Remembering a mentor

[ Manisha Halai ]

It was an afternoon in November 2015. Venue: The Avinshilingam Women’s University, Coimbatore.

All the students of the university were called out to the open ground under the blazing heat of the Tamil Nadu sun. We were all wondering and eager to know why we were called. After some time, an announcement was made. “Dr PR Krishnakumar is our new chancellor of Avinashilingam University.” It was followed by his short speech.

Post the announcement, we student council members were called to meet him at his chamber. In the meeting, he enquired about the students’ needs and problems. When my turn came, I told him that there were hardly one or two The Hindu newspapers in the university library. The very next day there were many newspapers in the library and each class had one copy of The Hindu newspaper.

Every Friday, we the student council members went to see our chancellor sir. We always found a broad smile on his face, with a book in his hands. He loved reading books. He also encouraged us to cultivate book-reading habit. He inspired us to read as much as we can.

Our beloved chancellor, Dr PR Krishnakumar, was so humble and warm-hearted. He was a great administrator, encyclopaedic, a leader and a good speaker. He endeared himself to all students with his very friendly nature. (Later I came to know that as a student of Ayurveda, he had walked out of his college in the final year, feeling disgusted with the uninteresting and orthodox ways of teaching then prevalent in Ayurveda colleges. And he went on to start an Ayurvedic college himself. No wonder he felt so much for making college education a joyful experience for students.) He used to listen to us very patiently and discussed openly about everything. I often told him about the Lohit Youth Library Movement and our efforts to spread the joy of reading among the village children of Arunachal Pradesh, and about our ways of training students and activities carried out throughout the training: I told him very proudly that our ‘uncle Moosa’, our leader, was also from Kerala. He remarked “Wow, Shri Sathyanarayanji is doing such a wonderful service.” He always appreciated our volunteers.

I was the university secretary at the time. So, I was always made to deliver the welcome address and to be the master of ceremony in the university programmes. In the beginning, I used to get stage-fear and nervousness seeing the crowd. After delivering my speech, I always had a huge guilty feeling for not performing well. When the programme ended, he walked towards us and always said, “You have done a great job, Manisha.” While our other teachers have scolded me for my mistakes, our chancellor sir always appreciated us. So, that gave me so much confidence later. Today I am able to deliver speeches fearlessly.

Jeenamsi Ngadong, my junior and a student of English literature, is very grateful and thankful to our chancellor Dr PR Krishnakumar for helping her in getting admission at the last moment in Avinashilingam University.

Livem Tayang, a former secretary of Avinashilingam University, says he always made them happy from being sad, telling “Kanna, don’t worry about anything. God is there with you and he will take care of everything. You are a good child and you’ll be a god’s child.”

Dr PR Krishnakumar was a renowned Ayurvedic physician well known across the world, and the founder of the AVB Research Foundation, a non-profit research institution in the Indian medicine system of Ayurveda, and the managing director of the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (Coimbatore) Ltd. The government of India awarded him the Padma Shri in 2009 for his contribution to Ayurvedic medicine.

We are very grieved and shocked to learn that Dr PR Krishnakumar left this world on 16 September, 2020. He was just 69. His untimely demise is a great loss for the entire student community of Tamil Nadu and the followers of Ayurveda. We the alumnae and present Arunachalee students of Avinashilingam University offer our heartfelt prayers for the departed soul. May he inspire many more like him. (Manisha Halai, an MBA and an alumna of Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science & Higher Education for Women, is a senior reader activist of APNE Library, Wakro. Email: [email protected])