Some people are inspired and some are an inspiration. And Prof. (Dr.) Mool Chand Sharma found his inspiration in his teachers. Hard working, ethical and someone who truly loves education as much as he loves the goddess of education, Maa Sharda, he has won many awards and held the position of Vice-Chancellor too.
Talking about his life and career, Prof. Mool Chand reminisces about his childhood spent in the streets of Bikaner, Indore and Delhi. There were days when there was no electricity and he studied under street lamps, gave tuitions to his peers, learned English in his teens and had never imagined that he would become a professor of law, member of prestigious committees and enjoy fame in the field of education. He has been a Member of the Law Commission of India, Vice-Chancellor of the Central University of Haryana, Vice – Chairperson of UGC, Vice-Chancellor and Director of National Law University, Bhopal, Registrar and Proctor of the University of Delhi, to name a few important positions.
Amongst the many scholarships and fellowships he has been awarded are the prestigious Senior Fulbright Scholarship, US-India Post Doctoral Scholarship, McSweeney Scholarship from Northwestern University in Chicago and Senior Fellow at the University of Lieden in Netherlands.
A man with many firsts to his credit, in his almost four-decade long career, he has handled profiles connected to monitoring budgets, setting up a new university in Haryana and disbursing funding to other universities too. Along the way, he has contributed many articles and research papers to different universities across India and abroad. He has edited and authored books on law too, including Globalisation, Democratisation and Distributive Justice.
A man who never forgets his humble beginning, he was born to a father who worked as an embroiderer for a living. Work and money were scarce and the family large. Life practically began from scratch for this esteemed professor who polished shoes and sold peanuts in his childhood to fend for the family. Poverty and hunger have been the inspirations for the need to bring about a change. In fact, he wrote his first story, Bhookh kee Dardnak Katha (The Painful Story of Hunger), on this and it was published in the magazine Saptahik Hindustan.
“My father found some work in the royal courts of Bikaner and from there he moved to Jaisalmer, then Indore and finally we came to Delhi when I was in the ninth standard. I used to study in a Hindi-medium school in Indore but here the schools taught in English. I had to learn the language . As both my brothers were school dropouts and my father fell sick, I used to walk to Okhla from our residence in Nehru Nagar to polish shoes and sell peanuts to get some money.” His father was immovable for 14 years, so the teens and early twenties were spent in fending for the family of two brothers, one sister and the parents.
He would give tuitions before school time and after school hours and all through college. And he would walk to the students’ homes for these tuitions, all the way to South Extension from Nehru Nagar and Jangpura, even in the winter. Sometimes, there were not enough warm clothes too. And the monthly earning was Rs 5 and one kg of vegetables. Ironically, the man who learned English so late was teaching English and Mathematics to his peers. “My teachers helped me and they are my ideals. They had groups from whom they would charge Rs 15 per month for tuitions and my earning was Rs 5.”
During his college days in the University of Delhi, he contested for the student elections too. And in his graduation days, he was the president of the law school. Now he might not have the time for storytelling, but in those days short stories and fiction interested him. Law was not a conscious career choice. “My real cup of tea was literature. I had science till graduation. I used to participate in debates and used to compete with Arun Jaitley who was my senior in the university. Everyone called me ‘judge sahib’, ‘vakil sahib’ as I was a good debater. So I enrolled in law and even got a gold medal. But those who know me personally called me swamiji,” he says softly.
As money was short for lawyers in those days, teaching was a more secure source of income. And he needed that stability, so when he was offered a teacher’s job in the University of Delhi, he took it up instantly. Work has been his worship since then, besides the regular prayer rituals at home. His daughter, who is also a lawyer, says on every special occasion, there is a special pooja. In fact, he has always been so engrossed in work that he left the work related to his wedding preparations also to the last two hours.
A shy man, he confesses that he met his wife in college and marriage was never on his mind. But love happened along the way. And he invited only 25 people from his side for the marriage which took place at The Ashok. And as expected, he did not even go for a honeymoon. He has since worked in most prestigious law institutions in the country, namely, the Supreme Court and would end up working till late hours, and seen as one of the eminent lawyers of the country, but has never been caught in the fame trap. In fact, his wife reiterates that he was much stricter with the children as he did not want anyone pointing fingers and talking about misuse of power positions.
There are many stories around his achievements, many paradoxes and many a time he did not expect the rewards of his hard work. And till date, he views it with an element of surprise. He was among the few Indians to get a Doctor of Juridical Science from the Northwestern University in Chicago, US. He had even got a fellowship from Harvard but the university in Chicago admitted him directly for the doctorate programme. For a man who has experienced extreme poverty and fended for the family, even the USA did not leave him starry-eyed. The focus has always been on the goal.
The only break he remembers are breaks for tea and coffee as those are the only drinks he likes to drink in peace. On becoming the Vice Chancellor of the Central University of Haryana in Mahendergarh, he says it was a dedication to his mother as she belonged to the area. And from the inception to the rolling out, he stayed in a single room in a guest house there. He did not take up the perk of a huge house.
He has travelled to Japan, Hong Kong, France, UK, Netherlands and many other countries for conferences and teaching courses. On diversity in education that is so talked about in current times, the good professor states that he handled a large project on Diversity in Higher Education, which involved the USA, India and South Africa. He had identified 25 educational institutions in India to promote the diversity. The grant was Rs 25 lakh for each institution and he had invited 30 Vice- Chancellors for a meeting to take the project to the next level. Actually with the Professor’s storytelling skills, each incident comes to life, so just sitting with him is an education.
Homage to the great educator
—Universal Book Traders
—Law & Justice Publishing Co.