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Dr Kharak Singh – As I know Him

Dr Sardara Singh Johl*

I came in contact with Prof Mann in 1949 when I was under graduate student in the Government College of Agriculture at Ludhiana. I found him intelligent, knowledgeable, calm and helpful teacher. I was deeply impressed by his personality. Students could meet him and discuss the subject and their problems anytime and anywhere he was available. He would never get upset by repeated questions or by even irrelevent questions. Students could easily absorb the details of the subject, because he was simple and straight in his expression. After my leaving the college, I lost contact with him for quite a long time.

We met again when he was Deputy Director Agriculture in Punjab Government and I was Head of the Department of Economics and Sociology at the Punjab Agricultural University. He, by that time had completed the course-work for his Ph D at the Ohio State University, Columbus (USA) and was looking for an approved advisor for his research dissertation. I had by that time returned from the same University after serving there as Visiting Professor and was entitled to guide the students of that university as Adjunct Professor. I, guided his research work and he completed his Ph D. We unofficially held convocation of the Ohio State University in our department of economics and sociology, with Dr Wood, Team Leader of the USAID, as Chief guest and conferred the degree on him with all the grace, it deserved. Since then, in light mood, I used to call him ape gur chela. Yet, I always felt proud to be his student. It is more honourable to be a student of such a chiseled personality. Let me quote one episode which would profusely indicate his values, love for his students, selflessness, and sacrificing his own interest for others:

I was appointed as one of the subject matter experts by FAO of the United Nations in Iran. I was in Rome for briefing and was to join in Iran within about a week. Meanwhile, Iran government happened to dig up an earlier nomination of Dr Mann made by the FAO and approved his name as a prefered expert, because he had worked in African countries as expert for several years. Dr Mann at that time was a bit sick and was hospitalized in Rome. He had finished his earlier assignment and was without any job at that time. When he came to know of the situation, he declined this job in Iran. I went to see him in the hospital and requested him not to withdraw himself. I told him that he had resigned from the job in India and was without job, whereas I had come on leave from the University and could go back easily. If I were not adjusted anywhere else, I would be adequately compensated. But, he firmly told me, “Look, if there is a choice between Kharak Singh and Sardara Singh, Kharak Singh is not there. You go and join, and please do not brook this subject again.” He returned to India and remained without job for full one year. How many people can do that!! After that he joined me in Iran in the next phase of the project, and we worked together for full three years. In this world, where selfishness prevades through the blood and veins of the society and self-interest comes in the fore, how many people can prove to be so selfless and willingly surender their interests in favour of their dear ones?

After that we remained in contact all the time and I was admiring his absolute dedication to the society, particularly to the Sikh Samaj. He tried to rope in the persons he thought fit to do different professional jobs for the betterment of the society. After retirement, he became rather more active and served as the backbone and driving force for whatever activities we took up in the International Sikh Confederation. Without him, we are poor by tons and feel a great void has occurred in the framework of our activities. It will take time for us to reconcile to the situation.

I bow to the great soul with reverence. The values of my admired teacher have left an indelible mark on my life.

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