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Old boy opens purse for IIT

Rs 52 lakh for Kharagpur tech school’s Academy of Classical and Folk Arts
Mukund Padmanabhan has donated Rs 52 lakh for the Academy of Classical and Folk Arts of the institute.
Mukund Padmanabhan has donated Rs 52 lakh for the Academy of Classical and Folk Arts of the institute.
Telegraph Picture

Subhankar Chowdhury   |   Calcutta   |   Published 25.11.19, 08:37 PM

US-based alumnus Mukund Padmanabhan has donated Rs 52 lakh for IIT Kharagpur’s Academy of Classical and Folk Arts, an offbeat field in an institute recognised for its technological and scientific pursuits.

The academy — set up last year as the Centre for Classical Arts in collaboration with classical musician Ajoy Chakrabarty — archives teaching methodologies of Indian classical and folk music.

The institute has earlier received donations from alumni for setting up schools in fields such as telecommunication and management.

Shiven Malhotra, an IIT alumnus’s son who works in the field of strategic investment in San Francisco Bay Area, had last year donated Rs 50 lakh for the arts academy.

Padmanabhan — who had passed out of the Kharagpur institute with a BTech in electronics and electrical engineering in 1987 and did his masters and doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles — runs Guru Krupa Foundation, a New York-based charity that supports social, educational and cultural initiatives.

“He recently signed an MoU with his alma mater pledging his contribution for the arts academy,” said an official of the institute.

“The organisation I represent, Guru Krupa Foundation, has a charter of promoting acquisition of knowledge, preservation of knowledge that we have already acquired in the form of our cultural heritage and also helping the disadvantaged in society,” Padmanabhan, who specialises in statistical financial modelling, wrote to Metro when asked about the reason for supporting art and cultural initiatives.

“Support for the academy of classical and folk arts aligns well with this charter. Besides IIT Kharagpur is my alma mater and it gives me great satisfaction to be able to give something back to the institution that laid the foundation for my professional life”.

Statistics reveal that the IIT has been a torchbearer in reaching out to alumni, who have contributed generously to give something back to their institution.

It had started on a larger scale with Vinod Gupta, an India-born American businessman, investor and philanthropist.

A 1967 graduate, Gupta had donated a seed fund of $2 million to the IIT to establish the Vinod Gupta School of Management, which ranks among the tier-I business schools in India.

Gupta, who had graduated in agricultural engineering, visited the IIT in March to hand over a cheque for $1 million to create a chair professor.

Ajit Jain, who heads the US-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s insurance group, had in July 2017 donated to

the IIT an unspecified quantity of his stock holding in employer Warren Buffett’s conglomerate.

Capillary Technologies Ltd, co-founded by alumnus Aneesh Reddy, who is also the CEO of the company, had in March last year donated Rs 5.64 crore to the institute to set up a centre for excellence on artificial intelligence.

An official of the institute said former students had been engaged with the alma mater in various capacities.

“The US-based IIT Kharagpur Alumni Foundation offers every year scholarships to 14 students who are selected for summer internship at top-notch universities abroad,” the official said.

As part of an offbeat venture, the IIT had collaborated with classical musician Chakrabarty in April 2018 to set up the Centre for Classical Arts, which would record and digitise masterclasses on Indian ragas.

Then IIT Kharagpur director Partha Pratim Chakrabarti had said the institute would fund the project but external funding was welcome.

“We are happy to get external funding through our alumni,” said the official.

The Academy of Classical and Folk Arts will offer training in music, fine arts and performing arts, and also introduce credit courses in the form of electives and micro-specialisations.

“We are thankful to Mukund (Padmanabhan) who has come forward to patronise this initiative. This new pedagogy in teaching and learning these classical and folk art forms will go a long way in preserving the core fundamentals of the traditional art form,’ said Subrata Chattopadhyay, dean, alumni affairs, and Avinash Gupta Chair Professor at the IIT.

The donation from Padmanabhan would be spent on building a music auditorium with digitally enhanced learning environment, conducting thematic workshops on classical and folk arts and engaging teaching fellows.

The IIT Kharagpur Foundation in the US has been actively working towards bringing more alumni towards this initiative.

“We are proud to bring alumnus like Mukund Padmanabhan in active engagement with their alma mater,” said Ron Gupta, the president of the foundation.

What would be his message to the young alumni?

“I am sure most alumni will agree with me that an IIT education is special — it puts students immediately into an elite club that gives them an advantage.... Additionally, this education is provided practically free. If one is able to leverage this opportunity into material success later in life, then it only seems right to give something back,” he said.

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