New Delhi: Eighty-year-old Prof. Chintamani Nagesha Ramachandra Rao has been chosen for India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. The world renowned chemist was named for the top civilian award along with Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.
However, both Rao and Tendulkar share nothing in common. Sachin is a national sporting icon, India's most famous Cricketer while Rao is an icon in the field of science, the most famous scientist of the country, a renowned Chemist in the World.
A press release from the government of India describes CNR Rao as an eminent scientist and Sachin as an eminent sportsperson. It is a very banal description of the two geniuses.
Unlike the Cricketers, scientists won't retire. Sachin has got the highest honour, the day he has retired. Rao is still very much active. As they say "once a scientist, always a scientist".
It is sad that the entire focus is only on Sachin and not on CNR Rao. Unlike Cricket, the science is not flamboyant. Scientists spend most of their life in unglamorous environments away from limelight and people.
The demand for Bharat Ratna for Sachin had been there for at least 6-7 years. It had polarized the public opinion. Cricket is a great entertainment. If the people from the field of entertainment can get Bharat Ratna, there is nothing wrong in Sachin also getting it. After all, he has entertained the Cricket lovers all over India for 24 years.
Rao, a Kannadiga and Sachin, a Maharashtrian have got India's highest civilian award together. After engineering genius Sir M Vishweshwaraiah and the Hindustani music great Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, CNR Rao is the third Kannadiga to get Bharat Ratna. Sachin is the 6th Maharashtrian to get the same honour.
CNR Rao is undoubtedly a mega star among the scientists. His path breaking research in Nano science is a well known fact. His aversion to Information Technology (IT) is also a well known.
Rao is an admirer of his home town Bangalore's science city environment and its science city tag. He feels that the undue importance given to IT has killed other forms of science, mainly the scientific research. A few years ago speaking to 'Outlook' magazine he famously said "'If IT Is Going To Take Away Our Values, Burn Bangalore, Burn IT. I am a real Bangalorean. I was born in Basavangudi. The greatness of Bangalore was that it allowed simplicity and enjoyment-a cup of coffee and a masala dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan kept you happy. I don't see that Bangalore anymore. It is now an awful city. There was more poetry and music here before the IT boom. The city we have created in recent years is rotten-highly polluted, garbage strewn everywhere, including the intellectual garbage dumped on this city by the IT industry".
Attacking modern icons of Bangalore, CNR Rao had said "Our society has created a bunch of icons and role models who are distorting not just the future of this city but of all India, and of our sense of values. Our people have lost respect for scholarship. Money and commerce has taken over. If IT is going to take away our basic values, then you can burn Bangalore and burn IT."
Rao is known for his outspokenness. He is not a typical scientist. He is a man of many interests. A lover of literature, music, Kannada language, history, cinema, pure science, Bangalore's weather and of course research.
He has been advocating more money and importance for the scientific research in India. Even at the age of 80, CNR Rao attends several seminars and symposiums stressing on the need for a scientific temperament. According to the people close to him, he works for more than 16 hours a day.
Rao, who was born in Bangalore in 1934, has received more than 40 Honorary Doctorates from various prestigious Universities across the World. A world authority on structural Chemistry, Rao taught at the IIT Kanpur, Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) Bangalore, Oxford, Cambridge and University California in an illustrious career spanning over 50 years. He is also the foremost solid state and materials chemists in the World. Author of over 45 books on science, Rao has held various prestigious government posts. He has been the chairman of Indian scientific advisory council to the Prime Minister since 2005. He earlier held the same position between 1985-89, when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.
He has got almost all high honours within and outside the nation including Padma Vibhushan to Karnataka Ratna Awards. His name was nominated for the Nobel Award in Chemistry several times in the past. Circles and flyovers have been named after CNR Rao in Bangalore.
Undoubtedly, CNR Rao has been one of the greatest scientists of our times and a true national icon. Good luck and best wishes to both CNR Rao and Sachin Tendulkar. Country is grateful to you.