Friday, July 18, 2014

Remembering the Late Prof James V McConnell- Author of 'Understanding Human Behavior'!

Yesterday I got a call from my old Roorkee friend, Prof.Ujjagger Singh Kooner, who had just returned back to Chandigarh after a couple of month's stay with his sons in the USA. [ I had written about our meeting after so many years in Chandigarh during the occasion of his eldest son's marriage.]  

While sharing some interesting episodes of our Roorkee days over phone, he told me that he was going to send me some scanned copies of some old documents of interest to me, that he still keep with him even after three and a half decades.

He was prompt in sending those scans by e-mail. Two were scans of simple invitation cards  that me and my father had sent to him independently. My father sent it from my home town Elanthoor, in the Central Travancore area of Kerala, while I sent it from my work place at Bhilai in Central India.

Now-a-days people spend much money in getting the marriage invitation cards prepared in quite an impressive way by spending hundreds of rupees per card. Way back in the 1980's too, things were not much different, though the spending used to be much less.

I never liked the idea of extravagant spending for marriages. It was my insistence that my marriage invitation should be as simple as possible. And that was what we did during the time of my marriage way back in 1981. I do not know whether I had any samples of those cards with me now. 

My friend sending the scans of both those cards now helped me recall those days and also to publish it here so that my readers could see its simple content for themselves and compare with what they have been seeing now-a-days.

My Wedding Invitation sent by my father

My marriage invitation sent by me to my friends

But the third scan that he send to me surprised me more. It was a letter sent to me and Ujjagger [U.S Kooner] in the address of my Roorkee University Hostel room [G-34, Jawahar Bhawan] by the eminent author and medical researcher of those days, the Late Prof James V McConnell PhD of Michigan University .

Letter from Late Prof James V McConnell

In those days, the vast resource of knowledge through the internet was not available. What we had were the the libraries. 

Roorkee Univiersity ( now Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India) where we were doing our post graduate studies in engineering, had a very good library with a collection of nearly 1,90,000 volumes of technical books in those days (1978-80). Me and Ujjager were regular visitors to the university library. 

It was during one of our visits then to the university library that we got this interesting book, written by Prof McConnell. 

The book was titled 'Understanding Human Behavior'. 

It was neither concerned with mechanical engineering (the engineering stream of my friend) nor with chemical engineering (my stream of specialization). 

It was essentially a text book for medical students, especially those concerned with psychiatry. But the book was written in such a lucid manner that it was much understandable to even laymen like us. 

I do not remember who took the book first from the library. But I remember it as a great and pleasurable reading for curious people like us. It was Ujjagger who suggested writing a letter of our appreciation to the author and we did it jointly.

But we never expected the old American medical researcher would promptly reply us with a personal touch. 

But he did exactly that. Unlike most Indian authorities, the learned western educationists maintained the good habit of replying to people who wrote to them! 

You can visualize that personal touch by reading the letter which I have now included in this page. 

Ujjagger had kept the letter and I am seeing it again now when he had sent the scan of this old letter yesterday. I should appreciate the pains he had taken to preserve these old documents.

Understanding Human Behavior essentially dealt with the hardware of human intelligence-the physical systems of our brain and the nervous system. The professor was good in making things clear at a time when our knowledge about communication systems, memory and artificial intelligence was in its nascent state.

I have been a curious student of human behavior for quite some time. But my study was not for any formal qualifications, but for satisfying my own curiosity.

Now I have got a better understanding of the mechanisms of human behavior, though I am not an expert with its details. 

Now I realize that human behavior has much more to do than just with its physical systems and mechanisms. Human brain is a receptacle and processor of both internal and external stimulus and communications, both physical and spiritual (transcending physical). It is indeed complex, but very very interesting. 

My present day favorite book, about which I have written many times, have fruitfully consolidated my knowledge and understanding of this subject in a broader manner. 

Once you are able to appreciate the mechanisms of human behavior, the whole approach to life changes. 

Life appears no more a bed of thorns, but a mixture of roses and thorns! A mixture of bitterness and sweetness and of great contrasts. You would be able to understand other human beings more sympathetically, even when they are apparent adversaries.

Would you like to give some serious thoughts about understanding the mechanisms of your own behavior?    

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