS and Andhra University, Dr. Thomas of Indore School, and S.Pathak of Delhi University opted to live in Bangalore. I always used to find time for interactions with these seniors. Apart from interesting tales of their times, each one is known for their stellar qualities. I and many consider Prof. Moorthy as a walking encyclopaedia. His profound knowledge in philosophy, literature, social work and personnel management is something to admire. A profound writer, our relationship was an enduring one. I learnt to understand human personalities though his knowledge on Shakespeare. I took more interest in both Indian and English literature and applied in my teaching, and more so in my practice.
I had the rare privilege of working with Dr. S P Srivastav of Lucknow University to host the All India Criminology Conference in Bangalore as organising secretary. I used to consider Lucknow University as the social work epicentre of north India. It housed many scholars and writers. Some migrated abroad and the rest did their best. Today it is in a distress state. The Madras School of social work similarly stood quite high in the south. Prof. K N George the long served Director, always put himself on a high pedestal and he was proud of the school, faculty and alumni.
Dr. H M Marulasiddaiah of Bangalore University and I.A. Sheriff of NIMHANS worked out an academic platform for the educators of both the Institutions. Our periodical meetings and sharing were exciting, but creating a strong bondage among the educators. It could have been more inclusive and vibrant but failed to move too far. The dream vanished without any trace.
The tribute to expand and infuse a new dimension for social work educators must go to Dr. K V Ramana (President), Prof. T.K.Nair (General Secretary) and their team under the banner of ASSWI. They converted ASSWI from a ‘club house’ mode to an open intellectual forum for young educators like me at that time. They received active support from Dr. Francis Maria Yases of UN’s SWADCAP. First time all educators had a platform to exchange, share, argue and enrich. It also provided opportunity for practitioners to challenge educators on the social work content. In all my encounters with educators, whatever may be their personal style, I saw a deep conviction and certain values to which they identified and acted. That is my greatest learning from all of them. I always felt, till today, ‘I am learning to learn’
I stand out as an educator who visited most of the social work institution from Rajasthan to Nagaland, and Punjab to Kanyakumari in this country, and to some extent in many other countries in one capacity or other. However my most satisfying memories are my work with NGOs and communities in India and secondly my work as the Executive Director of Bangalore Urban Poverty Alleviation programme (BUPP). All along, even today, I am associated with many NGOS in south and north in training and evaluation. It is a most enriching and rewarding experience to work with and learn from common people. My source for authentic teaching is this connect. BUPP was a bilateral project of India and Netherlands which gave me a rare opportunity to work with the top bureaucracy of the state. I was directly reporting to the Secretary, Urban Development and other top agencies for urban development. Within a year I was delegated with so much of power and prestige, and was given the rare opportunity of addressing all urban development secretaries of Indian states and training many aid agencies’ personnel in infrastructure development of the poor. Out of 11 slums entrusted with the project as a model programme, I was able to cover 6 as low income living areas. Social work education uses two concepts often: process and change. Today I have more insights on the dynamics of ‘process’ and ‘change’.
As an educator, my continuous learning mirror was my students and family. The moral that change always starts from me. I left a simple motto for my school: Be different; Be the difference. Often social work professionals raise a question as to what social work should be for India. I wish to requote what I referred in one my endowment lectures at Chennai. If we raise a question as to where was social work the ‘day before’, my metaphoric response may be a quote from Bible:
I was found by those who were not looking for me
I appeared to those who were not asking for me
As a listener to my mentors as to how they commenced social work education and practice in their region the cited quote summarises their approach. That is how they marketed social work to people and to the trainees. Today the information on knowledge is available on the finger tips, but learning the practice still needs mentors and role models. Today all such personalities are available in our social system than in the social work system.
No good teacher ever walks into twilight at the end of their career. Educators and students of social work in Karnataka showered their affection on me. Grand farewell felicitation was there for me at the Bangalore University Department for the first time since its inception. Prof. Vasanthy Vijay was graceful in doing that. Almost all educators, serving and retired, attended a similar farewell function for me for the first time and perhaps till today at the Mysore University. Dr. YSS Gowda did thatin STYLE. Professional social workers’ association of Karnataka made it possible to bring the Governor of Karnataka to felicitate me. Almost all Universities across the state also honoured me, Therefore it is right to sum up
The treasurers of earth are not mine
I hold not its silver and gold
But a treasure far greater is mine
I have riches of value untold
Ghandi Doss L.S.
PhD., Professor (Retired), Bangalore University.
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