Tribute: Dr Madhava Menon lives on

Tribute: Dr Madhava Menon lives on

Sajan Poovayya

I join thousands of others to mourn the demise of Dr NR Madhava Menon, a legend of our times. For me, personally, he was and continues to be a Guru who influenced every aspect of my life. 

Dr Madhava Menon is indeed the architect of modern legal education in India, having built spectacular National Law Universities across the country. He was a visionary who conceived an inter-disciplinary approach to legal education way ahead of its times, and blended it with problem-based learning methodologies, which instantly catapulted students to higher thresholds of excellence. 

I still remember my first meeting with Dr Menon nearly three decades ago. His aura had an immediate and deep impact on me. Over the next five years, the opportunity to read the law at his feet was the least of the benefits. He painstakingly chiselled and induced unto us character and personality which we would have otherwise never possessed. He was beyond a teacher. A Guru in the true sense of the term. 

When he established the National Law School at Bangalore, all he had was four derelict rooms in the corner of a non-descript building. He brought together brilliant teachers from across the country and built an ecosystem which not only nurtured, but also credited meritocracy. 

Dr Menon truly believed that ornate buildings and manicured campuses are not the hallmarks of excellence. He believed that an institute of excellence can be built only on the bedrock of dedicated faculty and enthusiastic students. Teachers are often expected to achieve unattainable goals with inadequate tools. But the miracle is that Dr Menon accomplished this impossible task and much more. Within a span of few years, the National Law School came to be known as the Harvard of the East – thanks to Dr Menon. 

Whilst the world knows the achievements of Padma Shri Dr Menon, a small bunch of us who were blessed to be under his tutelage, during the nascent and formative years of the National Law School, know of his affection, love and compassion. Many of us who entered the National Law School came from small towns. At that time, legal studies was not a sought after educational vertical. But it is Dr Menon’s charm that influenced us to walk away from haloed options such as medicine and engineering and choose a path less travelled. 

For us, it is Dr Menon who made all the difference. He deeply cared for each of us. The National Law School for him was a ‘Tharawad’ – a joint family. He was truly a father figure and mentor who cared for us and brought us up as if we were his own. In doing so, he left in each one of us a deep and long-lasting impression; a great sense of courage and positivity; and a lingering feeling of contentment and happiness which I doubt even the most strenuous spiritual paths would confer. 

Dr Menon is no less than a saint. He was a sage in modern times. For each one of us, Dr Menon was not just a teacher, but a person who valiantly dedicated his entire life for the betterment of his students. He moulded our entire existence. 

Words cannot express the experience that we as students had with him. Dr Menon was indeed a transcendental human being. He had the power to realise what a pupil needed and indeed provided it as affectionately as possible. His work ethic was unparalleled. Despite extra-ordinary commitments and a 24×7 workload, he took the time to cater to every need of his students. 

As a young lad, I dreamt of being a neuro-surgeon and chose science as the stream for my pre-collegiate education. However, various circumstances beyond my control led me to the National Law School. A science student stuck in a humanities university made me feel like a square peg in a round hole during my first few months there.

Whilst I did well academically, I was unhappy. I do not know how Dr Menon noticed the inner sadness, but he did. He invited me to spend Christmas Day in his office, when the rest of the University was shut. He kept me beside him throughout the day, advising me on life skills and on what lies ahead. It was truly a spiritual experience and he changed me forever. I have since loved everyday of my life.

He gave me everything and expected nothing in return. He was very fond of me, but never attached. He was always around to guide me, but never intrusive. He helped me empower myself without imposition. He walked his talk and inspired me to attempt the same. He may be gone from the world but, indeed as a true guru, he continues to live inside each one of us. 

One book, one pen, one teacher can change a student’s life. Dr Madhava Menon changed an entire generation.

Sajan Poovayya is a Senior Advocate practicing in the Supreme Court.

Featured Image taken from here.

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