Laurels sit lightly on SIR Venkataraman Ramakrishnan 03/01/2012

When I  met  the Nobel Laureate and Padma Vibhushan Awardee Dr.Venkataraman Ramakrishnan  over coffee at Hotel Savera,the venue for his  2nd.S.V.Narasimhan Memorial Oration, I was struck by his simplicity and  spontaneous smile and easy manner.  Even as  people were crowding around to catch his eye  and have a word with  him, I  tried  to take a picture  of him   when a sophisticated lady introduced herself as his cousin and said, ‘I will take a picture of both of you.’ and  she clicked from my camera. I felt it was very

Meera is seen with Sir Ramakrishnan

sweet of her to have offered  to do so. I  asked for his visiting card  to which he replied,  ‘I don’t have a card or a car.’ When I  wished to know his  email id to do an interview of him, he reached out for the tissue  placed on the table nearby and quickly wrote it down and handed it over to me.  I said I had no knowledge of Science or Physics and his spontaneous remark was ‘I am a failed Physicist. You know  in a wedding invitation  they write next to the bride’s name : B.A. failed. I was amazed at his sense of humour  coupled with  humility. When he said people might like  him before his  lecture  and dislike him  after that, I asked whether he would bust the many myths about Science, considering the topic : ‘The skeptical Scientist’ he would be speaking on. By then it was time for the programme to commence and  the audience I observed  was a mix of academics, doctors, former officials and school students  who turned up in quite a good number (it was the first time that I had seen  so many youngsters attending a lecture).

Dr.Ramakrishnan announced at the outset  that in the interaction that would follow his oration,  preference should be given to  young students to ask questions and he would  give prizes for the two best questions which were copies of books he had drawn material for his presentation: VOODOO SCIENCE BY ROBERT PARK (OXFORD UNY.PRESS)


His one hour illustrative lecture   interspersed with humour  was spell binding  and provided food for thought  to many in the audience.  Freedom of thought is essential to science and children have an inborn mechanism to believe what they are told; Beliefs are slow to die even among scientists;  Astrology wholly depends on past, Astronomy is a science as it believes in  change; Modern Science protects us from false fears and beliefs;  Confident doctors generally tend to have better outcomes and Placebo is better than anti depression pills  are some of the points culled out from his lecture.

Most of the questions based on his talk were posed by school students and  few by some professionals.

winner Dhruv for his question

Dhruv Satish of Pates Grammar School inEngland(he had come to Chennai on a holiday) had received a prize for his question on the placebo effect (I couldn’t locate the other prize winner).

It’s pleasant news we received in the beginning of  2012  that makes us all proud as Indians which  is that  Indian  born  Dr.Ramakrishnan  has been conferred knighthood ‘for services to molecular biology.’  He would be known hereafter as Sir Venkatataraman Ramakrishnan or Sir Venky  for short as he is known all over the world.

The  S.V.Narasimhan (SVN) Memorial Oration was organized by  his son, S.N.Srikanth, Managing Director, VASTA BIOTECH PVT.LTD. under the auspices of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai Kendra. SVN was CMD OF THE Hauer-Diana group of companies and was Chairman of the Chennai Kendra of  Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.