A Professor with a Heart of Gold: Hans Chaudhry

Hans Chaudhry founded a home in India for orphaned children.

When he was living in India, Hans Chaudhry used to take the train to work. Back then, in 1955, he was teaching at an Indian University. Each morning, on his way to work, he’d look out the train window. There, beside the train tracks, he’d see a ghastly sight: lepers, their bodies covered with sores, begging for food. Bugs swirled round their heads, biting at their open sores. The sight aroused his compassion. He felt a flux of sympathy.  He felt a flux of compassion.  He felt he had to help them. 

And help them he did. That year, Chaudhry founded a home for lepers (leprosy is an infectious disease caused by mycobacterium). The home, called Balniketan, housed and cared for the lepers as well as their children.Chaudhry helped to run and finance the home for 30 years. When in 1985 he came to America, he transferred the home to the care of  the local government in Chandigarh.

“Out of a sense of pity and compassion I wanted to help the lepers,” says Chaudhry, who is now a Research Professor of Biomedical Engineering at NJIT. “They couldn’t work; they were begging on the side of the train tracks.”

Chaudhry has taught at NJIT since 1991. He’s a prominent scientist and researcher who has had many successful research projects, publications and patents. And before coming to NJIT he held high positions in India. He was chairperson of applied sciences at Punjab Engineering College, in Chandigarh and was also director of technical education for the Chandigarh Administration.

But along with being an accomplished scientist, Chaudhry is also a humanitarian.  He is a man who lives simply and humbly, one who negates his own ego to dedicate his life to helping others.

For instance, in 1997 he started another humanitarian project.  Along with some friends, he founded the Janata Charity Clinic. The clinic, in northern India, cared for people with physical or mental handicaps. A few years later, the clinic expanded to offer vocational training to the local poor.

And now the clinic, known as “God’s Home,” cares for orphaned children. Ten children live in the home, two of whom are blind. Chaudhry hired an administrator to run “God’s Home” but he travels often to India to visit. He also donates much of his own money to finance the the home. Ninety percent of the home’s budget comes from him.

“Whenever I visit “God’s Home” I distribute lunch to the children,” says Chaudhry, his eyes brightening. “I feel great satisfaction in serving them. I see God in them. I surrender to the divine.”

He’s not religious, he says, and doesn’t live his life according to the dictates of any organized religion. Rather, he tries to live spiritually. At NJIT, for instance, he leads a weekly mediation group. The group meets for an hour every Thursday at noon in Room B90 of the Campus Center. It’s a casual group, a loose confederation of professors and staff members. Jay Kappraff, associate professor of mathematics, regularly meditates with the group. 

Kappraff is a big admirer of Chaudhry.  For one, Chaudhry is a first-rate scholar, scientist and teacher, says Kappraff. Two, he’s a humanitarian who has helped the poor, the sick and the disabled. And three, what unites and infuses all his work is his philosophy: which is to live life simply, to deny one’s desires and to serve others.

“All of us in the meditation group look up to Hans,” says Kappraff. “He exists on a high spiritual and intellectual plane. He’s totally disconnected from the world of desire. He’s a deeply learned man who is fluent in Sanskrit and has read all the classics. He’s kind and generous and in so being he’s an inspiration to all of us.”

By Robert Florida