By Moncho Torres
New Delhi, Nov 12 (EFE).- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week recalled the influence of the books of the mathematician and writer Carlos G. Valles on him and his generation during a ceremony to present one of India’s major civilian awards to the Spanish Jesuit.
Father Valles, who passed away in November last year in Madrid at the age of 95, posthumously received the Padma Shri award – the fourth highest civilian award of India – for Literature and Education in recognition for his new style of writing in Gujarati using short phrases, among other achievements.
Born in the Spanish city of Logrono in 1925 and having lived in India for five decades, Valles mastered the native language of Gujarat, a western Indian state with 60.5 million inhabitants.
Modi, who is from Gujarat and where he served as chief minister from 2001 to 2014, took to social media to express his regret when he heard of the priest’s death.
“Father Valles endeared himself to many, especially in Gujarat. He distinguished himself in diverse areas such as mathematics and Gujarati literature. He was also passionate about serving society. Saddened by his demise. May his soul rest in peace,” Modi had then tweeted to his 72.5 million followers.
Valles joined the Society of Jesus in 1941 and after his studies in Humanities and Philosophy, he was sent to India in 1949, where he completed further studies in Mathematics and Theology.
The Jesuit priest soon realized that although he could teach mathematics – he taught at St. Xavier’s College in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat – using English, he was unable to “reach the hearts” of the people.
So he immersed himself in learning Gujarati, something that he said “changed his life” as “mastering a language means assimilating culture.”
He helped create the first mathematics journal in an Indian language, and edited the volume on the subject in the official encyclopedia “Gnanganga”, as well as other books on youth, family, society, religion, psychology and morality.