R Balakrishnan

  • It is hard to come across a busy Government Officer. who also actively pursues their love of mother tongue, researches history and is also humble enough to share his knowledge with everyone. One such rare and versatile personality is R Balakrishnan.
  • R Balakrishnan was born in 1958, in Nattham, Dindukkal district. Since childhood, he befriended the Tamil Language and found happiness in exploring its richness and nuances. After finishing school, it was only natural for him to choose a degree in Tamil Literature. Next, he pursued a degree in journalism. During that time he found inspiration in Kamarajar’s speeches. Next, he studied for Indian Administrative Service exams and became an Administrative Officer in 1984. He is the first IAS officer with Tamil medium education to reach such great heights.
  • Balakrishnan’s affinity toward Tamil Language cannot be labelled as just affection or interest; it is much more than that. It is his pride! After becoming an Administrative officer, he was told that if he wrote to the President that he finished his education in Tamil Medium, the President could recommend for a posting in Tamil Nadu. But Balakrishnan turned a deaf ear to that. Asking that would mean that Tamil Medium education is less than English Medium, and that students who receive education in Tamil are less skilled than those who receive education in English. It is an insult to Tamil. 
  • His love for Tamil did not mean that he neglected or degraded other cultures. He loved India and all its cultures and its diversity. When he was posted to Orissa, he showed no disappointment. ‘Why does it matter where I am posted. It is my job to ensure India’s welfare. I will continue bettering India wherever I am posted.’
  • His contribution to Orissa’s development equals that of the state’s CM, Naveen Patnaik. It is a common dialogue in Orissa to compare Naveen Patnaik and Balakrishnan to Arjuna and Krishna on Kurukshetra. If Patnaik is Arjuna wielding the arrows, Balakrishnan is the Krishna who steers the vehicle to the right place at the right time. It is to be noted that Odia, the language of Orissa, gained the status of being a classical language, under Balakrishnan’s administration. Balakrishnan instituted ‘Knowledge Hub’, which trains Government Officers and Political leaders. He arranged for Hockey World Cup Games, Asian Games Athletics, and many more important sports events to be held in Orissa, thus directing the world’s attention to Orissa. He founded a Digital Library to document the history and culture of Orissa. This move gathered praise from an international level. Many such initiatives taken for Orissa’s development can be credited to Balakrishnan. Currently, he is a chief advisor (special initiative) to the Chief Minister of Odisha state government. This was a position offered to him after he retired. Balakrishnan magnanimously refused salary for his service. Such selfless officers with love for the country is what India needs to realise its full potential.
  • R Balakrishnan’s interest in Dravidian studies is rarely paralleled. His efforts and the evidence and documents he had gathered regarding the similarities and links between Tamil Civilization and Indus Valley Civilization have taken us several steps ahead on that issue. ‘Two of India’s greatest undiscovered mysteries are the Indus Valley Civilisation and the ancience of Tamil Civilization. Along with being related to each other, the two civilizations should be considered as the two sides of the same coin. In fact, Tamil Sangam literature starts where Indus Valley Civilization started fading off.’ With such insightful information, Balakrishnan has helped us know more about our origin.
  • The evidence he has submitted in establishing a link between Indus Valley Civilization and Tamil Civilization are unshakeable. ‘Similar to Indus Valley style, Tamil Sangam literature is also categorised as chapters, both were Cosmopolitanism based societies, both civilizations led a landscape-specific pattern of life’ – These were the facts that were released following a rigorous research process. Balakrishnan has also written on the similarities between the architecture styles – things like spacing between two buildings, brick sizes – of Indus Valley Civilization and Keezhadi Civilization
  • Finding Origins of Names is yet another field Balakrishnan is well-versed with. It can also be said that his love for Tamil stems from his interest in researching names. ‘Is ‘Sangam’ a Tamil word? Or does it originate from Kabaadapuram? Where do names like Aattanatthi, Thitthan, Thithiyan trace back to?’ Following such questions, he delved deep into history and became an expert in this field of ancient civilizations.
  • India is basically a land of tribes. Names are a long standing proof of our origins. Balakrishnan feels that researching them might open up many avenues which may lead to undiscovered political systems that our country had. He is also the one who publicly spoke about the existence of calling names and secret names in ancient times. In one of his famous speeches, he says, “Name is not something that should be dismissed easily. It is an identity, a sense of belonging. When we name something or someone, we are establishing a relationship and a feeling of belonging.” This is one of the best theories our society has had in this regard!
  • ‘History is inescapable’ – This is a famous phrase among historians. But it is less-known that the owner of such a phrase is Balakrishnan. He believes that there is no concept of ‘Eternal Truth’ in history. As we dig into an issue, more truths come to light. What is a fact or a belief today may be disproved in the future. Relentless research is the only way to know what really happened.
  • His secret of success you ask? ‘Do not give up what you love, do not start anything you don’t love’. While speaking to the students of Madras Christian College, he said, “A rich person is a person who does what he/ she loves. Even if you promise to give me half of Chennai, I would not give up my research and study tasks.” The thunderous applause that followed his speech is enough testament for the impact he made on the students.
  • With the growing amount of information on the internet, anyone can learn and recite a few points about Tamil. But many forget that the internet revolution is recent in nature, and that still a good portion of knowledge, be it any field, is available offline. Did you know that Tamil is the first Indian language to be made available on press machines? With his extensive research, Balakrishnan gives us such thrilling, less-known facts!