“It’s an ordeal by fire for him, but he never fights shy of challenges.”

Amidst the welter of praise heaped on RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan following his appointment, one man who’s quite aware that it can be a double-edged sword is his proud father, R. Govindarajan, a former diplomat.

“Yes, I’m proud of Raghu’s achievements, but it is a difficult situation and we hope he will be able to come out of it. It’s an ordeal by fire for him, but he never fights shy of challenges,” he says.

In a conversation with this writer at his sprawling old bungalow in the Indira Nagar enclave of Adyar in Chennai, Govindarajan, a sprightly octogenarian, says all those singing hosannas now can very well sing a different tune.

“This is probably the honeymoon period when everybody goes gaga; we have to see.” But the retired diplomat has full faith in the capabilities of his third child. “Lifting someone too high… the drop can also be sharp. But, he’s got a sound head and won’t be carried away; he knows what he’s capable of and he’s already said that he doesn’t have a magic wand.”

Talking about his son, Govindarajan says Raghuram’s achievements have overshadowed the other well-qualified siblings. All his three sons are IIT graduates with PhDs to boot and all started their careers with the Tatas.

Raghuram’s younger sibling Mukund Rajan, a PhD from Oxford and a Rhodes scholar, is Tata brand custodian and chief ethics officer of Tata Sons, and is from the Tata Administrative Service, which Raghuram, too, joined for a couple of months before quitting for his PhD in MIT.

The elder son, Srinivas, who has a twin sister Jayashree, is a PhD in materials science from the Colorado School of Mines, who worked in Tata Steel before moving to the US. Jayashree, married to a bureaucrat, teaches in Delhi. Academic excellence runs in the third generation as well. Jayashree’s daughter is an MBA from IIM-A, Raghuram’s daughter is at Yale and Srinivas’ son has enrolled for a dual degree at Wharton.

Govindarajan, who worked in many missions abroad during his long career, says while Raghuram excelled in studies he wasn’t a bookworm but a good all-rounder.

“He was keen to take up anything, from running half marathons to squash and tennis and even bungee jumping. When they were leaving IIM, everyone had to write about their batchmates; someone told me that Raghu will win the Guinness record for the thinnest book titled ‘Games that I have not played’! He will not fight shy of challenges,” he recalls. Admitting that it was a tough task bringing up four children on a government salary, Govindarajan says there was no room for little luxuries like eating out. But, he’s thankful that all his children excelled later in life with scholarships. “Raghu was in TAS for two months before he got the admission in MIT; they gave him admission first, and he said he cannot come unless he got full funding, which they readily gave later.”

Govindarajan’s regretful that the whole family comes together rarely now as everybody is busy; the last time was for his 80th birthday.

But now, with two sons in Mumbai, he’s looking forward to a family reunion in December in that city when Srinivas will visit from the US and Jayashree from Delhi.

vinay.kamath@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 8, 2013)
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