Interview by Yash Panchal
Prof. Dr. S. B. Mujumdar is the Founder and President, Symbiosis; and Chancellor, Symbiosis International University. A renowned academic and educationalist, he has received civilian honor many times by the Government of India. He was awarded Padma Shri in 2005 and Padma Bhushan in 2012. He was also awarded Punyabhushan in 2009. The complete list of accolades, far too long for these pages, includes Maharashtra Gaurav Award and the FIE Foundation Award.
Prof. Mujumdar was born on 31 July 1935, in Gadhinglaj, Kolhapur district, Maharashtra. He won a master’s degree in botany with honors and a doctorate in microbiology. He was the Head of the Department of Botany at the Fergusson College in Pune for over twenty years. He has authored a number of books and research papers, all of which are regarded as landmark publications in botany and other sciences. He also served on the Executive Council Senate and the Academic Council of the University of Pune for several years.
With an experience of over 60 years, Dr. S. B. Mujumdar on his experience in the education sector as well as making Symbiosis a global organization for the welfare of students
I have been in the sector for many decades. I was the Professor of Botany in Head of the Department at Fergusson College. I joined the college in 1963 and then I took voluntary retirement. I was there for about 2 decades. In addition to teaching, I was also a member of the Executive Council of Pune University, Member of Academic Council. For nearly 9 continuous years, I was also a Chairman of the of Studies in Botany. I have an experience of university administration as well as teaching.
In 2017, we established Symbiosis which is primarily for the welfare of students. Its main objective was to bring foreign and Indian students together and develop a , brotherhood among them. We started Symbiosis as an International Cultural Center. As foreign students used to have various difficulties like admission to good colleges, accommodation in hostels, homesickness and what not! The most important problem was a problem. They thought that instead of welcoming them, citizens of Pune were neglecting them. They also had a feeling that Pune citizens used to throw red carpet to white students coming from America, France, Germany but they were being and black Africans felt that people here are color conscious. So, we started Symbiosis as an International Culture Center firstly to solve their problems, but more than that, we wanted them to help them during their student days so that when they go back to their countries, they would go with a happy experience.
Initially, we used to celebrate Eid, Diwali, Christmas but even there was no dialogue. So, we thought that why not start education institutions so that foreign students, students from other states of India, and our students from Maharashtra will study together, play together, live together. That is how we started the system but the
basic philosophy of Symbiosis is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and the meaning of Symbiosis is coming together of two different organisms. for mutual benefit.
Foreign students and Indian students will be of different in cultures, nationalities, mother tongues, habits but if they come together, live together and understand each other, they will create a beautiful global Symbiosis. It will ultimately lead to “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” which is our motto. This is how Symbiosis started – first as a cultural center, secondly as an education center. Many people think that Symbiosis was only started as an educational institute but we started Symbiosis as an educational institute to foster the concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”. We thought that higher education has a new role, a very innovative role of promoting world peace through education. I’m happy that we have 55 institutions, we are a deemed university, we have campuses in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Noida, Nasik and very soon in Nagpur. We will soon be in abroad a period of time. We want to be a global organization, producing global citizens.
Dr. Mujumdar on his thought process when he started Symbiosis as Symbiosis was started with an intention of “Home away from home”
Symbiosis was basically started for the welfare of foreign students. I thought that the of foreign students is a great significance for publicity. It’s a beginning of internationalization of higher education. Many countries are eager to help foreign students. America has more than a lakh foreign students. In India, there are not more than 40000 foreign students, but luckily Pune is the favorite destination for international students. So, helping foreign students is promoting international understanding which is our first motive. To make them our unofficial ambassadors of goodwill is the second motive.
If you see, many heads of African countries, Gulf countries were all educated in India. For example, Afghanistan’s Karzai was educated in India. At one stage, China didn’t have even 1000 foreign students. Now they have 5 lakh students. If foreign students are trained, taught and impressed about Indian history and culture, that becomes a soft power for our country.
Advice to students on enjoying stress rather than creating a lot of unwanted pressure on themselves
Students should join a particular course only if they have an aptitude for the course. Merely because MBA gives a job, please don’t join it! Merely because it’s MBBS, please don’t join it! Listen to your own self and then choose the subject. It is true that now that nowadays the competition is cut-throat and competition necessarily breeds stress and strain. There are many students who commit suicide, go into depression. For that, every good university should start emotional well-being centers. They should appoint counselors and provide many other activities like entertainment, sports, cultural activities. Instead of keeping students busy only in studies and examinations, they should also keep them busy in many other extra-curricular activities. That will definitely reduce the stress.
Symbiosis University has changed the entire structure of pedagogy. For example, there are 40% external and 60% internal. To that extent, the stress comes down. If there is only one examination, that too at the end of the year, naturally the pressure is going to be more. We are in a touch with their parents. If some students are found to be having signs of depression, we immediately contact their parents. Some students do substance abuse; we take their parents in confidence. So,
educational institutions must be in touch with the parents so that they know what their wards are doing
In spite of that, there are suicides, there are depression cases. For that, we have opened a different department of emotional well-being. We have appointed and we conduct seminars. For example, we have recently started ‘Life Coaching’, which is a unique course. An American person with an expertise in Life is doing a wonderful job the campus. Other than that, some sort of stress is also required. Everything should not be a bed of roses, some thorns should also prick. When I was a student, I had to undergo stress but at the same I enjoyed it. Experiencing the stress and coming out with flying colors is a wonderful feeling. So, don’t see only the negative side of stress. There are positive sides of stress too.
Goals to consolidate Symbiosis
Firstly, we will stop expansion and will concentrate on consolidation. Every plan has a natural size; beyond which it should not grow. Time has come for us to take a pause. Concentrate, consolidate, try to increase quality, increase performance. So, it’s a stage of consolidation.
Suggestions grabbing the given opportunities for the youth of today
Our young generation is the aspirational generation. They are living in a golden period. There was a stage when few career options were available to us - Engineering, Medicine, Law. There N number of opportunities available for students today. They should definitely seize them with both the hand whether you are MBA, LLB, B.Com, Mass Comm., computer specialist, technology specialist or engineer.
Personally, I feel that whatever your discipline is, they should remember one thing – each student has three different organs. One is the , second is the and third is the . is doing its natural function of controlling nervous system, the is pumping blood 24 hours and stomach is also doing its natural function of digestion of food. Students should try to train these 3 organs of your body to perform some social functions. Imagination and invention are so important because necessity is the mother of invention and imagination is the mother of innovation. Train your brain to think differently, train your heart to develop some compassion.
Can you help someone who is less fortunate than you? Can you help a poor? Can you donate blood to a victim? Can you visit the slums and study their problems? Can you teach one student in a primary school? So, compassion in heart and passion are required. Without passion, you will achieve nothing. My advice is ‘develop innovation in the , compassion in heart and passion in your belly’. If you succeed in doing it, no matter what your discipline is, no matter where you are, you will definitely be successful.
The motivation of working towards “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, the motto of Symbiosis
Personally, it feels that if I don’t work, I will die. If you want to live long, want to enjoy your life, just work. Secondly, mix with the man. In Marathi, we say that ‘ Lokaarth’ – which means people should always do something for the benefit of the society. I also feel that today nationalism is an outdated concern. No country can think of living in isolation. The whole world has become interdependent. Already, whether you do it or not, whether you want it or not, all of us are living in a globalized world.
For example, the is globalized, ecology is globalized. What is not globalized is politics. But a stage will come when there should be a global concept
Globalization is a sure sign of elimination of so many international problems like climate change and nuclear threat
I dream that one day, there will only be one empire, that is a global empire. When there will be a global empire, that will be the realization of our ancient concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”. I keep on dreaming it and personally feel we will one day achieve this wonderful concept of quality education, good education, spiritual education. it can only be made possible through education by colleges and universities.