Remembering and Celebrating the life of Prof. Prabhu G.G.
Yesterday when I received the news of Prof.Prabhu leaving the physical body, I experienced both a personal and professional loss.
I have known Prabhuji (that is how I used to refer to him) since 1975 and the last time I shared time with him at his home in Mysore, was in the early of part of this year(2019).
I first met Prof.Prabhu in a National seminar on Legislation for the mentally retarded held in Delhi in 1975. Following that initial interaction, we worked with Mrs.Vasanthi Pai as part of the federation for the welfare of the Mentally retarded. From 1982 till his retirement in 1995, we were colleagues at NIMHANS, Bangalore . during this period, we worked on a number of initiatives like the Bellary District Mental Health programme. I have had the privilege of working on a number of Government of India comities with him, including the formulation of the NIMH, Secunderabad (now NIEPID) in the 1980’s.
Prof.Prabhu received his education in Madras(now Chennai) and Ranchi. He worked at AIIMS, New Delhi and NIMHANS, Bangalore. His contributions are wide ranged. Some of the most important, I would like to recall, his paper in 1969 about the role of family in the care of mentally retarded individuals, his doctoral thesis on attitude to mental health, his Presidential address on stigma, changing the curriculum and training of clinical psychologist and writings about mental handicap(now Intellectual disability). He was a member of all the ICMR advisory Committees on mental health and a number of Government of India special committees.
What I recall Prof.Prabhu most is his vast knowledge of mental health and general knowledge about how development occurs and the role of personalities and institutions. He was sharp in criticism, lacing with numerous examples from a wide range of subjects to support his viewpoint. Every interaction with him enriched me, even when, it was frequent, we differed in our views. His commitment to make clinical psychology a ‘service/professional’ speciality was his unique contribution.
One of the other special aspects of him as a person, was the way he took on the single responsibility to being up both of his children, following the untimely demise of his wife when he was only in his early 40’s. Both the children are doing extremely well in their chosen professions is testimony to his good parenting.
Prabhu is one of the Eminent Indian Psychologists of the last 100 years of Psychology in India. This is the book title edited by Prof. Brij Bhushan in 2018(Sage Publications)
His life story is narrated by Prof.Ahalya Raghuram( Chapter 40).
In this book in addition to 60 life stories, there is an end section titled, ‘Psychology in retrospect’ which is the best part of the book, where the leaders of psychology answer 6 key questions, relating to progress, leadership, social/community impact and hurdles to growth of psychology.
Three of the excerpts,from the above book, voiced by Prof.Prabhu, illustrates the critical approach of Prof.Prabhu and they are worth recalling:
1.‘[M]eaningful contribution to the programmes of the national level bodies or to the building of national level policies is possible at three levels….icon, group or ad hoc. First, if the subject has well recognised/respected and accepted icons of national/ international repute (M.S. Swaminathan, Verghese Kurien, Raja Ramanna, Abdul Kalam level) the concerned policy formulating authorities on their own do contact the said persons for advice. To the best of my knowledge we did/do not have such a stalwart in the field of Psychology for long though G.S. Bose belonged to the category. I am afraid that from among the best we have in the country those who can be placed as ‘top rate’ (leave alone ‘outstanding’ or ‘rare’) are difficult to come by (no offence meant). So this route is closed to psychology.’’
2.‘Psychology in India lacked towering icons. Psychology has seen that we have assassinated professional bodies and hence destroyed the possibility of collective united action…hence our representation in the policy making bodies is notional (naam ke vaste), ad hoc and hence its ‘voice’ in policy making is feeble and is at the individual level. The representative(s) go/went in at her/his individual capacity like the ‘guest appearance’ made in films and had/have no continuity or a longitudinal involvement for sustainable impact making contribution(s). They did not have much of knowledge about the views of the others and later no infrastructure to back them up to put their views into action and demonstrate its worth. The presence proved to be a good ego trip and a reassurance of ‘self worth’ which in some instances assisted them at the most to get some research funding from the agency concerned or in some isolated instances the establishment of ‘advanced’, ‘model’ centres in place of their work. A statesman, it is said has a vision for the nation and its future while a politician can at best think at most about his village., constituency or the district. Representation of psychologist, to my mind, at the most is at the ‘I, me, myself’ level. It would be at the happiest moment of my sun set years if I am proved wrong and anyone points out the issues concerning the subject or the issues concerning the subject or the profession for which they fought for (even though they might have lost the cause) in the national bodies..……..’.
3.G.G. Prabhu emphasized the need to ‘form a single “Psychological Council of India” to license and regulate the field of psychology as whole’…….. ‘Psychologists refused to evolve a collective voice. Self-centred interests had won. Looking at the present day political scene I wonder whether it is the Indian mind set and psyche and not just that of the psychologists’.
We, mental health professionals of India, will miss him but his contributions will be part of Indian history of mental health. I feel privileged to have known him personally and worked together.
May his soul rest in peace and his children and grandchildren have the strength to bear the loss.