Nat Khublall has come a long way since his early years. He was a dropout from primary school. He studied for the GCEs by correspondence course while assisting his father in ploughing their rice fields. Now a Barrister-at-Law, a consultant and author of numerous books on Property Law and Taxation, Nat is one of very few Guyanese and Caribbeans with the rare distinction of being awarded the higher doctorate degree of DSc.
A prolific author, he has written 9 textbooks, 6 study manuals, 33 academic papers, and 7 eBooks to date. He was an examiner to Oxford Brookes University in their distant learning BSc degree. In January 1988 he attained professorial status at the National University of Singapore, was a member of the Singapore Strata Titles Board (a Judicial Tribunal), and earlier was a part-time lecturer and examiner, University of Hong Kong and a senior lecturer at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In the early 1970s he was the Deputy Chief Valuation Officer of Guyana and part time lecturer and examiner in land surveying at the University of Guyana.
Early Years in Guyana
Nat Khublall was born at Bush Lot, Corentyne, Berbice, 100 years after the first batch of Indians arrived from India in 1838 to work in the sugar plantations in British Guiana as indentured labourers.
His dad, Seecharran, was a small scale rice farmer who also ran a small grocery and hardware shop at Bush Lot, Corentyne. He owned his first shop in New Amsterdam, next to Gaiety Cinema, in the mid 1940s. Nat’s mother (Ramrati) passed away when Nat was eighteen months old. His dad remarried, and Nat’s younger siblings are five brothers and three sisters.
Nat attended Kildonan Scots School (Primary) from around 1943 or 1944 to 1950. He was a dropout from primary school in September 1950, after which, in his teenage years he was assisting his dad in his small shop, looking after livestock, engaged in rice and vegetable farming. For a period of 7 years (1951 to 1957) he did not study. At the age of 20 without a proper primary school education he started to study shorthand, typing and bookkeeping for a few months while he was still assisting his father in farming, etc. He used to come home early and go to plough the rice fields with their Massey Ferguson tractor. At weekends he would go to plough the fields further away.
From time to time he obtained some assistance from Pt. RN Persaud who had been conducting classes under his house at Port Mourant. He used to go to Pt R.N. Persaud for lessons in bookkeeping. He obtained a few certificates in book-keeping and accountancy.
Pt RN advised him to study for the GCE, and with the help of a correspondence course from Wolsey Hall, Oxford, he was able to pass the GCE in 6 subjects, including English and mathematics, though it was a struggle. The late Dr Cheddi Jagan, had studied at RN’s before he moved to Queens College in Georgetown. See biography of Dr C B Jagan in website: http://www.jagan.org/Biography/CJ%20Bio/cj_biography3.html
What prompted Nat to study, after being in the wilderness for some 7 years without ambition of any sort, was the idea of going to the USA. However, this did not materialise, but he nevertheless proceeded with his private studies and sometimes attending RN’s school intermittently as he was still involved in farming. To ensure that that he was reasonably prepared for the GCE exams in record time (2 years) after being a primary school dropout, he decided to take the Wolsey Hall correspondence course. He was able to save some funds from rice farming over a period of two years. This sum he took with him to England.
Photo taken in 1971 at Nat’s apartment in Georgetown
First Six Years in England
He also took a correspondence course from “Rapid Results College” in England for “A” level GCE whilst working. He worked from 9/61 to 9/63 as a Clerical Officer, British Transport Commission, Nottingham. The work was of a varied nature in the goods office.
He was able to pass two subjects within 8 months and, thereafter, he registered for the University of London external LLB degree. He studied part-time for a year but was not allowed to write the intermediate exam as the University of London had changed the rules. Commencing in 1962 part-time students were required to study for two years for each exam.
As too many Guyanese were studying law, Nat decided to change his registration from the LLB to the BSc (Estate Management) degree (external also). Since there was only one college recognised by University of London for this degree, he had to attend Brixton School of Building, where many other Guyanese were pursuing studies in engineering and architecture. From 9/63 to 6/67 at Brixton School of Building, he pursued courses for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Chartered Auctioneers’ and Estates Agents’ Institute and the University of London BSc (Est Man) degree. He passed his final examination for the degree in June 1967 and a few months earlier the final professional examination in surveying.
It has always been difficult for him to find a suitable job in England. From time to time as a student he worked from 6/65 to 10/67 at the now defunct Greater London Council, where a nice Englishman was prepared to employ him every summer. He was engaged in work of various types, involving land charges and other matters. He was then offered a position in Sunderland in the Valuation Office of the government, but instead he decided to accept a more lucrative position in Guyana.
Return to Guyana
Nat was surprised at the higher salary given to him in Guyana, far in excess of what other graduates would get and what he would earn in England. Despite being a Guyanese, he was offered a four-year contract on gratuity terms like expatriates from other countries. He returned to work in Guyana as a Valuer, but after two years in September, 1969, he returned to England for postgraduate studies. From 10/69 to 7/70, he studied for the MSc degree in Urban Land Appraisal at the College of Estate Management, London, where he could not get admission for his first degree studies. After successfully completing his MSc degree, he obtained employment as an Estates Officer at the New Towns Commission in Welwyn Garden City, England. This town was designed by Ebenezer Howard, as the first garden city in England. He worked there from 10/70 to 1/71. He was engaged in valuation, management and disposal of houses to sitting tenants and procurement of mortgage finance.
Whilst pursuing his studies for his master’s degree, Guyana Government was keen in getting Nat to return to Guyana, despite his resignation after two years during a four-year contract. On this occasion, he was able to secure a much higher salary and full expatriate benefits, including living quarters.
Again the contract was for 4 years and he was designated as a Valuation Officer, but he acted as the Deputy Chief Valuation Officer (DCVO) for over a year and his appointment as the DCVO was confirmed during the last year. During this period in Guyana, he valued every property in the whole of Georgetown in the revaluation exercise, which was done in three stages. He was engaged in valuation, management, training of staff, revaluation of Georgetown and giving advice on land matters to public bodies and the government. He assisted in the drafting of legal documents relating to his areas of expertise. Earlier in 1968 he was involved in the revaluation exercise of Linden.
Whilst working in the Valuation Division, he took up part-time teaching at the Government Technical Institute for a year teaching photogrametry and real property law. Thereafter, whilst being the DCVO, from 9/72 to 6/74, he taught land surveying at the University of Guyana (UG) Department of Civil Engineering. He was responsible for the supervision of field survey and the use of surveying instruments. He was also the internal examiner of the subject. He wanted to move full-time to UG, but the chairman to the Appointments’ Committee, Mr Hamilton Green, said when his name came up for consideration that he could not “dig a hole to fill a hole”. Mr Green was also the minister holding the portfolio of the Valuation Division where Nat was employed as the Deputy Chief Valuation Officer of Guyana.
In the light of the denial of a job at UG, Nat applied for the position as the Housing Officer of Guyana. At the interview, the chairman told him that if he was offered the position he would have to agree to a lower salary. His response was that there was no precedent for people moving from one ministry to another at a lower salary and that he would not accept a lower salary. He never heard again about this. Therefore, he decided to apply for jobs in Hong Kong and Singapore. He was offered two positions in Hong Kong, and he accepted one in academia. Having worked in the Valuation Division for a total of six years, he needed a change to a more challenging situation.
First Six Years in Hong Kong
Nat Khublall arrived in Hong Kong on 16 September, 1974, and commenced work at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. From 9/74 to 9/83, he was a Senior Lecturer, teaching applied valuation and real estate law at all levels for internal exams as well as for the exams of the RICS. He was the course director for a programme. He was also engaged in consultancy, and from 1982 he was attached on a part-time basis to the chambers of a senior Barrister, the late Mr Francis Eddis, QC.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
He was from 9/78 to 7/83 a part-time Lecturer and Examiner at the University of Hong Kong teaching administrative law and was the internal examiner to final year students in building and architecture pursuing degree courses. Between 1974 and 1980, Nat wrote six study manuals which are as follows:
1. Landlord and Tenant Law, 1977.
2. Real Property Law, 1978.
3. Administrative Law for Surveying Students, 1978.
4. Applied Valuation: Questions and Answers (RICS Final Exam) Vol I, 1978.
5. Applied Valuation: Questions and Answers (RICS Final Exam) Vol II, 1979.
6. Taxation of Income and Capital: Revenue Law (UK), 1979.
These manuals were written on a purely voluntary basis for the benefit of students within a few years (something very unusual at the time among academic staff).
As his subject areas involved a great deal of law, Nat decided to study for the English Bar exams and as he had a lot of spare time between lectures, he decided in October 1975 to study on his own for the direct English Bar Examinations. He was successful at both Part 1, Group A, and Part 1, Group B, examinations in 1976 and 1977 respectively. It normally took a full academic year (full-time) to complete each group.
Hong Kong University. Main Building (Knowles)
Academic Year 1980/81 in England
With a view to acquiring the right to practise as a barrister in England and Wales, Nat resigned his position in Hong Kong in July, 1980, to commence the compulsory 8-month Bar Final course at the Inns of Court School of Law in London. In addition, he had to involve himself in a practical course as well. He was successful in passing the exams with honours in June 1981. Nat became a Barrister in 1981 (with the right to practise in Hong Kong in 1982 and England and Wales in 1997).
The next phase in his life was to decide whether to seek employment again or to do pupillage with a view to professional practice. He started his pupillage in July 1981 but was requested to return to Hong Kong.
Return to Hong Kong
Due to personal and family circumstances beyond his control, he reluctantly returned to Hong Kong in September 1981 where he resumed his academic work at both institutions. His institutions were desperate for his return. He signed a two-year contract and, at the same time, continued his pupillage on a part-time basis under a distinguished English barrister, who was also a part-time judge. After completing his pupillage, Nat commenced his practice as a barrister during his free time. This he did as a Barrister of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong.
Moving to Singapore
Nat was approached by the National University of Singapore to take up a position in the Faculty of Architecture and Building. After doing a cost benefit analysis, he moved to Singapore, despite the salary not being comparable to Hong Kong and income tax being higher. The main reason for the move was the better living environment for a growing family. He was from 9/83 to 12/87 a Senior Lecturer engaged in teaching subjects relevant to the real estate and construction industry, research, supervision of students up to PhD level and administration, among other matters.
National University of Singapore
Within six months of his arrival in Singapore he finished writing his first manuscript for a book which was published in 1984 by Butterworths, a publisher of high international repute. It was a remarkable achievement to accomplish this task in such a short time without prior knowledge of the law of Singapore and Malaysia. By the time he departed Singapore in 1996 he authored nine textbooks, the last one being some 1100 pages (including the preliminary pages), and 33 academic papers, some of which were refereed journal papers while others were presented at various international conferences and symposiums in various countries around the world, including Australia, USA, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the UK (Oxford University) among other countries. The nine textbooks are as follows:
1. Law of Compulsory Purchase and Compensation, Butterworths 1984, 338 pages.
2. Law of Real Property and Conveyancing in Singapore, Longman, 1986, 447 pages.
3. Singapore Property Tax, Longman – Law & Valuation, 1988, 299 pages.
4. Law of Real Property & Conveyancing, Longman, 2nd Edition, 1991, 722 pages.
5. Development Control and Planning Law (main author), Longman, 1991, 434 pages.
6. Taxation Relating to Investments in Real Property, Longman, 1993, 378 pages.
7. Compulsory Land Acquisition, Butterworths, 2nd edition, 1994, 388 pages.
8. Strata Titles, Butterworths, 1995, 604 pages.
9. Law of Real property & Conveyancing, FT – Law & Tax, 3rd Edition, 1996, 1085
In addition to being full-time in academia, Nat was a part-time member of the Strata Titles Board (a Judicial Tribunal) from September 1988 to September 1996, As a member of this Board, he adjudicated on many matters relating to a variety of disputes associated with high-rise buildings and condominiums. With his experience in this tribunal, he was invited by legal practitioners to write a book relating to his area of expertise. He produced the main authoritative textbook on Strata Titles in Singapore. The title of the book is “Strata Titles” published by Butterworths in 1995.
Nat Khublall was promoted to professorial status in January, 1988. In his early days in Singapore, a significant number of the senior academic staff were expatriate, but by 1996 most of the expatriate in his faculty had left due to local people taking over the headships and poor management. Nat likewise left in September, 1996. But by the time he left he had made his submission for a higher doctorate degree, the DSc, to the University of Reading.
Higher Doctorate Degree – DSc
It is very uncommon for a person without a doctorate degree to hold a professorial position in a prestigious university. However, at the National University of Singapore a doctorate degree is not a requirement in three faculties. These are medicine, law and architecture and building. It was considered that academic staff with relevant degrees and professional qualifications could be promoted to the highest academic positions.
Nevertheless, Nat decided that he would try to obtain a higher doctorate degree. He had made his decision after he learnt some years earlier that a Guyanese, the late Dr Raghunandan Nery, whom he knew as his neighbour since his childhood, had obtained two higher doctorates from the University of London.
The degree of Doctor of Science (DSc), in the UK and the Commonwealth, is one of the Higher Doctorates, higher than the PhD degree. In website (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor of Science.) accessed 31 July 2015, it is stated ‘The degree is conferred on a member of the university who has a proven record of internationally recognised scholarship…In former times the doctorate in science was regarded as a greater distinction than a professorial chair and hence a professor who was also a D.Sc. would be known as Doctor. The Doctor of Science may also be awarded as an honorary degree…’
After investigation as regards the stringent requirements to satisfy, he felt that with his extensive record of research and publications he should be able to make out a case for such a degree. On second thoughts, he felt that he should not make a spurious submission but to wait until July 1996 when his magnum opus, “The Law of Real Property and Conveyancing” (some 1100 pages) was published by FT Law & Tax.
University of Reading. Enterprise Centre.
In July 1996 Nat made his submission for the higher doctorate degree (DSc) to the University of Reading. By this time, he was in possession of copies of the remainder of his publications. They were the third edition of the Law of Real Property and Conveyancing, his refereed paper on Fairness in Assessment of Property Tax in Singapore and a paper entitled Expropriation of Rights and Interests in Land. He had to prepare a detailed statement for submission in respect of the case he made out for the award of the degree. The case was set out in a 12-page document, which was intended to satisfy the university’s criteria for the award, bearing in mind the following:
“The degrees of DLitt or DSc or LLD may be conferred upon the persons as may be described in the relevant Ordinance who have submitted to the judgment of the university and are deemed by the Senate to have distinguished themselves by research and learning. Before deciding upon the merits of such contributions the Senate shall consider a report thereon from the Board of the Faculty or School of the University within whose purview the subject falls.”
The Ordinance required the appointment of no fewer than three examiners of whom the majority shall be persons other than members of the academic staff of the University. Further:
“Each Examiner shall be required to send to the Registrar a report upon the candidate’s claim and upon the published work submitted by the candidate and an expression of his opinion as to whether the candidate has sufficiently distinguished himself by reason of research or learning to merit the award of the degree.”
The document included points on eligibility for submission for a higher doctorate, criteria such as: sustained and consistent contribution over a number of years which helps to establish a candidate’s distinction in his field of study, the originality of the candidate’s contribution to his field of study; and seminal publications which have led to extensions or developments by others.
Nat made his submission addressing all the criteria for the award. In support of his case for the award of the degree, he stated:
“(a) I have made a substantial contribution in the areas of real estate law and taxation in Singapore covering a number of topics, many of which were completely outside the purview of other authors. This being the case, a significant proportion of my publications can be regarded as of seminal importance.
‘(b) I have produced not again textbooks of well-titled areas, but ground-breaking works: quite apart from original views or comparisons, if any, made by other authors. Indeed, I have produced in almost each book an original structure and original approach for practitioners, judges, researchers and students to follow in Singapore and to a lesser extent Malaysia.
‘(c) The acceptance of my publications as a contribution to existing literature and knowledge has been manifested by the extensive use of researchers, practitioners, judges and students at both graduate and undergraduate levels.
‘(d) Many of my publications contain some matters of a critical nature with suggestions, where appropriate, for reform. My published views have already triggered some reform in various areas over the years, and it is very likely that the Land Titles (Strata) Act will be amended in the light of some of my comments on share value computations.
‘(e) There is a degree of coherence in the areas of my works, real estate law and taxation, which undeniably establish my distinction and scholarship in these areas in Singapore.
‘(f) I have drawn heavily on my dual expertise in law and valuation for the purpose of interpreting the law in many uncharted areas and to provide, where appropriate, valuation examples in some of my books.
‘(g) My textbooks are based on my own inimitable brand of expertise for the purpose of better serving the intended readership and, in this regard, they have all been successful.
‘(h) Finally, I wish to reiterate that the discussion on certain issues of a sensitive nature had to be tempered with moderation to avoid any direct conflict with the authorities. In this regard, authors here do not have the same freedom as their counterparts in western countries.”
Nat felt he had more than satisfied the criteria. He was not aware of another person who had worked so diligently as he had in producing such a large number of publications of distinction for a similar submission. It is only on very rare occasions higher doctorates are awarded.
The examiners unanimously reported in June 1997 that the award of the degree should be conferred. A letter dated 18 June 1997 from the Office of the Registrar, The University of Reading, read in part: ‘ Dear Professor Khublall, I am pleased to inform you that the Faculty of Urban and Regional Studies is recommending to the Senate of the University that you be awarded the degree of DSc. This will be ratified at the next meeting of Senate on 2 July 1997.’ The degree was conferred by the Vice Chancellor in a convocation ceremony – the Congregation for the Conferment of Degrees on Saturday 5 July 1997. In the Order of Proceeding the conferment of the Degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) took precedence before Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Master of Philosophy (M Phil), Master of Science (MSc) etc.
Doctor of Science Degree Certificate.
Photo taken on 5 July 1997, when the Degree was awarded.
The crimson colour of the robe was specifically for the higher doctorate.
Practising as a Barrister in England & Wales
Dr Nat Khublall returned to London from Singapore in September 1996 after finally leaving full-time employment. His aim was to practise as a barrister. He has practised as a barrister for some 12 years. He commenced his practice late in his working career, though he had a brief stint in Hong Kong earlier. Before he was allowed to practice he had to do another three-month pupillage.
In addition to the practising of law, for a number of years Nat was an examiner to Oxford Brookes University in their distant learning BSc degree in real estate. He was requested to prepare a course module by a professor whom Nat had supervised earlier at the NUS for his PhD degree.
Resumption of Writing
In addition to the 9 textbooks published between 1984 and 1996, 6 study manuals written between 1975 and 1980, and 33 academic papers authored between 1984 and 1996, Dr Khublall has written a number of eBooks in recent years after discontinuing his legal practice. Almost all of the 9 textbooks and 5 of the eBooks have been reviewed.
The eBooks are as follows:
1. Peasant Farmer to Professor & Beyond, eBook, Amazon KDP, 2012, 438 pages.
2. Wills and Estate Administration, eBook, Amazon KDP, 2012, 265 pages.
3. Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, eBook, Amazon KDP, 2012, 643 pages.
4. Taxation Relating to Real Property, eBook, Amazon KDP, 2012, about 500 pages.
5. India: Wisdom & Achievements, eBook, Amazon KDP, 2014, 374 pages.
6. Revived Expectations, eBook, Amazon KDP, 2014, 198 pages.
7. Landlord and Tenant Law, eBook, Amazon KDP, 2015, 400 pages
Brief Account of Dr Nat Khublall by Prof. Alice Christudason
Nat is highly regarded by his peers. Professor Christudason a former colleague when Nat was at the National University of Singapore, wrote the following:
“I am Associate Professor Alice Christudason from the Department of Real Estate at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
‘Dr Nat Khublall (Nat) was my colleague from September 1983 to September 1996. He has left an indelible impression during his relatively short period in my faculty, particularly with regard to his publications in the form of books and papers. His first book was published by Butterworths…within a year of his arrival. This was followed by another book, or a revised edition of an earlier book, almost every year.
‘Prior to coming to the NUS, Nat also wrote six study manuals during his time spent at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Hong Kong University between 1977 and 1980.
‘Since leaving the NUS, I understand that Nat remains a prolific writer – he has published seven eBooks.…These books are on a variety of topics, including one on Teaching and Study Skills in Higher Education, which was based on his teaching and materials collected in Singapore. His latest book is on Landlord and Tenant Law. I am also aware that he has written 33 academic papers in Singapore, some of which were published in refereed journals, and many were presented at various international conferences around the world.
‘Nat’s most impressive achievement is his higher doctorate degree (DSc) from the University of Reading (UK). This degree was awarded on the basis of an examination by a number of professors of his significant contribution to knowledge in his specific areas of research and publications. In this regard, Nat substantiated his submission with six of his textbooks, which were of seminal importance, and a number of refereed papers, for examination.
‘During his stint in Singapore, Dr Khublall willingly and generously assisted other academic staff in their career objectives. I personally have benefited from discussions with him on various points of law. These discussions revealed his erudition and comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter at hand. In addition, generations of students continue to benefit from his publications. Although a little out of date, several of his texts are still on the ‘Recommended Reading’ list for students at tertiary level, and also provide a useful reference for practitioners.
‘His systematic, clear and lucid style of writing makes his texts readable, and relatively easy to follow. In addition, from time to time, judges continue to refer to and rely on principles expounded in several of his text books. A recent judgment in McDonalds Restaurants v Collector of Land Revenue was based on the example of apportionment of compensation at pages 166-7 in his book on Compulsory Acquisition and Compensation.”
Some of Nat’s Siblings have done well.
Ramesh, Nat’s older brother was a tailor, who passed away at a relatively young age of 51 years. Ganesh, lives in Florida. He has a trucking business, which has been affected by the recent financial crisis. He had a trucking business in Georgetown before going to the USA. Brother Hardat is in California. He is a professional engineer of both California and New Jersey. He has a BSc in Civil Engineering from University of Guyana. He studied for the City & Guilds ONC at the Georgetown Technical Institute, and the Higher Diploma in Civil Engineering at UG. Hardat works as a senior project manager at Orange County Sanitation Department, California. Brother Ravindra lives in New Jersey and works for a company supplying medical appliances. The next brother down the line is Devendranath who also lives in New Jersey and works in a hospital as a paramedic. His wife is a nurse. Youngest brother, Mahesh, is a manager for a company in New Jersey.
His three sisters, Savitri, Chandrowtie and Rohinie , live in New Jersey. Their children have done well. One son of Chandrowtie is a medical doctor and his wife is also a doctor. Another son is working for the Federal Government Immigration Department. Savitri has a son who was a builder but he is now managing a business. Her daughter does a weekly show on the radio. Rohinie has two sons. One is a graduate of Rutgers University and the younger son is in IT.
Nat’s family. In the father’s footsteps.
Nat is married to Vasantha from Bangalore. They have two sons Denis and Derek.
Denis graduated from Rutgers in New Jersey with a double major in economics and computer science. About 5 years ago he got an MBA from the University of Oxford. He now works for Ericcson, and is now based in Saudi Arabia. Denis is married to a Chinese girl from New Jersey and they have two children.
Derek obtained an LLB degree then acquired an MA in international law and peace with distinction from Kings College, London, and an MA in History with commendation from Georgetown University (USA). He studied French in South of France and taught English to French executives in Paris for some time before he decided to do the LPC (for intended solicitors). He passed with commendation although he secured over 70 marks on average to be awarded distinction. He now works for a law firm in the City of London.
Nat’s aimless life and very low status began to change in 1957. As mentioned above, he was a dropout from school some 7 or 8 years earlier with very little primary education. It was his struggle and effort in persevering for a better life that propelled him into action and ultimate success in achieving the highest degree one could obtain from a British university. This brief biography (life story) should give some inspiration to others. Any person of reasonable intelligence, though not necessarily brilliant, who have the inclination to persevere towards the achievement of something great, regardless of adverse circumstances, can succeed. Whatever is one’s objective, it must be within the realm of possibility and to a large extent within one’s own control. Nothing within reason is impossible to achieve.
“A person who makes a success…is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly.” Cecil B. De Mille
31 July 2015.