Udai Pareek, a friend and mentor

Udai Pareek, a Friend and Mentor

It was a balmy day in February 2010. We were enjoying the beautiful ambience of the ECC campus in Whitefield, its tall trees and birdsong  were a welcome oasis amidst the noise and bustle of the city of Bangalore. A group of young students, undergraduates from different colleges  in south India had gathered for a workshop on self-development and leadership organized by my  office, the Educational Resources Centre Trust. With me were  Sachin and Shailendra, two of our student alumni who had been part of our campus workshops which my Trust had been instrumental in starting in 1995. Like so many college and high school students who had participated in these workshops, they had gone on in their professional lives to practice what they had learnt in these workshops in ways to influence young people  towards greater awareness and self confidence in their work situations and  develop their life skills. Sachin has had an impact on many young people with his counseling role; Shailendra, now a teacher continues to work with Sachin in developing tools for career counseling

We were there for a student workshop, but that evening we were waiting eagerly to greet someone who had influenced all three of us in immeasurable ways.

Udai Pareek’s plane was late. He arrived escorted by Philip Rajan who had met him at the airport, and stopped en route at a restaurant to get him something to eat. It was characteristic of Udai that rather than complain about the delay, he waxed eloquent on the quality of the “set dosa” he had enjoyed!

We spent the next morning describing to him our project on career counseling for students and a tool that Sachin and Shailendra were developing,  to assess the young person’s aptitude and interest in choosing a career. Udai listened,  provided them with suggestions, his insights and his critical inputs.

I left them at their discussion to conduct the workshop sessions.  When I returned he asked me when he could meet with the students. I hesitated; he was not well with bad bronchitis and I did not want him to strain his voice, but he insisted. The hour long session that followed  will remain in my memory for his skill in processing their questions and answers, and the impact it had on the young people. Their diffidence and awkward expression melted into enthusiastic and articulate participation.

Udai was to leave late the next morning for lunch with a colleague, after which he would go to the airport to take his flight to Jaipur. He had had a bad night; I was awakened by his coughing in the room next door. We had breakfast together. I asked him if I may take him to my son’s hospital nearby for medication but he forcefully declined.

Our conversation turned to personal beliefs and philosophy, on medicine and treatment. Udai was an atheist. He said little to try and convince others of his belief, but was stubbornly against any rituals or religious practices. Rather than prayer, a positive attitude, courage and determination to face problems were stronger forces in healing. He told me that he had indicated in his Will that his body was to be donated to the medical college for study and research. There were to be no funeral rites or memorial services.  I was not surprised when Anagat called to tell me this, when he passed awayH

Memories of my last conversation with him in February 2010 at ECC Bangalore are still so fresh. As always, saying goodbye to him left me with the anticipation of another occasion where I could discuss, argue and learn from him. The “processing” was always stimulating.  But this not to be.

Everything he taught me came to my mind as I wrote my Convocation address to the graduates of North Maharashtra University, in late February at Jalgaon.  I sent the speech to him by email for his comments, and despite his ill health,  I received a prompt email of approval, which I treasure.

It is two years since Prof. Udai Pareek left us, but I remember him not just today, but practically every day when I work, write or talk to students, because of the way he changed me and my thinking.
I am sure all of us who had the good fortune to be with him remember him in different ways.
I thought I would write on the anniversary of his leaving us, in a silent tribute to remember him with gratitude for his teaching and guidance that I have been privileged to receive..
There is no adequate way that I can describe or accurately assess the impact of Udai Pareek on academia and in his chosen field of work. Some great people leave their footprints on the pages of history books through their deeds, their work, their writings. But the greater ones are those like Udai Pareek who have left an impact on the hearts and minds of students and colleagues and influenced so many with his wisdom, humility and unfailing generosity.  There are few like him who will continue to guide in his modest invisible way, for generations to come.

Marc h 21, 2012

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Dr Udai Pareek, 1925-2010

About 35 years ago in 1975, two scholarly gentlemen undertook a consulting assignment to review L&T’s performance appraisal system.

The outcome of the assignment was historic because it resulted in the formation of the country’s first formal HRD department at L&T.

The two gentlemen were Dr Udai Pareek and Dr T. V. Rao. If you have attended and benefited from a Human Process Laboratory (T-Group) conducted by ISABS (Indian Society for Applied Behavioural Science), one of the persons you should be thankful to is Dr Pareek, because he was one of its founding members. If you are a facilitator and have looked for tools and instruments in human relations and OD training, there is a good chance that you might have found many designed by Dr Pareek.

If you were ever looking for a framework to improve the role effectiveness of employees, you could not have missed Dr Pareek’s landmark book Making Organisational Roles Effective.

Dr Pareek, fondly called Udai by those of us who have had the good fortune of knowing him and aptly called the father of the HRD and OD movement in India, passed away on March 21, 2010.

Dr Pareek was the Chairman of EMPI’s Udai Pareek HR LABS and distinguished Visiting Professor at the Indian Institute of Health Management & Research, Jaipur.

He was the former Senior L&T Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and the only Asian to become a Fellow of the National Training Laboratories (NTL), USA.

He was Chief Editor of the Journal of Health Management and a Consulting Editor of the Journal of Applied Behavioural Science.  He was also the first editor of Vikalpa and has been on the editorial boards of Administration Science Quarterly, Organization and Group Studies, Psychologia and so on.

Dr Pareek authored and edited about 30 books and over 360 papers and was awarded several national and international awards.


I see process work as enriching my professional role as a trainer and a consultant as much as helping me as a person and in my personal world(friends, family). I have found several challenges which beckon me to new voyages: moving beyond intrapersonal processes to group processes and societal processes, searching the Indian heritage to learn the dynamics of process work in different settings, extensive use of process work in various aspects of the society , addressing urgent social issues (differences, marginalisation, harmony, collaboration, equity, empowering) through process work and so on. It is exciting to work with younger colleagues who are the torch bearers to usher us into the next century, which we hope will be brighter and more humane.



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2 Responses to Udai Pareek, a friend and mentor

  1. Bhaskar ( Kush) says:

    Dear Aunty,

    Thank you for sharing some of your reflections about fond memories with Nanaji.
    He is one person who has had immense impact on my thoughts and beliefs. He is someone who I really respect in true sense. He is remembered by many not only as a great academecian, but also as a great human being.

    Humble, simple, down to earth, accomodation, considerate, unassuming, progressive, will to learn, positive approach towards life, genuineness (synergy between what he taught/believed and what he practiced), committment to profession and family are some of his qualities that make him a true role model for me. He shall live forever in my heart…

    Thank you again for dedicating your thoughts to a legend who has left behind legacy of immense knowledge, values and beliefs that should positively influence the future generations( including family members, researchers, trainers)………

  2. Shailendra Singh Bisht says:

    Dr Pareek brought many like me to the field of OD with his trademark humility and scholarship. He was mentor to us when we were about to enter the world of work and later on when we started our own interventions for students who were from disadvantaged areas including Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. In fact , even when we started working on a professional assignment for developing an interest inventory , he was full of ideas and inspired us to make it more robust and closer to Indian context. He left an immense void in our personal and professional life.