The Last lecture

I wrote this in September 2008 – Don’t remember why I never posted. Came across this while digging for some archives. Thought I’d post it now.

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The first time I heard this name called Randy Pausch was in the first few days of October 2007. Randy Pausch gave his “last lecture” at CMU in the later part of September 2007, which received great attention on that day as well as the days that followed. Soon, everybody, especially those in the academics were raving about it. There was a transcript of his speech on Randy’s website, which I read at that time, with just pure curiosity and unable to see the video. It left a more than normal impression on me. Days passed and there was 2008. In the middle, I heard so many people referring to it and I suggested it to many people too. Periodically, I skimmed through the PDF transcript and visited Randy’s site. Then, there was a news that its going to be published as a book. I wondered – how can a 30 page transcript evolve as a book?

Cynical as I am, I saw it as nothing but cashing on Randy’s popularity. July 25th 2008 came and went. Two days later, I came to know that Randy Pausch died on that day. I was shocked. Not that I did not know about his pancreatic cancer. Not that I did not know that his “last lecture” was indeed his last lecture. Not that I did not know that the danger is imminent for quite some time then. But, I was shocked nevertheless. I read the lecture again, this time realizing that thats my only link with him and the only way I know to show my sorrow. Not much later, I found the book in Odessey, the last copy left. Despite being a LIBRARY person, I purchased it. I began reading it. My insider was as cynical as ever, mocking at me for buying a 30 page transcript which I read many times for Rs 300/-. But, as I came to the end of the book, I couldn’t help appreciating myself for buying that book. I am sure my insider felt so too, though she did not express it openly.

For the un-initiated, let me tell who actually Randy Pausch is. He is a professor in Computer Science at the famous Carnegie Mellon University. There is this series of lectures called “Last Lecture” in which top academics were asked to give a talk, imagining it to be their final one. In Randy’s case, it was literally the last lecture, since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had only few months of life left. In this context, he delivered his lecture – “Really achieving your childhood dreams” on Sep 18th 2007, which became immensely popular along with the speaker himself.

Randy Pausch is a professor in the truest sense. I understood that he is the coolest professor I can ever imagine. The book is about LIFE and living it to the fullest. Its a tale of optimism and lively spirit. Randy told about his experiences and what he learnt from them throughout. He talked about his dreams and how he achieved them. He talked about all the wonderful people he met and what they taught him. He talked about most of the aspects of life that he faced so far. I learnt more lessons in how to fall in love with life from him. I saw in him a wonderful manager. I saw a wonderful friend, philosopher and guide in him. I saw the anguish in him as a loving husband, who has no option but to leave his wife. I saw in him the suffering father, who is worried about his kids’ future and their imminent fatherlessness. Randy sees the book, the lecture and the video as an attempt to leave his memories to his children, which is again a wonderful way of leaving a message.

As a friend of mine said, its like leaving emotional insurance for his kids. For reasons more than one, his worries about his family’s future touched me more than anything else. Each of the words he said had with them some kind of peculiar magic that, one can never forget them. One such statement is – “Somehow, with the passage of time, and the deadlines that life imposes, surrendering became the right thing to do”. I found him extremely practical in giving this statement. Its one thing to be optimistic in life. But, its an entirely different thing to be impractical. Theres a line of seperation between them and Randy understood it very well.

“The Last lecture” – has been a wonderful book to read. I feel one should have a personal copy and get back to it quite often🙂. I have been doing that with the lecture transcript for the past one year and with the book now. Its an unforgettable experience and equally cherishable. Thats some way to get inspired from, when you are in low spirits. It taught me a lot of things and I hope that will be the case with others too. Ofcourse, there have been many such inspiring tales. I am not picking Randy’s exclusively nor am I saying this is the best. But, its just an attempt to let those people know, who have not heard about him.
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(Now I understand why I did not post this at that time. Its perhaps the length!🙂 )

Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 1:42 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Excellently put in words, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.

    When I discuss about Randy anywhere, I carry a great amount of emotional baggage with me, so I wouldn’t have been able to write the same post. It is not that I knew him personally, his speech of course was personal to me, you and everyone.
    Such a character he was, a legend in himself. Philosopher in true sense.

  2. Thank you so much for introducing to one of the greatest personalities.

  3. just saw your blog.its very very interesting.will have to really dig ur archives.

  4. Good write-up. Recently I listened to his last lecture on the YouTube. Inspirational one.

    ~

  5. Your site has been a great inspiration and the knowledge gained has gotten me past the obstacle blocking my way.

  6. Thank you very much.


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