The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), my host (and our home) during this sabbatical, was founded in 1909 by J. N. Tata. Every year, on the occasion of his birthday, the Institute celebrates “Founder’s Day”. This year, the 100th anniversary of IISc, is of particular importance. We went to watch an early-morning ceremony at the main campus building, its courtyard decorated with several thousand flowering potted plants. Tata’s statue had earlier been decorated with a flower garland, and we arrived just in time to see various department heads delivering floral wreaths to the foot of the statue. Read on.
Then, the people attending – faculty, department heads, employees of all types – approached the foot of the statue. Most sprinkled flower petals and briefly paid their respects – with palms together, or fingertips to forehead, like you might seen a temple. A few kneeled or even prostrated themselves before the statue. I certainly had the impression that the people of IISc revere Tata and are deeply thankful for his beneficence (and foresight) in founding this organization.
Then an argument broke out. Two men were shouting loudly; another group walked off to quickly fetch back the Director of the Institute (a professor who serves as, effectively, the president of the university). The men were yelling at him, raising their fists, quite animatedly. I could not understand what they were saying – I think it was Kannada, not Hindi – but the Director was clearly not happy to be there, and tried to appease them in some way. We later came to understand, through the explanation of a helpful student, that apparently some departments had not been called forward to receive a wreath for delivery to the statue; I suspect that they were deliberately overlooked due to some politics, because there were clearly several wreaths left on the table. Anyway, a man made an announcement apologizing for the oversight and the aggrieved department heads delivered their wreaths.
The flowers remained for days, carefully watered by the garden staff, bringing an impressive burst of color to what is normally a drab sandy courtyard in front of a sand-colored building. See more photos.
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