[Letter] Back to Our Roots

On the first day of the new year, Assistant Professor Ranga Rao Venkatesha Prasad suddenly remembered an incident which happened 18 years ago.

Today is another January first, and I was thinking about the time I have spent in this life till now (I won’t say my age!). Suddenly, many things started coming to mind and my thoughts were hazy. They were not coherent and none of them stood out – my education, marriage, the birth of my child etc. I started getting worried about my life and felt miserable that I didn’t have any ONE thought that was so important in my life’s experience.

A ha, suddenly I remembered an incident which happened 18 years ago! I want to share it with all of you here. I am so proud that I witnessed this incident!

In 1999, Orissa, one of the eastern coastal states of India, faced a huge cyclone and storm. It was one of the deadliest cyclones ever seen in north India. It was called Cyclone 05B (or Pradeep), and its recorded losses were 10,000 fatalities and $4.4 billion in damages.

We students at my institute in Bangalore were shaken up by this, and many of our students from Orissa started asking us to help. We started collecting clothing, blankets, medicine and money. The whole of Bangalore (at the time 5-6 million people) responded to our call. For fifteen days we coordinated and worked as a team without a plan, leader etc., Bbut the work progressed very well because of the feeling of commitment. We bought the necessary medicines, tents, blankets etc., and packed all the good clothes, separating them according to male, female and children. We used a big indoor concert hallfor this purpose. One of the professors even gave his woollen wedding suit!

On the day of the last shipment, we packed everything and were almost done with the work. Then a car came from a remote part of Bangalore with a family carrying a big bag of clothes and blankets. We had already packed, but to not disappoint them, we took their donation. A child of approximately five years old had also accompanied the family. It came straight to me and handed over a small bag which looked like new. I asked what was in it. The child told me, “Uncle, you are collecting the items required for everyone, but you never asked for one important thing!” I asked what is it? The kid told me “There are so many children who have lost everything and are living in tents. Everyone is worried about food and clothes, but no one is bringing them playing toys. How can children play without toys?”

(Photo: Ranga Rao)

I never forgot this incident, and it always brings joy, pain and, of course, tears! ‘Joy’ because even a small kid can feel the pain of others, so humanity has not vanished! ‘Pain’ because we bring many of these disasters upon ourselves and we also do not care for others. ‘Tears’ because I feel that we don’t have enough people like that child around us. In this new year, the best thing is to achieve simplicity and empathy! I call this going back to our roots – the roots of human life itself!


Ranga Rao Venkatesha Prasad is Assistant Professor Embedded Software at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS)

Ranga Rao also wrote this farewell letter to Rector Magnificus Karel Luyben

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