Early life and Education

Navin B Chawla was born in New Delhi on 30 July 1945, two years before India attained Independence from colonial rule in 1947. His parents were professionals at a time when good education was hard to attain: his father Dr Satya Bratt was a Dental Surgeon who qualified from the prestigious Calcutta Dental College, while his mother Dr Chanchal Bratt was one of India’s first gynecologists. She was also one of the earliest of the rare breed of women who drove her own car in New Delhi in the Forties. With their educational backgrounds, they ensured that both their children had as good an education as they could afford. Chawla earned a rare Government of India scholarship in 1952. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, had initiated a scheme for deserving children to avail of government scholarships. Chawla, at the age of 7, won a scholarship, that paid for his education at the Lawrence School, Sanawar, a well known public school in the mountains near Shimla, for the initial two years, until his parents crossed the threshold which enabled them to pay his fees. He received his school certificate, “O levels” in 1961.

He went on the read History at St. Stephen’s College (1962-65) and received a Bachelor of Arts ( Hon) degree from Delhi University He undertook a second BA (Hons.) degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1965-1967). This was followed by a Diploma in Social Administration from the London School of Economics (1968). At the LSE he was taught by the legendary Prof. Richard Titmuss, whose Essays on the Welfare State (1958) were to influence him deeply. He was also influenced by his tutor, Margaret Hardiman, who taught social planning and administration at LSE. Her earlier work in Ghana as well as her encouragement to her students to apply social science methods in their analysis of their own societies, also impacted him.

Much later, he was a Visiting Fellow at Queen Elizabeth House (1996-97). Just prior to his fellowship, he had in the previous three years been working, as Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, on the opening of India’s Satellite channel programme. Supervised by Godfrey Hodgson of Oxford University , then head of the Reuters Programme, he completed a paper on ‘ The opening on India’s Satellite channels in the field of Telecasting and Broadcasting.