Personality of the Month

Prof. R. Venkata Rao

The Vice-Chancellor National Law School of India University, Bangalore, Professor R. Venkata Rao’s philosophy – “Passion for what I do and compassion for whom I do,” is simple yet profound. More of a God loving than God fearing man, he asks, “I believe in God, but how can I love God whom I cannot see and not love humans who I can see?”

It was this love for humanity that has led him to see opportunities which would serve to gain better education for the ‘amazingly talented youngsters’ as he himself calls them. A voracious reader of philosophy he quotes Aristotle to say “When God and teacher stand before you, bow before teacher because he has shown you God.” His reverence for education has seen him steering the destiny of National Law School Bangalore for the past five years – a position he feels blessed to be in.

Such transformation in erudition in law was born out of keen observation. “India has the distinction of brilliant lawyers not because of law colleges but in spite of law colleges,” is Venkata Rao’s take on the situation. Yet, giving due credit to those who have contributed in establishing National Law Schools, he says that the revolution in the teaching of law that establishing of these institutes has brought about has been possible because of the unstinted support of the Bar Council and Supreme Court Judges.

Even while this luminary paves an easy path for others, his own journey has been far from easy. Born in a large joint family in Beherampore, Orissa, he was the oldest of his eleven siblings — his youngest brother being born the same year he finished his Masters, in ’78. For Rao, taking up the stethoscope would have been easy. “Having been born into a family of doctors I would have probably taken up engineering or medicine but for my father having told me that I had the gift of articulation,” remembers he. Having completed his under graduation in English, he then chose to pursue his Masters in English during the day and LL.B. through evening classes. His sheer brilliance stood him out as he topped in both courses.

Wanting to be under the tutelage of Professor B.S. Murty he was inspired to pursue Masters in Law at Vizag. During his days in college, Kurukshetra University used to have all-India moot court competitions and Venkata won top prizes in all these competitions. “In fact I helped my college bag the first prize for three consecutive years,” Venkata reminisces. Incidentally this also became his reason for wanting to join in academia.

Unknown to him at the time, his years in academia were to continue. An opening for a lecturer in Vizag and responsibility towards family guided him to take up the post. Moreover, his father developed the fatal Hodgin’s disease. Yet, he recovered and went on to live till 2007. In his words, “My father was also an astrologer, thus I fondly call him a combination of microscope and horoscope.” As a result, Venkata decided to stay in Vizag and carry on with his stable income. Nonetheless, he is the least regretful of his decision. In fact he says: “Soon teaching became a passion and I continued in the same place from 1978 to 2009 and went on to become Dean.”

While his father’s hobby lay in astrology, his mother was a Carnatic music exponent. Remembering his mother’s feat he says: “She was a performing artist and would be Sage Narada in mythological plays.” His mother used to narrate Meghasandesham to him and thus he gained knowledge of the theory of music. “I love listening to music while reading,” he says about his hobby. But music is not the only thing that makes her son respect her. Her strong ethical principles found her giving talks on ethical principles and canons on broadcast radio. Being grateful for the teachings he received, he says. “She taught me that which unites is dharma (religion) and that which divides is adharma (non-religion).”

So as one might see it, he was united by fate to Kamla in ‘79. Their two sons, Prasanna Kumar and Pawan Kumar are Software Engineers. “After both boys were settled in Bangalore I decided to give wings to my dream, “says Venkata talking of his move to Bangalore and of course NLS, from Vizag.

Finding his strength in his family and work, the very content Vice-Chancellor goes on to say: “Standard of living is important but more important is standard of life and life is more important than livelihood.”

Here is a man who has certainly lived his thoughts!

We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin; LexisNexis. The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in hardbound is priced at `5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C 27 Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001.

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