Convocation address by Shri Jawaharlal Nehru at the First Annual Convocation, held on 21st April, 1956

DR. Roy, Director, Teachers and Graduates of the Institute,

When I look at the young men and the new graduates I have a feeling which is slightly akin to envy. Perhaps envy is not the right word but I can think of no other, because I see them launching out not only on their life’s career which is an exciting business for every young man and young woman at this time of life, but launching out on it at a time of peculiar significance to this country and to them.

I suppose that I am partial to India in my thinking. I cannot help it because India is in my blood and bone and everywhere and in my thoughts. But I try to think, nevertheless, objectively, in so far as one can and to see this India in the larger context of the world to-day, in the larger context of history, and looking at it in this way it seems to me that at the present moment there is no more exciting place to live in than India. Mind you, I use the word exciting. I did not use the word comfortable or any other soothing word, because India is going to be a hard place to live in. Let there be no mistake about it; there is no room for soft living in India, not much room for leisure, although leisure, occasional leisure is good. But there is any amount of room in India for living the hard, exciting, creative adventure of life. It is, therefore, that I said I rather envy the young men and young women who, having acquired a certain training, launch out on this adventure at this particular juncture of India’s history.

I have no reason to complain, because people of my generation have also lived rather exciting lives and have had our full measure of adventure. We have also seen many things happening. There was a time and the time is not past when we indulged in all kinds of dreams, and it was exciting to work for those dreams and to see those dreams come true. There is no greater joy in life than to work for a great purpose and gradually to see the realisation of that purpose and so, people of my generation in India, we joined ourselves to this great purpose of freeing India. Because we allied ourselves to a mighty purpose, something of the greatness of that task fell on us also. Because the higher you act, the higher you think, the nobler your enterprise, something of that nobility comes to you. If you indulge in small activities, in small thinking then you remain small. But if you dare and go in for the really big things of life then, even in your endeavour to realise them, you become big in the process. So, I have no reason to complain of our lives because we had had adventures and even fulfilment in full measure.

Nevertheless, the great part of our lives was spent not in building directly, although there was plenty of building in a sense, but rather in breaking up political and economic and other structures which had grown up and which confined India and prevented it from developing. It is true that during the last eight or nine years, we have had a chance of constructive, creative, building effort and we have taken advantage of it to the best of our ability and this process no doubt will continue.

Here I stand at this place and my mind inevitably goes back to that infamous institution, for which this place became famous, not now but twenty or thirty years ago-the Hijli Detention Camp. Here in the place of that Hijli Detention Camp stands this fine monument of India to-day representing India’s urges, India’s future in the making. This picture seems to me symbolical of the changes that are coming to India. That where there was the Hijli Detention Camp we have the Indian Institute of Technology and seeing these young men pass by, taking their various degrees, looking at their bright faces, I felt happy and shall I say again, a little envious that I was long past my prime and I could not live this hard life of working for India, building India, creating things here-that is left to you now in this country. It is well that it should be so because no generation should impose itself upon another. The world would soon be in a bad way if there was too much imposition of one generation over other. There is always a tendency to do that. As we grow older, we tend to impose ourselves upon the younger people. We tend to bully them a lot by good advice and the like. Well, good advice is often needed, I suppose, but ultimately the good develops in us not by the advice and the sermons that we hear but by other factors. If you have been trained here in this Institute in the proper way, leaving it to you to develop your personality, your thinking, then you are developing along right lines and whenever difficulties face you, you will be able to overcome them. So I am not here to offer you good advice-be good, do this or that. We are up against far too great and tremendous problems for us to solve them by some cheap advice to each other.

It is true that all your training or the training you may get here in your Institute of Technology or in any other Institute, will not take you very far if there is no strength of character, strength of mind somewhere inside you, strength of purpose somewhere, about where you are going to, some objective in life, some content in life, some real function in life-not merely getting a salary and doing an odd job. I do not call that a function. Doing something that is worthwhile and unless you have that function of doing something that is worthwhile and putting all your heart and soul into it, you do not really understand or can experience the real joy of life. And the moment that function goes, you may live, of course, as we all, most of us, live, but it is a life without much meaning to you or to anybody else. Most people, of course, in this world live that life which has not too much meaning for anybody, least of all to themselves. They may be interested naturally and rightly in their domestic affairs, in making money and in spending it and so on, I do not blame them-that is the common lot of most of us. But it is a very common lot and do not imagine that you are doing nothing uncommon-if you do that and nothing more. In India to-day uncommon things are necessary-uncommon efforts are necessary, uncommon application to work, creativeness and the like, because remember that in India to-day we are attempting a task which in its own way is rather unique. As a matter of fact every country has a unique task. I did not mean that India is superior to other countries ‘and in that sense’ our task is unique. Do not fall into that error of a narrow nationalism, thinking that your country is somehow superior to others. The people of every country often think in that way and take pride in the fact that somehow or other they are superior to others. That is not a wise approach. Every country has its good points and bad points. Every country has to make good through its own efforts and, therefore, for every country it is an exciting adventure. That is true. Nevertheless, I said that India is going through a rather unique period of her existence; and even from the world point of view, there are very unusual and unique features about our present endeavours to go ahead. Other countries are far ahead of us in many ways, in this very matter which you are learning here, in technology and science, in the applications of science and in the wealth that those applications have produced, far ahead of us. There are again countries in Asia which are behind us, we are ahead of them. But, broadly speaking, we still are classified as an underdeveloped country in this respect, and rightly so. We are underdeveloped. The developed countries have gone through that process for 150/170 years or more and gradually adapted themselves more and more or more or less to these changing circumstances. Some countries like the Soviet Union and others have bustled and hastened through those processes in a particular way and certainly arrived at a certain goal of technological efficiency and progress. There is no doubt about it, having paid a very heavy price for it and having adopted a system, which I am not here to criticise or to praise, but which is different from the system that we endeavour to follow here.

Now, therefore, we wish to solve our problems in India, that is to say, we want to advance in the technological sphere and the scientific sphere rapidly. And yet we want to adhere to certain methods which, normally speaking, do not help rapid advance. That is the problem before us. Well, only the future in history will show how far we have succeeded, all I can say, that even in the present and even with the brief experience of the last 7/8 years one can look upon this problem with a measure of optimism. We have done well, I think, in spite of any number of difficulties and obstructions. Difficulties and obstructions coming from where? Not from anybody outside us, not from any other country, or any other people. Difficulties and obstructions arising out of our own failings. It is because of our own failings and weaknesses that we stumble and fall and sometimes are pulled back. At no time have I ever had the slightest sensation of fear or apprehension from any external quarters. I am not afraid of what any country big or small can do to India. Of course, other countries can do good to India or do ill to India. They can make a difference to India, to our problems, I do not deny that but what I said was that I have no sensation of fear from any country-and that is saying a very big thing for me-because there is plenty of fear in the world to day, one country fearing another. Fortunately among the many lessons that it was my privilege to learn working under Gandhiji-there was this lesson-not to be afraid of anything and so I am not afraid of any external thing happening to us but I shall be quite frank with you. Doubts and apprehensions arise in my mind about our own internal weaknesses and failings not things external to us. If we function rightly, if we, in India, function with unity and co-operate with each other and go in the right direction, more or less, then there is nothing in the wide world that can come in our way.

Unfortunately one sees certain pictures of India which are distressing, which break up the unity of India, which divide up the people of India into numerous compartments, thereby taking away from that co-operative and united effort which is so necessary for any big undertaking. We saw in the last few months a tremendous to-do about this business of re-organisation of States, as to what part of India should be in this State or that, what should be a separate State and so on and so forth. Important matters, no doubt, but are they really so important that we should lose our heads and that above all we should forget Indian unity and that we should glare and stare with bitterness at our neighbour who speaks a different language or lives in another State? Surely, if that is so, then we have lost all sense of India’s unity, then we have reverted back to some past period of history, and not realised that we are living in this exciting period of the middle of the 20th century in India when we have not only attained our freedom and independence but we have made good in other ways too in the world and in India, and we are determined to make good in future. All these are big problems for us to do, to tackle and people go about doing satyagraha and some kind of formal disobedience of laws or something and there is a lot of shouting that they do not want this, do not want that. Is that not something which can only be explained by the mentality of an infant? Are we grown-up human beings to behave in this manner and try to solve our problems in this manner? I am astonished I can understand that this kind of things may be used for other ends, because politicians work in devious ways. Nevertheless, there should be some sense of proportion. Look at the world to-day. Full of most tremendous and exciting problems. Apart from the political problems, apart even from the mighty problems of war and peace, here we are, as they say, on the verge, on the threshold of atomic age, something likely to bring in changes in the world comparable or perhaps greater than those brought in by industrial revolution. Industrial revolution has come only partly to India but it has revolutionised living conditions in Europe, in America, etc. The industrial revolution is coming to India now but at the same time the atomic revolution is also coming here. They both come together and we dare not finish one and then go to the other, we have to take both at the same time.

So in this period when people talk of one world and realise that even the nation-state is no good, it is too small of us to get wildly excited about this province and this State, this linguistic boundary seems to me to indicate that some of us at least live in a remote past age, which has no relation to the present age. In any event, however right our thinking and our urge and our desire might be to achieve something, the major thing now is to work to that end. How do we do that-what is the method or what is the means to achieve that end? Remember, always what Gandhiji used to emphasise so much, means are often more important than ends. Ends, of course, are important, everybody knows that, but means, the method you adopt to gain a certain end is of vast importance. Obviously it is not enough for you to say that you want to travel from here, let us say, to Madras and then the road you adopt leads you, instead of Madras, to the Himalayas in the north. You won’t reach Madras, you will get somewhere else. The road, the means you take, must be the right means. Means and ends-that was perhaps the basic lesson of Gandhiji. He taught us many things and 1 am afraid, that we tend to forget his teachings although subsequent generations will go back to them, again and again. Well, here we are in this India which, I said to you, presented to me a spectacle of exciting adventure and as I go about this country and as I deal with the day to day problems which are often very difficult and very overwhelming, it is this sense of excitement and adventure that fills me and that perhaps adds to my energy. Well, I should like to have that sensation of excitement and adventure. I should like you to feel that wherever you may work, you are partners in a tremendous and historical process or undertaking. Something very big is happening in India, all over the world but after all you and I are most concerned with India. We can’t take the world’s burdens on our shoulders. We take India as a big enough burden for us.

India, I say not Bengal, not Bihar, not Maharashtra, not Gujerat, not Madras. India, I say. I have had enough of these names of provinces thrust on me and people going about committing Satyagraha for this province and that province. It is about time that men of goodwill and good sense stood up against this provincialism that is becoming the curse and ruin of the country. Mind you, there is no harm in your being proud of your province, wherever you come from, of your own language. Undoubtedly, you have every right to be so. It is not that, but it is the spirit of negation, it is the spirit of being against the other, it is a spirit of separateness. We have enough of separateness in this country. There are the communal barriers which separate, the other provincial barriers, the other caste barriers, there are so many things which separate us and the essential thing to-day in India is to bring about what I would call the emotional integration of India. Politically we are one, of course, in many ways we are one, on the-map we are one, in Government we are one but we want something deeper than that. We want the emotional integration of the Indian people. That has not happened yet. It is obvious that if that had happened you would not see these things that are happening to-day, so much shouting about a State boundary or something like it. Emotional integration means this understanding coming to all our people that we are, in a sense, members, of one vast family, the family of India whatever our State or Province, whatever our religion, whatever our Caste, whatever our language. Once that comes and come it will, sometime or other, then India becomes unassailable, unbreakable and nobody can touch India. But so long as that does not come the weaknesses are in us and not in some external adversary. Now you are Engineers and this world to-day becomes more and more, shall I say, it takes shape more and more under the hands of Engineers. There was a time when administrators played the primary role in the country’s Government and development. Administrators always had to play an important role, we cannot minimise it. But the time has now come when the Engineer plays an infinitely greater role than anybody else. Engineers, scientists and the like-in fact, these divisions of Administrator, Engineer, etc., gradually fade away, as I see it, many of our administrators in future will have to be Engineers and many of our Engineers might well have to be administrators because the major work of the country to-day deals with these vast schemes, engineering schemes of various types. We are building up a new India and the administrator who is completely ignorant of engineering does not help much in administering. He can not understand this new domain. You will find in a country technologically developed, how Engineers and Scientists play a far more important role even outside their sphere of Engineering and Science. That is right and that is bound to happen in India.

Your Director, I think, or someone said something about employment of the graduates who go out of this Institute. If we take all the trouble to put up this expensive Institute and train up people here and then do not utilise the services of those people, then there is something every wrong about the governmental apparatus or whoever is supposed to deal with this matter or the Planning Commission or whatever it is. Because that state of affairs can only be described as fantastically stupid, that one trains people for certain ends and then wastes them and not for a moment thinking in terms of the individual’s employment and his living, etc. That of course, but I am thinking in terms of the Nation- is fantastically stupid. To make a great effort to train people for particular types of specialised activities and then allow them to go to sea. To some extent that does happen to day. I think much less than it used to be and I have no doubt that this kind of thing will almost completely end. As a matter of fact, the proper course should be for our big enterprises, either run directly by Government or indirectly as corporations, which are all the time hankering after Engineers and the like, to keep in touch with such Institutes all the time, to tell the Institute-we want this type of trained person or other so that even before the person has finished his course here, he has practically been allotted to a special job elsewhere that will, of course, be, to begin with, as an apprentice. He must make good. You may be good at your examination and perhaps not so good at the actual job. But any how, he or she must not after training merely wait for something to happen, some job to come his way and go on applying from pillar to post when actually there is so much work to be done. As a matter of fact to-day apart from our own great needs in India and they are growing, all kinds of demands come to us now from friendly countries, chiefly of Asia and partly of Africa. Demands for technical personnel, demands for administrative personnel, demands for people, i.e., specially, who have some training in our community projects and it will become very difficult for us to meet these demands from our friendly countries. We want to help them, of course, and we do help them. Even now, I should say there are several hundreds of our technicians whom we have sent to countries in Asia and Africa but the demand gradually will run into not hundreds but thousands and I would like to send them because we want to help these countries of Asia and Africa. We are all in the same boat, you might say, we under-developed countries. If we are a little ahead of them it is up to us to help them. There is going to be no lack, in India, of trained people having opportunities of doing worthwhile work. If there is some difficulty, it means that our organisation has gone wrong-it has slipped somewhere. The fact of demand is there ; it may be a concealed demand, if you like, not so obvious, so that it becomes a question really of planning and planning not later but planning in the earlier stages, who is being trained, where can he fit in and keeping track of that and then the next step is easier.

I came here just a little more than 4 years ago to lay the foundation of this building. A big drama is being enacted on the stage of India to-day ; it is a part of the vast drama of the world which so often verges on the tragic and which may, if we are not wide-awake and careful become absolutely tragic and end in disaster. In doing the work so, we see this and I want you to see this, the dramatic aspect of what we are doing in India to-day, because there is a great deal of drama in it, this building up of this ancient country, and then see yourself as partners in this vast undertaking. Individuals, of course, are something more than individuals and in doing your little bit you are sharing in this great work. Then you get something in you which makes you bigger and as I said at the beginning-those who are engaged, in big undertakings imbibe something of the bigness of the undertakings and grow bigger. Consequently, it is given to all of you to grow bigger and bigger because the job we have to do and I and all have to do is a tremendous job and if we put ourselves into it in the right way, in the right spirit, then we shall find that real function in life which means so much to the individual and without which it does not-matter what you do, does not matter how much money you may earn-you will be unhappy, you will be purposeless and you will become, not you, but as people become to-day-many of them all kinds of neurotics-who are being produced in our modern world in spite of all the progress made. I am not a neurotic-whatever else I may be. I am full of functions. It is not a person of function who becomes neurotic. So rely on yourself, think of this your work, in this big way and grow big with it.

Thank you.

 

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