Free Press Journal

The Trial by Fire: Memoirs of a College Principal by G Ramchandram- Review


The Trial by Fire: Memoirs of a college principal

Author:  G Ramchandram

Publisher: Wordizen Books 

Pages: 318; Price: Rs 399


G Ramchandram’s ‘The Trial by Fire: Memoirs of a college principal’ is an autobiography of a quintessentially honest and upright teacher and administrator (as a college principal). English playwright, Bernard Shaw is famous for saying that ‘All autobiographies are lies. I mean, deliberate lies’. But I beg to differ with him, first after reading Gandhiji’s brutally frank autobiography, ‘My experiments with Truth‘ and now after finishing G Ramchandram’s, ‘The Trial by Fire’.

He doesn’t have to wear the mask of truthfulness. He’s honest to the core and truthful by nature. One can make out after reading his autobiography and his myriad experiences to uphold the institutional sanctity and integrity.

Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, one of the finest teachers the modern world has ever come across, used to say, “The values of human life must come from two sources – Parents and Teachers. They’re the makers of an evolved society.” So very true. The author seems to have imbibed the import of the great Radhakrishnan and perpetuated his fine legacy.

A teacher must be kind, humane, honest and candid. These are actually the prerequisites to becoming a good and noble teacher. But when you see the sharp decline in the overall standard of teachers and the widespread education and academic malpractices, you are bound to ask – Where have all good teachers gone?

But don’t despair. There are still a few souls like G Ramchandram who vindicates Urdu poet, Majrooh Sultanpuri’s oft-quoted couplet, ‘Main akela hi Chala tha jaanib-e-manzil magar/Log aate Gaye, kaarvaan banta Gaya’ (I embarked upon a journey towards my goal all alone/People kept coming in and it swelled into a cavalcade).

The inspiring life and persona of the Principal G Ramchandram must have inspired a legion of teachers to follow suit. To be precise, his righteous chutzpah is infectious. Today, education sphere is much maligned and it’s justifiably looked down upon, thanks to the scores of corrupt teachers and administrators who have relegated education to a source of income. Corruption now goes hand in hand with education. In fact, corruption and education live cheek-by-jowl. Tycoons and barons are running academic institutes where students are fleeced at will. Degrees are fake. Students are unemployable and their teachers are good-for-nothing. In such a dismal scenario, if there’s a glimmer of hope in the form of a completely non-corrupt teacher and administrator like the author, remaining optimistic and hopeful is not being silly or Utopian.

The English aphorism, ‘A couple of swallows don’t make a summer’ may still be relevant but don’t forget that one missile can also destroy many a city of a big country. The firebrand G Ramchandram’s example is well before us, who could bring about a change, tackling and transforming the innumerable deplorable situations in the realm of education.

This one man’s fight to cleanse the Augean stables is not just praiseworthy, it’s exemplary as well. It galvanises others to follow suit. Read the book to get inspired. It’s a Bible for the young teachers to mould their academic careers, retaining all the noble values humans are inherently imbued with.