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ME POWAIKAR December 2019

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The soul of music: Dr. G. Ramakrishnan

Our children are our legacy and their lives begin with genetic inheritance in addition to a multitude of factors, including the power of the culture they are born in. The family and environment exercise much influence over a child’s character to ensure that they grow up with a clear sense of right and wrong. That’s what we leave behind for posterity once we are gone. In a world largely driven by an alarming decline in moral direction and spiritual values, I came across a whiff of fresh air in the shape of Dr. G. Ramakrishnan, leading a meaningful existence, calming the confusion that changing times with its’ sheer pace of dizzying social change has wrought upon us.

Dr. Ramakrishnan, the youngest of six children was born in a small village in Kerala in the vicinity of two ancient temples. Losing his father while very young, he was educated in Malayalam schools supported by his family eventually moving to Bombay with his brother G.S.Mani, well-known for his social activities. Ramakrishnan pursued M.Sc. in Organic Chemistry at SIES College. Recognizing his potential, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre offered him DAE Fellowship for Ph.D. He was Research Associate (RA) at the Florida State University’s prestigious Chemistry Department working with internationally reputed Prof. Werner Herz in Natural Products Chemistry. Next he joined Brown University as RA and worked with Prof. David Cane on the Biosynthesis of Natural Products till he returned to India to first join ICI Research Centre and then Hinditron as a Research Scientist to promote high technology analytical products.

Destiny took him overseas; to Riyadh working in Forensics and Singapore as Asia Pacific regional Manager for Hewlett-Packard. He finally returned to his homeland to head the Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis Division of Agilent Technologies as Vice-President and later as MD and Senior Director at Thermo Fisher Scientific till his voluntary retirement in 2010.

A passion for teaching and research took him back to his alma mater as Honorary Professor and Director, where he established the ‘SIES Institute of Chromatography and Spectroscopy’ primarily to train students, teachers and industry chemists in chemical analysis. Dr. Ramakrishnan also helped institute the Chromatographic Society of India, a not-for-profit organization to promote education in chromatographic science and spectroscopy. This sought after speaker has won several accolades including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Indian Society of Analytical Scientists. He was also President of ‘Indian Analytical Instruments Association’ (companies manufacturing and trading in analytical instruments).

Finding a cultural void in Powai, Dr. Ramakrishan launched Powai Fine Arts, in January 2010. Several like-minded people joined him and they brought in many musical, dance and drama programmes.  PFA celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2020 with mega artistic events planned so keep an eye out for them.

A composer beyond compare, he registered Bhakthi-Gitanjali Limited, with the sole intention of sharing his religious thoughts and bhajans. He composes and sings in Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi, recording with live orchestra under famed music directors. A patron of the Ayyappa-Vishnu Temple in Powai, he’s given public bhajan performances in the temple and conducted Shivarathri Poojas, even getting leading bhajan artists of India to sing. People look forward to his bhajans during Ganesha Chaturthi and Janmashtami.
His partner and wife of 40 years, Lata too was a professor of Botany in SIES till she retired. Being multilingual, she translates all his compositions and is his best critique. They have two accomplished sons excelling professionally while possessing strong moral compass having assimilated very lucid ideas from their parents about serving society. Success, for this family is not just material prosperity but preparing the next generation with an enviable legacy, summoning a strong sense of values and beliefs that benefits them and succeeding generations, for the world will belong to them.

I began the article citing Dr. Ramkrishnan’s neighbourhood temples. About 5 years back, the goddess of the temple, Devi Katyayani, (1 of the nine manifestations of Durga/Shakti) appeared in his dream complaining that she resides in a dilapidated temple since hundreds of years. He composed a rare song in her praise and shared it with the villagers. Thanks to its’ popularity they were able to raise funds to completely renovate and transform the temple.

“It's the worst of times; it's the best of times” was a headline that grabbed my attention a few days ago. And truly these times are a dichotomy of sorts. People believe that they have outgrown their need for God and that science reigns supreme as the arbiter of all the important questions of life. The nuclear family has largely disintegrated, and the stabilizing impact of the extended family and close-knit communities has diminished. This competitive and materialistic world is characterized by considerable levels of stress that manifests itself especially in the way we raise our children. But here is a man, a scientist with an enduring spiritual bent of mind who shows us the path to leading a fulfilled, content life.