June 22, 2017
WHEN DR. M.S. RANDHAWA BLESSED ME AND WISHED FOR MY SUCCESS
Dr. M.S. Randhawa was a person who always encouraged juniors and helped them. I met him at Solan in 1979. He had come there for convocation of the College of Agriculture, where I was Assistant Professor of Horticulture. Dr. Randhawa had arrived about two hours before the function and was sitting with the Dean. My office happened to be next to the Dean’s office.
Dr. M.S. Randhawa
Incidentally, this was one of the leanest periods of my career. I was not getting positive response for my efforts. I had started research on wild growing fruits of Himachal Pradesh. Work on these fruits had not been undertaken by any fruit researcher until then. I wanted to bring out a book on these fruits which were very little known to outside world. The manuscript was ready. But no publisher was ready to bet his money on a book written by a young assistant professor. My senior colleagues also thought that my dreams were too lofty. So I used to feel quite discouraged during those days.
One of my senior colleagues, Dr. R.S. Minhas, who happened to know Dr. Randhawa personally, was also sitting with him in the Dean’s office. Dr. Minhas organized my audience with Dr. Randhawa and said, “Sir, he is Dr. Parmar and he has written a book on wild fruits of Himachal Pradesh”. Dr. Randhawa gave me a piercing look and told me in his rustic toned Punjabi, “Kithe hai, lya - कित्थे है, ल्या (where is it, go bring it)”. I brought the typed manuscript and gave it him. Dr. Randhawa opened it and to my great surprise started reading it. Then he took out a pen and started making corrections. He was quite absorbed in it.
There were also few other professors sitting with the Dean, waiting for their turn to talk to Dr. Randhawa. Naturally, they were not feeling happy over my intrusion.
After a few minutes Dr. Randhawa looked up and said again in his typical rustic Punjabi that the work was good and worth publishing but had many mistakes. He advised me to take the manuscript to Dr. Kishan Singh Bedi at Chandigarh for corrections. He further said that once it was vetted by Dr. Bedi, he would recommend it to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for its publication. He also told me that Dr. Bedi, charged a fee for correcting manuscripts. But after noticing signs of worry on my face about payment, he offered to do the corrections free of cost. However, he asked me to book a room for him at PWD Rest House, Barog and also bring some good stenographer. I found the first option easier and preferred to go to Dr. Bedi who also happened to be our Principal at Government Agricultural College, Ludhiana.
Luckily the manuscript did not have to go ICAR for publication. Before that a good publisher of agriculture books from Ludhiana agreed to publish it. So finally it was released in 1982 under the title, “Wild Fruits of the Sub-Himalayan Region”. Dr. Randhawa was also kind enough to write its foreword.
It was a very pleasant surprise to find Dr. Randhawa at Chandigarh airport en route Delhi in May, 1982. I was on my way to Monrovia, West Africa. I had been selected for a teaching assignment at the University of Liberia. He was happy to see me and was even happier to know that I would be teaching in West Africa. He wished me all the best and asked about my future plans. I told him that a book on lesser known fruits of the world was next on my wish list. I bade him adieu by touching his feet at Palam Airport. He placed his hand on my head and said in Punjabi, “Paramatma tainun kaamyaabee deve - परमात्मा तैनू कामयाबी देवे (may the Lord give you success)”
I think that Fruitipedia, my popular online encyclopedia of the edible fruits of the world, which is over nine years old now and has been viewed by over three million people, is the result of that blessing I had got from Dr. Randhawa .