When Nehru lost to the boys at AU exhibition
He was born in a family, which had already amassed a huge wealth of knowledge. But, he was not just satisfied by maintaining the same and went miles ahead to add to it. He has earned laurels not only in his subject Mathematics, but has also left indelible imprints in the poetry of Sanskrit, English and Oriya. Besides, he is a wonderful painter.
Professor Tribikram Pati, more popularly known as Prof T Pati, former Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University and Shri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri, is the son of Late Prof Ratnakar Pati, an eminent philosopher, and grandson of 'Utkalmani' Gopabandhu Das, the first president of the Orissa Congress.
A world famous mathematician, Prof Pati adorned the chair of Head of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Jabalpur University, for about 10 years before holding the same position at AU for almost 19 years.
The 77-year-old scholar believes that he has been able to settle the mathematical problem of the Riemann Hypothesis, which remained unsolved for the last 150 years. He has been at it for the last 16 years. Besides, he has been acclaimed world-wide for solving hundreds of other mathematical problems. He is such a modest person that he gives credit for all his achievements to the divine revelations.
A distinguished educationist and litterateur, Prof Pati has also held several honorary positions like member of the Allahabad Mathematical Society and International Academy of Physical Sciences, President of the Orissa Mathematical Society and Orissa Science Academy and Chairman of the Institute of Maths and Applications, Bhubaneswar.
A philatelist and a recipient of the prestigious Cullis Memorial Lectureship of Calcutta and the Rajiv Gandhi National Unity Award, Prof Pati was the president of the mathematics section of the Indian Science Congress, Calcutta in 1972.
He topped in all the examinations right from High School to MA and received many gold medals. Prof Pati has visited UK, the US and Canada in the capacity of visiting professor. Nearly 30 scholars got their PhD/DPhil under his guidance and four of them received DSc degree.
The excerpts of the interview:
On the occasion of 70th anniversary of Allahabad University, I organised a mathematical exhibition and the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited it. I took him to the exhibition and he took a keen interest in watching the show and was delighted to see the students asking the visitors to solve some puzzles. One such puzzle 'The Problem of Tower of Hanoi' was asked to be solved by Nehru. After trying for a couple of minutes, Nehruji said: "I have lost to the boys."
Soon after, Nehruji's attention was caught by a caption 'Hindu Mathematics'. He quickly reacted: "Mathematics is independent of religion. So, the word Hindu should be avoided. "When I suggested the word of Indian Mathematics, he approvingly agreed and said: "Yes, that's right." This showed amply that Nehru always had an international outlook.
I still remember the speech delivered by Dr S Radhkrishnan at the silver jubilee function of the GN Jha Hostel. He was a great philosopher and educationist and had a unique combination of words. Often, the audience was mesmerised by his choice of words and style of delivery.
Renowned mathematician and the then AU VC Prof AC Banerjee was presiding over the annual function of the AN Jha Hostel while former AU VC Prof AN Jha was the chief guest. Prof Banerjee was in the habit of asking "Am I right" after some statement and even he used to ask this question to his students while teaching. While addressing the function, Prof Banerjee highlighted the growth of AU and said now the number of students is... and then asked: "Am I right?" On this, Prof AN Jha was quick to intervene by saying: "The Vice-Chancellor is never wrong." And the audience burst into laughter.
I used to interact with the great litterateur Firaq Gorakhpuri at the Coffee House. Once I requested him to say something which I could pass on to the next generation and Firaq Saheb obliged me by reciting this couplet:
"Maana ki Zindagi hai chaar din ki, bahut hotein hain yaaron chaar din bhi,
Khuda ko pa gaya waiz magar hai, zaroorat aadmi ko aadmi ki"
Once, I posed a question before the great historian Prof Ishwari Prasad about the role of education in India. His reply was: "A democracy without education is hypocrisy without limitation."
I cannot forget the words spoken by Prof SC Deb while he was delivering the lecture on Christopher Caudwell. He had opined: "It is not personal achievement that matters. Rather, it is the self sacrifice for the cause of the entire society, which makes man a human being in the true sense."
I have seen Dr S Radhakrishnan bowing at the feet of Prof RD Ranade, former HoD of Philosophy, AU. It was a treat to hear lectures delivered by Prof Ishwari Prasad, Prof SC Deb, Firaq Gorakhpuri and former Dean, Faculty of Law, Prof KK Bhattacharya. I can never forget the melodious recitation of 'Madhushala' by Dr Haribansh Rai Bachchan.
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