Sunday, September 30, 2018

Talk on the Occasion to Mark Change of Chairmanship of CHEP -- 28 September, 2018


I am thankful to the members of CHEP and the new Chair, Justin for having organized this event to mark the change in Chairmanship of the Centre.

I would like to recall an occasion take took place at the end of the Lattice 2000 workshop, an international conference that was organized by Apoorva Patel in IISc. When it came to the time of the workshop's closing event, Apoorva had to make the valedictory speech. He began by saying that he came from a small place and was not taught how to make speeches. Instead, he narrated a folk tale from his place, where a not so well-off person was asked to organize a party. He organized it in a courtyard and the revellers were asked to take off their footwear and jackets and leave them outside and were all given handheld fans as it was a hot day. The rest of the evening was with the revellers talking to one another and they had a great time. There is an ending to this story that I will not mention now, but only at the end of my speech. The main moral of this anecdote is that the party is what the revellers made it, and all that the organizer provided was the space and the handheld fan. The other moral is that it is not always necessary to make speeches! In the course of the 3520 days that began on January 27, 2009 and ended on September 17, 2018, I have made numerous speeches and so I cannot claim that I was never learnt to make speeches! But I have learnt that the fate of most speeches is that they essentially fall on deaf ears. I have also made numerous sermons in writing and unless you have deleted them, you will have them in your email accounts. Jokes apart, in most of the speeches and sermons I have tried to emphasize that we have a special responsibility as members of an important department of the country's most reputed Institution. This will be a statement that is invariant under who is the Chair and who is not.

The job of the Chair is not an enviable one. He or she has to constantly keep in mind that general good and works under tremendous constraints, coming from financial as well as physical constraints. If the guiding principle is of the general good, and that one has to optimize the use of scarce resources, and that one is within the ambit of the law and convention, and common sense then most decisions are the natural ones. It is also a fact that not everyone will be happy, and being the Chair is not the surest way of winning a popularity poll. That said, it is the part of our Service Rules that duties can be assigned by Authority from time to time and the employee is bound to serve by them. Thus, popularity or not, one has to discharge one's duties irrespective of the nature of these, should the Authority vest such responsibility in us. It is with this view that I served these 3520 days. What has been achieved or not, time and history will tell, and the past is now firmly behind us. At this point, I need to thank Directors Balaram and Anurag Kumar and Divisional Chair Rahul Pandit for having vested the responsibility in me. To their eternal credit and I thank them for this, I have never had a decision overturned. All the above, also begs the question as to why I conveyed my desire to step down on August 3, 2018 by email to Rahul. The reasons are many-fold. Primarily, I feel that we had reached a stage when the Centre needed new leadership. Any organization reaches a stage when the management runs out of steam. Also, by staying on I would have denied the opportunity to the members of CHEP to benefit from new ideas and new directions. While I will continue to be a member of the department would be happy to offer any help, it was really necessary for the department to get a second wind after the period of growth and consolidation.

I also thank all the members of CHEP, past and present, since there was never an instance when there was complaint against one member against another. I think this is a remarkable achievement and I commend all of you on this and I hope that Justin will also have smooth sailing in this regard. I thank all of you who have helped me one way or another, psychologically or physically, through your participation in discussions and counselling me, serving on committees and in general being good colleagues. The only person I wish to thank by name is Mr. Keshava, because without him I could not have done a day's work. During these 3520 days, I do not recall a single occasion on which he let me down.

With these words, I take the opportunity to once again thank all of you for having been the revellers.

P. S.: the ending to the story is that when the revellers decided to wind down and go home, they found their footwear and jackets had been sold off by the organizer!

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