Honouring the Great Scientist
Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman
(1888 - 1970)
Sir CV Raman was one of the brilliant scientists of India who won the Nobel Prize in 1930 for his discovery of the 'Raman Effect.' (The discovery that monochromatic light ray in the incident beam can be split up into a number of components with wave length smaller or greater than that of the incident ray).
In 1934, he founded the Indian Academy of Sciences and in 1948, the Raman Research Institute.
In addition to being a great scientist, CV Raman was a superb speaker. The following speech delivered at the convocation ceremony of the Agra University is a good example of his eloquence.
18 November 1950
It is no small honour to be asked to address the Convocation of a University in India, and certainly it is a unique experience for me, at any rate, to be called upon to address a University Convocation at one place a second time.
I know poverty and misery and I quite appreciate by personal experience what it is to be poor, what it is to have no clothes, what it is to have no books, what it is to struggle through life, what it is to walk through the streets without an umbrella, without conveyance along miles in dusty wards, I have been through it all and I can understand the difficulties that most of you graduates have to face up today. I'm speaking from a long experience of 60 years. Please do not imagine that all the 60 years are milk and roses. To be able to accomplish something I want to tell you that you have to go through such experience.
I admit, success in life is not always to the intelligent or the strong and it is to some extent a bit of a gamble, but nonetheless those who have got their minds right and those who know their job will sooner or later, sooner perhaps than later make their way in life. But they should not be disappointed if they do not they have to face up life and take it as they find it. This is the kind of philosophy that I have learnt by experience, and I make a free gift of it to you all.
What I say is this that the great things in life are not really great things in life. The Nobel Prize, the F.R.S. and the like, many of them leave a bitter taste in the mouth. What I love is to enjoy the common things of life. I am happy that I am still able to sleep at night provided I have three miles walk in the evening. I am still able to enjoy a good lunch or a good dinner. I am still able to look at the blue sky and like it. I still like to walk in the open fields and like the smell of the Ragi or the Jowar. I feel a younger man when I see the Babul flower and say God has given us these wonderful things. That is the real philosophy of life to appreciate what we see round us.
We think that happiness consists in going to pictures and seeing thrilling films and techni-colour dramas. Not at all, the great things in life are the God-given things which cost nothing. What you need is the desire to appreciate them. If you have your minds and hearts open, you have around you things which give you joy. There is the butterfly jumping about in flourishing colours on all sides. Look at this wonderful thing that God has given for our enjoyment.
We have to love nature ad appreciate nature and appreciate her wonderful gifts, her marvelous ingenuity, her resourcefulness, her infinite variety. It is the same thing that has inspired me all my life.I study science not because anything is going to happen to me but because I feel it is a kind of worship of this great Goddess, Nature of which we are a part. That has been my inspiration as a man of science. I feel now that is one thing that can always make a man happy, the small things in life not only in nature - our old friends, old music and the things that we have around us. Many a time I would like to go back to them.
It may be a sign of cynicism, but one would like to go back to the common things of life. A glass of cold water, for example, gives us vigour and freshness. (Dr. Raman so saying drank a glass of cold water amidst laughter). I can assure you there is no pleasure in this world for a healthy man, then after a vigorous exercise or doing something hard just to go home and have a glass of cold water. If you have lost the capacity to appreciate that, you may as well drink a cup of hemlock, as Socrates had to do.
I have another word to say. We all speak of patriotism. What is patriotism? I want you to think it over and in the last analysis bring down patriotism to a physical term. I have thought over the problem. Patriotism as well as a number of things boil down to the love of the earth. We are of the earth. When we die we return to the earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes, the human body whether cremated or buried returns to earth. Seeta was of earth and returned to earth. This good earth sustains us. On earth grows green grass, which the cow cats and which a vegetarian like myself as well as a non-vegetarian gets milk from. Ultimately it is the earth and the things that grow upon it that sustain us and feed us and make human life possible. I think ultimately the love for the land means the love of the earth which has borne us and which sustains us. I want you to appreciate the meaning of love of earth.
The love of mother earth should be shown by tending her. If she is ruthlessly raped and. destroyed, we shall also die with her. The tremendous problem of lack of food in the country boils down to this that we have left the love of earth to ignorant people who know nothing of the advance of science. We educated people who understand science, do not love mother earth. Knowledge of science will make us create anything, but unless we have that vision, that desire to love mother earth, we shall not make any advance.
I think it is a duty laid on every educated man to create something, to see something grow. I say this not as a part of the 'grow more food campaign', I have not been paid to do propaganda for it. I am telling you about it in the same spirit that a famous Roman did. When once Rome was in danger the people wanted to have him as a dictator to save Rome. When they went to him they found him ploughing the land with his own hands and tending his farm. After he became a dictator he went back to the land and said, these plants I have grown, I give them water, I give them labour and they repay. We should work in this spirit.
The more you help a man, the less grateful he is to you. It is, however, our duty to help fellow beings and we should not expect them to show any gratitude in return. If they do show, we are very happy and more fortunate. The plant on earth will never fail to repay any attention that we bestow on it. We must go back to earth and regard it as our supreme duty to do something to produce the things on which we live.
It is a great privilege to see such a great body of young people, women and men alike who are entering the pathways of life after, a course of study in colleges and university and to be allowed to speak to them and making a heart to heart speech gives me great pleasure.
I never believe in manuscript eloquence or in after dinner speeches carefully prepared 24 hours beforehand. I always believe in standing up in front of my audience, appreciate the situation and speak to them heart to heart. I have no desire at all to inflict unwanted advice on you. I want you to think over what I have told you and see if some little thing that I have said may prove the seed of some great achievement on your part, sustain you, encourage you, elevate your hearts above and so push you on in life that you may rise triumphant over all the difficulties and all the troubles that are the common lot of the common man in India today.