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Remembering Professor Gurbhagat Singh

April 24, 2014 | By

Dr Gurbhagat Singh [File Photo]

Dr Gurbhagat Singh [File Photo]

Professor Gurbhagat Singh who recently passed away after a debilitating stroke was a genius, not born but self-made. He used to be the first to arrive in the Punjabi University Library and myself the last to leave. When in Patiala, we used to meet every day. Once in two months or so he will come to my carrel and we will have tea together. We were soul-mates but otherwise unconcerned about each other’s personal life. In one of our meetings I asked him to expatiate on the concept of soul-mate. He did not answer my query but asked me to look up Aldous Huxley’s Ends and Means.

I had a vague idea that Huxley was a great English novelist, poet and essayist but had not read anything by him. During his next visit to Delhi Gurbhagat bought a copy of Huxley’s book for my use, It was edited by K.M.Munshi and R.R. Diwakar and at that time cost only Rs. 2/-.

Dr. HK Manmohan Singh

Dr. HK Manmohan Singh paying tributes to Dr. Gurbhagat Singh (April 17, 2014)

Huxley does not dwell upon the concept of soul but his two chapters on ‘Education’ and ‘Ethics’ throw considerable light on how man’s inner life is shaped – in particular ‘the secret sources’ of his ‘thoughts, feelings and actions’ which actuate his choices. I often recommend these in my addresses.

Apart from English (both language and literature) and Sikh studies, Gurbhagat’s main interest was in Education. He fully agreed with Huxley that our present educational system was producing ‘the greatest possible number of intelligent fools who know nothing about themselves but claim to know everything about the universe’. Discussing good and evil on the intellectual plane, Huxley refers to the concept of ‘intelligence’ which is a major virtue and the main factor conditioning human choices and actions. intelligence, he writes, is of two kinds. ‘The first consists in awareness of, and ability to deal with, things and events in the external world. The second consists in awareness, and ability to deal with, the phenomena of the inner world…. The completely intelligent person is intelligent in both ways.’

Huxley concludes, ‘Such people are unhappily rare.

I visited Gurbbagat two days after he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Amar Hospital in Patiala. He didn’t respond to any of my gestures as his confidant and a close friend. Although the doctors attending on him and his two close friends, Dr. Mehar Singh Gill and Dr. Gunneet Singh Sidhu, were hopeful that he would recover soon, it was clear to me that he was in the hospital only to change his apparel from a mortal to that of an immortal.

The work that Dr. Gurbhagat Singh was doing is important in the context of Sikh Studies, He was rendering Shri Guru Granth Sahib, into modern English. A month before he was incapacitated he told me that he bad completed almost 70 percent of his work and would be needing a year or so to bring it to fruition. I have requested the University Librarian, Dr. Saroj Bala, to place all the material that he was using, the University’s as well as his own, safely aside in the hope that the University would soon find a suitable person to complete Gurbhagat’s undertaking.

Author, Dr. H.K. Manmohan Singh, is former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala. Above remembrance note was read by the author during “Shardhanjali Samagam” held at Punjabi University Patiala on April 17, 2014 in the memory of Dr. Gurbhagat Singh.

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