He may be 71 years old, but Raghunath Anant Mashelkar’s memories of his childhood are as vivid as yesterday. At three, Mashelkar and his parents left their hometown, Mashel in south Goa, to move to Bombay in search of a better job and higher income. But just three years later, his father died and his mother, who was uneducated, had to do odd jobs to make a living. Support from his maternal uncle ensured that the young Mashelkar made it to a local municipal school but, as the grades kept rising, so did the odds. In grade 8, he nearly had to drop out of school as his mother struggled to put together ₹21 for his fees. That was the first time Mashelkar got a taste of philanthropy — a maidservant, who resided in the same locality as the Mashelkars, paid his fees.
A few years later, his friends pooled in ₹200 for his college admission after he stood 11th among 135,000 students who appeared for their SSC exams in Maharashtra. But Mashelkar realised the true power of giving when he got a helping hand in the form of a Sir Dorabji Tata Trust scholarship, for ₹60 a month for six years. “I would have had to quit my education had it not been for the Tatas’ support,” he recalls.
This was more than a mere doleout. What followed was an intense session that placed emphasis on personality development.
“Having studied in a Marathi-medium school, my English was far from fluent. But an elderly Parsi lady, at behest of the Tata trust, helped me with the language. We [the awardees] were taken around several art galleries and museums to open our eyes to history, culture and literature. There were sessions for developing our debating skills. Being naïve, I would keep interrupting — I was the worst of the lot — but subsequent coaching and guidance helped me.”
Mashelkar paid back in spades that investment of time and money. An eminent scientist, he went on to become director-general of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, and is currently the president of Global Research Alliance, a net