Bala that I knew

NR Narayana Murthy | Updated on September 30, 2021

Prof Bala V. Balachandran   -  The Hindu

The world has lost a rare individual in Bala’s (Prof. Bala Balachandran’s) death. We, his admirers, have lost a guide, a mentor, and a close friend.

The first time I met Bala was in 1995 at the India conference in Kellogg. Bala was the host. He was, as usual, kind, generous and friendly. I requested his permission to attend his class on accounting for which he had become a legend. As I sat in the one-hour class, time flew fast. He was a master actor who knew his subject matter thoroughly and communicated complex ideas in a simple way through his drama.

I learnt many things from Bala. First was his indefatigable personality. Even at the age of 65, he went from one friend to another seeking advice from them when he was about to start his favourite child – The Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM). Many times, he brought his bright young students to meet me in my office. He built a new campus after he reached 70 years. I never saw him look tired and diffident.

The second was his positivism. He was supremely confident that his GLIM would make the best progress among management institutions. Even when a corporate leader declined his request for funding, he would just smile and say that his friend would see enlightenment about GLIM in due course!

The third was his inveterate networking. There was not a single visit of his to Bangalore when he did not touch base with me and his other friends. So many times, Sudha and I had the privilege of hosting him for lunch or dinner at home. There would be no agenda but just a light banter. Most of the time, we would be laughing at each other’s jokes.

The fourth was his academic interest even after he retired. He was busy working with my colleague, Mr Pai, on some esoteric accounting problem.

The fifth was his supreme kindness and generosity. I have been the recipient of this either at his home in Evanston or at an Indian restaurant on Devon Street in Chicago. Even though I was only nine years younger than him, he treated me like a child and made sure I ate well.

The most important lesson I learnt from him was to see the glass half full, to handle difficulties with a smile, to break academic and social barriers, and mix freely with students, colleagues, staff and even strangers on the street. Don Jacobs, the legendary Dean of Kellogg, and Bala were two people whose hands would be shaken by almost everybody when they went from a class at one end of the Kellogg campus to a class at the other end.

May his soul rest in peace. I have lost a good friend.

The author is a co-founder of Infosys

Published on September 30, 2021

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