The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay alumni in the United States, described former Goa chief minister, Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar, as a man who believed in simple living, high thinking, and who was an accidental politician.
Parrikar, 63 died March 17 after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer.
Parrikar was the first IIT alumnus and the first Bharatiya Janata Party leader to become chief minister of Goa. Parrikar held the post earlier, too, from 2000 to 2005, and from 2012 to 2014, before joining the Modi government as the defense minister in 2014. He again became Goa’s chief minister in 2017. His degree, earned in 1978 from IIT-Bombay, was in metallurgical engineering.
Uday Nadkarni, an IIT-Bombay alumnus, told indica, “Manohar was a batchmate of mine at IIT. We are all deeply saddened by this news, even though we had feared it for a long time. One thing, I will most remember was his uninhibited love for his alma mater and his soft spot for his fellow alumni. He would beseech us at alumni gatherings to bring whatever expertise we had to the government, and to reach out to him whenever we needed.”
“When he was on an official visit to Washington DC, he passed up an official dinner hosted by a high government official so that he could hang out with a bunch of us IIT-Bombay alumni at a local restaurant,” Nadkarni said.
Another IIT-Bombay alumnus, Vinay Karle, who was a close friend of Parrikar, told indica,”I have had the good fortune of meeting and working with Manuji for a little over a decade.”
Karle said Parrikar was 20 years senior to him but in their very first interaction via email during IITB’s Golden Jubilee in 2008, he put the age and stature gap to rest.
“Every person who came in contact with him noticed his simplicity. I was no different,” Karle said.
During his life in public service, Karle said, he has seen Parrikar as a member of the opposition, as a chief minister and as a ‘Raksha Mantri’ (he insisted on not being called DM or defense minister). Karle added that the power did not affect his simple life and human qualities.
Karle said that when Parrikar worked with him for the Global Business Forum (Goa) in 2015, he rolled up his sleeves as usual and worked like every other volunteer when his contribution was needed. At the conference, he made sure that he spent time with his fellow alumni/alumnae and not in the VIP rooms. According to Karle, as at most functions he attended, Parrikar walked in through the common entrance meant for all the delegates and brought no security with him.
“I have worked with many volunteer-run organizations and he truly epitomized the spirit of volunteerism,” Karle said.
“Parrikar was a technocrat at heart and knew his metallurgy and material sciences like the back of his hand,” he said, claiming that his speech at the GBF could have been easily mistaken in part for a material sciences lecture. Karle said Parrikar was always curious and a lifelong learner despite the time he spent on public service.
“During a dinner at Washington DC in 2015 where a few of his IIT friends celebrated his 60th, birthday, he gave me his gurumantra – कोशिश करने वालों की हार नहीं होती. He deeply cared about IITs and made himself available for many events and at times volunteering himself to make them successful,” Karle said. “I’ve met him in many different cities and circumstances but he was always cheerful and hopeful.”
Karle said when he last met Parrikar in New York where the latter was getting treatment, the discussion was mostly about Goa. According to Karle, he deeply cared about his state and country and though he knew he had little time, Parrikar wanted to continue doing public service until his last breath.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his family in these hours of bereavement. A salute and tribute to a life truly well lived in public service. We will sorely miss him. I will miss a senior, mentor, confidant and a friend,” Karle said.
Silicon Valley based, Shailesh Jayantilal Mehta, a general partner at Granite Hill Capital Partners, LLC, and an IITB alumnus a few years senior to Parrikar described the chief minister’s death as a great loss for India.
“I would call him an accidental politician. This man was too straight to be a politician,” Mehta told indica with a laugh, describing Parrikar as an IITian, who was not only a highly intellectual but was a man of high integrity and very honest.
“I would call him a true leader in the sense that he never was status-conscious,” Mehta said, recalling meeting Parrikar at IITB a few years ago, where the latter was dressed in a simple shirt and pant and had no security guard around him. He had come just with a driver, though he was the defense minister at the time.
Mehta described Parrikar as truly a man of Gandhian status who was amazingly approachable and always smiling.
“Unfortunately, it’s a great loss to the country,” Mehta said.