Skip to main content

Letter from Prof. Kiran Seth

Kiran Seth
To My Dear Student
When I go to teach a class today there are, largely speaking, two types of responses which I get. The first one is when there is no response, where the student has already decided that Mathematics is not for her & she has switched off. The second is where the question is asked before my sentence is over and a complete answer is expected.
When I was doing my PhD at Columbia University in New York, one of the top Statisticians in the world, Prof. David Siegmund was taking my class on Probability. Despite my best efforts, I was not able to understand what he was teaching. After about a month, I went to his chamber & told him about my predicament. He just pushed me out saying- "You are doing fine Kiran". But that did not satisfy me. I felt that if I could not understand such a fundamental course, I was not fit to do a PhD. I, therefore, started taking courses in the Columbia University Business School. However, in one semester all what Prof. Siegmund had taught started falling in place like a jigsaw puzzle & I ran back to my PhD. Whatever little I know about the subject is because of the fact that Prof Siegmund didn't come down to my level but helped me rise to his.
I came back to India and wanted to learn Dhrupad from Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar in Kolkata. I requested him & he agreed to have me with him during my holidays. Excitedly I went but was very disappointed. He would tune the tanpura and ask me to sing 'Sa' over and over again for many hours at a stretch. He would not even sit with me. It seemed as though he was not interested in teaching me and many a time I had this desire to return home. But something kept me back. After the month was over & I returned to Delhi, I felt that I had just wasted my time in Kolkata.
However, over a period, I realized what a 'khazana' of wisdom had been passed on to me. The realization of the depth of thought contained in some of his utterances dawned on me very slowly but surely-
"Ek sade, sab saade, sab sade sab jaaye;
Tumhe 'Re' pe jaane ki ijaazat tab hai jab tumhe 'Sa' ka darshan ho jaaye ".
Both Prof. Siegmund and Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar showed me the way of touching the alpha-zone, the experience of which is something beyond description.
From my above-mentioned Gurus, I learned the method of fathoming the depths of any great thought process.
I bow my head in reverence.