This Day That Age: Balsu passes away…

It was February 12th of 1998, when our beloved Physics teacher, Prof Balasubramaniam, fondly known as Balsu passed away. Even for those miniscule 2-3 months that he taught us (we were in the batch where Ananthan handled the ~third part) — the Vanavani batch had been exposed to more of Balsu — he left quite an indelible impression of himself and his subject(s) on our mind. 173 students packed into that matchbox of a classroom at Sathiyamoorthi school was a truly (un)forgettable experience. His words “Am I right” resounding across the class, his wonderful handwriting, fantastic examples, “Walking is a series of forward falls”, inertial acceleration, normal reaction ….

He was one of those wonderful perfectionists, very strict as well. He was very nice to the parents though. Any number of his quotes come to my mind: “What is thisangle?”, “What about the xxth problem” (when all power had failed in Sathiyamoorthi) and we were sitting in a neighbouring class. Balsu believed you could see and discuss a problem even without light. He did set high standards in everything. Though he always had the image of a hard taskmaster, he was quite considerate several times; I remember him being quite soft with me despite a 10/35 in the first test, grinning “You must improve Sir!”. I remember my cousin (a year senior to me; hence seen more of Balsu) quoting his sarcastic remarks on students getting zeroes, about how great scientists world over were struggling to reach absolute zero!
He was quite an arrogant man, but commanded respect unlike many others. You could put that he was rightly proud. I remember vividly a class, when the student sat all over, right until the blackboard, affording precious little space for Balsu to walk around. He came in, ordered us to move once and when we failed to create sufficient space with our half-hearted efforts, he announced that he’d be cancelling the class. There was a huge commotion that followed and space was created out of nowhere for Balsu in the front, as he walked back into the class triumphantly, saying “That is Prof Balasubramaniam. See, you have moved atleast 12 (~) cm from where you were initially”. :D. More famously, “IIT is not the be all and end all of life. I am not from IIT”.

“Now comes the arduous task of taking the attendance”, in the very first class. I can’t just forget his derogatory remarks on a guy — supposedly(!) my namesake — A Gaarthik — “What bloody numerology, I say!”. Another unique thing about Balsu was that he’d always finish the class before time, giving us enough time to grab a puf from Little City (the bakery down the road) and run to KSR’s Saturday evening class 😀

I wonder if anyone has a nice snap of Balsu and could send it over; I have a very dilapidated one, cut out from a 1999 newspaper.

It was indeed a major loss to the student community, when Balsu passed away. But he had already inspired many a young mind, both with his personality and physics!


6 thoughts on “This Day That Age: Balsu passes away…

  1. Karthik,

    This is Ashwin here, and I am Balsu’s second son. I bumped into your article and enjoyed reading it…Brought back a lot of nostalgic memories for me. I appreciate and still am amazed that this is how people feel about him 11 years after he’s been gone…

  2. Hi Karthik, thanks for posting your memories about prof. balsu. I had the fortune of attending his class & must record another quality of prof. balsu. He did help deserving students financially by not taking fees from them for attending his classes. I am one of those students. I still remember he called me by his side & told me that if I am unable to pay the fees, that is ok. I still remember those moments vividly in my mind. Prof TSR who taught maths was another gem of a person who taught me without taking fees, as I could not afford.

  3. Hi Ashwin – I attended classes from 92 – 94 and I still cannot find a perfect teacher as mr balsu. Even today I was discussing about how to create a high performance team and was telling them how a part time teacher had such a profound impact in my life.

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