Dr. Kumar Krishen

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Interview with: Dr. Kumar Krishen
Interviewed by: Krishna Vavilala
Date: October 16, 2015
Archive Number:



KV: Good afternoon, my name is Krishna Vavilala. I am the Chairman of the Foundation for India Studies in Houston, Texas. Today is October 16, 2015. We are doing the oral history project for the Indian community of the first generation Indian immigrants who came and settled in Houston since 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
And today we are honored to have our guest Dr. Kumar Krishen, a lead technologist and a scientist from NASA.
Dr. Krishen, it’s a pleasure to have you in this program of the Indo-American Oral History Project.

KK: Thank you so much for inviting me.

KV: Thank you. And this is a project we have done in collaboration with Houston Community College and this interview will be archived in the Houston Public Library’s digital archives. So Dr. Krishen, can we start the interview?

KK: Yes, please!

KV: Very good. Now, I believe you are from India originally?

KK: Correct!

KV: Please tell us your life while you were in India then we will switch to America and at least until you immigrated give us your educational background and family background and anything you want to say about your beautiful State of Kashmir, it’s all for you. Please go ahead.

KK: Thank you so much first of all, Krishna Vavilala. I appreciate this opportunity. Not very many people get this kind of opportunity to explain where they came from and on the way what they have done, and you know, first of all I want to begin this by saying, India is a great nation and so is America. So you are talking about two great nations, and I feel very lucky that I was born in a great nation, immigrated to another great nation where the values of freedom are very important.
Now you ask me how did I come to this country, so I will have to go back a little bit and tell you I was born in a very small village called Chandpura. Chandpura means the place of moon, ironically I have worked on moon project as you know. So, it turns out that after I was born I stayed there up until I got my tenth class; we used to call it matriculation because we were under the English or the British system of education at that time.
So I was lucky, I was in a model school called Shalimar Multipurpose High School, and please feel free to interrupt and ask me questions. And this school was kind of like model school, in fact, one of the things that I must tell you on this interview is my great fortune to put a garland on Pandit Nehru when he was visiting Kashmir with his daughter Indira Gandhi. So he came around going to Shalimar Garden which was next door to this school, Shalimar Multipurpose High School and while going I was selected to do the honor of putting the garland.

KV: That’s a great honor to get selected.

KK: Great honor! Now what is so shocking to me, after being here for more than 40 years it donned on me and my hair raises up when I think about it that you know Nehru used to put that Nehru cap on.

KV: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the India’s first prime minister in independent India.

KK: Correct and fought for freedom and was educated with attorney’s degree from London.

KV: And he came from the same State as Dr. Krishen.

KK: Exactly!

KV: Kashmir.
(00:04:45)

cue point

KK: Exactly! So now I am here with a garland and I am a little boy, I am in seventh grade and not too tall and all that, and he is coming in this open jeep. I remember it like right now it happened a few minutes before. So he is like I am and I am right outside, standing up, and I am reaching only up to his shoulder. So how can I put the Garland? So what Honorable Nehru did, he turned, and I am showing you, and he bent his head like this and I put the Garland. And you know, Vavilala, this you know that Nehru would not bend his head before anybody in the world.

KV: Why should he?

KK: Having fought for the freedom, achieved the goal, extremely highly educated, wrote books about India, the whole India was in love with him and this whole world was in love with him.

KV: Of course.

KK: And this donned on me only 15-20 years ago and that tells you something about me. Here I am a measly little fellow coming from this small village.

KV: No, not really, he is too humble.

KK: Coming from this small village and this happened. So after I graduated from high school with pretty good honors, the only way you could go after tenth grade for higher education is to go to Srinagar, which is the closest city, about 8 miles away shortcut.

KV: From Chandpura?

KK: From Chandpura to Srinagar and I attended Amar Singh College which still is there, a very good college in India, rated very highly, a lot of high-ranking people have come from Amar Singh College, and there I was for four years, and one little thing I will tell you about before I go to my next place in India that is this. When I was in a high school I looked at my teachers and these teachers had bachelors sometimes masters degree, and I was wondering, you know, boy you know, if I ever get that bachelors degree how great it would be.

KV: Now you have got a doctoral degree.

KK: So the principal’s name was Raina and my headmaster’s name, there was a principal, and the headmaster was Kalyan Kaul, I mean, they were so tip-top, you know neck-tie and everything --

KV: Immaculately dressed.

KK: Dressed and talking so sophisticated, I fell in love with this culture of having a degree, right? So, now I reached Amar Singh College. Principal Mahmood Ahmed was a step higher. He was the Principal of Amar Singh College at that time and Vavilala, you have to believe me, he had a hat, felt hat and he had a chauffeur driven car, Ambassador car that he would come in, he was given a State residence by the Jammu & Kashmir Government, so he would come in that car instantly, I fell in love. And I started to think, gee, if I had a master’s degree maybe I would put on a hat, maybe I would be as sophisticated as these professors in Amar Singh College.
We had Tirtharam teaching us physics, it was like I was in a dream world, you know, I am learning about these theories of light, relativity theories, although we were doing very fundamental, learning about mathematics and so on. English is one of the subjects that I took very seriously and graduated.
And Vavilala, what can I tell you about me, I got number one place in the bachelor’s degree throughout Jammu & Kashmir.

KV: Fantastic!

KK: There was only one university at that time, that’s it, and that was Jammu & Kashmir University, headquartered in Kashmir but had a branch in Jammu. Now there are several universities, at least there are two major, one in Jammu and one in Kashmir.

KV: Tell me one thing Dr. Krishen, at that time you were talking about pre-independence time?

KK: Just about independence, just about -- and that’s how Nehru came, that was his first visit to Kashmir after independence.

KV: Now did you ever see the Maharaja at that time of Kashmir?
(00:09:42)

KK: I as a child, when I would walk on the road a car would stop with Karan Singh, Maharaja Karan Singh, the prince who was going to be the king but did not make it to the king; by the way he became the Minister of Culture, Government of India, very important person. And shocking thing, Vavilala, again about me, I have no idea why this would happen. He and his wife would go to a resort place which was on the way was Chandpura and after that it was 6-7 miles his resort in the forest called, Harivana and he would stop and smile at me, that was a treat, this is Karan Singh, by the way I saw him at NASA one time, he came.

KV: I went to his house by the way when he was a minister and also Chairman of the ICC at his house.

KK: Wonderful! Wonderful! So that’s my kind of brush with the prince and this happened 2-3 times while I was going to my school, or coming back from school. Now going back after I finished my degree in Kashmir, so obviously at that time the only curriculum in Kashmir was mathematics and my brother had joined and that had started right that year, 1959, they started a masters in Mathematics and there was one Professor Ali Jan, I will never forget he had come from London to get that degree and again I was shocked here is a person from London, M.R. Puri was the Head of the Mathematics Department and these were stalwarts. So my brother said join, where are you going, it’s very difficult, you have to go to India, blah, blah, but to make this long story very short, I found a really interesting way of leaving Kashmir and that was Public Service Commission, there was one Munshi who was heading.

KV: K.M. Munshi.

KK: K.M. Munshi.

KV: Yes.

KK: He was heading the Public Service Commission. I don’t know you know more about Kashmir than I do.

KV: Of course I watch, yeah.

KK: So he got fascinated with me. I used to go to his office while I was studying this math for a couple of months, he said, no, son, you are going to go for some higher education, maybe engineering, maybe something else, and I will help you. And so he started looking, within three months he came out with this request from Calcutta University that they were looking for one student from Jammu and Kashmir in a discipline called Institute of Radio Physics and Electronics. Under Nehru there were four such institutes and in Calcutta maybe in whole region at that time, West Bengal and all that, this was selected, Institute of Radio Physics and Electronics because there was history behind it. S.N. Bose who is credited with bosons and then you had J.C. Bose, Jagadish Chandra Bose who was knighted by queen. So all this tradition and then the person who founded this institute was Mitra, S.K. Mitra, who wrote a book called ‘Upper Atmosphere’ which got translated in 33 languages within the first year of its publication. So you can imagine what stature this had.
So they would bring about 8-10 students from different areas like South, North, Punjab University, Madras and so on and so forth at that time, and they would give one seat maybe in two years to Jammu & Kashmir and I got to get that seat. So I jumped on the train which was not so easy because first you had to walk then you had to take a bus to Jammu, and then you had to take another bus to Pathankot, from Pathankot you’ve got a train to Calcutta, by the time I reached Calcutta it was --

KV: In those days there were all steam locomotives.

KK: Exactly!

KV: Correct?

KK: I was flat and then I engaged a human rickshaw.

KV: In Calcutta.

KK: In Calcutta to go from this railroad station which was called Howrah Station to institute which was like 4-5 miles, and people, when I reached that college of technology or where the institute, they said, you came in a rickshaw? What do you expect? Do you think that I am a millionaire? I was happy that I could afford this rickshaw, right?

KV: Right.

KK: Instantly things happened. That very instant the Head of the Department told me you are going to go to dormitory; we call it here dormitory, there we call it hostel, and things started to get very good at me.
(00:15:02)
Prof. Bhar was the Head of the Department of institute and he said I have looked at your credentials, you are really outstanding student, we look forward to you, and in the process he even introduced me with this S.N. Bose one time in a function. And we had such a clout at that time that Niels Bohr, B-O-H-R, the person who gave the atom -- structure of atom --

KV: Bohr Theory, there was a theory.

KK: -- correct, and he came and gave a talk, and my Head of Department introduced me with him, how -- I mean --

KV: You are blessed by having met with so many celebrities and outstanding people.

KK: Yeah, it’s just -- I don’t know, there must be something called metaphysical and in Indian terms we call it ‘mahamaya’ and that is what happened in Calcutta, I got two degrees, I got --

KV: What degrees did you get?

KK: I got bachelors in Radio Physics and Electronics and I stood number two, which was a silver medal.

KV: Wonderful!

KK: And then for the masters I got number one place, which was a gold medal, and then I started working under a British Professor, Dr. Griffiths; J.W.R. Griffiths, who was from University of Birmingham and he was under United Nations. If you remember, you remember very well Indian history. Nehru pleaded with United Nations that help us with education, especially technical education. And we were lucky, we got two professors, one professor from Syracuse University, Bachman and after he left then we got this Griffiths, Prof. Griffiths from England, and they were paid by United Nations, they had BMW and everything, I mean it was hilarious.
So I started doing research after I finished masters with Prof. Griffiths and his idea was to take the signals from for example Calcutta, bounce them off from the moon so they can be received in Bombay or Delhi, so we were using moon as a passive reflector. So it was a great idea.

KV: Great idea. Is it not being dong now through the satellites?

KK: Exactly. But because there are limitations with the moon, the moon has its own orbit, you can’t control it, it was visible only few times, so they were on and on, but at that time that was a brilliant idea, right?

KV: Sure!

KK: So I worked on that project, but unfortunately after a few months Prof. Griffiths got called back to England.

KV: Okay.

KK: So we were three students working under him and he took one of the students with him which made sense and obviously I am left with this huge project and Prof. Bhar said you can do it, which was a great compliment but it was not that easy. The knowledge base was not there, the hardware was very difficult to get.
Now, we have in India, incredible progress, we have ISRO, they have launched two satellites that everybody in the world can be proud of, one is this geo-satellites.

KV: GSLV.

KK: No, I am talking now about Mangalyaan and Chandrayaan.

KV: About the Mars –

KK: Mars satellite and I am talking about the moon satellite, both worked perfectly and this is a great accomplishment.

KV: We will talk about that later, about ISRO and NASA collaboration, things like that but first your education, you got your masters in Calcutta.

KK: And then I got this lucky break, lucky break, that one of the students saw this advertisement from Kansas State University and he said you can apply, you have brilliant record and sort of. In fact, he typed the letter and I signed the letter, within one month, I was here because the Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, I think you saw my story, he funded my trip to Kansas State University, so that’s how I came and --

KV: That is to do research or to do post-grad work?

KK: To do post-grad obviously because I had a masters.

KV: Sure. You have a masters already.

KK: So what I did is, I found a little bit of difficulty in terms of the standard of education, the theoretical education in India was great, even the experimental was great, but then I found out quantum difference, little bit of difference in terms of what the instruments were available here at the university. Very high level instruments, you could measure time for example to nano seconds and things like that and so I purposely took a masters degree again and then did a Ph.D.
(00:20:18)

KV: Okay, great, so your Ph.D. is from this country and that the university.

KK: Correct, Kansas State.

KV: Kansas State University, KSU.

KK: KSU, right, we call it Go Wild Cats, we are wild cats of this country, you know. You have the football and we have a very good football team at this time. We had a good basketball team also, go ahead, ask me, I don’t know if I am on the right track.

KV: So you came -- born in Kashmir State, you got higher education in Calcutta, then West Bengal, right, at that time? And in between what year was it when you got your masters?

KK: Okay, masters, I got in 1960, finished in 1963, but you had to do a training like I did with Dr. Griffiths and all that. The rule there was that you shall do at least minimum of three months training or six months, so bottom-line, I got my real masters degree from Calcutta University in ’64, got masters degree from Kansas State University in ’66, got the Ph.D. in ’69, but I did do teaching at Kansas State University as instructor and afterwards as assistant professor.

KV: Okay, we will come back to America, but again, still we want to talk about your Indian experience; education, you already told, and what about -- when were you born by the way in India?

KK: Okay, that’s a good question, and normally I don’t answer that but I will tell you.

KV: No, because ’64 you got your masters, so I thought.

KK: Yeah, so obviously on the paper it’s -- let me think, 1939, but I think I am younger than that, I am serious with you. And the reason for that is, I got to matriculation at the age of 13 and they were not allowing less than 16.

KV: Absolutely, you are right.

KK: So the teachers fazed 22:35 up.

KV: Little bit.

KK: Little bit.

KV: That was very common in those days.

KK: Right, I have crossed 17.

KV: That’s fine. So you belong to Pandit family, right, in Kashmir?

KK: Right.

KV: And same as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Karan Singh and others, outstanding people came from Kashmir State, and they were all, I mean, the pundits belong to Hindu religion; they are the intellectuals of Hindu religion. Can you tell me something about why the pundits have left the Kashmir valley? This is political, but still the reality is that, right now the --

KK: History is history, right? History cannot be ignored nor it can be replaced. So to that extent I give you my compliments because you are doing something that will be archived, right?

KV: Right.

KK: So I have to tell you a little bit about Kashmir, and this might open your eyes also. I didn’t know much about Kashmir until I was in this country and I was visiting England. There is a Trafalgar Square in London and there are exhibitions there.
And because British were in India for more than 150 years, make it 170-180 years, they were very fond of ancient history, you can go back and see, and that’s why they capitalized on taking some historical, you know, like gems, Kohinoor and so on and so forth. But, while I am visiting this Trafalgar Square Museum, towards the end almost before we were leaving, it was closing at 5:00 or something like that and it was almost like 4:30 and I am in this almost last section and suddenly I am seeing Harivana excavations.
(00:24:46)
Like I told you about Nehru bending, this was incredible. I could not believe, this is Harivana? Harivana is like no more than a mile from Chandpura, and it is a -- the hill starts in Harivana, within a mile, less than a mile the hill starts, and there was this Harishchandra, you may have heard, who was in Kashmir. See, Kashmir has been saints’ place and lot of saints came there long time back, and I will briefly talk about that, but going back to this experience I had in London in Trafalgar Square, I am seeing these excavations and they are dating this back to 5,000 years back they had these idols, bhagwatis, goddesses, gods, and this I am seeing and I am telling my wife, she is looking at me in tears, in tears. Because that history, what happened to it? We were a very peaceful place. Kashmir comes from originally the name Kashi, heaven, right?
Great saints like -- hope we will get to talk about Vishnu Sharma who wrote ‘Panchtantra’ came from south, but many people from all parts who were seeking that divine experience came to this place called Kashmir.

KV: Even Shankaracharya.

KK: Shankaracharya, there is a hill name.

KV: Established a peetham there.

KK: Correct! So your question, why did we leave? It started gradually for the last 600 years, ever since the immigration of another culture started and I think you can understand what their culture is. Into first Afghanistan, see at one time Afghanistan was Buddhist, Pakistan was Hindu, all this region, you know, only 2000 years or maybe even less than that, maybe even 1400 years ago all that region was dharmik region governed by dharma, and what was that dharma, and I will be very brief with you.
Pre-Orion there was Dharma, so there was Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, two places that world can see right now, ancient civilization of India.

KV: Even the Gandhari in Mahabharat, the main -- the character, Gandhari, she came from Kandahar in Afghanistan.

KK: Correct!

KV: The present Kandahar, the girl from Kandahar is Gandhari. So we have connections with Afghanistan.

KK: Exactly! So to be brief now you know that whole thing started. The Islamic culture started to come in.

KV: Invasions, they were invasions.

KK: Invasions; but, it was very difficult for pundits especially --

KV: And they were not warriors.

KK: For all the people who followed Dharma when we have been taught from the very beginning. Ahimsa Parmo Dharma; the greatest thing you can do is follow ahimsa, non-violence, right? So now you are looking at pundits who would not kill any being, much less a human being, and so the historic thing goes that there was mass conversion into Islam.

KV: By force?

KK: By force, and obviously it turns out that you will still find Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir have the same last name.

KV: Really?

KK: But, for example, Baba and all that, even today, but of course now, lot more immigration has come. But the end was in 1990 when Pakistan started such an incredible propaganda and infiltrated people, militants into Kashmir. In 1990 they declared complete -- I don’t know how to tell you that anybody who does not belong to Islam must leave. My brother who was a principal, my father was a principal in an elementary school and later on in a middle school, my brother was a principal of a high school, had 50 teachers, one of his teachers got killed by one of the previous students, very bad, and that came in newspapers.
(00:30:05)
My own cousin got shot in the leg, he was also a principal and his name came in the Times of India or Hindustan Times. My point is, it was that. Now, could that have stopped perhaps, but I don’t know what the Indian government's philosophy was, so everybody left, they went to Jammu, of course I was here in USA. I had one brother and that's how it started. So it is difficult to tell, you see what's happening in Syria right now. These are Muslims and they have no place to stay in their home. Now in our case we were not even of the same faith, and we never believed in violence.

KV: So the displaced Hindus from Kashmir Valley, they all moved into the plains of rest of India, but they mostly settled in Delhi area?

KK: I would say all over the world, don't be surprised when I tell you this. It’s a such a small population. Most of them are now in Jammu, those who had such an attachment, didn’t want to even leave, blah, blah, they stayed Jammu which is a part of Jammu and Kashmir State, but then went to Northern India and they were also welcomed in south, you will see Mumbai, Chennai, many other places, you will see in West Bengal, so Kashmir is spread throughout India, but I will agree with you, you will find more concentration in the north.

KV: In the north. Okay. So do you think any possibility of them going back to the Valley to go and live there, take care of their properties or farms, lands et cetera, do you think that can happen?

KK: No. The way I see that it can happen, is if government of India will get very strong and allocate some land to now Kashmiri pundits who want to go back. Example is me, even though I am a US citizen, I have been here more than 50 years; I like to have my retirement there for summer. I can have a retirement home. US citizens have retirement homes all over the world, Switzerland, here, there. So that’s my hope that government of India will get very strong one of these days and say, you have to take these people and here is the land that we are allocating them. It could be hills, it could be – it doesn’t have to be the Valley but that’s how it must start.

KV: Kashmir was always described as Switzerland of India.

KK: Always. Even now, beautiful, beautiful, but I found out what, coming back to US, I honestly my whole life seems to be now what I learned in America –

KV: Of course, yeah.

KK: And whatever I learned in India is minuscule compared to what I am learning here. It’s a great nation, there is diversity of religion, you are seeing how within 50 years, Vavilala, may I tell you little bit about my experience here in terms of religion?

KV: Of course, please go ahead and now, well, you talk about religion also, plus also the professional accomplishments, you have done a lot in your scientific field, we would like to hear that also.

KK: Right! But as soon as I came to Kansas State University, the only thing I could see people knowing about India is two things, snake charmers, flute somebody and the snake comes up and poverty, beggars’, that hit me right in the hot, it was like a bullet, because I didn’t know myself, the Indian culture –

KV: Hmm, you feel – yeah.

KK: So, I had to learn.

KV: Of course.

KK: And here is where I started, Vedas. There are four Vedas, I brought here --

KV: Is it this one?

KK: Yeah, what I did is a compilation.

KV: This is Samaveda.

KK: You can lift the other one.

KV: Yajurveda.

KK: This is the knowledge of India. These four books are called the Vedas.

KV: Veda means knowledge.

KK: And they date back according to Westerners 4000 years, but according to us, their date back is not even known and the reason for that, Vavilala, is this. These Vedas were recited for thousands of years before they were put down on pieces of.

KV: Spread by mouth to mouth –

KK: Mouth to mouth. And it was considered not a good idea to write them down.

KV: Right! It is unholy to write it down.

KK: Correct! Not that  pious thing to do.

KV: Yes.

KK: So finally somebody got to the point that they perhaps couldn’t remember and therefore they started writing.

KV: So they started writing in Sanskrit?

KK: Sanskrit, pure Sanskrit.

KV: Right.

KK: So now, one of things that I would like to quoted from there and I am going to be paraphrasing it, is let light come from all directions. This is our essence. The Indian culture is based on this essence.

KV: We absorb knowledge from everywhere.

KK: Knowledge, wherever it comes from.

KV: True.

KK: Is what, and then you will see after this, all these four Vedas, knowledge, if somebody asks you in what I follow, it’s Dharma. By the way, this Hindu is a nickname for us, given to us by Muslims.

KV: Right!

KK: I am not going to go explaining that, because we don’t have time. So we follow Dharma. And in Dharma it is said, that to reach God, one way, there are many ways, at least there are four yogic ways, but even among them, one of the way is through knowledge. Boundary of knowledge, and I will come to that. You asked me about profession, I will come to that point again, but going back to Vedas, and one of the things that has been taught to us is that the greatest gift you can give to anybody is the gift of knowledge. So may I take you to another part of –

KV: Sure! Before we move on I would like to know clearly a definition of Dharma. What is Dharma?

KK: Okay. Dharma is based on paap and punya, two things. Two things, basically.

KV: The good and the bad.

KK: Paap is sin and for punya there is no world in English.

KV: Oh, is that right?

KK: No word in English. So I asked that professor of Sanskrit, he said the closest he can come up with the word is merit, but merit does not describer punya. Punya is opposite of paap. Now sin you understand, killing innocent people, not letting people do their prayers, things like that. Forcing faith on people, that’s paap, taking peoples wealth. So we can go on and on, attacking women, blah, blah.

KV: Violence –

KK: But on the other hand this punya, you asked about punya, Dharma, this is simple, very simple. Punya is three things, if you can bring three things to this world, you are doing puyna. Hope, peace, and prosperity. Three things. Now you can break them down to thousands of things. But if you can work in terms of bringing hope, peace and prosperity to humanity, you are doing punya. So that’s the essence of Dharma. So you do punya, you are coming close and closer to God, you can get Nirvana, you can get Mukti, which means you don’t have to recycle back and fourth. Let me quickly tell you two more other things that are paramount in Dharma. One is the theory of Aatma. Aatma is what we have and this body is like my jacket, clothes.

KV: Yes.

KK: Yes. So when I leave this place, the jacket will be left, but aatma will go somewhere else.

KV: The soul –

KK: Soul. So we could go on and on, but you got that. The other one is Karma. These are very profound concepts. Karma is, what I do, I will have to face not only here on the earth, but coming back to the earth.
(00:40:10)
So you ask, I come from Kashmir, Nehru came from Kashmir, he is related to me because Kashmiri pandits are very close. My father’s cousin’s cousin is Nehru, right? Nehru becomes the Prime Minister of India. Kumar Krishen is a small figure. That’s called Karma. We do not necessarily reap the fruits, bad or good, in this Janma. Janma we call it, maybe next Janma, next Janma, but that’s a profound concept. When you get this concept of Aatma and the concept of Karma, you will see what Dharma is all about. And these are all fundamental concepts, and this faith is not blinded. I tell my friends I have been here more than 50 years, right? In a minute I will tell you little bit more about my religious activities, but one of the activities I had was to tell people that there is no way that I can convert you into Hinduism, because lot of people get worried that Kumar is going to give me a preaching, and next thing, I had to assure people over and over again, there is no such thing as conversion in the Karma. You accept it on your own, you develop your own eyes, ears, smell whatever it is, knowledge, it's not like somebody showers on you this.

KV: It has to come from within.

KK: Right, from within. But that bring me back to Bhagavad Gita.

KV: Sure, please!

KK: And Bhagavad Gita, see Vavilala, let me take a copy of this, Bhagavad Gita is the essence, more or less essence of those four Vedas and it’s consistent, contiguous and we believe that Spring God, called also Bhrama, has three powers. These are not three replacements for Bhrama, see that’s where the confusion comes. People think we have thousands of Gods. No, we have thousands or powers and nature of God. So I can worship the nature of God like kindness, gentleness, power, so these three are called Bhrama, Vishnu, and Mahesh.  

KV: Trinity, Holy Trinity.

KK: Trinity, so this Holy Trinity, we won’t go too much deep, because we don’t have time, but one point I want to make is coming back to Bhagavad Gita. We are confident with all the knowledge that has been given to us that when paap increases tremendously on this earth and punya decreases, the merit decreases and the sin increases. God takes the form of a human being, comes to the earth, re-establishes Dharma.

KV: That is what in Kurushetra Lord Krishna told Arjuna that “Dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge.” Is that the essence of the whole thing?

KK: Essence, this is called also Panchama Veda, fifth Vedas. So I learnt about this, why did I, to be very honest with you, I was so professionally involved and intrigued, I did not have time, I did not come here to study my Dharma, I came here to study engineering, science, physics, technology and so and so forth. But this was mainly to be able to talk to my American born colleagues, friends, neighbors who wanted to know out of curiosity what faith are you on and what do you follow? So I had to go through it, but before I conclude this can I also go with one of my favorite books in the Indian Literature, it’s called the Panchatantra and this is actually a South Indian saint called Vishnu Sharma who wrote this book because the King of Kashmir, Vishnu Sharma was -- see we talked about Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
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There was one University Nalanda, and the other University was Takshashila. He was a professor at Takshashila, 2500 years ago, Vishnu Sharma. Because Takshashila was modern Pakistan, not too far from Lahore, right, so he immigrated to Kashmir and he brought wisdom from all over the world.

KV: Is Vishnu Sharma from present Kerala State or Tamil Nadu? 

KK: We don’t know. That part is unknown, but this much is known that he was a South Indian Brahmin, had studied. Brahmin was a title at that time given to a person who had knowledge. So it turned out that the King of Kashmir was very worried, he had sons that everybody said they are knuckleheads, they will never be able to take care of the thrown and they will never be kings. So there was an advertisement so on and so forth. I will skip the detail, Vishnu Sharma said, I can teach them and they will be smart and so he took them with him to the forests of Kashmir and taught them five books, that’s why it’s called Panchatantra. Panch means five in Sanskrit and Tantra means stories or books.
And in this, in very simple way using animals as characters Vishnu Sharma gave the knowledge to these knuckleheads. And they went back and eventually they did great as kings, right? So there is a continuous progression. See, I brought you from Veda to Bhagavad Gita. I intentionally, this is the social book, but there is a lot of religion mentioned here, faiths of other types that they had learned at that time. Naturally, there was no Islam, there was no Christianity when this book was written. But they brought the ideas from even the West, that’s shocking here. So Vishnu Sharma had knowledge about what was going on in the West, when you read these.

KV: Generally the king’s duty is how to administer his Kingdom and all these strategies, how to rule a Kingdom those are all --

KK: Exactly! How you gain friends, how you can lose friends, you can make a team. There is an incredible story here in one part that shows you how dissimilar animals can combine together to get a job done, very interesting. Vavilala, can I continue and finish this part? I wanted to tell you I got so -- how do I say, how it’s so responsible that I should tell people now that I have read Bible, I know a lot about Islam, I was raised in Muslim culture, I have read portions of Quran, Bible. I used to sometimes go to churches to understand what’s in Bible. There is a Sermon on the Mount which resembles very closely to what has been told in Dharmic Vedas and so on and so forth. But skipping all that detail, I got so bored that over a period of 25 years I started my own storybook. This is not my stories, there are 14 stories in this, but I brought six characters. One of them is Western character. Actually two or more are Western, but I am talking the top characters are six, some of them are Chinese, Indian, Westerners and they talk about and share their ideas, philosophies, religion with each other and in this dialogue I put some profound thoughts. I am not going to go with, because time is going away from us. But when you get a chance please read it and you will see yourself and this is your copy.

KV: Thank you sir, thank you very much.

KK: So two things I want to bring up. I have written a lot of things. But two things I want to quickly bring up, and again, I brought these two for you. One is, how does our religion called Dharma, how does it -- how do I say it, resonate with other religions and therefore at NASA I was given an opportunity, I wrote a paper called, ‘Be Inspired, Have a Purposeful Life.’ You will see how East and West are together.
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KV: Okay.

KK: When it comes to punya, they are together, that they understand sin is not a good thing and they also understand that the way to further the human cause is punya. Now, the last thing I want to tell you, we talked about Vedas, we talked about Bhagavad Gita, we talked about for example Panchatantra, and there is a profound concept of universe in these books, even 5,000 years ago.
Especially when you get a chance to read these please, and it will tell you something about time. It is shocking, Indians had realized time Truti, one-tenth of a nano-second 5,000 years ago, that’s what Indians called an atom of time, atom of time and this timescale ends with the life of Brahma, which is 3.1516 something like, sorry 3.1415 trillion years and that is pi. If you read 3.1415, is pi. So I mentioned in my book, I mentioned here that Indian astronomy was so strong that they closed on the concept of pi when the whole universe is collapsed, not one, any, collapse at the end of the age of Brahma, 3.1415 trillion years collapse, and then how it begins again. And we believe and this is what is you will see here that life on Earth came from the Oceans, the Water.

KV: I see! Water.

KK: So these are some profound concepts in Dharma and if you like, we can talk briefly about my professional.

KV: Yes please, go ahead and tell some – your accomplishments in your professional life.

KK: Okay. So I started to tell you about this Moon Relay Communication System, it was very intriguing, because see, once you – once I started to study it, what we did is we made a moon of Plexiglas in our lab in Calcutta University at College of Technology, and we put some roughness on top and myself and the other two students and Prof. Griffiths, we made a transmitter of 80 KHz which is audio wave, it’s not electromagnetic wave, but we put this wave on this and we would rotate this sphere slowly, this came in Amrita Bazar Patrika news. So we rotated it slowly and then we would put something on this 80 KHz, our speech is less than even 3 KHz, so we would put some audio on it, some noise and we would see how that does, does it come as a pure, and it turned out it doesn’t, that roughness –

KV: Is absorbing that.

KK: Not necessarily absorbing, it’s transforming or scattering in some ways and modulating it, making the frequency modulation what we call. So I got very fascinated that time, so when I came here my first project in MS, I was told to find out what’s on the moon without going to moon.

KV: What is MS? MS, you said MS, first project in your –

KK: MS is the Master of Science.

KV: Oh MS, I am sorry!

KK: Here we go what, MS over there I had – so Masters degree, first, so my advisor said we have received this grant from NASA this is in 1964-65. I came here in ’65 January and they want to know what’s on the moon because the reason why we wanted to know is. we knew that there is sort of like dust, sort of like sand and so there was a concern when the astronaut would land maybe it would be quick sand and the astronaut would go down, right?
So they assigned me this project. I said okay, there were other people I don’t want to go into that working on this project in a different way. I proposed that we work on real electromagnetic waves bounced off of different materials to find out how this material is changing this wave. But I added a twist, up to that time people were looking into the amplitude, how the amplitude of this wave will change. I said we want to study polarization, but Vavilala, we don’t have time to go into technicality.

KV: I know, I know.
(00:55:02)

KK: So I studied this what is known as depolarization of the wave. One way you can understand polarization and make others understand is when you take an antenna of a radio, have you noticed that when you change its orientation, at one orientation it gives you the best.

KV: Yes.

KK: Okay, that’s where the electric vector lines up with your antenna.

KV: Okay.

KK: So I worked on that, that I said different materials with different roughnesses change this orientation of the electric vector.

KV: Okay.

KK: I was lucky, there was some data, I gathered data in the lab, I am going too deeply into it, but I will skip this and go to other projects, but this is fascinating. So what I did in the lab at Kansas State University, I sent you that, I was in the newspaper and so on, and I studied this with different materials, but then there was a dataset from Goldstone Observatory. Goldstone has the largest dishes and these couple of Evans and Pattengill, two British scientists, would throw as wave on the moon and get it back. I took those signatures, they gave me all the data and then I married it with what I had learned in the lab and I could predict exactly what the material is on the moon.

KV: Oh!

KK: And then they brought these samples in 1969, at Johnson Space Center, we got the moon rocks, they measured the electrical property, they were very close to that. I finished this study and published in Antennas and Propagation, that paper, along with two professors.

KV: Tell me your awards, accomplishments, of course these are details what you just mentioned but give us a sense how many awards you got, what is the most valuable award you ever think?

KK: To be honest with you Vavilala, I sometimes think I don’t deserve any awards. The second part of me is -- and why did not I take your invitation long time back, see you invited me long time back.

KV: Oh yeah, yes sir.

KK: And I even told you at that time that, we do our Karma, we don’t ask for the fruit, that’s what has been taught to us by Vedas and all Bhagavad Gita, and therefore, honestly, it didn’t matter what I got, but I got huge number of awards.

KV: Which is the best do you think you got so far, you are proud of?

KK: I am proud of this gold medal I got from Calcutta University, because I worked so hard. See, what you have to understand, when I got admission in Institute of Radio Physics and Electronics the minimum requirement was Honors in Physics, there was no Honors in Kashmir. So I was already way behind in terms of how much, in fact, I went to Prof. Das Gupta, a well-renowned scientist, we are not going to go there.  M.K. Das Gupta, and I said I want to go back to Presidency College or some other college in Calcutta and get an Honors in Physics.
He said, you don’t need to do that because people do that to get admission in our institute, you already got the admission, why do you have to do that, just go and study. So my point is, therefore, I had to come behind the curve and be number 1, and you have to understand these 20 students that were taken from all over India, you can imagine what chosen students they were, right?

KV: Right! Now, tell me some very quickly your family, your wife and how many children you got.

KK: Okay, my wife’s name is Vijay Krishen. She came here with very little education. She had a degree in Hindi, but over here she did Associate Degree, she did a Bachelors Degree, she did a Master’s Degree and she ran two businesses. One of them was not successful, so, so much about my wife, she is doing fine, she is retired, she is taking easy and part of it is that she knows my husband is still working, earning a lot of money, so that works.
By the way, I am in the highest grade, technical grade at NASA. My three daughters are outstanding, exceptional; they all went to Rice. One in Electrical Engineering, one in Physics, which was unheard of at that time, and another one in Biology. The one in Biology is a doctor, she is a pediatrician right now in Nevada.
(00:59:56)
The eldest one is a Biophysicist, Bioengineer, did a PhD at Baylor, I take it back, University of Texas Health Science Center, a UT graduate and my littlest one has lots of degrees, but the last degree she got is, what is a new discipline, now called, High-Tech Transfer. In commercializing hi-tech, how do we say, replace for example, coke, with what product would you do? And these days you are seeing these iPhones and things like that, so she is a specialist there, she is teaching Hi-Tech Marketing at University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

KV: So how many grandchildren you got.

KK: I have uncountable, I don’t know, seriously at least I have 6. I am hoping there will be more.

KV: Okay, very good! We unfortunately ran out of time, we may have to have a second session because you have such a great experience and we would like to know a lot more about you, maybe next time when we come back, but at this time, thank you very much and we appreciate your time.

KK: Thank you, Vavilala!

KV: And really it is our pleasure to have you here today.

KK: Thank you so much, I appreciate this opportunity.

KV: Thank you!