19 Jul 2017 20:02 IST

Great Lakes celebrates Bala @ 80 and B-school @ 13

Brilliant fireworks lit up the night sky, dancers on stage performed with great gusto

Students belted out semi-classical, bhangra, fusion, hip-hop with singers belting out songs both in English and Hindi. A students’ band sang the 1977 classic Hotel California. A traditional Indian folk group all the way from Rajasthan also performed.

You would think Friday, July 14, was the annual student fest at the Great Lakes Institute of Management’s campus, 50 kms from Chennai. The festivities were on to celebrate founder Bala V Balachandran’s 80th birthday. Dr Bala established the school in 2004, first in makeshift buildings in the city, till the new greenfield campus got going in 2009.

Great Lakes had laid out the best for the evening. A walk-through a tastefully done exhibition of Prof Bala’s life in pictures took this writer to the main entrance of the B-school, where a lit-up tranquil statue of Buddha greets you. Beyond that, in the large amphitheatre, were the celebrations that lit up the evening.

After an invocation by well-known Carnatic musician Gayatri Girish, an exclusive signature tune composed for the event by music director and film maker James Vasanthan was played; a commemorative MyStamp of Prof. Bala was released, a video documentary on Prof. Bala’s life was screened and a book titled Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man was released. The book captures the vision of Prof. Bala in the revival of Indian education, especially higher learning and ways to recreate an eco-system that nurtures a Silicon Valley kind of set-up in India.

A long queue (there were over 1,000 people at the venue) of staff, students, alumni, guests formed to go up on stage to felicitate Prof Bala, who started Great Lakes at the ‘retirement’ age of 67, after a quintuple bypass, as he often says.

A visibly moved Prof. Bala told the assembled Great Lakers: “I am humbled by all the love you have shown towards me. It is because of every one of you, I am here and Great Lakes is here. This only motivates me to work more.”

The theme of the event was ‘Sarvajna’ (denoting the all-knowing Lord Krishna). “He is a Guru, strategist, thinker, catalyst and a transformational leader. Prof. Bala plays all these roles and excels in it. So this theme was chosen,” said a spokesperson for Great Lakes.

The energy that Prof Bala exudes in his 80th year is exemplified in this comment this writer overheard made by P Murari, the senior IAS officer who retired as Secretary to the President in 1992, and is well over 80 years himself: “Bala, I want to be around to celebrate your 90th birthday!” And, they both had a hearty laugh!