Greening the World of Finance


My Professor friend was once again in the news. He became an Advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank  last month and was asked to take on the Green Agenda. The Governor had apparently attended some UN meeting on Greening and had found that lot was happening in the financing world on this topic and India had not much to say. That was shameful.

So the Professor was appointed. After his taking over, the finance world in India simply changed towards Green.

I went to withdraw money from the ATM next to my home and there was a long queue. Most in the queue were reading newspapers. Some were patiently solving crosswords. Some had started eating their lunch. Clearly the queue was moving slowly. I asked the gentleman next to me why was such as case. “Oh he said, don’t you know that the ATM now asks a lot of questions on green. How much water do you consume in a day, how much diesel is consumed per kilometer by a 10 year old  bus etc. are few opening questions. Questions are also asked on your general knowledge such as what is the name of the chairman of the Tripura Pollution Control Board, or what is the significance of 2 degrees, and few more questions at the end such as what did you do today on the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan etc. When you answer all these questions and get at least 70 marks out of 100, only then your ATM card becomes active. This takes time. Most people fail so they keep reattempting and since each time the questions asked are different, they keep failing again and again. I am planning to go to another ATM machine now where I believe there are professionals laundering outside who help to field these questions at a small fee. Apparently, some advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank has come up with this idea to promote green. Crazy!

I was simply aghast. Although it generated Green Jobs, This was terrible. So I left the ATM machine and went straight to meet the Professor at the Central Bank. The Professor was giving a press interview at that time. “Yes, we propose to change the mind set of Indian citizens towards green living. This credit card (and he flashed a bright green credit card which had a shape of a leaf) will let you shop only green. If you attempt purchasing any “brown” product, then the card will not simply work”.  One journalist stopped him and asked who decides what is a green and a brown product?  The Professor smiled and said that this work was already done and a master database of key green consumer products was created at a national level. New entries were however most welcome”. Another Journalist quipped “why should one buy this Green Credit Card if this is so restrictive?” The Professor was already expecting this question.  “We will track the shopping done using this Green credit card and give you “greenie” points. With these points you can shop more green as a bonus…. And remember that there are no annual fees charged for the use of Green Credit Card – (don’t confuse this with Green Card my friends and he winked)

When we went to his cabin, I complained to the Professor about the ATM mess. I further added that the Green credit card idea could be controversial as it is really difficult to certify what is a green product”, But the Professor did not agree. Soon people will understand what is green through the ATMs and spend responsibly using the Green Credit card – he said.  The product makers will shift to the mission to “Make Green” because this will be the only way that they will survive. This will lead to reduced GHG emissions. The Central Bank will thus change India’s consumption and production patterns. This should have been the job of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (and Climate Change) but you know that this Ministry has been only focusing on management of residues or pollution …with no strategies towards sustainable consumption and production”. He sighed and I nodded. On this we had no disagreement.

He then paused and asked me “Have you been recently to any of the commercial banks asking for a loan?”

Next day, both of us went to a local commercial bank. I filled up a loan application form at the counter that used a paper that was recycled, unbleached and had seeds embedded. When I went to the desk of the loan officer, he served me water from a rainwater harvesting unit and in a clay jar. I was carrying the supporting papers in a plastic bag. He took the papers, tucked away my plastic bag “no plastic my friend – this is against the Central Bank’s directive”. He then walked across and inserted my plastic bag in a plastic to diesel machine. “Thanks for your contribution for the national plastic to diesel program” he said while sitting back on his chair and handed over a flower as a token of appreciation that came from an organic garden. My Professor fiend was standing behind me with great self-admiration and a proud face.

When I explained to him about my interest of securing loan for a vehicle, he asked me why am I purchasing a vehicle. Can you not take a public transport? We must follow sustainable lifestyles and reduce your carbon footprint, We are importing crude oil my friend that affects our BoP” He then showed me couple of videos on YouTube that said how we should avoid using private vehicles and take public transport. I am sorry he said, but if you still insist on taking a loan, then I will recommend you a bicycle. In the Netherlands, most use bicycles. I tried to tell him that public transport in the city is not good and, I get late, weary and tired. Besides we don’t have bicycle pathways like in the Netherlands, so safety can be an issue, but the officer wouldn’t pay heed to my protests.  We spent another 30 minutes discussing my loan. According to the officer, sanctioning of my car loan would severely affect India’s and world’s sustainability and bring in adverse and irreversible change.

We left the Bank, me disappointed and the Professor triumphant with joy. I said “I will go to another bank – perhaps a cooperative Bank where Central directives are often flouted”. The Professor said sure – try your luck. We have ensured that all Banks will follow our principles of sustainable finance in letter and spirit. The financing world in India now fully understands the importance of sustainability in the investment decisions.

But then how will the economic development in India happen? Especially the required financial flows in the infrastructure sector and the foreign direct investments that we want to attract? Your requirements are so stringent … I struggled to say. “Oh I am working on that, the Professor said while signing some important documents using a green pen. There are so many shades of green that I am sure we will find a way.  After all, what is green is what we decide. So we will stay green for the world but fix the shade we want to – somewhere dark and somewhere pale”. Aha – I exclaimed. I visualized my Professor friend like the scallywag boy of Asian Paints with a paint tin and brush in hand and a large palliate of Green.  Busy painting the walls. Very clever.


Why Monitor Environmental Quality? Why not Generate Random Numbers?


My Professor friend was recently awarded by the Ministry of Environment & Forests towards his contributions for saving expenditures on environmental monitoring incurred by the Pollution Control Boards (PCBs), industries and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The Professor was top in the news, on TV and print media. The exact details or his precise contributions were not known – but there was praise for his ingenuity, especially about the tool that he developed using “random numbers” and a practical approach that he followed. Millions of rupees of the Government were expected to be saved. I was therefore very keen to meet him to learn about this innovation.

When I went to his office, Professor was on the phone, busy as usual. “No, I am fully booked” he was saying. “Talk to me again next month and we will fix a slot to speak a month later”. He turned to me while slamming the phone down and said “too many requests to speak my friend. Everybody wants to know about my random number algorithm on environmental monitoring!” His table was littered with notes, scribbled with numbers, some graphs and couple of cups of tea with used tea bags hanging out. Clearly he had a number of visitors that morning.

I requested the Professor to explain his innovation and apologized at the outset as he must have done this part of explanation so many times earlier to several like me! The Professor however didn’t mind. “No problems Prasad, l will do this for you. I know you well and you will I am sure explain my contributions to others as well – perhaps better than me”. He winked. He then walked across to a white board in his room, cleaned it up and started explaining his theory of random numbers as applied to environmental monitoring.

His basic argument was as follows.

We monitor environment (air quality, water quality, noise etc.) to understand the state of environment, establish trends, detect violations and communicate results to public, decision makers, implementers.

We however conduct environmental monitoring at pretty low frequencies. We also operate relatively sparse density of monitoring stations. On Ganga basin for instance we sample water quality at less than 100 stations (over its 3000 kms of length) and at each station sample water quality only once a month.

Do you think this kind of data is adequate to understand behaviour of water quality in a river, understand water quality trends or detect violations over the prescribed standards? This data is simply not sufficient to show improvements (if any) in water quality due to the Ganga Action Plan – II. I told the Prime Minister that he is going to have a tough time to prove that investments he is making have actually improved water quality in Ganga” He paused. “We should be having many more stations and much higher sampling frequency if we are serious about environmental monitoring. Either do the job well or just don’t do it. Folks don’t understand statistics”. His voice was now a bit raised.

The monitoring stations we have located are often not well sited. That leads to a bias. Do you know that the so called ambient air quality monitoring station sited in city of Pune was at Nal Chowk – a busy traffic junction – which actually reported air quality of pedestrian exposure and not ambient conditions. Data from this station declared Pune as one of the 10 most polluted cities in India and the city was put under scan of the Bhurelal Committee. And Professor was right as I had visited the monitoring location and had advised the Pune Municipal Corporation and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to relocate the station.

The Professor continued to speak

“And then look at the vagaries on how the sample taken, preserved and transported and taken to the laboratories. The QA/QC related situation is of concern. You know the BOD test we do in the labs is so unreliable when less than 3 mg/l so I often wonder reliability of our river BOD data. Recently, I was provided with results of synchronous monitoring of industrial effluent at a Common Effluent Treatment Plant. This monitoring was carried out by 3 reputed laboratories and by an automatic water quality monitoring instrument. The arithmetic means of all the 4 were different and the Z-test hypothesis failed across all the parameters !    Isn’t this frustrating? See a snap shot of results.” He passed to me one the sheets like on his table.


Again what do we do with the data collected? We simply report means, max/mins,, time series graphs (that we call as “trends”) and report compliance (over poor frequency data!). Much more can be done.

I nodded. “Yes Professor, we all know this reality, sad it is but then where is your random number innovation?”

“Aha” the Professor said. He lit a cigarette and put his spectacles on.

“I realized that there is NO great advantage of doing actual environmental monitoring. The kind of monitoring we do is as good as generating random numbers! The monitored data is neither representative nor reliable. So why bother? Why should we build and operate such an expensive environmental monitoring infrastructure? Why spend money?”   

So I thought of generating random numbers. But cleverly!

All I do here is use past collected data. Prepare quality control chart and then toss random numbers in the range of one sigma, two, three and four sigma – sigma being the standard deviation. The random numbers I generate follow an intelligent algorithm that almost mimics the past data behaviour (to bring in credibility) but with some deviations as needed or desired. See Figure below. So the dots in the figure are my synthetic environmental monitoring data. In this case BOD. Sorry, I won’t tell you how I generate these random numbers – a patent has been already filed. So hold on till then.


Look at the advantages. If you use my algorithm, you don’t need to spend moneys on collecting and analysing the actual sample, no need of laboratories, no need to employ staff and you directly get the environmental monitoring data sitting in the office! The data I generate is not far away from “reality” and cannot be easily questioned. Importantly, the randomness in the data can be controlled depending on what you want to prove.. Whether environmental status is improving or deteriorating. When I explained  to the Minister this feature of the algorithm, he was so pleased!

I was shocked! “This is Professor nothing but data manipulation” I said with all my courage, emotions and a  concern.

The Professor smiled. “Think deeply Prasad. In either case, does this matter? In both cases, i.e. actual monitoring and monitoring using my random number algorithm, we don’t take decisions on environmental improvement anyways! In India, monitoring is not linked to management. And don’t forget how much money and effort we save using my algorithm”

I left Professor’s office both depressed and disturbed. One thing that intrigued me however was how come the Professor did not think about loss of jobs at PCBs, redundancy created at the field and regional laboratories and loss of the business of equipment manufactures & chemical suppliers etc. The Professor certainly missed to look into the social costs (or benefits?) of environmental monitoring- the Committee at the Ministry should have thought of this downside of his random number innovation before bestowing the Award!!

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How to teach Sustainability without PowerPoints?


I was asked to speak on sustainability at a Corporate of great repute. I was working on my presentation using PowerPoint just few hours before the talk.

I normally keep a good stock of sustainability related slides and depending on the audience, pick and tweak as necessary.  This approach is monotonous many times and kills creativity (as you live here on the dead!) but when you get into this rut of speaking and work on the presentation in the last hour– then you just give up and compromise. I was editing my PowerPoint slides with these mixed feelings and just then my good friend Professor walked in.

“When will you stop this practice of doing PowerPoint Prasad” he said “Teaching an exciting subject like sustainability with PowerPoint is the most boring thing to do”.

I knew that my friend always spoke his mind, was a rebellion in this own right (especially when it came to teaching), but this time, I fought, struggled and argued to tell him that this was a presentation to a corporate audience, serious guys, who expect those glossy presentations, quotes from Big Shots and Business leaders, and some startling statistics /graphs are needed to show how sustainability makes a business case. My fiend pooh poohed my arguments and asked if I could give him the floor this time to teach sustainability in his own way. He said he would not be using the PowerPoints.

I felt a bit uncomfortable.  There was some risk of the “unknown”. But my curiosity would not let me put his proposition aside. So as a compromise, I offered him to front end his talk and said that after his Non-PowerPoint approach, I will do my usual PowerPoint slide presentation- as what was promised to the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) of the Corporate.

“No messing around my friend” I said this couple of times. And my friend smiled and said “No worries – leave to me”

“I need to prepare a bit” he said. He disappeared for 15 minutes and came with a ream of photocopying paper and a pack of 20 assorted pens of various colours.  I became even more curious and also a bit nervous.

We reached the venue and some 40 participants were already there sitting in a large room. The CSO came to me, greeted us and asked for my pen drive for the PowerPoint projection. “Everything is set Sir – let us test however whether your slides work”. I passed on my pen drive, introduced my Professor friend and said that there was a slight change in the program. My friend will be doing a kind of introduction to sustainability first and then I will be following with my formal PowerPoint presentation. The CSO was kind enough to agree and I was indeed relived. The CSO announced this “little” change and gave a brief intro to both of us. He simply introduced the Professor as my good old friend as he didn’t know him. Any case he wasn’t critical.

The Professor then took the charge of the opening session.

The participants were sitting in the room in 3 rows with each row having 12 people. The Professor asked all participants in the second and third rows to leave the hall. He also asked the CSO to leave. This was rather odd and unexpected. But all followed his instruction and came out to the lobby.

The Professor then distributed to the 12 participants sitting in the front row, blank photocopying papers. Each participant was given a colour pen. He then simply left the room and asked me to follow him. While closing the door he said to the participants “See you after 5 minutes!”.

There were no instructions on what to do for 5 minutes. The participants were really startled. All they had with them was a paper and pen. So most decided to do something on their own. Some drew pictures, some wrote their names and some even practiced their signatures. Then they chatted a bit generally showing their surprise on what was going on and speculated what will happen next!

After precisely 5 minutes, my Professor friend opened the door. He said “ Thank you”

“Please leave the papers and pen on your seat and exit the lecture hall”. All the 12 participants left the room and came to the lobby where coffee was waiting for them with cookies.


The second batch of 12 that was sitting in the second row was now let in. My friend did the same stunt as before. As he was closing the door, one of the participants asked him “Sir, what are we supposed to do?” and he made an innocent face – equally confused and  said “Honestly, I don’t know! – do what you feel like”

The participants in the second batch also did ‘something’ with the left over papers and the pens. Some added more to what was earlier drawn. If someone in first batch had drawn a hollow circle, participant in the second batch filled it with a solid colour to make it look better!

After another 5 minutes, the third “batch” got in and my friend repeated the “performance”. This time, as he was closing the door, one participant looked at the scribbled papers lying on the desks, and said “ There is no space now to write on the papers anymore –please give us new blank papers so that we can write”. And more participants expressed the same request.  My friend did not say a word. Just closed the door and let the third batch do what they could.

Participants in the third batch were not happy with the used or abused paper. They still attempted to do some writing. There was a dustbin in the room with a sign “use me”. “This paper is now useless“  one participant said as he was throwing the paper in the dustbin. Some thought of doing something more interesting. One participant knew origami so he made interesting products like a giraffe, a house and an aeroplane.  Few copied.

Once the five minutes were over, the Professor asked all the participants come in the lecture hall and take their seats. Once all settled down, he spoke.

“Thank you friends for your participation. I gave you a paper and pen with no instructions. You decided to use the paper and pen to write. Was there any need to write? You could have just let the paper and pen be there and spent 5 minutes to chat with each other or even meditate! One of you perhaps started writing and others followed. You wrote on the paper to express your thoughts  or put you identity”

“Paper is like the mother earth – it’s a finite resource you have. Pen is the technology, economic activity –  the business. Most of you used or spoiled the resource you had for your own interests – interests that were not even clear to you individually or to the group as a whole”

“Each batch that followed – continued what was done by the earlier batch-mechanically and more intensively. The paper got now less “white space” left . The resources got depleted and degraded –more and more. Each batch represented a generation….”

“As generations marched on, you started asking for another paper .. Another earth! Is this possible? – You just had one paper – you just have  one earth to live on”

“ We must think of sustainability when we use our resources – our consumptive thinking must be tamed, our wasteful use of resources must cease”

“And some of you threw the “wasted paper” in the dustbin. Some created interesting products out of the wasted paper using their origami skills – you thus turned around wasted resource into useful products. That’s the innovation you need towards reusing the resources –  we need more of such innovations if we want to be sustainable”

With these words, my Professor friend paused. I saw on his face a complex set of expressions – a serious note, a gentle smile and an “accidental revelation”.

“That’s sustainability”

He ended his session with these words.

And there was a silence.

I could see that the participants understood the message –and deeply. They had perhaps actually experienced or discovered sustainability.

The participants then spoke, expressed what they learnt and my Professor friend responded with case studies that were insightful and inspiring.

I realized that there was no need for me to give a PowerPoint presentation anymore.  “Let us stop here” I said.  I asked the CSO to return my pen drive and thanked the Corporate for inviting me.

The next day I received a call from another Corporate to speak on Sustainability. The CSO said ‘ Sir,, we will make all the projection arrangements – just bring your pen drive of PowerPoint slides”.

I said, no slides please- All I need is a ream of photocopying papers and two dozen colour pens!!. The CSO was startled.  And I was never invited!!

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How to examine a dissertation without reading!


I was siting in the room of one of my senior colleagues at the University chatting in general. He suddenly looked into his wristwatch and exclaimed “Oh, time to go for the exam – I have to go upstairs to examine a Masters dissertation”.

The Masters dissertation that my friend was to examine was in a sealed envelope on his desk. So clearly, he had not read the dissertation. But still just to be sure, I asked “but have you read the dissertation at all?”. My friend just smiled and said “No, I haven’t. And you don’t need to read the dissertation for the examination”. After seeing my bewildered face he said “You are too raw in this game Prasad, come along and I will show you how”. I joined him right away as I was eager to learn the art of thesis examination.

“Hold on” he said. He opened the drawers of his table and pulled out a pad of colourful stickers that we use as page markers.   He then put a number of these stickers across the pages of the dissertation randomly so that it really looked like a “well read” and a “well-marked” work! This looked both colourful and  impressive. He then got up from his chair and took me along to the examination room upstairs.

The examination room was packed. The guide (another professor) and Chair were sitting in the front row.   The student (poor guy) was on the stage with a nervous face waiting for the examiner. Other students in the hall were sitting – with an atmosphere of silence punctuated with whispers. My friend was a well-known Professor in his field so when we walked in – the students stood up with respect and even the Guide Professor and the Chair acknowledged his coming in. We took the front row to sit.

But my friend did a strange thing as he was sitting down. He banged on the desk copy of “the dissertation” like a thud– so loudly and hard that not only it made an impactful noise but raised a small cloud of dust! All looked at the desk and noticed the copy of dissertation with a number of colourful page markers stuffed in. That was scary – especially to the student who was to be examined. It was clear that Professor had read the dissertation in great details, made page specific observations and was “ready to kill”. Even the Professor Guide had a worried face.

The student was asked to start the presentation. I could see however sweat on his forehead and his eyeballs at the copy of his dissertation in front of my friend. The dissertation looked like a pigeon wounded with colourful arrows.  I don’t think the student spoke at his best.

Once the presentation was over, the Chair Professor turned to my friend and asked if there were any questions. And this was the real turning point for me.

My friend took some pause and said “Good attempt. I have many questions to ask but let me not get into details here” and while saying so, he kept turning pages of the marked up dissertation.

He then looked up to the student and said

Are you happy with your work?    

He said this so casually but with a cunningness of a land mine. And there was a silence.

The student did not know what to say. If he said, he is happy then what about those numerous questions the Prof already has (in the form of stickers stuffed in) and if he said not happy then the next question will be obviously why? He was in a real fix.

So he chose to be “safe” and said that he was not really happy. This led to the first crack on the door. As he “confessed” telling why he was not so happy, my learned friend dug in and came up with a volley of questions that the student found hard to answer.

After this bit was done, there came the next question

If you had more time, what else you could have done?

This was another tough one. The student realized that if he had said that there was nothing more to be done – then he was clearly in trouble. So he preferred to tell how he missed doing X and would have liked to do Y etc. This led to another volley of questions from my friend.

Then came the last ball of googly

My friend asked

All this is good in theory, but can your work be applied in practice?  

While asking this question, he made a face of a CEO of a private sector company or of a picky investor – indicating that there were two worlds – one of the University and  other the Real World. And that he came from both these worlds.

The student was apologetic when it came to answering this question – oh we did not look at the economics, we need more pilot runs, we assumed support of following policies etc.   This questioned the immediate usefulness of the work done.

Finally the examination round ended with my friend advising the student what should have been done and what was not needed … This part was both hard hitting as well as educative and I liked the latter part how my friend did – so cleverly.  The Guide was grateful. The Chair Professor was impressed. Students in the examination hall were really floored to see the conduct of the examination.

When we got back to his office, my friend looked at me, smiled and said “ Hope you got it!”. And indeed, I had understood the “game” (as he had earlier said) and I had nothing much to add seeing that impressive performance. He then stood up and said “have to go home now” and then while putting on his coat  exclaimed “ now let me rearrange the stickers in the car on the right pages on my way home based on the students answers in the examination. I will then pass the copy to him tomorrow for fixing!”. I simply gaped!

I was really awed and amazed with this style of examination.

Next time, when you examine a student, don’t read the dissertation, follow my friends style of conduct and ask the three key questions that matter!!

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Professors with Warm Eyes and Golden Hearts


(Professors with you work – matter. They greatly influence your lives. Most students tell me that there are not many Professors today at the Universities who can serve as role models. That’s a pity.

I am starting posts on the bog to share with students my experiences with some of the great Professors I met and was fortunate to work with. I would invite you to share your experiences too. Let us pay tribute to the Professors with Warm Eyes and Golden Hearts)

Professor Fude

In 1981, I credited a course with Professor Fude on Environmental Impact Assessment of Water Resources Projects at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. Professor Fude was 65 years old then, with a PhD on water resources from the University of Iowa in 1939! He was a Taiwanese national, physically fit, an avid golf player and spoke in a Chinese American accent.  He served in the army, fought in the Indo-China war and was recipient of the Cloud and Banner award – a military award of the Republic of China, instituted in 1935.

I recall Professor Fude walked in the classroom on the first stay dragging a crate of Heineken beers. The class was at 7 45 am and we were shocked to see this crate of imported beers.  Professor Fude then picked up a few bottles from the crate and said “anyone interested?”. And we simply gushed – free beer!! No one wanted to refuse this generous offer. We found the experience of sipping beer in the class while listening to the Professor very exciting and different! The next lecture, there was a repeat and so in the third lecture. In the third lecture however less beer bottles got picked up. We realized that though the beer was offered free, was it real worth to have alcohol at 7 45 am in the morning? Not good for the health and not so good when we are “learning”. So the fourth lecture saw even less number of students “interested” and in the fifth lecture, none volunteered. Professor Fude first made a disappointing face, then smiled, warmly and said “oh, it took five lectures for you to understand what’s not the right thing to do”. We then understood of his novel way of teaching.

The class had assignments to do. Professor Fude asked us to write 1 page of our “experience of reading” (not exactly a summary) of any book of our interest and that is aligned to the title of the course. The condition was that each student will work on different books and ensure that there was no duplication. I thought that Professor was too lazy to formulate an assignment. I expected that we are given something more intellectual and more challenging involving some calculations. Later, I asked the Professor about it and he said –   well, the assignment is lot deeper than what you think. First, it exposed the students to our library, what books we hold in the subject of EIA of water resources projects, then it taught the student about how to choose of book out of a few – that compelled them to see more than just one book. Since no student could write about the same book, they needed to talk to each other. This led to networking and making new acquaintances, and finally apart from learning what’s in the book, they understood the subtle difference between a making summary and writing “experience of reading” where self-expressions come in in your own language. And when all 1 page write-ups were shared across 30 students, all got a dossier of 30 interesting books as a resource for “essential readings”. I was simply amazed with this explanation.  Very clever.

Once Professor Fude asked me how do I use the library. I said that I go to the environmental section (628) and look at the books on the shelf and sometimes do a “card search” (we did not have computerized database then) using author and subject index. Professor Fude said that this was alright but not good enough. He asked me to start with Alphabet A, at the first library shelf and spend time picking up almost every book and browse or look into –no matter whether the book concerned my doctoral research. “Pick up a book, turn the pages, take a deep breath to smell … If you like the book, sit down and read more”.  And I followed his advice. My research was on optimization of ambient air quality monitoring networks and I discovered that the science was similar to the design and modeling of precipitation networks, petroleum exploration and even conducting of gallop poll! This is how innovation in research happens” – Professor had said.

Professor Fude had a principle that books in his collection that he did not “touch” over 6 months do not belong to him! So every six months he used to stack these books on his desk and put a notice for students to come and take away these books. That used to be a treat to us. He would then sign up each book and hand over. I did this practice when I taught at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. You should know how to part and spread the knowledge – he said. A14

(Professor Fude at a students party)

I was to get married while studying and was really worried how to handle the “cost of married living”. Professor sensed some stress on my face and called me to his room. He was the only Professor on the campus who had a small bar in the room where he would have a mix of rum and coke after returning from a game of golf and a shower. He was on his rum shot when I met him in his room. On explaining reason for my stress, he offered me a job. He said “can you wash my car before I drive back home every day. I will pay you 500 bahts a month”. I was desperate for money and so readily agreed to the offer. The next day Professor Fude took me to his car and asked me to wash. The car was parked right next the main corridor where all students and faculty were walking by. I was hoping to do the “car wash” discretely in the car park to remain unnoticed. But the Professor had another idea. Here all passersby looked at me, some even made comments and few talked about it to others. I was a quite embarrassed. Professor Fude would sit on a stool next to the car and inspect quality of my work, giving me instructions for doing a better job and later giving me a kind of discourse about “life”. When the first month got over, he told me that rather than he pays me, I should be thankful and pay him fees for the advice he had given! Of course that was in sense of humor but when he gave me my 500 bahts, he said “ Prasad – idea was to teach you the dignity and pride  of work – no matter what you do and make you humble”. I still cherish his words of wisdom.

When I defended my doctoral dissertation, Professor Fude was in the examination committee and I thought that he was the only member who actually understood what was trying to say!  He had the “systems perspective”. When I was told by the Committee that I am through, I remember I was drafting a letter for application of  a job. I ended my letter with “Sincerely, Dr Prasad Modak” and Professor Fude just walked into the room then and peeped at the letter I was typing. “Oh, you should not be saying yourself that you are a Dr… others should know and recognize your Ph. D from your work and not you announcing”. Since then, I never write prefix of Dr before my name.

When we parted, Professor Fude called me to his room. He passed me a woolen jacket and said “a small gift for you”. While accepting his gift, I told Professor that I lived in Mumbai where weather was never challenging enough for wearing a woolen jacket. Professor Fude then smiled and said “I know, you may not need this jacket and won’t use it as much… so it will last longer and longer you will remember me!”. And yes, the jacket is still in my wardrobe. Of course, I continue remembering him and indeed so much!

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