BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY (1943-46)

At the age of 16 he left his home in the princely state of Jaipur in Rajasthan and sought admission to the newly created B. Pharm. Course at the Banaras Hindu University in 1943. No other University had that kind of facility so there was some sort of curiosity as well as an excitement about neo-education started by M.L. Sehroff a strict disciplinarian. All classes in the University started at 8.00 a.m. but the Department of Pharmaceutics did it at 7.00. The students were tamed to work hard and more hard as the day advanced. When the day ended the students moved to the sprawling playgrounds to unwind tiresomeness. The University campus was so beautiful that it was a great pleasure to go around on a Sunday and even walk upto the Ganges that flowed mightily by its periphery. The university campus was perhaps the most well conceived and executed than any other in the world. It was awfully green, colorful and romantic.

Department of Pharmaceutics, Institute of Technology,

Sir S. Radhakrishnan: Radhakrishnan who had been knighted by the British government, was the Vice-Chancellor.  In those days, the Vice-Chancellors of all universities in India were persons of eminence who had contributed a great deal to the academics of the country in one form or another.  Radhakrishnan was significantly prominent among these eminent individuals.  Soon after his arrival, on a Sunday morning, there was hectic activity in the hostel and everyone was getting ready to go to the ‘Gita lecture’ by Vice-Chancellor.  Events of this kind took place only six to eight times in an academic session.  It was held at the  Arts College Assembly Hall which was already full at 8.30 a.m. Radhakrishnan entered sharp on schedule, spoke a few shlokas in Sanskrit and then for a full 50 minutes in English.  No one stirred during this period.  His eloquence, language and scholarship  was mesmerising.  His phrases and epigrams like “when the wick is ablaze at the tip, the whole lamp was burning” left a life-long impression. Teachers and students at the university used them in their conversations and writings, time and again.  In his lectures, he emphasised the wisdom of the words written in the Gita and its relevance in contemporary period.  The only other person who could speak as effectively on Hindu religion was Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of BHU.  The students at that time were lucky in having these academic giants at the helm of affairs of the University.

Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya:. A highly learned man who had established the university in 1916, spoke Hindi, English and Sanskrit, all three languages fluently, was guiding the destinies of the countrymen and exhorted the students to work hard, live simply, think high and be kind to everyone. He imbibed amongst them the jest to work for the country, seek independence from the British and take it to new heights like the more developed countries of the west but keep “Indian values” in our day to day living.

In 1946, he (PCD) finished the B.Pharm. course and took admission for the M.Pharm.  There was no course work for this degree then and one had to do a research project, submit the thesis and wait for the result. Working in the laboratory was a pleasure. He started the research work with the isolation of  the active principles of two Ayurvedic drugs, Premna integrifolia (Arni) and Convolvulus pluricaulis (Sankhpushpi) under the guidance of Dr. NK Basu.  The job looked simple but it was  too time-consuming.  The course was of one-year duration but not many had completed it in this minimum stipulated period.  Some had taken two or even more years.

Premna integrifolia had plenty of alkaloid in it but the problem was that it would not crystallise.  Without crystallisation, one could not get it in the pure state.  Almost all alkaloids like morphine, quinine, strychnine, hyoscine, hyoscyamine and many others are water insoluble and they precipitate when transferred from organic solvent solution to water.  But there are some rare alkaloids like caffeine from tea or coffee which are water soluble and will not precipitate out this way.  Premnine, was of this nature and had to be tackled as shown in the German author Rosantheler’s treatise.  In those days, the English, as compared to the Germans, were behind with regard to the isolation of crystalline substances from plant material.  Even today, almost six decades later, the Germans and the Japanese are ahead of the Americans, the British or the French in this technology.

The encouragement and persuasion of my professor N.K. Basu helped him to publish two research papers in 1947,    one on Convolvulus pluricaulis and another on Premna integrifolia in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Those were to get him  selected as a Lecturer in Pharmacology at the newly opened S.M.S. Medical College soon after and made him  into a Pharmacologist.

At the S.M.S. Medical College besides teaching the medical students, he  had to solve a serious problem of non-availability intravenous fluids for the patients as had already been done in the west. The only one they found, who could deliver the goods to them was him as he had both the basic education and the inclination to do it (as no one else could). He was then 22 years old, his boss, the Professor of Pharmacology, Dr. R.B. Arora was 31. Dr. Arora was a great research enthusiast with little experience and in PCD he found one who had some (and very useful) training in research methodology. In 1956 he left for higher education to Toronto. Arora’s objective of research and his were entirely different so their separation worked wonderfully well. When he returned from Toronto, Arora had already left the SMS Medical College and occupied a position at the newly established All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.