When I left for New Delhi to pursue my postgraduate studies, my father handed me a list of about 12 names with addresses of people who I should call on. It helped that all of them were in South Delhi, one of the factors in my deciding to join JNU, also in South Delhi, and not Delhi School of Economics.
One of the names in the list was Dr. K.N.S. Nair, 39, Jorbagh. He was known to friends as Amminichettan. Maybe that was his pet name at home also, or something he was known by among younger relatives. He was a contemporary of my maternal grandfather at the Madras Medical College, maybe even one or two years his senior. Way back in 1956, when my father landed in Delhi for his Civil Service interview, it was Amminichettan who received him at the Safdarjung airport.
Amminichettan was a chronic bachelor as my father used to say. And he used to stay earlier at 1, Windsor Place (now, I think 1, Motilal Nehru Place) with late N. Srikantan Nair, RSP leader and Member of Parliament from Kerala. Later, maybe after Srikantan Nair ceased to be an MP, he moved in with KRK Menon, the first Finance Secretary, on whom I had written another piece in another blog. Amminichettan was for long Chairman of the Kerala School in New Delhi.
In my first year in JNU, I had only one meeting with Amminichettan. It was only in the second year, in 1982, that I came to know him better. The reason was that I fell ill starting with a dengue fever that had affected almost every home in Delhi at that time. For me, this was further complicated with a bout of malaria and typhoid that followed.
During this period of illness, I stayed with my dad’s friend in Golf Links Colony, not far from where Amminichettan used to stay in Jorbagh Colony. He would come and look me up almost every day, driving himself even at his advanced age. My treatment and recuperation was all under the guidance of Amminichettan, by looking at whose pleasant avuncular face itself one felt quite relieved.
It was under Amminichettan’s complete care that I recovered fully, and was able to resume my academic semester two months later. At the end of it all, I was down to some 50 kilos, half my semester wasted, and my grades spoilt beyond retrieval. As we were not allowed to stay on in the hostel the following year, due to a students strike, there was no way I could have improved upon them.
Amminichettan would later move with the Menons to a bungalow in a lane off Harrington Road, Chetput, in then Madras. By then, I had joined the Reserve Bank in Madras. When my father was hospitalised at Lady Willingdon Nursing Home, in late 1988 battling colon cancer, Amminichettan was a regular visitor both before and after my father passed away.
During my interactions with Amminichettan, I could gain a lot of information about his student life in Madras, about my grandfather, and my greatfrandfather, who was in service in Madras in those days, and whose house they used to frequent.
When I visited them at their home in 1992, KRK Menon was still alive, aged 92. That was when the Harshad Mehta scam was grabbing the headlines in all newspapers. KRK’s mind was quite sharp. As I had mentioned in another blog, he told me, “I was Finance Secretary for seven long year, and I could not do much harm, however hard I tried.”
KRK died soon thereafter, but Mrs. Menon and Amminichettan lived on for almost another decade into their late 90s. He was giving company to her in the hospital, in what was literally her deathbed. He passed away two or three months after Mrs. Menon passed away. As one of the nurses told my mom, it was as if he was waiting for her to die first.