Thursday, August 4, 2016

NO. I was NOT FIRED from the Sai university (SSSIHL)!

Last updated on 15th August 2016

A few days ago I bumped into somebody (a local to Puttaparthi area/mandal person) who told me that a senior faculty of the Sai university (Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning/SSSIHL) told him that I was FIRED from SSSIHL, and the senior faculty had a good laugh about it. This implied that he was happy that I was (allegedly) FIRED from SSSIHL. Note that the term, FIRED, typically indicates that one has done something dishonourable or was incompetent due to which one was dismissed from service.

This matter has been bugging me over the past few days. I don't know whether the senior faculty of the Sai university really said that about me but I suspect that he did say so. I thought I need to clear up such slander against my name & reputation by putting out a post on social media. In Puttaparthi environment especially, falsehood that is said by senior people if not rebutted, tends to get accepted as the truth!!! Of course, I strongly rebutted the charge to the local person who conveyed it to me but I don't know whether he believed me! That's the power of the words of ashram senior staff in Puttaparthi environment. Even lies they say about somebody gets viewed as truth by many others!

I don't know whether others too are slandering me by saying that I was FIRED by Sai university. So even if the senior faculty had not said such words, I feel it may be appropriate for me to put up this post to do my reasonable bit to protect my fair name and reputation.

Firstly, from a proper terminology point of view, it is PAID employees of Puttaparthi ashram system who can be FIRED i.e. dismissed dishonourably from paid service. In my case, I was offering free service with the designation of Visiting Faculty in the Sai university in academic year 2011-12. [For appropriate documentary evidence of my status in the Sai university please see my blog post, "My May 2012 service record & record tampering related correspondence with Sai university (SSSIHL) administrators", http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/11/my-may-2012-service-record-record.html.] In such an arrangement, the Visiting Faculty services can be prematurely terminated without any notice period and without giving any reasons, by either the Sai university or the Visiting Faculty (me) or both. So such Visiting Faculty services can be terminated but the Visiting Faculty cannot be FIRED (dismissed), from a proper terminology point of view.

OK, I was not FIRED. But did SSSIHL authorities prematurely terminate my Visiting Faculty services? Well, not exactly. The then HOD of the dept I was serving (Dept. of Mathematics and Computer Science/DMACS), V. Chandrasekaran, wrote an email to me on Aug. 11th 2011 (see it here, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3Pcd4RD_n8LZXBtVFk2R1hyTkk/view) where he UNAUTHORISEDLY attempted to remove approvals granted by the Registrar of the Sai university to me, to interact with both the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini (a free online value based education school project) team in Prasanthi Nilayam, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the orgn. that was developing software for the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini project. You see, V. Chandrasekaran was dead against DMACS students & faculty getting involved with the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini (SSSVV) project!!! I view that (others may have a different view) as a traitorous act of V. Chandrasekaran as SSSVV project had had VISIBLE support from physical form Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the founder chancellor of the Sai university, in the months before his Mahasamadhi, and the project was having full support of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, which is the mother institution paying salaries of all staff of the Sai university and bearing all other expenses of the Sai university (perhaps through a sister trust).

Chandrasekaran's email was an UNAUTHORISED email as he did not have the power to withdraw the approval granted to me on SSSIHL letterhead by the Registrar to interact with SSSVV team and TCS. Essentially, Chandrasekaran had become power-crazy and abused his power as HOD to block me from doing SSSVV work in DMACS. Sashidhara Prasad, the then vice-chancellor, seemed to have got resignation-blackmailed by Chandrasekaran to not interfere and instead shout at me as if I was the wrong-doer!!! Also note that the HOD is not the person who authorises use of a Visiting Faculty's services and so he is not the right authority to terminate a Visiting Faculty's services.

But even Chandrasekaran's mail cannot be viewed as him terminating my Visiting Faculty services. Further, this email from him implicitly requested me to continue one activity as indicated by the following statement, "Your agreement to act as a consultant to Sri Sailesh Vasa in his MTech Project work is appreciated."

So V. Chandrasekaran DID NOT TERMINATE my Visiting Faculty services to DMACS, SSSIHL. Note that the official letter from the Registrar designating me as Visiting Faculty for academic year 2011-12 was still in effect (I had received no intimation from the Registrar that that letter was cancelled and my Visiting Faculty status withdrawn/cancelled).

In response to this email from V. Chandrasekaran I sought an appointment with the vice-chancellor, Sashidhara Prasad, which he granted. As soon as I entered the vice-chancellor's cabin, he (Prasad) shouted at me at the top of his voice as if I had committed some heinous crime! To cut a long story short, I realized that V. Chandrasekaran would have threatened to resign (resignation blackmail) unless I was blocked from associating with Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini project and any other activity in the dept. not approved by Chandrasekaran, and thereby pushed Sashidhara Prasad into a corner as he could not afford to lose an HOD. I was only a Visiting Faculty teaching lowly lab. courses and so I was an unimportant person in the academic setup, in comparison to the HOD. So it was a no-brainer for Sashidhara Prasad to opt to keep the HOD and ask me to either go along with the HOD or quit. But he could have done it far more politely and far more ethically instead of shouting at me at the top of his voice as if I had committed some heinous crime. I mean, if he had just told me politely and plainly that he is not in a position to support me in this matter as I am only a Visiting Faculty, I would have understood and would not have had any anger towards him.

Anyway, I decided not to inflame the matter further by arguing the case and decided to play a meek soldier role accepting the shouting of the general even if the shouting was not fair. Mind you, this was a period of great trauma and challenge for Prasanthi Nilayam/Puttaparthi system as it was just a few months after Bhagavan's Mahasamadhi.

Another point that I should mention is that prior to academic year 2011-12 itself, on 27th May 2011, I had directly emailed Chandrasekaran, copy to Registrar, Naren Ramji, and then Controller of Examinations, Srinivas Srirangarajan, about whether it was time for me to get a move on. An extract from what I wrote in that mail is given below:

As a software consultant in industry I used to charge by the hour and was quite expensive to my customers. As soon as I felt that my customer may feel that I am not delivering enough value for my expensive services, before the customer would indicate that my services were not needed, I myself would "read the signs" and withdraw from that customer and explore other opportunities. This enabled me to have good relations with almost all the customers that I serviced.

I feel there are "enough signs" from you that I should now withdraw my "Seva Offering" from DMACS and explore other Seva opportunities. I feel it is time for me to get a move on. I would like to know your valuable views on this. Of course, irrespective of what happens on this issue, I have the best of wishes for DMACS and SSSIHL.

I think I should also say that I am deeply grateful to Bhagavan for the progress that I have had in my "spiritual career" in the years that I was with DMACS. Even in my wildest dreams I did not imagine that I would get such phenomenal spiritual guidance directly from Bhagavan and indirectly from the satsangs I enjoyed with faculty and students, as well as others in Puttaparthi, during the years that I have offered Seva at DMACS, SSSIHL.

Please do not misunderstand but I have to say that I am not attached to DMACS or SSSIHL. I deeply believe in the Upanishadic dictum, "Isha Vaasyam Idam Sarvam". I will not be offended or disappointed in the least if I have to get a move on from DMACS, SSSIHL. I will be extremely happy to explore other Seva opportunities.

I pray to Bhagavan to guide both you and me to take the 'right' decision.
--- end mail extract ----

The whole mail (pdf document) can be viewed here:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3Pcd4RD_n8LLUpXVHVrOHRVWlU.

I viewed Chandrasekaran as anti-software development and he hated my involving interested students of the department with Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini project from a software development angle. This problem started sometime around October 2010 (around six months BEFORE Bhagavan's Mahasamadhi). So he (as HOD) and I (as Visiting Faculty) just did not get along, and I had wanted to stop this headache for me (and perhaps for him as well) by politely parting ways. But he had not directly responded to me saying that he did not want my services then. I felt an obligation to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (especially after his Mahasamadhi) to NOT leave the Sai university free service that I was doing UNLESS the situation became totally intolerable for me OR I was told to leave by Sai university authorities. So as Chandrasekaran did not officially (or even verbally) tell me to leave before academic year 2011-12 (i.e. before June 2011 as academic year in SSSIHL starts in June), I continued my FREE Visiting Faculty service to the Sai university.

After my interaction with the vice-chancellor in August 2011 where he shouted at me at the top of his voice, and also told me that as Visiting Faculty, I should do whatever the HOD tells me to do, I realized that now the situation had become totally intolerable for me. The HOD was virtually ignorant about software development (he came from an Electrical or Electronics engineering industry career with a late-in-career Ph.D. in Computer Science related area; I don't think he satisfied the proper UGC academic norms to be a Professor in Computer Science but as he was providing free service, I think SSSIHL made him Honorary Professor (in a Mathematics & Computer Science area - not Electrical or Electronics engineering area; SSSIHL did not have an Electrical or Electronics engineering department)). In comparison to the HOD, with my 18 years international software industry software development experience followed by around eight and a half years then free service as a teacher of software Lab. courses and consultant to student project work, I was vastly more knowledgeable than him in software development. I felt that it would be gross Adharma (grossly unfair/unethical) to the field of software development for me to follow instructions of this virtually ignorant in software development HOD, V. Chandrasekaran, and I did not want to do such harm to the software development field which has been the source of my livelihood and has given me so much in life.

I could have terminated my free services to SSSIHL in Aug. 2011 itself. But then I would be leaving the M.Tech (CS) student who was banking on me to help him as technical consultant, in the lurch. So I stopped all other activity in DMACS, SSSIHL (and that was what the HOD wanted; so the HOD was happy with the outcome), and began visiting SSSIHL only for around an hour or so once a week to interact with this student. However, I did interact with the student over mail and also did some preparatory work at my home. So I was working more than one hour a week to help out this M.Tech. (CS) student.

Note that the vice-chancellor shouted at me as if I had committed a heinous crime but he did not TERMINATE my visiting faculty services even orally. Of course, there was no written letter related to this meeting I had with the vice-chancellor.

The informal/verbal termination of my services to the Sai university (SSSIHL) happened in Feb. end/March 2012 after I had finished my consultancy work with the M.Tech. (CS) student. I wrote some hard-hitting mails to the administrators of SSSIHL in Feb end/early March 2012 as a kind-of parting shot, exposing the breach of academic procedure by HOD, V. Chandrasekaran in trying to withdraw permission that had been granted to me by the Registrar. That resulted in the Registrar, Naren Ramji, calling me for a meeting. I wrote him that I prefer a written response. He sent another mail with the words, "with love" requesting me to meet him in person. So I decided to meet him and had a very unpleasant meeting with him in early March 2012 (details provided in earlier mentioned blog post). That finished all possibility of me considering to continue my free service Visiting Faculty association in any shape or form with SSSIHL. In the meeting itself, I told him (verbal not written) that I am terminating my association with SSSIHL, and walked out of his room in a huff, openly showing my shock and displeasure at his atrocious behaviour.

Nothing formal was required from my side to SSSIHL as the academic year was drawing to a close. To conclude, from a formal point of view (something in a letter from suitable authority, like Registrar or Director of Prasanthi Nilayam campus, on Sai university/SSSIHL letterhead), neither was I FIRED from the Sai university, nor was my free Visiting Faculty service prematurely terminated by the Sai university. I rendered my free service till March 2012, after which neither party wrote any formal letters showing interest in serving (from my side) or requesting/authorizing my services (from their side) for next academic year, 2012-13.
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A former student of mine at the Sai university (SSSIHL) wrote over email (slightly edited):

Isn't it funny that I owe a very large part of me getting a job and seeking a very good livelihood owing to your so called insignificant lab course. And the courses the --snip-- taught helped me to an utility value of an Absolute Zero. If contributions are measured by the impacts they make in students' lives rather than credits of courses taught and academic degrees, different stories will emerge. As an addendum, why is it that they are still teaching the lab courses whose content and structure were formulated by you? Because they are immensely benefiting the students which is the end goal. Out of every 10 students graduating from M.Tech, 8 are going to the industry and only 2 are going to academia. And to those 8 students your courses have helped lot more than many of those theory courses of which students remember the course names at best.
----

I (Ravi) responded (slightly edited):

Thanks a ton for your kind words brother --snip--. Will share it ANONYMOUSLY. I am so gratified to hear that students (two or three other students have publicly expressed that they benefited from my courses) as a whole tended to benefit from my lab. courses.

Writing the post helped to come to terms with the slander in my mind. I guess there are some people who can withstand injustice and unfair criticism without feeling the need to respond to it in some way. I have realized that, as of now at least, I am not in that category. Once I wrote about it, I felt relieved that I have said my version of the matter.

It won't stop others from still slandering me in private but at least I feel that I have done my bit to counter the slander. [Public slander against me can be addressed by legal action initiated by me.]
-----

Another correspondent wrote:
Sorry to hear this, Ravi.  My best wishes are with you.  I DO know how it feels to be slandered.[heart-break icon].
-----

I (Ravi) responded (slightly edited):
Thanks for your sympathy, --name-snipped--, as well as your best wishes.

What slander I have gone through pales into insignificance in comparison to what you have gone through.
-----

Another former student wrote:

Dear Ravi Sir

There were two courses in my MTech that I believe helped me most in getting a job after MTech; 'Programming in the Unix Environment' and 'Unix Network Programming'. These were lab courses that were taught by you at SSSIHL. I recollect that one of my job interviews at a MNC was completely based on programming in the Unix environment. The hiring manager who interviewed me was a Unix-aficionado and must have been impressed with my Unix knowledge and I was hired. I also know as a fact that most of my classmates were benefited by the very same courses and other lab courses that you taught.
I am grateful for the seva you did at SSSIHL that benefited so many students including me.
------

I (Ravi) responded (slightly edited):

Thanks for the kind words, brother --name-snipped--. I recall that you had mentioned something similar earlier and that I have published that earlier comment of yours elsewhere.
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A mail response of mine and a Facebook chat response of mine are given below in edited form:

One of the great learnings for me from my experience in Puttaparthi ashram system is that jealousy is a major human weakness that is very much alive in ashram systems. Further, Hindu scripture has many accounts of jealousy between Rishis!!! Perhaps the most famous case is the jealousy that Vishwamitra had towards Vasishta as Vasishta was referred to as Brahmarishi whereas Vishwamitra was referred to (including by Vasishta) as Rajarishi (if I recall the details correctly). That incensed Vishwamitra so much that he wanted to kill Vasishta but that attempt to kill Vasishta led to a transformative experience for Vishwamitra.

Even Shirdi Sai Baba has talked about his beloved brick which was thrown at him when he was a young disciple of his guru, by other disciples who had become jealous of the guru giving a lot of importance and praise to Shirdi Sai Baba (when a young disciple). If I recall correctly, the guru showed a lot of concern and love for young Shirdi Sai Baba when he came to know of this incident, and then sent him away from the ashram for his own safety! Shirdi Sai Baba was very attached to this brick, and when the brick broke during cleaning work done by his servitor Abdul Baba, in the Dwarkamayi masjid, Shirdi Baba was heart-broken and indicated that his mortal frame would be given up shortly, which is what happened!!!

I now think that some people in decent positions in society are narcissistic type people, including among talented scientists and academics. After having experienced what I did from the three administrators in the Sai university,  I now view all three of them (the ex vice-chancellor, the then and current Registrar, and the then dept. HOD) as suffering then from varying degrees of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (don't know how they are now). Perhaps they have a different story to tell about me. I very much wish they put out their versions but so far they have stayed silent. Who knows maybe my behaviour then towards them was also inappropriate, though I don't think I did anything grossly inappropriate. I did show my irritation to the HOD and Registrar at their unethical behaviour but that's acceptable, in my view.

Private institutions (educational as well as other institutions) in rural India tend to easily become a breeding ground for such narcissists, as the organization culture is very dictatorial and everybody is expected to follow orders of bosses. Open criticism of bosses is unacceptable in such a culture and so there is a lot of behind-the-back criticism instead, some of which is vicious.

My experiences have taught me the great value of democracy and free speech (which, very importantly, includes open and truthful criticism of anybody). If I had not been brought up in quite democratic Bombay (and surrounding areas) and had not had significant exposure to thriving modern democracies of the Western world, particularly, USA, then like most people employed or offering free service in rural private institutions in India, I would have either allowed myself to get bossed around by the HOD (and Registrar and vice-chancellor) and do what he (they) asked me to do, or I would have quietly quit, cursed them privately, and then either left Puttaparthi or joined some other private institution in rural India whose bosses I found to be more conducive to me. This is how life is for most people in rural and semi-urban India! And there have been pathetic cases that I have seen and heard of, where some persons who, even though they were financially dependent on their salaries, rebelled against private institution bosses in rural India, for injustice meted out to them, due to which they were thrown out. Then they struggled to get another job and went through some very bad trauma in their personal and family lives, before they managed to relocate elsewhere and got some decent living.

Abuse of power became rampant in Sai institutions in Puttaparthi, including the Sai university, in the immediate period (say, one to two years) after the Mahasamadhi of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, which is when my problems with the Sai university became acute. Earlier there was fear of a harassed person approaching Bhagavan with a letter during Darshan, which Bhagavan could accept and ask questions about. So that fear kept people in check. In my particular case, if Bhagavan was in physical form, one letter from me to Bhagavan about the HOD harassing me for students' and my involvement with Bhagavan's pet project then, Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini (free online school portal following Sai system of education), may have solved my problem. If Bhagavan had personally asked the vice-chancellor to support me on the project work the HOD would have backed off! But how dramatically things changed in a matter of a few months after Bhagavan's Mahasamadhi!!! I had a somewhat close view of how HUGE POWER VACUUMS can attract all kinds of power-craze and powermongering behaviour. It was scary, really.

And now (August 2016) as I am studying the current USA presidential campaign, I see that allegations are being made against one candidate of being a narcissist. The presidency of the USA is perhaps the most powerful position in the world, militarily as well as in terms of influence over world economy. Due to my experience of narcissists and powermongers in the Sai university, I can well imagine what damage a narcissist USA President can do to USA as well as the rest of the world, by forcing or trying to force his/her worldview on USA and the rest of the world.

--- end my mail response ---

--- start my Facebook chat response ---

You see the concerned senior faculty is known to me and that is why it hurts more. If it is some unknown person it is easier to dismiss the slander.

One brutal truth of some parts of Puttaparthi ashram (and perhaps many other ashram systems) is that incompetent people feel threatened by competent people.

The only way for the incompetent people to cut down the rising competent people is to play dirty politics including slander behind the competent person's back.

My writing about these matters is also a kind of guidance for current and future spiritual aspirants who join an ashram system. Those who read such stuff of mine would be better prepared to face such matters, and perhaps even avoid getting embroiled in such matters by not being too trusting of all elders in an ashram system.
--- end my Facebook chat response ---

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