Inspiring life, inspiring book

V. Prakash        Print Edition: Nov 13, 2011

Reinventing India
By Raghunath Mashelkar
Sahyadri Prakashan
Pages: 403
Price: Rs 699

R. A. Mashelkar is an institution. How did one man achieve so much in such a short span of time? As I read this book, this question kept popping up in my mind. And "extraordinary" is the only word I can use for his achievements.

This book is yet another jewel in the crown of Mashel k a r 's amazing achievements. His career began at a time when Indian scientists were leaving the country in droves for better prospects, but by the time it ended, multinationals had begun making India a hub for their research and development.

Let me begin at random, with the chapter on 'Protection and Prospecting' of the Indian knowledge system, in which the section 'Journey so far', reveals the firm foundation on which this global scientist built his career with utmost determination and "a confident and dangerous optimism" which he displayed in all the areas where he made a mark. This book will encourage scientists, managers and policymakers to take risks for the benefit of one and all, as well as to keep the nation's flag flying high.

The chapter on the need for Indian science and scientists to raise the bar is indeed very bold. Mashelkar addresses the question of what it will take for a resident Indian to win the Nobel Prize. He sets forth a marvellous route map for the youngsters of today to follow, which could lead them to win not just one Nobel Prize, but perhaps two, and in different fields, just as Marie Curie did. Mashelkar then shifts gear, discussing the subject of nation building through technology.

Any technologist who fails to read this chapter will certainly miss out on the engine of technology today. On building an innovative India, Mashelkar says the "innovative ladder" needs no wall to lean on. Nor does it need many people to support it. It should be self supported and should be a ladder that keeps increasing in height as one climbs up. Mashelkar himself has done this in his career, opening up vistas and arenas.

Having grown up in poverty in a Mumbai chawl, and having had to often study under streetlights, Mashelkar is not deterred by the lack of expensive laboratories or other facilities in India. He highlights the importance of 'Gandhian Engineering' in finding practical solutions for the country's problems.

India is still a poor player at the patents game, he says, and must learn how to convert the knowledge produced by researchers into wealth - patents that are monetisable. This is a book that Indian students, faculty members, scientists, policymakers and researchers should all read. If necessary, they should re-engineer themselves to tackle India's challenges. It is a book that will help them reach out to those considered unreachable, in rural India and urban slums.
 

The author is a distinguished scientist of the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research, at JSS-MVP, JSS Technical Institutions Campus in Mysore

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