An Eye for a Talent

When the Industrial magnate, G.D. Birla (1894-1983), was thirty years old, he received a letter from an unknown student in Calcutta. This is what the student, in an informal and forthright manner, had written:

If only you can help me with an amount of Rs 22,000 for the purchase of a special type of instrument which has to be imported, I may assure you that I may be able to get the Nobel Prize for my discovery.

The effect of this appeal was immediate. Mr. Birla replied to the student’s letter at once, enclosing a cheque for Rs. 22,000. With this amount the student ordered the instrument he needed from abroad and carried on with his research. His estimate proved correct. When the results of his research came before the public, he won such acclaim that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for science.

This student was the very person who later became known to the world as Sir C.V. Raman. When he had won the Nobel Prize and been knighted, his brilliance was appreciated by one and all. But to appreciate his talent when he was just an ordinary student, when all his greatness was still hidden in the future, was an extremely difficult thing to do, yet G.D. Birla did it, and that is why his name is high on the list of the architects of modern India.

This quality displayed by Mr. Birla, not only raises individuals to greatness; it also has a great part to play in the national uplift. If there are appreciative and sympathetic people like Birla in a nation, one can rest assured that the talent of its youth will not die out. Talented young people can hope to be provided with all they need to cultivate their latent potential. But if there is no one who appreciates talent in this way, then the only people to advance themselves in society will be those who happen to secure some high official position; and clearly no nation can have more than a few such positions to offer.