It’s not often one gets the chance to speak to someone who was actually there at a pivotal moment in history. In the case of 89-year-old Dr. Prakash, his date with destiny came in early 1947 when he was imprisoned for six months by the British – as a result of his attempts to help bring about independence in India – and released shortly before it was finally obtained.
Dr. Prakash grew up in Delhi and went on to graduate from the city’s university with a degree in physics. It was while studying at said institution that he first became involved with Gandhi’s ‘Quit India‘ movement, serving as a community organiser for four years before his arrest.
The distinguished academic has lived in the United States for over half a century and I caught up with him at his home in Irving, Texas. “I’m writing my autobiography,” he reveals, “and have written about 250 pages so far… I intend to finish it within the next six months, so hopefully it will be published around the middle of this year.
“You will be able to read about all of my experiences and what I have been doing all these years. I’ve had a very good life. I’m very grateful for all the help I received from many, many different sources and I will share it with you when it comes out.”
“This book has two parts,” continues the focused and still very active octogenarian (he does yoga, walks on a treadmill a couple of times a week and practises Transcendental Meditation), married to his wife for nearly 50 years. “I came to the United States to study in 1960, so Part One is my life from 1926 to 1960 in India.”
The book will of course address this kindly figure’s years as something of a student radical and I was curious to learn more about that particular period of his life.
“Gandhi had an understanding with the British that if India cooperated in the war effort in the Far East, they would consider freedom for India,” he explains. “The war ended and nothing much happened, so Gandhi started a movement called ‘Quit India’ and I became involved in it.
“I spent four years of my life in it and at that time there were so many things happening. I was a teenager and full of hope for the future. I was arrested and was a political prisoner for about six months, released only 15 days before freedom came to India…
“When I was in prison, I had time to think about my future. We knew that freedom was coming and I was going to become an engineer because I thought the country could use engineers to build up the economy. I liked the idea of helping people.”
Does the good doctor still feel any animosity towards his captors? “No. The British had to do what they thought was the right thing to do according to their thinking at that time… Actually, Britain gave India quite a few openings that kept us in touch with the world.
“They have made a contribution in many different ways and we are grateful. We have a very cordial and friendly relationship with Britain now and we hope that will always be there.”
I suppose one of the lasting benefits of British colonial rule would be the English language… “That’s very true,” agrees the former rabble-rouser, “because every child in India learns three languages.
“India is a diversified culture. Each state has their mother tongue and then there’s the national language, which is Hindi, and then the international language, which is English. We learn it starting in Fifth Grade, so it’s part of our education.”
Dr. Prakash has a passion for service to others and has dedicated most of his life to doing just that. After initially hoping to go into engineering, he changed his mind and completed a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the National Muslim University in India.
He then studied for another Master’s Degree, this time in Education and Child Development, at the University of Minnesota. Finally, to complete the vocational turnaround that he says transformed his life, he graduated with a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Montana.
For more than 30 years, Dr. Prakash has maintained his own private practice of Clinical Psychology and about 10 years ago, following extensive training, he added Mentor Coaching to his impressive CV. These days he also works as a Corporate Performance Coach and publishes bi-monthly podcasts on various topics of interest.
“In about 2001 or so, one of my friends invited me to a seminar for continued education,” he recalls, commenting on how he first became interested in acquiring this skill. “It was about coaching and I was fascinated by it because the skills a psychologist has are very similar to those that a coach has, although coaching is slightly different…
“In psychology, we look at the issues in the past that have not been resolved and help to resolve them in the present moment. In coaching, we help the person to be able to use their skills for their success and well-being. These two are related but they deal with different aspects of a person’s life.”
To conclude, I asked this caring and compassionate man, who published a book in 2012 entitled From Change to Transformation & Beyond: A Personal Guide for Aspiring Individuals, whether he ever thinks of retiring.
“I’m going to be 90 years of age this coming August and the secret of my health is this: to remain connected with life,” he replies. “I enjoy what I do and I help my patients. The best moments I have are when a patient or a client says, ‘Doctor, you helped me.’
“There’s no amount of money that can buy that – I love to help people… I’m thinking about slowing down. I now work about 20 hours a week. I have a number of psychology patients that I see and I work with my coaching clients in person and over the phone.
“I enjoy what I do and that’s how I remain really awake. My mind is fine, I have good memories and I feel good.”
For more information on Dr. Prakash, visit his official website.