Prof. H.N. Aswathanarayana: A mentor who is no more!
Columns, Over A Cup of Evening Tea

Prof. H.N. Aswathanarayana: A mentor who is no more!

March 20, 2022

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

In the recent passing away of Prof. H.N. Aswathanarayana, a former Professor of Mathematics at the St. Philomena’s College, I have lost a mentor and a very fine man whom I had known over the last fifty years. We first met in the year 1970 when I got admitted to the College for my PUC. Although I was not a student of Mathematics, I had an occasion to listen to his one-hour introductory lecture about the need for students to join the National Cadet Corps (NCC) to inculcate discipline and the spirit of nation building.

Holding a Captain’s rank at that time and being the NCC Officer of our College, through this very inspiring maiden lecture, he made a splendid case in impressing upon our young minds the advantages of joining his fold, which resulted in many of us volunteering to get enlisted. Having already been a member of the Bharath Scouts and Guides for three years as a High School student, I naturally did not need much coaxing to wear the starched uniform once again and so I immediately joined the 15 Karnataka Infantry NCC Battalion, where I remained for the next two years.

Capt. Aswathanarayana receiving an award from the MP Shri. B. Rachaiah in 1977.

After that, all through our NCC days, we would eagerly wait for Sundays to come because that was the day of the weekly parade at our College. That was also the day for much vigorous physical activity followed by much fun and camaraderie over a hearty, outdoor breakfast! Some of us would be there in uniform well before time because we would want to be present to receive Prof. Aswathanarayana at the door of the cellar under the Chemistry Lecture Hall where he had his windowless office. The moment we heard the faint roar of his Jawa motorcycle in the distance, we would all spring to attention to receive him with our crisp salutes and then jostle with one another for the privilege of pushing his 1969 model 250cc bike, with its registration number, MYM 8284 and parking it inside the dark and humid cellar!

After the rest of the troop members turned up at the ground behind the Science Block, the parade would start with Prof. Aswathanarayana, looking every inch a tough-as-nails Officer, shouting the commands in his booming voice, which rings in my ears even to this day! Although a strict disciplinarian, who would show no lenience in punishing late-comers, he was actually a most kind-hearted man when it came to choosing the kind of penalty that he meted out to them.

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So, instead of the most preferred and most deterrent regimental punishment of crawling across the field on knees and elbows, which would sometimes leave them bruised and bleeding, it would invariably be a mild and only symbolic one with an order to run three rounds around the perimeter of the not too large field. For the very late arrivals, it would be an order to run with the ancient 303 Enfield rifles held aloft, because by that time the rifles would have been brought out of the armoury and issued to the cadets!

Mentor in his later years.

Our armoury, with its round-the-clock Police security picket, was located in another dark and damp cellar under the Arts Block. With its array of different versions of battle rifles, including a couple of Light Machine Guns (LMGs) and a solitary 9mm Sterling Carbine, the armoury, which was in army parlance called an Arms Kot, used to be a very fascinating place for me. All through my NCC years, I would therefore always volunteer to assist the Army Jawans and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) during their periodic weapon cleaning and oiling ritual.

Although the elaborate process used to be quite rigorous because it involved using a device called a ‘pull-through’ to clean and polish the interiors of the barrels and it would leave me sweating and smeared with grime, I used to love it!

I had the occasion to attend many NCC training camps under the leadership of Prof. Aswathanarayana and at the Combined Annual Training Camp at K.R. Nagar in 1970, he even recommended that I be allowed to fire a Light Machine Gun (LMG) during a demonstration of the weapon, a privilege normally reserved in the NCC only for Officers and Army personnel. It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life and a Certificate issued by Prof. Aswathanarayana to me, testifies to this fact.

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Even after I left the NCC and the College, I continued to be in touch with him and he would take a great deal of interest in knowing about my progress through life. Whenever we met, the two of us would like two friends, instead of a mentor and pupil, spend much time reminiscing about the good old days. But he was such a humble and modest man, that at these many meetings, he never once mentioned that he had actively participated in our freedom struggle and had even been imprisoned for his role in it.

This was something I discovered only from his obituary which I read in the SOM three days ago! When I called up his son Yoganand yesterday morning to convey my condolences to the family, he told me that his father was actually a very secretive man when it came to his achievements and accomplishments. He would never speak about them. The same was the case when it came to talking about his pains and discomforts even with his own family members, which was why they never got even an inkling of the terminal illness that quickly took him away from their midst.

I felt happy to learn that his son Yoganand left a lucrative job elsewhere to be here in Mysuru and look after his parents during their old age. I also felt much relieved to know that he still has his father’s good-old motorcycle with him in perfect running condition and that he still rides it regularly. How wonderful! Since he refused to take rest even after his retirement and was actively involved in the management affairs of a College in the city till his very last days, Prof. Aswathanarayana lived his entire life with a sense of purpose and service to society. And, that is why he will be missed by many! May his soul rest in peace. Amen!

e-mail: [email protected]

15 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Prof. H.N. Aswathanarayana: A mentor who is no more!”

  1. boregowda says:

    Kudos to an excellent role model, teacher and a mentor.

  2. Kawakawaffoxgowda says:

    Javeed Nayeem always finds a manufactured angle to keep himself associated with the person in the news . Some attention seeking narrative, well manufactured!

  3. In the game of football and soccer, the winning team gets the bragging rights, but seldom used. Bad losers have to make do with cringing.
    Abuse and vilification is the first resort of the envious who spew vitriol on any achiever. Wishing Dr Javed Nayeem more enthusiasm to share many more nuggets of treasured memories with readers of SOM.

  4. Kawakawaffoxgowda says:

    Obviously, you do not know about American Football or European Football ( soccer).
    Winners always openly celebrate, and if it is win in the superbowl, the whole city celebrates with the trophy display and in the case of European Football , victory in the final of the Champion League is celebrated by the entire nation where that Football club is located. The Trophy ios paraded in the open top bus!
    You need to get your fact right, not the cheap jibe. You may like what Nayeem brags, I do not and many also do not, his attention seeking articles.

  5. Questo says:

    @Mysore Diwker
    Where do you live? In a cave in a jungle?
    Just look at how the recent super bowl winners celebrated in the LA, and before them all the previous winners.
    As for soccer, well the winner’s celebration in an important fixture like the Champion League final-the UEFA supreme fixture final, where the winner achieve successive fixtures against the strongest club teams in Europe to reach the final, and in the end, that final win is a great achievement ; hence, it is celebrated in the team’s country, the team’s city and everyone there.
    Attention-seekers always link themselves to a story. Nayeem is one of them.

  6. Mann Ki Baat! says:

    n My opinion calling the football, where the players legs are used to kick and guide the ball as Soccer shows what the dim-witted beings – the Yanks are. They call a game Football, where the players carry the ball, very little use of leg is involved!
    Anyway, In every football club in every country in Europe, and in South America, a win is celebrated noisily and with great aplomb. When the last world cup football final was won by France, the entire Paris celebrated led by president Macron. Before that the winners were Germany, and even the more restrained Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, joined the celebration with the players. In France, the Eiffel tower was brightly lit with their nation’s football team colours and similarly the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, in the case of Germany.

  7. Howdy, Modi! says:

    Hello Mysore Diwakar
    “In the game of football and soccer, the winning team gets the bragging rights, but seldom used. Bad losers have to make do with cringing”
    You seem to be smoking some substance to produce such unconnected sentence, which is unconnected with your second paragraph.
    That is enough to conclude that you are posting nonsense.

  8. @Questo
    From the very deep claustrophobic cave with limited access to a concrete jungle, I thought that bragging is a noisy, empty boast with nothing to count for achievement. Winners celebrate fine achievements in all walks of life in the presence of Presidents and Prime Ministers and rightly so. Losers boast ruefully that they also ran but fell at the last hurdle. The learned Doctor makes good copy, is the editor’s choice and invariably draws the readers’ attention. Is this a case of sour grapes?

  9. @Howdy Modi!
    What can you expect from a dowdy living in a jungle cave? anything but utter nonsense! But let me check with the good Doctor whether there is any substance in your diagnosis that I
    I am writing under the malefic influence of some substance.

  10. Questo says:

    Hey Mysore
    I can see that you are easily swayed and admire too the stuff Jayeem dishes out. You need to elevate your standards a bit higher.
    Had you said:! “”In the game of football and soccer, the winning team gets the bragging rights, but instead they celebrate”, Any one would have understood! But then as you yourself has revealed , you were hallucinating!
    Mr Ganapathy entrusted Nayeem with this column ,giving a slightly modified title of :“ Over a Cup of Tea”, a weekly column which the legendary DH journalist Pothan Joseph wrote each week. It used to be a short piece, laced with wit and irony focusing on human nature, without any biographical linkage. Highly enjoyable and equally popular.
    But Nayeeem has reduced the column to a long-winding bragging heap of nonsense, associating self with every notable person who passes away or every historical monument in the news. on other occasions, he pitched himself as a traditional astrologer, a palm-reader, a wizard of firearms, a fan of James Bond movie, a particular movie which he said he watched in Mysore in a year when it was released in the Western countries, and was yet to be released in India, which normally took 2 years after its original release in the West! Those were the days of a fixed number of copies of film reels which had to have their first runs in the cities of Western countries.
    Learned doctor? Again, you need to set your standards a bit higher. UOM MDs are dime-a-dozen.
    Diagnosis from him? He himself underwent angioplasty bragging eternally that he has been a cardiologist. I would not like to be seen by a doctor, who has had enough medical problem of his own!

  11. Questo says:

    correction:… have revealed..

  12. Howdy, Modi! says:

    Hello Mysore Diwaker
    Did not know you were in a deep cave! Who were you hiding from?
    Have you checked with Nayeem yet, about the effects of smoking a hallucinogen? He wouldn’t know, as he has been hallucinating himself in all his articles, linking him him with any famed person passed away recently. He played as a child in the historical mansion when it appeared in the SOM, he owns a Walther PPK handgun and carry it in person, but yet boasts about the Hippocratic oath he took when graduating as a doctor, an oath which underlines the saving of human life, he dined in Gaylard restaurant in Mysore claiming that the juke box it had was the only one in Mysore, when there were a few more in other locations in the City, etc.., etc..,!
    No doubt, Nayeem would be pleased that he has an admirer in you- some one who swallows all he dished out, hook, line and sinker!! Keep posting.

  13. Mann Ki Baat! says:

    Now, Javeed Nayeem is happy that at last he has convinced an idiot into thinking that he is really a ‘learned doctor’ and that he is a multi-faceted genius! I have always thought many SOM readers are downright dimwits and swallow any garbage this Nayeem produces.

  14. Elekan, Aldur says:

    I echo what Questo and Mysore has said about so called Dr Javeed Nayeem. He is just a show off person..He needs to look after himself before commenting on others..

  15. Naren says:

    Prof Aswathnarayan was a person I admired during my college days… parade commander with a booming voice is the fact deeply etched in my memory … Om Shanthi


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