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Movable Type 4.1
January 07, 2008
Shalabh Goyal (Electrical 2002)
Chronicle Editor @ Jan 07, 2008

shalabh_1.jpgA Lesson in Humility
by Shalabh Goyal (2007), Ph.D.

There I was, plunging into my seat after a grueling day at a conference that I'd attended in Kolkata, India, in December of 2005. The seat was not quite commodious, but I was satisfied because my flight was on time.

Luckily, I had the window seat and was praying that no one would sit beside me. The sight of a bearded, elderly man making himself comfortable in the seat next to me was not enticing. As the plane taxied towards the runway, I thought that I would rather have a young engineer sit next to me. I was not perspicacious enough to realize that it was going to be one of my most memorable flights.

As I was trying to recapture one of the research papers that were presented in the conference, I was stunned when the old man asked me what I was reading. I was astonished by his interest in the conference as much as I was by his use of extensive vocabulary. I was quick to realize that I was having company quite different from what I initially thought. Within no time, a question related to my educational background took our conversation to Banaras Hindu University (BHU). I could see a delightful smile emerging on his face when I told him that I studied metallurgy at the prestigious Institute of Technology - BHU for a year. In stark contrast, the smile on my face almost vanished as he told me that he had served as head of department and vice chancellor of that university.

Half an hour past the clouds, I asked his name. I could remember seeing his name, Dr. T. R. Anantharaman, written at the top of a list of professors in the department of metallurgy at IT-BHU. I knew that he pioneered metallurgical research in India and is a world renowned professor of physical metallurgy and material science. He had served as a visiting professor of metallurgy in more than 10 countries including Germany, U.K. and the U.S., and received numerous international awards. However, I had never actually seen him, and this was my chance.

The next hour was one of the most inspirational of my life. To my surprise, he did not talk about metallurgy. Rather, he delved into more complex things, ranging from spirituality to the meaning of life. He asked me to look beyond career goals to unearth the purpose of life. I was amazed to learn that he had opened a yoga ashram, Atmadeep. During our flight he told me a lot of things that I could not fully comprehend; maybe I was too much in awe. However, I was happy that I grabbed a few pointers towards leading a better life, and I can still feel the reverberations of that one hour in my life from time to time.

The flight was on time, and this time I was not very delighted about it. As he was departing, I could not help but stand there and let my eyes follow his trail. Only now, I could realize how lucky I was to have the company of such a great person. As is said, 'Life is a long lesson in humility.'

Shalabh Goyal (2007), Ph.D. works in DCS Test Development with National Semiconductor in Santa Clara, California. He is an alumnus of IT-BHU and the Georgia Institute of Technology.