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Dr.Gift Siromoney who originally was a Professor of Mathematics shot into prominence soon after Statistics as a science subject both at the PG and the UG levels was introduced at Madras Christian College by his very innovative methods of popularizing the subject through its application in various fields, especially in the research field whether it was science or humanities. He encouraged the very first generation of Statistics Post-Graduates into research studies and the result was a succession of Ph.D. scholars in the Department of Statistics.
Dr.Siromoney did not confine himself to the Mathematical and Statistics Sciences alone, but spread his influence to research studies in social sciences as well as encouraging colleagues to undertake empirical studies.
I was one of the many research scholars who benefited immensely by the unsolicited help afforded by Dr.Siromoney. As a part-time teacher candidate for Ph.D. I literally ran out of time and had done nothing worthwhile in terms of collection of data and hearing, that I had to hurry up, Dr.Siromoney came to my rescue.
He infused in me the confidence that I needed and very soon put me on the track that I could finalize the empirical methodology of collecting the needed data from the field. He also kindly commissioned a battalion of students needed for the collection of data covering the whole of the erstwhile Chengalpattu District. The collected information was processed with the help of a Computer, which was something rare in 1980.
I had in front of me something like 600 tables as computer printouts, which baffled me. Honestly I did not know how to commence interpreting the tables nor did I have the courage to ask him to write a sample interpretation. He rightly read my predicament and said that it would be easy for him to interpret all the tables in no time, but insisted that I should interpret the tables according to the objective of the research study and the hypothesis. He went on to say that every word in the dissertation should be my own and that I should defend each and every word that was to be written. Then I made a shaky start and his encouraging words came and we proceeded.
It was always after dinner, day after day, every day of the week, for 45 continuous days that we sat together and the main frame of the dissertation had taken shape.
Then he sat with me for another round, reviewing each chapter, page-by-page, and word-by-word, he taking the role of the external examiner of the thesis.
We had spent several nights reviewing only a few sentences, until he was fully convinced that each word used was the right and appropriate one.
As we were approaching the last chapter, he threw a bombshell that the findings of the empirical study had to be subjected to a statistical test," CHI-SQUARE TEST" about which I knew nothing, for I never was a student of Mathematics or Statistics. But he took time to patiently teach and explain to me what it was and made me apply the test to every finding. After the same was done to his satisfaction, he said that he wanted it to lend credibility to the empirical study.
After the draft of the thesis had been approved by my Supervisor, Dr.Siromoney wanted to sit with me for another round of revision, which enabled me to refine the presentation in a better way. During all these process I used to admire the indefatigable interest that he had not in me, but in research work and scholarship.
He did not stop with that, but went on to stand by me until the thesis was manually typed out. He gave me a checklist of Do's and Don'ts and personally verified whether I followed them meticulously. He even went with me to the printing press where the thesis was being bound and even chose the color of the wrapper.
What a man he was! A scholar, a versatile genius and a great humanist who would not even wait for some one in real need to formally ask for help but stretch out the moment he knew somebody was in need of help.
His delight was greater than that of mine when the news came that the thesis had been approved and he lost no time in preparing me for the public viva voce. I was astonished at the enthusiasm that he had in the academic welfare of his colleagues, especially those of the younger ones.
And at the public viva voce he was there, long before many others, as a silent listener, and perhaps admiring too at the performance of his "ward"!
How invaluable was his contribution in the making of a PhD thesis and a scholar! In the words of one of my benevolent Professors who himself used to admire the versatile facets of Dr.Siromoney, he was my "Super Guide".
I have no hesitation in dedicating my success to this wonderful person, who indeed was a rare "Gift" from God to many friends and colleagues. How sadly we miss him!
Had not cruel death snatched him away from us so prematurely, no one knows what he would be doing in these days of revolution in information technology, what with its websites and internet.
I would like to pay my humble tributes to a great
scholar and friend through the web page brought out in
his honor and memory.
Julius Karunakaran (PUC, B.A.(Econ), M.A.(Public Administration), Colleague: 1960-82, Politics & Public Administration: 1974-82)
Currently: Freelance Development Consultant, Director, Rainbow Eye Hospital, Karunguli & 'Home of Hope', Hostel for Tribal Boys, Nagalapuram, A. P.