Teacher of the teachers: Prof. Balaram remembers Prof. Kumar Vyas

By Prof. S Balaram

My dear teacher Kumar Vyas passed away on 25th March.

Hardly a fortnight ago when I met him, he had enthusiastically showed me his latest book. I was amazed because he was too frail to get up from bed and was using a white board to communicate due to too frail hearing and speaking facilities. What a love to teach!

The word “Adi guru of Design” fits him well because he was the teacher of many teachers of design such as me. Design education in India started with Kumar Vyas and Dasarath Patel. Most of the design teachers in India are either his students or his student’s students. Four generations of teachers could be seen together when in 2006 he came to DJAD to teach his favourite course “History of Design” in his own “Landmark method”. It left a mark on us.

For me, he was a great guide to learn how to make a person learn, in such a gentle cajoling way. About half a century ago, when I made my life’s biggest decision to leave a lucrative engineer job and to jump into this crazy, confusing, un-heard career called Design and stay back as student at NID; it was due to Kumar. He was such an inspiring human being. The rest, is history.

It is said that parents give us life; teachers give us living.

To say my relation with Kumar is more than a parent; is no exaggeration. Many people do not know that as a “hungry young man” I, as NID student of 60’s survived due to him. In those days there was no canteen nor restaurant in NID campus or anywhere nearby for meals. Kumar used to stay in the campus guest house and generously invited me and I used to land up every so often to have dinner prepared by Rashmi. How can I ever forget that? There were no hostels and I used go walking to NID. Kumar used to come on his Vespa scooter and if he finds me on the way, always gives me a ride. I could never imagine a head of school doing that to a student.

Advancing age never affected his work output and his two passions – Teaching and writing. NID’s first publication was his “Design and Environment” which continues to be read even today. It was telecast as film modules on Doordarshan TV as nationwide class room series. He was prolific writer in a country where Design writing is so rare. After his retirement and research chair at NID, CEPT (Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology) offered him Emeritus Professorship and he wrote and published there his magnum opus “Design the international movement with Indian parallel”.

His other major achievement is the establishing and mentoring Institute of Design at MIT in Pune.

On every teachers day each year, many of my students send their love and gratitude to me and I feel all that multiplied I owe to my own teacher Kumar. And I call him to convey my love. If there is any good in my teaching it is all because of him.

I do not know what to do now as my own teacher is no more.

I find solace in my firm belief that he continues to live in every good Design teacher!


Posted on 28/03/2017