H Narasimhaiah was a freedom fighter and a noted educationist. He was a person who truly believed in the philosophy of ‘simple living, high thinking’; an idea that he practiced till his very last breath.
His Early Days and Youth
H Narasimhaiah, or HN as he later came to be known, was born in a small village in the Kolar district of Karnataka. His father was a school teacher and his mother worked as a laborer.
The village school did not have classes beyond eighth standard, and the young HN came to Bangalore in a bid to continue his studies there. He was enrolled at National High School, an initiative of the National Education Society (NES) that had been set up in 1918.
HN later studied physics at Bangalore’s Central College. Around this period he also became involved in the 1942 Quit India movement, which led to his arrest and imprisonment. After spending a year in prison, HN got back to studies. He finished his Master’s course and became a lecturer at National College, another NES initiative.
His Further Education and Achievements
After spending over ten years as a lecturer at National College, HN went on to do his PhD in nuclear physics from Ohio State University. He was later appointed as the Principal of National College.
Some years after that, he was chosen to be the Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University. The university’s sprawling campus off Mysore Road owes much to HN’s vision and zeal. Among his many contributions to the university is the Centre of Gandhian Studies.
The rest of HN’s life – after his stint as Vice-Chancellor – was spent in nurturing the growth of NES. He did the same with utmost sincerity, always ensuring that the original values and ideals of NES did not fall prey to commercial interests.
His Way of Life
HN remained a bachelor all his life, living in a sparse room within the premises of National College. He was always dressed in a simple dhoti, shirt and cap – all in white.
HN was an atheist, and he was also often described as a rationalist. He was known to speak out against the so-called ‘god men’ and the ‘miracles’ that they claimed to perform. He was part of a committee that launched an investigation against the claims of Sathya Sai Baba, a very controversial one at that.
On the other hand, he was instrumental in organizing a number of science-related seminars, lectures and other activities that were likely to inculcate a scientific temperament amongst students.
HN was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the government of India in 1985. He passed away in 2005 after a prolonged illness, and his death was met with a wave of grief from across the state of Karnataka. He was cremated at Hosur with state honors, and special prayers were held in National High School and College.