Dr. Geetha Ramanujam

Dr. GEETHA RAMANUJAM, The Edupreneur – A woman with a

A person who has dedicated nearly 54 years of life to education and betterment of society & being adventurous Edupreneur even in her seventy’s ,can by no means be anything ordinary. My first meeting with this extraordinary person, Dr. Geetha Ramanujam, (at that time Geetha Janardhan, as a maiden) was in the year 1975 in National College, Jayanagar, Bangalore where I joined for my Pre University course and she joined as a lecturer to teach us Logic. During her 1st class itself she won our hearts. Our plan to tease the wits out of the new lecturer and boycott the class was aborted by her spell binding lecture. She was a disciplined teacher but a warm, friendly, empathetic person, who was always ready to listen to our problems, personal or otherwise and tried her best to help us sort it out. Her personality as a teacher, mentor, friend, philosopher and guide had a strong impact on me. I was fortunate to re-connect with her after more than 3 decades. By then she had grown into a great personality with her enormous contribution to various fields, particularly education and theatre.

Dr. Geetha Ramanujam, a distinguished academician, Philanthropist and an Educationist par excellence, aspired for wisdom right from her childhood which stands as a testimony for her choice of Philosophy as subject to specialise in. She has dedicated her life to teaching about which she is most passionate. She was born on 17th December 1949, in Mysore, a city known for its rich heritage, history and culture, She was born into a conservative lower middle class family, with4 siblings younger to her. As the eldest daughter of the family she had her share of responsibilities, which was much too huge to handle for a young girl of that age. She would meticulously handle all the household work from cooking, cleaning and washing to tending to her younger siblings! At the end of the day she was left with very little time to study. Yet she never gave up the struggle to perform well in school. Dr. Geetha had twin passions wherein to see herself either as a doctor or as an educator about which she happily says “whenever I had an opportunity to play with my siblings and friends around, though rare, my choice of play was either a
school teacher or a doctor”.

Medical education was her first passion. But She could not persuade as elders in the family objected for her to take up medical education which she got in Hubli Medical College
and not in her home town Mysore. She decided to settle with her another passion as an educator and pursued her Graduation in Maharani’s College and Post Graduation at Manasa Gangotri, all at Mysore. Later additions to her degree were M.A. in English from Bangalore University (external) and Ph, D in Philosophy with the thesis on Ahimsa and Environmental Awareness in Jainism, from Mysore University for which she was awarded Gold Medal. It is interesting to note that basically she had taken up Zoology at the post graduate level. But her close association with the Ramakrishna Mission and Sri S.S. Raghavachar, a professor and philosopher influenced her to change from Zoology to Philosophy, knowing her spiritual bent of mind and her aspiration for understanding philosophy and gaining wisdom. That was a bold step which was taken much against her parents wish. In fact for choosing philosophy as her study
subject her brother commented as “ philosophy bakes no bread” for which her matured answer was “certainly not. But Philosophy bakes my brain with which i can bake anything and everything.” And she has substantiated the same and even in her seventy’s she still dreams of her institution to grow further with much more professionalism. Venturing to establish an educational institution ( in a remote
rural area then) at the age of 60 is beyond one’s understanding. Retired in dec.2007& started her second
innings in Jan2008. Many questioned her as whether she had gone mad to start afresh with no prior legacy of establishing an educational Institution. Also the criticisms were that she would never succeed. Family members also felt that she should take life bit easy at retirement stage and take rest. But nothing could stop her choice as her understanding of ‘Success is Knowing thy-self and Achievement is Persistently attempting to do in what one believes and confident enough’…

The journey of second innings of fifteen years definitely She says “ a painful struggle which is inexplicable but invaluable too. If I look back the growth from nine students to seven hundred & out of which seventy percent are residential students getting education holistically which was my dream, I like to live longer to give myself much more”.. Further she says “ Today society accepts me more than as Principal & administrator served for thirty two years, as Lady, the founder of GR Educational Institutions GREI which I have earned in my evening part of my life.” Of course she says “the struggle for survival which started in 2008 still continues in greater magnitude now. Year by year the capital investment is too high compared to revenue generated to meet the present infrastructure standard & the quality faculty. When I started , this was the only institution & education was still a service to society. But now education is a business where corporate, real estate people, business tycoons & politicians inclusive of the last member of the political community who are very strong in purse, position & power are getting into this. For many of them this is a safe game to convert their black into white money. Every few furlong now in our vicinity one can experience mushrooming of the branded educational institutions giving five star facilities.” Still she says with pride GREI stands out in quality education & if need arises she would invite bigger quality brand to operate for her as her only dream is to see her institution growing though the project is worth crores now. Journey of teaching career started at the age of 20, to teach in a rural college, at Holenarasipur, Hassan Dist. much against her parents will. Her passion was to give education for life which includes living which existed in yester years unlike seen today as education given only for living. She relinquished the opportunity to teach at a college in Mysore and later also refused a well paying Bank Officer’s Job. Her single point agenda was serving the society in a meaningful way. But for the insistence of Dr. H. Narasimhiah, former Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University, and founder of National Education Society, she would not have accepted her post at National College. Thanks to Dr.H.N. Otherwise what a loss would have been for us here! When she announced about her marriage, we were sad thinking that she might quit her job. She married Dr. P. Ramanujam, doctorate in Pharmaceutical Sciences and PG Diploma in Business Management, who is most understanding and supportive of all her activities and proud of her achievements. When I met her at National College it was heartening to see her as the Principal of the college. She had built up a great reputation amongst the students and the management with her invaluable contribution to the field of education and culture.

Her dream of taking education to the rural youth, which was lying dormant, was coming alive, despite this being a Herculean task. Raising funds was a major problem. But Dr. Geetha Ramanujam will never lose heart. She follows principles of Bhagavad-gita and teachings of Swami

Vivekananda. She raised funds selling all her property and pouring all her earnings to this mega project which has given her the satisfaction of educating hundreds of students and moulding them into successful, responsible citizens. GREI is now located in a serene lush green Environment, in a sprawling 6 and a half acres of land in a remote rural place which is away from the crowded & polluted city and ideal for education.

GREI has realized in reality Dr. Abdul Kalam’s quote “learn to dream & you will achieve.” Dr. Geetha Ramanujam not only believed in Charity begins at Home but also followed in pursuit of her passion for GREI. It needs commendable courage for a simple teacher to start GREI with no business history at all in the family & also no surplus capital to invest in the start up venture. Only strength is Swami Vivekananda’s statement- “ Strength is life , weakness is death.. & staunch belief in “Tough times never Last & tough people will last forever” Visiting the GREI campus now, one gets the feel of Shantiniketan in peaceful environment, culture & discipline with outstanding state of Art facilities with every detail attended to in support of contemporary education blend with traditional values. This noble service to education is rewarded with Kannada Rajyotsava award which is highest state civilian award. Throughout this struggle she never forgets to mention the support she received from her family. She aspired to prepare

the present generation to be more speculative and competitive to take up the challenges of life in becoming independent and successful citizens for whom she used theatre and other forms of art. Her acumen as a playwright enabled her to transcend the essence of our value based cultural education.

For this effort she has won several awards, note worthy being, State Natak Academy Award, recognition as a playwright and Direction, for promoting social plays, educative and children theatre, etc. This perhaps was her best contribution to the society. Her messages to the youth in particular and the society in general through directing her own plays, and those of other great playwrights have gone a long way in inculcating the right values in young and adult alike. What she initially started as a hobby, with her involvement in the theatre, has brought her laurels for her active engagement and great achievements in the field. She has written plays for schools and colleges and for rural folk with prevailing social issues and problems. Her musical operas “Dasa Purandara”, having raving reviews, as the General Secretary of a cultural organisation I approached her to stage that performance during our Annual Cultural Festival. That was a magnificent performance and received great appreciation and accolades. The other musical operas written and directed by her are- ‘Nadajyothi Muthuswamy Dikshitar,‘Madhwacharya’s Philosophy’, ‘Devi nadopasaka Shamasastri’ and ‘Ramabhaktha Thyagaraja’. These are an outcome of her deep research in the subject. She was awarded “Artist of the Year” by century old prestigious institution Bangalore Gayana Samaja for this body of work.

She has definite views on the role of a woman in the family which she has highlighted in many of her plays and never admits of any kind of freedom of woman overlooking the family welfare. Her multifaceted personality has drawn invitations from institutions all over the country and abroad alike. Singapore Kannada Sangha – to give lectures on theatre, London Bharateeya Vidya Bhavana to deliver lectures on culture, music and Heritage, the North-West University of California to present paper on Buddhism and Science. She writes regularly in several popular kannada and English dailies and journals, under the ‘Spirituality and Life’ column. She is a resource personality for all programs on Environment, Women, Education, Spirituality, Philosophy and Youth and Values of the Society on various TV channels. Beyond all this she is most sought after as Public Speaker and promoter of Bhagavad-Gita for day to day life.

When I ask her how strength and potential for these varied activities come from, she laughs saying, “There are no limitations to the mind, except those we acknowledge”! Her courage of conviction has taken her a long way in achieving so much within a short span of time. At every stage she has encountered lot of hardships like opposition from family, from villagers when she taught in rural areas, from her colleagues who disapproved of recognition she was getting and her versatility being recognised and rewarded. Yet she was committed to what she chose to do. There cannot be one more person like Geetha Ramanujam, with so much of dedication, determination and great achievement, yet humble and simple and always approachable to everyone. She is a role model, an inspiration and guide to all who want to achieve and be successful, in particular students and women in this highly competitive society. Among the innumerable awards she earned, A few of her prestigious awards are: Vidya Dharini – Contribution to Education, DVG award – literary contribution, India-UNESCO recognition for education through theatre, GARGI Prashasti and Panchajanya award-for promoting spiritual values in the society. ‘Woman of Substance’ title by Rotary, Bangalore.

Harini Raghavan
M A in Psychology, MA in Sanskrit.
General Secretary of Nadasurabhi, a cultural organisation in
Koramangala, Bangalore.
Student of Dr. Geetha Ramanuja