A minute with Sir C V Raman


A chilly December morning, 1958. I called up the Raman Institute. “Yes, Raman Institute”, came the soft voice of his secretary. “I would like to meet Professor Raman for a few minutes”, I said.

“Anything special?”

“No, just to say hello and pay my respect.”

“Please hold on, let me check.” A minute later she said: “Okay Mr Menon, Sir Raman will meet you for just one minute. Only one minute, be careful, he is particular about time.” “Wonderful, thank you so much. One minute is enough for me.”

Two days later was my appointment, sharp at 11 am. I decided to be at the Institute at 10.55. When I entered, this young woman warmly welcomed me to a chair in the visitors’ room and said “just a minute”, and lifted the phone. Three minutes passed.

“Yes, you can go in, Sir is expecting you.”

Five seconds to 11, I knocked the door, pushed slowly and entered. Right opposite was a large table. On it were a few files, a couple of books and some marble stones in different colours. Hearing me say “good morning”, he lifted his head, smiled at me and wished me “good morning”.

I moved close to his table, stood silently joining my palms. Quick came his question:

“What do you do? Finished studies?” “Yes, I finished; now working at the Southern regional office of Sarva Seva Sangh, in Gandhinagar.” I was still standing, my eyes fixed on the wall clock. “Thank you very much, I am very happy.” “Ukkar-iyya, young man”, he said in Tamil and pointed to the chair. “I have all the time for young people, specially for those who think and work hard”, said Prof Raman, reclining back. I could feel his emphasis on those three words.

Suddenly he stood up, came to my side and said: “Come, let’s go to the garden. I’ll show what I am doing.” He took me to his large rose-garden. In that spacious expanse hundreds of plants, thousands of flowers. Different sizes, various colours. “These colours are my fascination. I never stop thinking ‘how’ and ‘why’ of nature’s games.”

Fascination for colours

As we kept walking slowly, he pointed at some specific flowers and said: “Life has to be more colourful. These days some young people come to me with complaints: ‘not enough facilities’, ‘lab is not well lit’, and so on. Think of it, when I had started my major work in a Calcutta lab. I had only an old stove and seven test tubes. I was struggling with various aspects of light in different situations. If we use our brains fully, technology is secondary.”

Then he enquired about my work in the land-gift movement. Half an hour later we returned to his office for a cup of hot coffee. For me that ‘one minute’ became an eternity of joy!

Four years later, one day I called on him to seek his blessings just for ‘one minute’. He listened to my plan of adventure, looked through the window into his rose-garden and responded; “Great idea, young blood. To walk to four world capitals and protest nuclear weapons! I wish you all the best. But, remember, war and religion are big profit earners. Take the books on the history of Europe. Every page is soaked with human blood! What will you speak to them?”

“I will emphasise Bertrand Russell’s idea of universal or unilateral disarmament. I will remind them of Nehru’s call for total and complete disarmament”, I replied. “Good luck. However, spend more time with the youth. They are the hope for a better world. Also study how common people live.” Every time I think of that great soul, a thrill passes through my veins, a wave of inspiration continues to propel my existence as a human being.

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