Thiruvananthapuram, June 22 (IANS) Several factors motivate a person to write a book. For former Ambassador T.P. Sreenivasan, it was a slap on his right cheek by someone claiming to be a student leader for allegedly championing private universities and collaboration with foreign universities was the motivating factor to pen “Education of an Ambassador — Reflections on Higher Education Reform in Kerala”.
Sreenivasan, an Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1967 batch, served in various capitals including, Tokyo, Bhutan, Moscow and Kenya. He has also served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington and as the Prmanent Representative of India to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, before he retired in 2004.
Since his retirement he has been residing in the state capital and during the tenure of the Oomen Chandy government (2011-16) was appointed vice chairman of the Council for Higher Education, Kerala and executive vice president with the rank of vice chancellor.
Sreenivasan opened up at the release of his book here on Friday when he said one question some may have is why was this book written?
“There are thousands of books containing thoughts on education from Swami Vivekananda to Sam Pitroda. In fact, I had no plans to write a book, having been an educationist by accident. But I was compelled to write this book after January 29, 2016 when someone claiming to be a student leader slapped me on the right cheek for allegedly championing private universities and collaboration with foreign universities.
“People came to know for the first time that such a thing as the Higher Education Council existed, together with the impression and that all we did was to promote privatisation. It became necessary to let the world know that we did much more than privatise education. Anyone who reads the book will learn that we had a plan to revolutionise higher education through a clear plan of action, which is described in the book. In other words, by writing this book, as advised in the Bible, I am not resisting the one who slapped me on the right cheek, but turning him the other cheek also,” said Sreenivasan.
The book has been published by Konark Publishers and the live wire of this has been the Sree Chithira Thirunal Trust.
Explaining the rationale behind the title, he said: “My years as a diplomat shaped my thinking on education. But as it happened, at the end of my term, I did not manage to devise an education system, but I got myself educated. I learnt the ways of Kerala politics, the bureaucracy, the academic world, the attitude of the public and other matters well enough to know that fundamental education reform is difficult as we are pathologically resistant to change.”
“The various actors in the field of education have their own vested interests, which they will protect at any cost. Moreover, there is no consensus among political parties on the purpose of education, the role of the private sector, employability and even the medium of instruction in colleges.
“Succeeding governments spend time undoing what their predecessors did, knowing well that the future governments will do exactly the same. My education convinced me, as I say in the introduction that Kerala can realise its full potential only if fundamental changes are made in the mindset, outlook, work culture and ethics of its people. It was the education of an Ambassador in the true sense of the word.
“I was as bewildered as a student who came to the Kerala University, expecting a modern and liberal education in English medium. I must add here that I was not alone in this educative process. The members of the Executive Council and the Governing Council and others involved with the work of the Council have had their lessons,” Sreenivasan pointed out.
The slapping of Sreenivasan had become a big issue both inside and outside the assembly, with many condemning the ghastly incident, after it was shown on numerous TV news channels.
Sreenivasan says that another question may be about the picture on the book’s cover.
“It is a photograph taken precisely 30 minutes after I was attacked in front of the Raviz Hotel in Kovalam. I walked straight to the dais of the Global Education Meet to apologise to the waiting delegates for starting the conference late. I described my experience as militant democracy at work.
“Those delegates from outside may never come to Kerala again, but it was important to demonstrate to them that we are resilient enough to undertake education reform in spite of the short-sighted opposition. My dishevelled hair and crumpled clothes are the only evidence of my harrowing experience. Someone even remarked after seeing the picture that the attack had done me some good,” Sreenivasan added.
Chandy presided over the event and the book was released by Mor Baselious Cleemis Cardinal. It was accepted by Rajan Gurukkal, who took over from Sreenivasan, after the Chandy government moved out and was replaced by Pinarayi Vijayan.
Chandy told IANS that Sreenivasan was one person who did his best when he was in the Council and always had the zeal to work very hard with the single objective of reforming the higher education sector in the state.
Cleemis Cardinal told IANS that Sreenivasan often says that he has always been indebted to the Mar Ivanios College where he taught before joining the IFS.
” He says that it was at this job he received his first pay cheque and also where he found his wife,” said the Cardinal, whose Church owns the Mar Ivanios College.