A visionary, an inspirer and a true leader! The man that I am talking about is Dr S B Mujumdar Sir, and I am fortunate to have been born as his daughter.
I was born into a very different family, a perception that I developed much later because this seemed utterly normal to me during my growing-up years. During my early childhood, there was a period when my father took care of me, as my mother would step out to do her research for her PhD. Then Symbiosis was established in 1971, and there were ample numbers of foreign students from various countries such as Iran, Nigeria and America who would stay at our house. Students would be staying for multiple reasons, such as losing their passports, feeling homesick, or just wanting to stay with a family. Through their actions, my parents taught me the importance of living in a secular environment, and my father, more importantly, supported women’s empowerment in its truest form. All these became a part of my personality.
Rarely do children get the opportunity to see their parents in a professional environment. However, this was different for me as I got to see my father as a teacher. He was a Professor of Botany at Fergusson College, and when teachers were supposed to be strict, he was so approachable that students would often come home to study the subject. His passion for the subject drew students from even the other colleges of Pune to come to our house to study Botany from him. Given his passion for teaching, it was hardly a surprise that his involvement was sought in the governance of Pune University, and he was appointed a member of the Governing Council.
My perception of him has been of a man of vision who is much ahead of his time. Let me give you an example to show you where this stems from. My mother was extremely happy when I passed out of twelfth grade and got through medical and the much-coveted B J Medical College. However, my father called me and asked whether I was consolidated upon my decision or would want to pursue liberal arts and then take up Indian administrative services or the Indian foreign services.
When no one talked about the globalization of higher education or internationalization, Dr Mujumdar had the foresight to do so at that time. He walked the talk, too, and brought in multidisciplinary education; he brought in industry leaders to teach in academia and Supreme Court judges to teach in the law school, which led to Symbiosis being recognized as a premier institution for law and management studies. He introduced internships to give students experiential learning, which was a rare practice in India then.
Apart from setting high educational standards, he also ingrained the values of honesty and integrity in everyone he interacted with at Symbiosis. Having been a teacher himself, he understood the importance of being a teacher. He would ensure that teachers and staff were paid their salaries on time, a tradition that Symbiosis follows even today. The world holds great regards for Dr S B Mujumdar Sir and justly so as he is a man of utmost humility, patience and yet one who follows the highest standards of morals.
The NEP takes cognizance of all that Dr S B Mujumdar Sir had talked of many years back, and what Symbiosis started practicing several years since is now being made a part of the Indian Education System.
All these were lessons that I could not have gained in any classroom. It was only by virtue of being Dr S B Mujumdar Sir’s daughter that I could imbibe these attributes, and they have become a part of me today. On his birthday, I wish him health and happiness.
Dear Dada, may the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which you have initiated at Symbiosis and has spread to various corners of the earth through the millions of students of Symbiosis, keep growing stronger with each passing day!