A day after he enthralled students at the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) campus with his lecture on “100 years of visualising molecules”, Nobel Laureate and president of Royal Society, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan ‘Venki’ spent a day in his home city, interacting with old friends and taking a stroll at his alma mater, Convent of Jesus and Mary. Venki, who was accompanied by his father, Professor CV Ramakrishnan, 91, told mediapersons that he wanted to be left alone. He was accompanied by a friend, noted ENT specialist from the city, Dr P N Saini, made an impromptu visit to CJM High School at Fatehgunj, taking the staff and the students by surprise.
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Venki spent almost an hour on the campus of his former school, where he studied before going to science college in MSU and then to the US for studies when he was 19. His research on ribosomes earned him the Nobel Prize in 2009. According to school principal, Sister Nirmala Paul, “He (Venki) did not tell us (that he was coming) and the students were surprised, but also thrilled about his visit. He very respectfully agreed to our request that he should interact with the children. The interaction was very encouraging as students asked him many questions.” Sister Nirmala added that when a student asked Venki about the ills of social media and requested him to suggest ways for de-addiction from the Internet, Venki suggested parental control. Sister Nirmala said, “He said that it is good that we are attracted to social media, but we should know how to interact and follow the advice of parents.” Students also asked Venki about winning the Nobel prize, to which he said, “It happened all of a sudden and I was awe struck. Many times, variations happen in life and we must follow our intuition.” He encouraged students to choose a career path that interests them the most.
Venki, Sister Nirmala adds, was very nostalgic as he visited several classrooms, the library and laboratory of the school. His friend, two years his junior from CJM, Dr Saini, told The Indian Express that Venki reminisced his school days with nostalgia. Saini said, “As we walked around the campus, we recalled some of the sisters of the school who were part of the administration while we were studying. He particularly remembered this water tank that used to be our hiding space on campus when we bunked classes. The tank has since been demolished to extend the school building.” Saini remembers Venki as a shy, book-loving student. “He was very soft-spoken, simple, studious. We kept in touch. When he came in 2009, I was in Punjab and I could not meet him. But whenever he visits, he makes it a point to catch up.”
Earlier, Venki also met his old friends from the city at his favourite hangout, a cafe in the city. He also visited a school for the specially-abled students and met several family friends in the city, along with his father. Venki left Gujarat in 1971 and is now based in Cambridge. In 2010, the CJM had held a special felicitation of Venki after he won the Nobel.