The opening statement of Dr Pratik Ranjan Sen presenting the day’s proceedings, that it was a day of reminiscing, thanksgiving and honouring captured the essence of the XVI Sri Venugopal Endowment Lecture being held on the 12th of November 2011 at the Sri VD.Swami Auditorium most aptly. The Sankara Nethralaya family was honouring one of its principal architects and guiding lights and the statement ‘Thank You Sir, you are always with us” was evident at every point of the function right from calling upon the proud members of Shri Ram Mohan Rao’s family to light the auspicious Kuthuvilakku to the end of the day’s proceedings.
The playing of the invocation song rendered by late Shrimathi M.Subbulakshmi at the Afro-Asian Congress of Ophthalmology back in 1976 was a tribute to the memory of Sri V.Venugopal and treated the gathering to the divinity and timelessness of a voice that has captivated listeners the world over like none other. Distinguished guests of the evening and close friends of the man being honoured, Sri Govindarajulu, Sri MK Kumar and Sri Krishnamurthy paid rich tributes to him through their recollections of a long and close association with him. What surfaced was the diverse traits of an enterprising businessman with a great acumen for business and commerce, an authority and pioneer in the fields of banking and insurance and a charitable individual who donated all his family lands to the Bhoodan movement of Sri Vinobha Bhave. Sri Venugopal’s philanthropy, patronage of fine arts and commitment to ethics in public and private life and the true gentleman that he was were recalled by friends who seemed to be dearly missing his absence.
Another surprise ‘down memory lane’ experience that held the audience in awe and rapt attention and reiterated the power of ‘divine will’ was a video clipping of Dr Puram Prakash from Boston, a relative of the Mohan Rao family recalling the sequence of events that culminated in the dispatch of a much elusive CT Scan machine to its divine destination the Kanchi Mutt. It all started with a rather simple sounding request from Dr SS Badrinath, Chief Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya to Dr Puram Prakash that a CT scan machine was needed at the Kanchi Mutt to perform a medical examination of His Holiness the Kanchi Periyaval. Dr Puram Prakash to quote his own words was at the end of his wits as to where he should begin his search. What followed were exciting events which could make interesting stuff for a thrilling paper back. It was the peak of the US-Iraq war and there seemed to be an embargo on CT scan machines from being dispatched to anywhere else other than the war front. After frenetic calls to the 4 leading manufacturers of CT Scan equipment, a call to the White House and a call to the Chief of the US armed forces camping in the Iraqi deserts a formal request was made by Shri R.Venkatraman the then President of India through the diplomatic envoy at Washington, the CT Scan equipment was finally delivered at the Kanchi Mutt.
The Chief Guest for the evening was Justice Shri Shivraj N.Patil, Honourable Justice of the Supreme Court, a man rightly described by Shri NDJ.Renganath, Member SSSN Trust as a man of truth, fairness and trust, well-known for his jurisprudence, air of advocacy and dispensation of Justice. A learned man of great eloquence he delivered a speech on a topic most relevant to the present and the future ‘Spirituality and Ethics for the future of India’. The learned Judge started with a warm reference to the services of Shri Mohan Rao’s family and the Medical Research Foundation. He had a special word of praise for Dr SS Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, and described the Sankara Nethralaya which he heads as a place which has the 3 key attributes needed to help humanity1.Talent 2.Environment and 3. Equipment, in abundance. He touched on many burning issues of the day like whether to ban capital punishment, should the constitution be amended to should we have the right to recall our elected representatives etc while clearly underlining the need for spirituality and ethics in everyday life from public governance to education and corporate world. He exhorted that spirituality be made a part of the curriculum to attain high spiritual standards in life.
The day’s proceedings closed with the rendition of the Sankara Nethralaya anthem and the gathering dispersed with a lot of food for thought provided by the Chief Guest’s speech and the highest regards for Late Sri V. Venugopal.