When speaking of his seminal contributions to science and mathematics, Sir Isaac Newton had remarked: "If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."
In the course of our work at Azim Premji Foundation and University, we have encountered some of the greatest minds that the world has seen. During our decade long journey of working towards a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society our thoughts and actions have been deeply influenced by intellectual giants like Gandhi, Dewey, Tagore, Montessori, Krishnamurti and many others. We are fortunate to have learnt from the best teachers.
“People and Ideas” is an initiative of the Azim Premji Foundation and Azim Premji University, in which we attempt to explore the ideas, lives and works of the many social reformers, artists, scientists, philosophers and educationists from whom we have learnt so much. During this process we hope to create a platform to understand, engage with and discuss the ideas that have fundamentally shaped our vision and philosophy.
We believe that these ideas and the people behind them should be made accessible to a wider audience in interesting and exciting ways. If a parent appreciated how Tagore’s sufferings as a child at the hands of his schoolmasters are reflected in the story “Parrot's Training” (Tota Kahini) would he perhaps be more tolerant of his child’s reluctance to memorize reams of history text? Would a village school teacher who truly understands Dewey’s philosophy of keeping “theoretical work in touch with the demands of practice” be able teach her students what dignity of labour is all about?
We don’t know. But we do believe that the lives and thoughts of such luminaries can influence attitudes, encourage reflection and catalyze change in the minds of people and the societies that they are a part of.
As part of the “People and Ideas” initiative, we will develop content in different Indian languages and in a variety of formats that increase appeal and accessibility to the larger community. We will explore various media like films, books, music, graphic novels, the Internet, theatre and others to engage with parents, teachers, teacher trainers, educationists, civil society and media.
We begin by attempting to explore the life and works of three stalwarts, who have deeply influenced us – Badal Sircar, David Horsburgh and Rabindranath Tagore.
We invite you join us on this exciting journey of discovery.