Time to coin another word for scholars

Professor RC Sobti, Vice Chancellor of Panjab University and Registrar AK Bhandari came all the way from Chandigarh to confer an honourary doctorate on me. Khushwant Singh writes.

columns Updated: May 21, 2011 22:45 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

Professor RC Sobti, Vice Chancellor of Panjab University and Registrar AK Bhandari came all the way from Chandigarh to confer an honourary doctorate on me. Though overwhelmed with gratitude, I feel I must confess my shortcomings as a scholar. I went through school and colleges in Delhi, Lahore and London barely able to pass examinations I had to take. Having such a poor academic record, having four doctorates conferred on me is hard to believe. My motive in writing about it is not a devious way to indulge in self-praise, but to draw the attention to the misuse of the word doctorate.

It has three different meanings. One is for qualifications as a healer of sick people. The second for scholarship in writing theses on topics hitherto not touched upon. And the third for honouring people for their achievements in any field.

I think it is time we had three different words for them. Only those in the medical profession deserve to be called doctors. We have to coin different words for scholarly works and recognition for achievements. Try to think what they should be in Sanskrit, Greek or Latin. And make it obligatory for recipients not to use them. My friend Bharat Ram of the Delhi Cloth Mills made a handsome donation to the Aligarh Muslim University. In return, the Vice-Chancellor conferred an honourary doctorate on him. He began to describe himself as Dr Bharat Ram. Every time I told him that this was not the done thing. He used to reply: Achha tum kehtey ho to main naam sey doctor hataa doonga — (okay if you say so, I will remove Doctor from my name).” He never did so, and remained Dr Bharat Ram to the end. I have no intention of calling myself Dr K Singh.

A fearless woman
I shudder to think what would be left of Indian television if Barkha Dutt decides to call it a day. For many years I made it a point to watch two programmes to keep myself abreast of what were the main issues facing the country. One was Barkha’s We the People and the other was The Big Fight by Rajdeep Sardesai. Both Barkha and Sardesai did their homework in order to ask right questions from the people they had invited to appear in the programmes. They also took care to have eminent people who had conflicting views so that viewers would get different viewpoints before making up their own minds.

Barkha does a lot more than We the People. Wherever riots and violence erupt, Barkha is the first TV personality to give viewers an idea what is going on and why. Our countrymen rely heavily on what she says because she never takes sides but gives participants an occasion to put across their views to a huge audience, which runs into millions.

Recently when Osama bin Laden was killed by American commandos in Abbottabad and viewers round the globe wanted to know how Pakistanis felt about the entry of foreign forces in their soil without their permission or knowledge, Barkha was in Pakistan in order to know what Pakistani leaders had to say about it. Next to Americans Pakistanis hate Indians. Barkha is a fearless woman. Her good looks and dress-sense add to her acceptability.

Some people say that Barkha Dutt has a swollen head. I have no means of checking if that is true. I have met her only once for a few minutes. Far from being swollen-headed, I found her totally unaware about her iconic status.

No Rhyme
The nine-year-old granddaughter of a retired schoolteacher asked his opinion of her essay. The old man found little to criticise, but he pointed out that it was no considered good writing practice to use the same word twice in one sentence if a suitable synonym was available.

How faithfully she followed his advice became evident when she brought home a sample she had made in her English composition class. It read ‘Home Sweet House’.

Silence Zone
A friend who lives in a house estate’s flat was listening to his music system on full volume one evening. When there was a knock at the door, it was his next-door neighbour.
“Can you hear my TV? “ asked the neighbour
“No,” said my friend
“Well, said the neighbour, “Neither can I.”

(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Tezpur) The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: May 21, 2011 22:42 IST