This was probably the last full-fledged interview to a newspaper by De Ja Gow where he spoke from his bed at the Chandrakala Hospital, Jayalakshmipupuram. We had published the interview in the City Sunday edition on March 20, 2016.
Here are the excerpts:
What is the importance of reading literature in an individual’s life?
One must read. Reading literature allows one to have a wider understanding of life and its various complexities. It is definitely a window to the world. Reading paves the way for deeper sensibilities, sensitivity and better articulation.
Why do you think this state has befallen our universities?
There is an overall deterioration in all aspects of life today. Everything is in a degenerated state. All things are in a state of decay. Universities are not functioning well, as vice chancellors are not taking their work seriously.
There is a lack of orientation and seriousness among the teaching faculty. I attribute the growth of the universities solely on the vice chancellor. If the vice chancellor is good and determined to perform his duty efficiently the university will prosper, else not. But it is saddening that today universities are steeped in corruption and mired in zillion controversies.
Universities which are intended to be centres of learning and academic rigour and a battleground of ideas have been reduced into mere passing of information, where forget about students being provided with a congenial atmosphere to learn are forced to fight for provision of basic facilities. Fight for power and position have become the norms of the day.
Vice Chancellors, moreover, have tailored their jobs to mere administrative work instead of fashioning the ideas of students and encouraging them towards independent thinking and first-grade research and academic output.
Compared to Jawaharlal Nehru University and other such varsities, universities in Karnataka lack that kind
of vibrancy. Why do you think this kind of disengagement rules our universities?
Vice chancellors are not keen towards improving the university and instead are focused on self-growth and improvement. Universities have become much-sought after centres of power, manipulative and self-serving.
As I have mentioned earlier, times now are worse. There is widespread lowering of standards in all areas and the field of education is no exception. Once a person secures a job as a lecturer instead of it laying the path for greater learning and sharpening of the intellect, the decline besets. Having secured the job which none can threaten, they stop reading, writing and research.
Neither do they engage in activities, strengthen creative thinking nor do they keep themselves abreast with new learning. They fail to build arguments and engage with the society at large.
A void is thus created in the absence of critical engagement, intellectual rigour and the spirit of questioning. This being the scenario then how one can expect a vibrant academic atmosphere in universities.
There are no morals and ethics in any field today. That apart one of the main reasons for the deterioration of universities is political interference. The moment politics enters, the campuses begin to rot. At the time when I was the Vice Chancellor of University of Mysore politics made no inroads into universities. Universities were allowed to function independently irrespective of whoever was at the helm of the affairs in the state.
What is the role of a teacher?
It is the teacher who determines the quality of students, academic contributions and the spirit of the universities. Every teacher should have at least one work published in their life time. All this thoughts, ideas and aspirations should be translated in the book, she or he should be full of ideas, original thoughts and creative with an independent spirit of inquiry.
Only a teacher such as this can reinforce the value of teaching and learning and can serve as an inspiration for students and people at large. Only teachers such as this can bring the best in the students and encourage newness.
What is your call to the youth today?
Read, write and engage with the society. Time is precious. Use your time judiciously and keep learning, as it is a continual process.