Monday, April 17, 2006

Kurien: A Personal Essay


I was in my intermediate when I cut college to go and see Manthan in Olympia theatre in Mysore. For me, it was one more movie in the passing, well made with a good story. I was already appreciating Shyam Benegal and had seen his earlier movies and was a bit surprised that this appeared to be commercially appealing and was also a modest success. I really had no idea at that point in time that this movie, the man and the idea behind it would turn out to be so influential that it would dictate my career choices, in a way.

About four or five years later I was thrown up with a difficult choice [possibly on January 31st of 1982]. I was to take the entrance exam of Institute of Rural Management, Anand
[IRMA]on that morning when we had a college trip. I was in my final year degree, and this was the last time we were all going to be together. I somehow chose to take the exam of IRMA, then an unknown institute just because it had the word “rural” in it and I fancied [as a budding writer in Kannada] that getting to see villages will make my writing richer, and I needed all the experiences that this could provide. I was not sure at that point that I wanted to make a career in rural management, but a career in management looked attractive. It did not carry the hype we have now, but it certainly assured a decent job. Infact the advertisement for IRMA indicated that there would be a job with at least Rs.1,200 per month salary at the end of it, while we would get a stipend of Rs.600 per month as students. Well, it was reason enough for me to consider it seriously.

As I was going through the process of admission, I saw on the news that Prime Minister Mrs.Gandhi had addressed the first convocation of IRMA, and there were thousands of farmers that had attended the convocation. This meant that it was not one of the fly-by-night Institutes. Some people working in the field also assured me that the institute had pedigree and there was no harm in going there. Thus my journey to Anand started.


On reaching Anand, Manthan – the movie started opening up a new meaning for me. Given that we were expected to check into what was called “Farmers’ Hostel” in the NDDB Campus we were expecting a fairly modest accommodation, but were quite pleased to find all the modern amenities that a student could ask for. It was inspiring and as young students we were exposed to the excellent oratory of Dr. Kurien. And he said about the facilities there and said that “Kings do not live in Pig Sties and you are my princes.. I have built this institute to unleash a thousand Kuriens into the field and if one could achieve this, imagine the change you could bring about..”

This was inspiring indeed – it was not only his oratory, but what followed with the sense of commitment that were shown by staff of NDDB, faculty at IRMA that had a lasting impact on us as students. During the two years one ran in with people who eventually made a significant mark in their own fields – Sanjoy Ghose who dedicated himself to development work and was eventually killed by ULFA, Sivakumar the brain behing the e-Choupal idea who were all to a very great extent influenced by the vision given to us by Kurien but found their own language to translate the vision. It was an age where market economy had really not caught up, the Soviet Union was still a single block and being left of centre was fashionable – as was smoking, wearing a kurta and carrying a Jhola. Of course the “management” version of the Jhola was a leather bag from Jawaja – an indication of a rare combination of professional education with development orientation.


For us Kurien was an icon of the possible – a person who under extremely adverse circumstances stuck it out in Anand. Made a virtue of necessity and was extremely successful at that. He was a maverick, sounded autocratic and people used to shudder at his sarcasm. He could move you to tears when he when he thundered [about people standing in queues to supply milk]: “What does it do to a ‘high caste’ Brahmin to stand behind a Harijan because he came after him? Is it only an orderly milk collection? Is it not a blow to the caste system?”


I have been told of this instance – an evidence of his ready wit. In a seminar, Professor of Economics, CT Kurien from Kerala apparently introduced himself to Dr. Kurien. “Hello, I am C T Kurien” for which Dr. Kurien immediately retorted “I am V Kurien – Village Kurien!”, punning on CiTy.


Having gone through education at IRMA and later having consciously chosen to work in the field related to rural management my association did not end after the two years. Kurien had indicated to us that even if 5% of the graduates stayed with the rural sector his mission was accomplished and I believed [and continue to believe] that I was amongst the 5%. Not only me, but most of us who passed out then continue to work in this area and possibly Kurien would be happy to note that almost 50% of that generation work in a loosely defined rural/development sector. My run in with IRMA continued as I became an employee, teaching the next generations of IRMANS for about six years before I decided to move on.


Reading Kurien’s book thus for me was a journey back in time. It contained all the nuggets and the contradictions that have made him what he was. The book is as plainspeaking as he himself could be and talks mostly about his professional life. There is hardly a personal element and possibly he meant it to be so. The book is dedicated to his grandson, with a touching note. But even in including the note Kurien does not – even for a moment – take the focus away from himself. That is Kurien for you, always larger than life, always trying to dictate terms rather than come to terms. Therein lies the success of Kurien, and therein lies the story of his sad exit. The book starts with a journalist trying to ask his future plans and he says “At my age, one does not really have a future. One only has a past.” But having said that, does he really mean it? Or is the future to be lived in the past? Or is it one of those sound bites that he was always willing to give, without much hidden meaning?

We as a country needed Kurien in his role at the time he performed his role to perfection. His book gives a peek into how he kept the interests of the dairy farmers as central and played a game of chess to foster their interests. The game of chess could be in competing in the market, and it could also be in preventing the competition through means that were exclusively available to him. During his entire life it is clear that he played a tom and jerry with the government, largely criticizing the government for its policies, making fun of bureaucrats in public, and a posturing of autonomy. At the same time, he used the government, the bureaucrats and all machinery in ways that would keep putting hurdles in the competition. When the entire economy was liberalized and the licence-quota raj was abolished only two lobbies managed to continue protection. The sugar lobby of Maharashtra and the milk sector which had the Milk and Milk Products Order [MMPO] passed to ensure that easy entry of private sector into this arena had a hurdle to cross. Not surprisingly both these sectors were represented by a co-operative lobby.

Kurien was a product of the liberal attitude of the leaders of Gujarat of that time. Morarji Desai, Vallabhbhai Patel and Tribhuvandas Patel. The former two playing a larger role in the national level politics and thus having an inclusive outlook and the later having absolute focus on what was best for the farmers and who could deliver this most effectively.
The greatness of Tribhuvandas Patel was in his understanding of his limitations and spotting of merit in Kurien. Kurien exhibited that trait – but to a very limited extent. His immense faith in colleague HM Dalaya is something that reverberates throughout the book. However, but for Dalaya we do not find any mention of many others who worked with him. It appears that the entire dairy cooperative movement was a long marathon run single-handedly by Kurien and only towards the end he found Amrita Patel to hand over the baton. And of course once Amrita started running the race, we found Kurien providing the expert comments on her performance, reminiscent of the expert comments Lala Amarnath used to provide on cricket matches, where he always took recourse to past.

There is an interesting episode narrated in the book about how Tribhuvandas Patel was made the chairman of the Kaira Union. At a meeting of dairy farmers, Morarjibhai asks for volunteers to serve as chairman of the organization. A few people volunteer but Tribhuvandas Patel is sitting quietly and Morarjibhai asks him if he wants to be the chairman for which Patel says no.. Morarjibhai makes him the Chairman and Kurien says “Morarjibhai probably believed that if somebody wanted to be the chairman badly enough, then he would definitely have some vested interest..” This is the contradiction with which Kurien has lived his life. That on the one hand he argues that the resources and destiny of the farmers should be put in their hand and they should be allowed to manage their own resources, at the same time they have to be protected from vested interests. In this sense Kurien as the chairman of Gujarat Milk Federation was a balancing factor because he had no vested interest, but at the same time, he was occupying the post of governance which going by the co-operative principles espoused by him should have been rightly occupied by a farmer. This contradiction of what he thinks is good for the farmer versus whether the farmer is ready to take on the responsibility is what has dictated the course of Kurien’s professional life. Indeed this is the contradiction which every bureaucrat faces when the question of empowerment of the disempowered come up, and Kurien’s attitude has not been significantly different from a person in the government, while he always claimed to be an outsider.


Kurien possibly never compromised on the good things in life – and he deserved them too. One of the curious things when we were on campus was to have a look at the Chairman’s car – always one of the best in town. During our days he used to be driven around in a Peugeot, and for us the wonder during those days was that the headlamps also had wipers!! Three instances in the book show us how important this was for Kurien. He first talks about his early days in Anand in the now-well-known garage where he started life [p.21]. In that garage, he has Anthony a cook-cum-butler who wears an impeccable white uniform to serve him dinner. Hardly a sight you would find in a garage type of residence, but that is Kurien for you. In the same page he says “those days I would frequently escape to Bombay, stay at the Taj Hotel and live it up for a few days…” When he steps down as Chairman of NDDB, he insists that Amrita takes his car, because it goes with the respect that it seemed to radiate and narrates an small incident as to how he was not recognised by the security guards of NDDB because he was not in the car. I also remember once when he came to address the faculty at IRMA, the room had been sprayed with a room freshner [having a horribly distinct smell of Jasmine]. He came in, sniffed around and told the faculty with a straight face – “this place smells like a brothel” He then looked around for effect, and after a long pause said ‘but how would you guys know how a brothel smelt, ask me..” the entire thing done exclusively for effect. That would be his style with any set of audience – be it local or international, students or intellectuals, professionals or practitioners. Some quotes from the book read as follows:

  • I said to him right there in the Minister’s office “You bloody bastard. You come here, and speak lies to the Minister. I will castrate you”.[p.75]
  • [In the IIMA board meeting while discussion why the graduates do not get motivated to work in development sector] “One of them [board member] took his cigar out of his mouth .. and said superciliously; So Dr. Kurien, you want our graduates to go and milk cows. I stood up, returned his look and said, “No, you continue to teach them how to suck on cigars.”[p.212]
I remember during our convocation address at IRMA, thousands of farmers had come in on the invitation of Kurien. While the Vice President Hidayatullah addressed the convocation – in part English and part Hindi, Kurien had the honour of not only delivering his speech in English, but also had it translated into Gujarati and read out!!


This is vintage Kurien, who in his own opinion could never fail, could never be wrong and could never be anything less than god. Indeed in the book, there are no failures – the oilseeds experiment was a success, the fruit and vegetable foray was a success, the wasteland development foray was also a success. The only place where he accepts failure is in the salt experiment. In the process of winning battles and oratory, Kurien does not recognize his own internal contradictions. Sample this from the book:

“There is nothing wrong in building flyovers in Delhi. What is not fair is when we do not also build an approach road to villages across the nation. There is nothing wron in having fountains with coloured lights in the capital. After all, Delhi should be beautiful. But it is unjustified when we have not provided drinking water to all our villages…..” [p.83]

“It was certainly true that the poorer the farmer, the greater the temptation for him to sell all the milk and earn more money for other essentials.. These arguments, however, hold no meaning for a starving man and it is unrealistic to say that this expensive food must be eaten by the poorest of our poor….”[p.147]
This was the problem with Kurien’s eloquence. While I was moved to tears when I heard the first thundering on a Brahmin standing behind a Harijan in the queue to supply milk, it did not significantly change the social fabric of the village. Indeed later I realized that this rule not only applies to milk supply but also to cinema tickets.. So it was not always true that eloquence won over reason. Certainly not in the long run.

From a stage where more than 800 employees of NDDB tendering their resignation in solidarity with their chairman when the controversy over operation flood broke out, to walking out alone from an office which he reigned like an emperor without dissent is indeed a sad picture. Somewhere down the line, it appears that he got blinded by his conviction. It appears that he could not make a transition to an action hero to a character actor. It was the Dev Anand in him that kept him going an he never looked at a path similar to Amitabh Bachchan. In a way he learnt nothing from Tribhuvandas Patel and Ravi Mathhai on how to reign over a place, while not being in office. This possibly is the hall mark of a fighter, that he continued to fight and never give up. His early training in Boxing was coming a full circle.


My own personal moment of reckoning was a few years ago when I got a letter signed by the god himself inviting me to an academic seminar in IRMA to discuss the issue of Joint Ventures that NDDB was trying to implement. There were two days of deliberations, with arguments for and against, with the NDDB representative pleading that they would be happy to seek guidance from Kurien and were continuing to listen to him. At the end of the workshop I found that Kurien went and addressed the press about his own views on the subject. It was presented as if it was the consensus arrived at the workshop, while his address to the press had nothing in common with the deliberations. I felt badly let down by my hero. I felt used [not that my name or opinion was anything to reckon with, but it was indeed an insult to several people who had gathered there in all earnestness to discuss the issue on merit]. I was in tears because the hero had suddenly appeared very vulnerable. He was losing it and was not willing to look at it.


A sadder day was to follow. This was the day when he quit the position from the Gujarat Federation and they magnanimously agreed to retain his perks – a car for him and his wife, and a cook at his home. They just issued the orders that his assistant [who was on the rolls of the federation] be transferred to Kolkata. Not an honourable gesture to somebody who has laid his life at the service of people of an alien land. But how does Dr.Kurien react? Not be sending back the other perks, not by saying “enough is enough, I do not need any further favours from you” but by pleading that his assistant be retained. By arguing like a little child “you promised me all perks and Joseph is a part of the package..”


Certainly not a sight that his princes wanted to see of the Emperor. I only wish that the history will not be written by the last few years of Dr.Kurien which undermines the glorious golden years of his early life. I remember somebody telling me that Dr. Chotani who was an able lieutinent to Kurien wanted his building to be included in what was called the Kurien enclave in Anand though it did not fall into the natural boundary, just because he could have the name Kurien in his address… What an unnecessary fall. I hope this fall does not hurt him……

Cross Posted in Kannada at ಕನ್ನಡವೇ ನಿತ್ಯ.

35 comments:

Domain of Hecate said...

Hi Sriram, I loved reading the content on Dr. Kurien. Got dual benefits in terms of having a perspective on Kurien as well as knowing a little bit more about you - especially the "budding writer in Kannada" bit.

Anshul said...

Hi Prof Sriram. I read the articile with interest, and identified with the incidents relating the two day seminar organised to discuss the JV issue at IRMA. I was a student then (in my second year at IRMA), and felt let down in the way you had. But at the same time, while reading the Milkman from Anand, and while watching Manthan, felt that the incidents from later years of his life can't negate what he has achieved in his first three-four decades. Today, when i hear that he has been appointed the chancellor of a central university, i feel like Daddu (as we fondly call him) has not been let down by the very machinery that he managed to keep away from Anand (and AMUL). Lets see where does the institutions built by him, including IRMA, go from here, when he is reducing his involvement in their affairs gradually.
- Anshul (from the Batch of 2001-03, IRMA)

Mahendra Singh said...

Sriram,
you have fallen in the trap of 'things happenning with you' JV seminar incident could be in abundence in Dr Kurien's working life, your whole writing went under the shadow after you wrote 'fall of your hero' JV seminar incident. A writer/ commentator should take care of including such incidents in such a farewell type blog. In India we do not show people-departing in less grace. You could have avoided it.
A good writer, as you are always,has writtten that we all feel. All of us who got our career inspirations from Dr Kurien, have similar feeings as you wrote.
Great writing Sriram.
MAhendra Singh PRM 80-82 01

Sudhir said...

A great piece of Work--- Sriram. Why dont you get it published in a newspaper?
All the best
Sudhir

Aanand said...

Hi Sriram Sir,

Although I agree with all that you have said about Dr. Kurien - and more, there is a major chunk of people connected with the dairy industry who have been left high and dry. I am talking about the DAIRY PROFESSIONALS who man co-operative chilling centres and co-op dairies spread across the country. The salary that they still draw is pathetic. The working conditions are even worse. Probably this has something to do directly with the statement that Dr. Kurien made once, where he gleefully claimed that GCMMF and its dairies pays the lowest rates for professionals as compared to its major competitors. In his blinding conviction that he is helping the "poor" farmers, he has contributed in making one whole sector unremunerative and generated frustration of the highest order. One only needs to talk to any professional in any co-operative dairy anywhere in India to guage the same.

Liby T Johnson said...

Liked your piece. I only wish the several more Kurien's in the making - particlarly in the development sector, people who have done commendable work over several years, but losing track in their own aura - would learn from what happened to Dr. Ku.

What you have written could be a good case study for future generations of leaders.

Made my eyes moist, I just realised that I have no tears left for him, after all this. Not something I wanted to happen. I wish when the titan finally passes away (he definitely is no immortal) my tears will be back - my small offering at the memory of a man who helped me shape my life.

Sijil Karim said...

Sriram Sir,

Thanks for the well written piece, i strongly feel, this should be publised with one of the national news papers.

I think Dr. Ku was always like this, fighting till the last for things that he thought were right, the JV discussions and the press conference after were all part of his attitude to never say quit.
.
Sijil - PRM 18

Satyendu Krishna said...

Prof. Sriram, Your article deserves to be published in a widely circulated newspaper or Magazine. I agree with most of your views. In my opinion, one should not analyse much on behavioural aspects in the later part of Dr. Kuriens career. After all, every individual has a unique way of working. It's important to highlight his passion and commitment for the development sector. Passion, commitment and delivery will always rein supreme compared to way of working. He is definitely a source of inspiration to all IRMANs. And that's what one should take home. Rest is immaterial.

Bala ( 2003-2005) said...

My English teachers were reluctant to teach me Shaespearean Tragedies , maybe because they thought that the comedies were more appropriate for my generation,nature and attitude. Or maybe they felt that I would anyways sit-back and watch one.
And how I wish now that I never saw one !!
Like most of the other tragic heroes, Dr.Kurien has fallen unexpectedly from a high place, a place of glory,honour and joy.The fate of the hero affects the welfare of the whole nation and especially for the audience who is immersed in the play. And when he falls, the fall teaches the reader about the power of Fate . Like the Bard's Characters , Dr.Kurien has contributed to his own fall by acts in which the audience sees a flaw in the character of the hero; a flaw because of an obsession.What was his major factor of success becomes his biggest weakness (Autocracy).And what lesser mortals or characters could have coped with, the hero can't.I am just not running out of the clear parallels!!.For some one who has directly/indirectly brought meaning to my life , I am ready to love this hero till the end ."You never pass your lover through the strictest of tests".
I think it would be unfair to pass Dr.Kurien through a character analysis. Just love your lover.

Nuts said...

My dear Sriram,
You touched my heart with that lovely piece on Dr.K. I have made my life climbing on the path he set for me too...first IRMA, then dairy sector (including GCMMF) and all the learning that I got enables me to teach the youngsters today. I am always indebted to him for that. It is indeed sad that he had to make an exit the way he did...perhaps his idealism took its toll; his inability to see the reality of this world that there are others who want him to move aside and try their hand in managing the affairs. No one can be faulted for this.
About the piece, perhaps you can delve a bit deeper on the way he exited. After all, whether it is his exit or his starting IRMA...it's all a result of emotions only.

CT. Chidambaram said...

Deserve a Barath Ratan

Dear Prof Sriram

The article " Kurien: A persoanl essay" has been written after you have read the book " I too had a dream". But have you read also the book "The Milkman of India" by MV Kamath. The film small big man is also a short film worth seeing.

You have said righly that he has not planned his retirement. Thinking over this tradegy I only had the following comments

1. All great stories have a end either tragic or happy.
2. Great men act shilly some times

By his works and acheivements Dr Kurien deserves a Bharath Ratna. But that too is a dream!!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Sriram,

I read the article and it was indeed a well written piece. The shades of Dr. Kurien depicted in the article helped me to achieve a broader perspective on how and why should a larger than life personality like Dr. kurien (or maybe Saurav Ganguly)should know the right time to exit.

Regards,
Puneet Agarwal (PRM 23)

NB: The essay is a must read for SACHIN TENDULKAR

Manu Kaushik (1999-01) said...

Hi Prof Sriram,

To see your hero fall from grace is painful for anybody. And its easy to take one or two incidents into account and and just write him off. I really wonder why people are dying to write off their heroes...sachin, sehwag, ben johnson, amitabh bachan..there are so many. Its really easy to write them off....and tough to believe in them and hold them on the pedestal when everyone else is throwing them down. Whatever happens today, doesnot change the past and their achievements, which made us look up to them.

So in a sense whether we look up to him still or not, is a question of our strenght and beliefs.

In times like these i pray that god gives strength to us to believe in our heroes...

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof Sriram,

Indeed a nice piece of article. Gr8 work, wish it gets published in some leading news daily.

When the whole Bangalore burnt with the death of larger than life icon Rajkumar (Kannada actor), it pains to see just a 5 min glimpse of Dr. Kuriens resignation in our news channels. It really is an unceremonious exit for a man err....a Lion who meant livelihood to millions of farmers in this country. Maybe that’s India, or Indians !!!

But tell me how can a ‘Lion (however old) eat grass’?

Dr. Kurien, you are always an inspiration and model for us.

Rgds,
Dr. Vijay R
PRM 24

Rajat said...

Sir,
The way you felt during your first rendezvous with the Dr. Kurien & IRMA is similar to the way students feels till this day. There can be no denying to this fact.

I remember my only visit to his chamber in IRMA to invite him for Jatra 2005 or I must say I was called to invite him. I presume Dr. Kurien had never come to the opening ceremony of Jatra. Hence, the lapse. It was also the time when tension in IRMA was rising and it just preceeded the Prof Reddy's exit. I admitted the lapse in front of him. He said,"You forgot or you did not want to invite me at the function." The smile that followed this statement brought home the whole point with such conviction that I had no answer.

The rise and fall of Daddu is quite similar to the way every great person has gone through. EVERY GREAT STORY HAS A TRAGIC ENDING. There are no happy endings. If there are any then those stories definitely were cut short and are incomplete.

I will not let him fall even in the incident relating to the JV seminar. He must have called it to get views that favored his. When he didn't, he went to the press with his own. He thought he knew the best way forward to cooperatives and so the disregard to the contrary ones.

Rajat Singhal
PRM 24 (2003-05)

Vikash said...

It's been perplexing and saddening past few years to learn how things have progressed for Dr. Kurien and for the institutions that he created.

Why couldnt he be allowed some more years of autocracy ( if everyone feels he have had an autocratic style?!).

My point is : Do you start mistreating your parents if they, one day, become/sound a little unreasonable?

I think, the overwhelming answer would perhaps be - "No".

Infact, most of us, learn to live with it. I am not so sure why people in GCMMF or NDDB folks didnt understand that and stay knit with Dr. Kurien for some more years?

Dont you think, on their own part, those people who made his life impossibly difficult had their own vested interests?

Although I agree that when people become older, they start behaving like a kid. One example was my grandmother who had all her life been a vegetarian but on her deathbed ( she died fighting cancer), she created such hue and cry to have fish!! And so we complied!

My point is: Wouldnt it have been good for sector and for everyone who have always nurtured respect for the people who stay firm to the roots to execute the vision to make the difference in the lives of the unfortunate ones - if these people with "vested interests" had been a little patient and respectful to the icon?

If Dr Kurien doesnt deserve respect, I wonder who from that flock who have fought tooth and nail for his descendency does?

Best,

Vikash
Detroit,Michigan

Vikash said...

It's been perplexing and saddening past few years to learn how things have progressed for Dr. Kurien and for the institutions that he created.

Why couldnt he be allowed some more years of autocracy ( if everyone feels he have had an autocratic style?!).

My point is : Do you start mistreating your parents if they, one day, become/sound a little unreasonable?

I think, the overwhelming answer would perhaps be - "No".

Infact, most of us, learn to live with it. I am not so sure why people in GCMMF or NDDB folks didnt understand that and stay knit with Dr. Kurien for some more years?

Dont you think, on their own part, those people who made his life impossibly difficult had their own vested interests?

Although I agree that when people become older, they start behaving like a kid. One example was my grandmother who had all her life been a vegetarian but on her deathbed ( she died fighting cancer), she created such hue and cry to have fish!! And so we complied!

My point is: Wouldnt it have been good for sector and for everyone who have always nurtured respect for the people who stay firm to the roots to execute the vision to make the difference in the lives of the unfortunate ones - if these people with "vested interests" had been a little patient and respectful to the icon?

If Dr Kurien doesnt deserve respect, I wonder who from that flock who have fought tooth and nail for his descendency does?

Best,

Vikash Jha
PRM 1998-2000
Detroit,Michigan

channappagouda said...

hi sir,
it was very fine article. I like Kurien since yrs but i was not knowing tis much detail about him. why cant u publish in some magzine.
it was more pleasure on my side by knowing u r kannada spirit.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sriram,
Your excellent write- up made me actually realise that dreams do not die- they live on in all of us who have been touched in some way or the other by Dr. Ku- what I am today, my values, my standards, my perspectives have all been shaped largely by the institution founded on Dr. Ku's dreams. The very fact that we can see the human behind the icon is also probably due to the sensitivity that has been instilled in us during those formative years at IRMA- Sriram, all I can say is "Thank you" for this opportunity to look into oneself and the roads travelled.
annie (82- 84)

Anonymous said...

http://www.iimcatwalk.com/node/98
Sir you may have a look at this...

Hemu said...

Sir, it happened that one of my friend had forwarded about this post in u'r blog about the man who is one of my role model in life.

Dr Vergheese kurien, felt great to see somebodies experiences with this great son of the soil who inspires me a lot.

Most unfortunate part is that Could not get into IRMA though tried hard for it, might be could not perform that well in entrance test.IRMA would have helped me in meeting him and taking some piece of advice from him.

Just started to work for the rural poor after completion of my masters in rural development.

Thanks a lot for sharing u'r experiences with Dr V.Kurien .

E. Michael Johnson said...

Sriram, I'am not sad.

Dr. K is like many leaders in the history. We exploit our leaders when they are productive. We exploit our heros, when they are powerful. Around the powerful, the powerless wait in camouflague for an opportunity, a fall, a mistake, an excess. Then they pile on, one after another, knowingly-un knowingly, with or without vested interest, till the power game restores to power the same hero or the next.

Sriram, I'am not sad.
Some Heros are so natural that they do not see the reason to stop their fight, abandon their stronger faith and retire. I think Dr Kurien was/is not available for consensous right through his life. He makes his choices, because he believes honestly in that. Has he ever cared to compromise his beliefs? He does not know to betray himself either, to keep up the opinion.

I'am not sad. As all natural Heros, he should hold to his faith, even if the whole world drives him away from his land of Milk and Honey, make him carry his Cross, drag and push him into his Calvary, and nail him up like another leader and builder. It does not matter to Dr. K and to what he belives in. It should not matter. He is listening to his conscience then, and now. Falling from power and position is not a problem for Kurien, but may be a problem for his followers and fans and others. He had them all along side by side, they were co-existing with him all these years. In the history of man, Dr Kurien is among the many ancestors. He is not alone, even if everyone abandons him. Christ had similar experience. Ghandhi also had similar experiences. I'am not sad. At all.

Dr. K ! Keep up your faith, till the last breath, it is that what matters. There are times when the society benefited from your actions based on your faith, there were other perceptions too. The ratio seems to change. Who knows the full truth. Only God. The god with the Big G.

Balachander said...

Hello Prof Sriram,

thanks for putting the essay on the net. I got tired of reading the press coverage and the news going around in Anand.

Its been a see sawing kind of feeling for me right through the last few years of struggle that Dr. Kurien has gone through. In my case it was centered around IRMA and what's happening to it.

While the past achievements are there for all to see, Dr. Kurien's actions in the last few years are also equally his own, a la Zidane's head butt in his final appearance. Alas, the greatness and the failing are both equally true and it would be futile to look only at one and not the other, for there are lessons, indeed entire book-worth, in both.

Thanks once again for sharing a personal account of the great person.

Balachander
PRM 98-00

Anonymous said...

While searching for an essay on Morarji Desai I accidently chanced up this masterpiece!!!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kurien's work and achievements speak for him. He does not require a certificate from one Sriram who happens to be an officer in NDDB! So, as an NDDB officer, what he has said about the JV workshop that IRMA had conducted AGAINST THE WISHES OF NDDB CHAIRPERSON, obvioulsy is biased against Dr. Kurien. What Dr. Kurien said after the workshop was more or less in line with what the vast majority of the workshop participants felt and said. This can be verified by going through the Workshop Proceeding Booklet which IRMA has published. Dr. Kurien is Dr. Kurien. He cannot be expected to change his ideology in order to keep his chair. He preached what he practised. No wonder, he is known as a living legend. It is no wonder, his biography 'I TOO HAD A DREAM' is being made into a full length FEATURE FILM.

LourthuMary said...

Sir
I am from South and my deep desire to know about the mission of Dr. K. urged me to visit Anand and I just returned from Anand, and feel charged with emotions. it was a very fascinating experience. it was ony a day visit, but i could not fathom the vision and passion with which Dr. k. could have worked to develop not just a NDDB but all the allied activities . the deep desire forced e to read your article and I am proud of Dr. K. long live Dr. K and hats off to you for a wonderful article.

L. Mary, SMC

Naga Chokkanathan said...

Hello Prof Sriram, Great Article, Thanks for the nice read!

I came to this article looking for more information on M V Kamath's book "The Milkman from Anand", I understand this book is currently out of print, If anyone here have access to this book, can you please help me get a (Photo)copy?

Thanks in advance,

- NagaS (nchokkan@gmail.com)

Patric Parker said...

Very informative article. But in India we do not show people-departing in less grace. I think this could have been avoided. Anyway thanks for writing such a wonderful article.

Arpit(P30006) said...

I am a student of present batch IRMA (PRM 30). Dr. Kurien was one of the biggest motivation for me to join IRMA. I always used to get fascinated on the prospects that how one person in his single life can give happiness and fulfill desires of so many families. And the amazing Anand pattern had so many smaller aspects which are beyond comprehension.

We were supposed to meet Dr. Kurien during the first week of our induction. But, unfortunately, is ill health and staying away from Anand; we could not meet him. Finally, we got the chance to meet him on 8th April. I always longed to see the God himself. And as the silence prevailed before his entry... I could literally feel my dream o seeing him in person and lstening to him slowly materialising right in front of me. I stared at him blankly for quite some time and then finally I realised my hero right in front of me. What a moment it was... truly unexplainable.

Though I deserve no right to talk anything about him... but it felt really bad when the person who lent helping hand to thousands of people needed help to walk, talk, hear. He repeatedly kept on telling about IRMA being the only place where no influence can work for getting admissions.... and if anybody has come across any such cases, he should be informed immediately and he will take steps. The answer remained the same for any question asked in first few minutes. (I still wonder what prompted him this answer). But, slowly his wit, slight humor and intelligence emerged as he began narrating his story (with a large help from his wife, as I reckon he forgot almost everything). We heard our hearts out. Finally.. when nobody came up with any question; the meeting was adjourned. We than had a photo session with him. I did not miss the chance of touching his feet (which I had predecided to do) and get his autograph on my personal copy of "I too had a dream" (though I curse myself for this coz his hands were bit swollen, and he struggled a bit to write.. although he happily signed the copy for me and few of my friends).

Of the many answers.. I would like to have a mention of this one.... One participant asked.. what do you expect We as Irmans?.. He promptly replied... "Be true Irmans!!" This says it all!

One thing is appreciable.. even after so many years... Dr. Kurien is invariably mentioned by some or other faculty in class discussions daily...

I had an interaction with Mr. Shyamlal Gupta (he is also an IRMAN). He happened to meet Dr. Kurien in hospital in Mumbai few months back. The nurse was trying to feed him milk for quite some time.. but he did not want to have it. Out of frustration, nurse said that you are stubborn. His reply was, "I could feed the country with milk just because I am stubborn!!"

Would like to end by saying thanks to the GOD!

Arpit Shah
PRM 30(2009-11)

Anonymous said...

The writer has tried to 'judge' Dr Kurien's actions towards the end of his 60-year long career. Obviously the writer considers himself BIG enough to do so! Let him take a fresh look, now, at his comments on Dr Kurien's objections to NDDB's JV model. What happened to the JVs? What happened to the subsidiaries and subsidiaries of subsidiaries (grand daughter companies) that NDDB set up to promote JVs for dairy processing and marketing (in competition with the dairy cooperatives)? None of them exist today! Nobody asks as to how many crores of rupees NDDB may have wasted in the process - sums that could have been productively used for the benefit of dairy cooperatives. What is NDDB doing today? Are they promoting dairy cooperatives? Perhaps, neither the author nor many of our readers may be interested in these issues any more. However, for Dr Kurien, it has always been a matter of great concern, i.e. the welfare of the small and marginal dairy farmers and landless labourers. Is it not a pity that an 'institution of national importance' (according to Parliament Act 37 of 1987), built for promoting 'Anand Pattern' dairy cooperatives and similar organisations have hardly any interest in promoting dairy cooperatives any more (despite the fact that the assets of NDDB which could be around 2000 crores were generated from free foreign commodity aid and World Bank asssitance). If it was not for the fierce opposition of Dr. Kurien against the first NDDB JV 'MILMA Foods Ltd' which closed down within a year of its inception, most of our States would have been persuaded by NDDB's money power to follow the JV model (instead of the Anand Pattern), thereby taking away the 'autonomy' from the dairy cooperatives. The readers may please note, Dr Kurien was NOT against the JVs per se, but against the Govt (NDDB's subsidiary company) holding the majority shares in the said JVs. Dr Kurien knew, more than the author of the blog, the importance of 'autonomy' in the dairy cooperative sector!

Anonymous said...

All those who wrote the 'sad end' of Dr.Kurien may like to judge afresh as to who was right and who finally won on the issue of JV (and the fight with NDDB on that issue)? All the JVs and MoUs for JVs and the subsidiary companies that were formed for promoting JVs have failed, and therefore, closed down...RIP. Dr Kurien has undoubtedly emerged as the WINNER.

You may like to watch Dr Kurien receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award on 16 December 2011, on CNN-IBN. A lion is a lion, is a lion, and will remain a lion. Those who wrote his 'obituary' prematurely may have to rewrite it.

Dibyendu Pramanik PRM 94-96 said...

On that specific issue of Cooperatives being centrally giving their brands to NDDB, to manage them more efficiently (i.e. bring in efficiency in Marketing job than what the state co-operatives were capable of doing in the 90s) - continue to remain an area of weakness in Cooperative movement.

Robin Mathew PRM23 said...

The artcile would give us many perspective about Dr. Varghese Kurien. With respect to JV, being a person in IRMA at that time, I can very well say that he never opposed the concept of JVs. But he opposed the way it was structured by NDDB with majority stake with NDDB. He wanted autonomy for co-operatives. Daddu's style on management was different and that would be the possible reason for what all happened recently in his professional life

GEO said...

A leader is defined by followers, when followers abandon him or her it is called the fall of the leader. A king is defined by the kingdom, when he loses the kingdom, it is known as the fall of the king. A hero is defined by his conviction and style, it is only when he abandons his conviction and the style, it will be considered as the fall of a hero. Dr.Kurien worked, lived and died as a hero. There was no fall for him. Compare him not with Dev Anandh but with Raj Kapoor.

Anonymous said...

The first part is well written. The last part is seemingly coloured by Sriram's perceptions from his experience at the Seminar. The last part is also about the period when Sriram was not aware of what was happening at Anand, and he has apparently relied on biased sources of information. When Kurien left GCMMF and IRMA, it was under highly politicised circumstances, not under the simplistic conditions that Sriram talks about. And GCMMF was not merely being 'magnanimous'. Yes, he was becoming an old man, and a bit weak physically and also in terms of memory. But his departure from his institutions was engineered not because of these, but because of the greed and ambitions of a few.