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Reminiscenes of J.K Mehta: The most revered professor
I always remember my most revered Professor J K Mehta Ji, who taught me advanced economic theory in 1960-61 in the Masters Programme. His teaching was like preaching and I learnt many life lessons of economics through him that gave me strength.
“Na Soch Hoti, na Tassuvar Hota, Duniya mein Phi Kuch Bhi na Hota”
These lines sum up my going down the memory lane almost every moment of my life. Apart from many other things, every day I pray for the trio: The Almighty who sent us to this earth, Parents who were the medium for this, and Gurus who imparted good values of life in all respects through their impressive demeanor and impressive thought showering process.
I always remember my most revered Professor J K Mehta Ji, who taught me advanced economic theory in 1960-61 in the Masters Programme. His teaching was like preaching and I learnt many life lessons of economics through him that gave me enormous strength to face the life in all respects. There was great depth in his teaching and every student used to get elevated. He wrote many books that are really unique.
I have never come across any text book in economics that explains so easily the concepts like Economics: Pure Vs. Applied, Scientific Methods of Investigations, Maximising Behaviour, Homeostasis, Uncertainty and its role in Economics, The Determination of Evolution and Growth, Pricing in Socialist Economy, Unemployment. The Meaning of Wantlessness, The Philosophy of Wants, Measurability of Utility, Definitions (Distinction) of Consumption and Production, the Concept of Market, Static and Dynamic Equilibria, Data and Consequences in Dynamic Economics, Static, Development and Dynamic Economics, Foundations of Imperfect Competition, Basic Problems of Distribution, Rent in Relation to Cost and Price, Co-ordination of Theories of Interest, The Negative Rate of Interest, Risk, Rent and Profit. In essence, he had philosophized economics in his own way.
He had enormous depth in his thoughts and he used to make terse things easy. This was a unique virtue. For this reason, students who were not studying economics at that time used to come to his classes to listen to his impromptu oration. He once said “no study ends where it begins; after a successful landing on the soil of one discipline one can proceed further. More territories you conquer the better you are for yourself and for others. It is the prerogative of true knowledge seeker to conquer without being branded and invader.
A dispassionate observer of the activities of explorers finds some stretches of land that have many claimants and others that appear to be disowned in any department of knowledge.” His teaching had both rhyme and rhythm that, through Economics, reflected the essence of life. He also wrote a book entitled: Rhyme and Rhythm in Economics”. How true all this is, and it shows the way to a successful life. Ever since he taught me, economics became my religion.
He had subtle humour too. Once a student went to him and said, “Sir, I have found my book missing” His answer was: “How can you find something that is missing?” Another time a student said “I am going to come”. Prof. Mehta’s response was: “How can you come when you are going?”
There is another instance. Once he took an extra class on a Sunday. The moment he started teaching, there was crow outside on a tree that started cawing. Prof. Mehta stopped teaching for a few minutes because of that sharp cawing, but the crow continued his cawing. He was so kind to the crow that he cancelled the class. And the crow enjoyed his chirping in his own way.
He was always smartly dressed, and it left a good influence on his students, especially on me. He could very well judge his students in all respects. I used to be a back bencher, but every time there was a class he used to get a seat vacated in the front row, and asked me to come and sit there.
When I finished my Masters he called me one day immediately after the result was declared, and asked me “What are you going to do now? I humbly said “I will go for administrative services” He said “there is no need for that” You start teaching from tomorrow”. I fully obeyed him and started teaching, and ever since
that time I have been in this profession. I have even spread his ideas at all the overseas universities where I have taught, and students there thoroughly enjoyed all that, and asked me to somehow get all his books there.
He had also many other hobbies. He used to knit pullovers, and he was a renowned homeopath and used to give free medicines to his patients.
He was also the President of the Indian Economic Association.
His family had donated all his books to the Economics Department Library. The Almirahs where the books are placed are locked in all respects. I wonder if any one ever opens the Almirahs and reads his books!
I sometimes casually go the Department. Once I was invited for a lecture. The venue was the library hall where I really got amazed to see a sticker pasted on the Almirah that had Prof. Mehta’s books that the family had given to the library. The sticker had the following message in very bold letters that one could read from a distance.
The other words written just below this phrase were in very small fonts that could not be seen from a distance. I understand that the department did not do so intentionally. In fact the person who wrote this did not know the exact meaning of the words: THE MOST WANTED.
I asked them many times about this and explained the
connotation of the “THE MOST WANTED” words.
Fortunately, the sticker has now been removed. Many thanks to the present Head of the Department.
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