Prof PV Indiresan (1928-2013)



I joined IIT Delhi as a Post Graduate student in 1975, and that is where I first met Prof Indiresan. But even before he entered the class to address us, I had heard a lot about him. My younger brother, Brig Surinder Singh had been his student twice: first when he joined the first batch of IIT Delhi in 1961 and later when he went there for his M Tech in 1973. He had some very laudatory things to say about him. The School of Radar Studies, which I joined, was said to be his brainchild and we were told that he was a visionary, who always looked beyond the horizon. My association lasted long after my two years in the Institute, and he always proved equal to his name and fame.

Born on 6 Sept 1928, Prof Indiresan was one of the earliest engineers to opt for the ‘electronics’ discipline, which was, until then, a part of Electrical Engineering. He started his teaching career in the University of Roorkee (it is now an IIT) and shifted to IIT Delhi soon after it was formed in 1961. He was later appointed Director of IIT Madras in 1978, and left an indelible mark on that Institute. He returned to Delhi after completing his term there, and then took to serious writing. In his middle age, he learnt a lot about Techno-Economics and was appointed on several committees constituted by the government as an advisor.

During his long and illustrious career, he received several honours  and awards. The list includes a Padma Bhushan conferred on him by the President of India in, I think, the year 2000. He carried these awards lightly on his shoulders, and never made a mention of them. Humility was a hallmark of his persona.

My guide for the project during the M Tech was Prof Bharathi Bhat, and she was a great admirer of Prof Indiresan. In 1996, I was admitted into the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) and after that I saw Prof Indiresan at every seminar and the meetings of the Academy. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was then, the President of the Academy and Prof Indiresan succeeded him.

Prof Indiresan was a soft spoken man, who rarely lost his composure. But beneath his soft exteriors, there was a man who could be as strong and firm as a rock. I have seen him stick to his stand when the people all around opposed him. He was a vociferous opponent of the reservation policy. He believed that the depressed classes should be given good schooling so that they would make the grade to the IIT on their own merit.

Permit me to place on record a few of his pithy words, which come to my mind now:

  • When I asked him whether the bureaucrats accepted his counsel on contentious issues, he said, “They seek the advice which they want, and not the guidance which they need!”

  • One day, he remarked, “Let us face it. Most of the Professors in the IIT are not as good as the students whom they teach!”

  • He was mild with his words. Most often, he understated what he had in his mind. The teaching staff in the IIT resisted ‘feedback’ from the students. Despite the opposition, he instituted an informal mechanism. One teacher, who was unanimously considered incompetent was brought to his notice from various sources. He made a bundle of all the letters which he had received, and sent it to him, with a note: “If such letters had been written about me, I would be a worried man!”

  • In Prof Indiresan’s opinion, if an instructor needed to mark attendance, he had lost half the battle already. He believed that if the teacher was worth his salt, the students would be looking forward to his classes.

  • One day, at a Seminar, Prof Indiresan’s talk got postponed to the after lunch session. The attendance was rather thin, and we were wondering how he would react. He used his wry humor, got on to the dais and said, “I will gladly speak to an audience of one, providing that I am sure that the solitary listener is interested in what I have to say…For all I know, he may be the only one who has been following this subject!” Indeed, by that time more people had trickled in.

Prof Indiresan was of the opinion that a person is not a Brahmin just because he is born in a particular family. He felt that you become one, by acquiring knowledge and wisdom. In the lighter vein, he remarked that all IIT graduates must be treated as Brahmins. By this definition, I qualify to count myself as equal to the high caste priests!

Prof Indiresan passed away in Pune on Sunday, the 24th Feb 2013, where he had gone to chair a session in a seminar. He died like saint, without being a burden on anybody for even one day. In my view, he has attained ‘Moksha’ which is the ultimate goal for us mortals.

The smile on his face in the picture given below shows that at the end his life, he had no regrets.


This obituary is neither complete, nor comprehensive. I think his friends and admirers will tell us more about his life and work.

  1. Baldev Sood says:

    Very well written and expressive of our thoughts!

    I was his student in Roorkee in the first four year batch when Telecom as Elelectronics was known then became a separate branch. I think he was still in Roorkee in 1963 when we graduated.

    He was a great teacher and more than that he was open to real interaction with the students, a concept which was very rare in those days.

    My most respectful tribute to this real Guru!

    Baldev Sood, Telecom ’63

  2. Moreshwar says:

    Dear Surjit,
    Congratulations for the nicely written, precise and comments full of meaning and feelings both.Moru

  3. Bharathi Bhat says:

    Dear Maj Gen Surjit Singh:
    Thank you for sending me what you have written in memory of our Guru Prof. Indiresan.
    For me he was everything; a Guru, mentor, brother, friend, all in all. How can I express the inexpressible?
    Thank you again.
    Best wishes to you,
    Bharathi Bhat

  4. Lt Col H.S.Bedi says:

    Wish there were more like him. Coming from you I can imagine his persona!

    Best wishes,


  5. J Thomas says:

    I have read a lot about Prof Indiresan and I have also read some of his articles. Never had the luck to meet him in person. May his soul rest in peace.

  6. Isha says:

    Such people are an inspiration to all.
    Moreover, having such a person as a teacher is all one could ask for.

  7. Sriram Jayasimha says:

    Dear General,

    I was very saddened to hear through your post of Prof. Indiresan’s passing. He was a good counsellor and gave sage advice. He was fearless and outspoken, not one who would play to the gallery. I remember in particular a convocation speech he made at IIT,M in the presence of Indira Gandhi (on reservation and populism).

    I once met a Sir Davies in LA who was his advisor (I presume in radar). As an Indian, he presumed I knew Prof. Indiresan – he had a very high impression of him.

    People like him are rare treasures – only treasures usually survive us not the other way around.


  8. AVS Manian says:

    Dear General

    I have been reading and listening to Professor PV Indiresan for more than four decades. He has been a source of inspiration. He is a born teacher. He felt the scientific research in this country needed substantial improvement.

    ‘The researcher is like a bird; hold him too tight – he chokes; hold him too loose – he flies away. Protect him from Babus! Every Babu in the Finance Ministry equals a bomb in the hands of the enemy.’

    Thanks for a fine piece on the illustrious son of this soil.

    With Best Regards


  9. jag1t says:

    So well written, I can just imagine the great person.

  10. What a lovely tribute to a man who deserved it so richly.There was, indeed, much more to him than has been written above.

    He had a fertile mind which could churn out PhD projects by the dozen.After, my final project in B.Tech, he made me an offer of a combined M.Tech cum PhD. though such rules did not exist.Had I accepted that offer, life would have taken a different turn.

    Clearly, the most unforgettable teacher in my life!

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