Dr. SRR DISCIPLES: A View Point
[Readers may recall the signed Editorial entitled:Whither Ranganathan ? by Dr A Lahiri, which appeared in Apr-Sept 1995 issue of Information Today & Tomorrow. A view point expressed (bylined Shri C V Subba Rao) under the column Dr SRR Disciples' in RRC Newsletter No 10, 1997, on the said editorial, is reproduced for the benefit of readers - Editor.]
Life is so varied. It follows a path of its own, nor is in any ones control. It cannot be retraced and retracked. A great man lives, a boor lives, but different lives. There is greatness in power, wisdom, science, technology, performance, spirituality or any sought sphere. The common run, of which societies are made, is 90% or more. They observe, absorb the influence to the extent possible, strive for a life-path a little higher or nobler, undeclared and unannounced. The satisfaction is internal.
Great people, Like lotuses, grow out of mud, and rise above water, display fragrance and colour and dance in the wind to the delight of the surroundings. The period of growth is as turbulent as that of any other flower. Nobility, beauty, fragrance, and a queenly height with enviable delicacy, leave a mark of distinction. In the Human world the way life is lead, knowledge contributed, expounded and left to influence posterity, combined with social, academic and national honours bestowed, differentiate the great from the ordinary.
Every Great man has not produced another Great man next to him. A century in a subject and a country as vast as India, produces one or none. But they change the ruling laws of life, spread a new vigorous logic, create a new path of which they are exponents and guides, and to a greate extent live it out. During their life time they are admired, criticised but remain unconquered through decades of battles. But are they fully understood and followed?
Neither Shankara, Ramanuja nor Madhava have produced a second. Disciples there are, partial representations of the Great, but have a mark of their own. After Sir CV Raman, how many Nobel laureates are produced? Even in its lack of affluence, can physics be termed to have bad times in India! After Rabindranath, Bengal so admired and worshipped, that stars are not even noticed. (Kavi' in Bengal refers to Rabindranath). A cultural ethos develops, like a dust storm, to be the dimmed hallow of the great. At times obstructing normal vision.
But to live close to great men is a rich experience. Those who shared intimacy are very distinguished group. They admired and absorbed to the extent possible, and express the way they understood and experienced. They have not been as much honoured, not in wisdom and thought as distinguished, nor created ripples of aura around. Perhaps, nature in Time, does not allow too much turbulence, and allows decades to get attuned to change. Greatness is a peak followed by troughs for decades, till perhaps in a century another arise. Change, transformation, peace, is a broad spiral-circle of time in human affairs.
To the routine 90% of the Society, the disciples of the great are different. They experienced the aura, struggled to absorb the mighty force, propagated as they understood, and explained what it is. The central point is the great man, the discovery, its practice and explanation. To look for a second centre or another great person's emergence is futile, within the realm of time.
But the disciples are better than ordinary men. They were blessed to be around Greatness, and so became causes of change. These who did not live with the Great, naturally envy the disciples. Their moral or human depravity had caused religions to fall foul and decay. Science or technology or subject saw a slope downward till an ascent and a peak arises.
To be with Dr SR Ranganathan is an unforgettable experience. To be taught by him, to work with him is a privilege very exceptional. Many disciples did contribute to the growth of theories and theoretical frameworks, but Dr SRR was the Director with many actors. He built institutions, established theoretical frameworks for classification and cataloguing, indexing and created an academic subject called Library and Information Science, recognised by all Indian Universities from graduation to PhD. Library Acts he initiated in three states of India during his life time. (Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka). Now more than ten States have Library legislation. The academic equation he has created for the library profession in universities and colleges. He interacted with the greats of his time, and was not pushover to greatness. His greatness is not in dispute, but the atmosphere after his demise.
Dr SRR liked very much to have Research Circles at Delhi and Bangalore. After 1992 being his disciples in our humble way, to encourage `Research' in LIS sphere, we did start Ranganathan Research Circle' at Delhi in 1993, which meets every month, (on a second Saturday), and publish RRC Newsletter to let India know what RRC is doing at Delhi. From 1994 RRC is celebrating Annual Day in January, and August 12 as Dr SRR's birthday. The profession at Delhi is participating and response is encouraging. RRC avoids a show-culture and prefers a deep digging commitment for research. RRC has some influence based on its activities. Government servant fretting along in a chamber, with lot of power and negligible influence could envy. RRC is no disservice to Dr SRR, nor its growth into Ranganathan Research Institute at Delhi, as and when it happens.
DRTC started by Dr SRR under the Indian Statistical Institule, exists since 1962 and is noted as a pioneer research institute. Enough number of foreigners in USA, UK, Europe, besides Indians are working on Dr SRR's ideas. Their full flowering should be left to the future. Computer limited brains are not able to understand philosophy of information science beyond the machine, technology is machine oriented, how can it go above it, unless science comes to rescue!
Professor PN Kaula, a close life long associate of DRSRR, has instituted a `Kaula Foundation' which awards `Kaula-Ranganathan Gold Medal' For pioneering researchers internationally and in India every year. Money earned is kept apart, a Trust is created and LIS research is honoured every year. Does the effort serve or disserve Dr SRR and what he aimed at or lived for?
Professor Ganesh Bhattacharyya is a distinguished professional, having national and international reputation. His authority on the subject has won appreciation of American universities. His forte is cataloguing and he followed closely and participated in the development of POPSY. He developed his own version of it. For fun or his deep attachment to indexing, he might have called his daughters -'POPSY' and -'PRECIS'. Does it harm anybody else? Is it an affront against any? A scientific preference that envelops the family also, makes a complete scientist than 10 AM to 5 PM researchers of Govt of India, without any achievement even if a total career of 40 years is scanned. A complete satisfied life of Dr SRR disciples causes envy, is a matter of deep satisfaction. Influence and happiness comes through dedication, total devotion, and 24-hour-a-day commitment which is called `research'. Government service and bureaucracy had drifted far away from it, but envy such deep satisfaction.
Any body who retires in a high position, does not ipso facto become eminent. Their contributions in writing in the subject, in institution building, personal behaviour are important considerations. Sychofancy, subservience, courtiership, political manoeuvring which may succeed to gain high positions, are not born out of exemplary character or science or subject expertise. Cleverness is different from honesty and character. Bureaucracy, divorced from subject knowledge, is entertained by fine English and humour, that makes its rounds, which is entertainment, but not great life. It is wasted power of an aimless life, life-time sold cheap for lucre and other diversions. Great power profits but does not attract, nor create nay permanent values. Rather, the devilish shadows haunt!
Dr SRR believed in intellect and intuition. Analysis of subject elements into `Facets' and `Fundamental Categories' and free combination of them to arrive at subject thought. Indexing follows subject content and retrieves by word access, whose combinations go by a systematic sequence. Till 60's the ideas held the international realm.
Then came the computers with phenomenal speed of search, storage in memory and print out sought detail. The computers did not accommodate classification schemes, catalogue codes or indexing systems. Computer culture spread in industries and technologies. Alphabetical storage and retrieval, is the total process. Computers negated the progress of classification schemes catalogue codes and indexing systems, and argue like children on the problems of information retrievel, noise factors, dawnpour of information, etc. A new vocabulary does not change the idea behind a problem. In the next fifty years, when computers became typewriters with memory and communication tools, then classification theory, cataloguing codes, indexing systems, subject formations would come as new invention! An understanding librarian calmly views how machines have become masters and will make them function as tools of information analysis and research. Indian librarians are patient enough to allow the computer technology in combination with communication, printing and reprography, to settle down to be a social tool of international communication culture, to take over the leadership again. DDC & LC indexing systems are insufficient to grapple with knowledge analysis. They are backward systems. Computer men cannot understand it. The databases will be redone serveral times over because of intellectual limitation of computer sceintists. In short, their only contribution is to make free library service to become information for sale and a price tag, to inaugurate a new era of information colonialism that is worse than a `Nuclear Winter'.
Ranganathan is not lost, nor Gandhiji. There is a lull in time that intervened. But ideas and knowledge will triumph over techniques and machines. Human culture is taken forward by ideas and knowledge, and techniques and machines, are methods and tools needed but subservient.
- CV Subba Rao