Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Triumph and Tragedy

The year 2021-22 marks the sesquicentennial of Allama Abdullah Yusuf Ali. His remarkable life, caught between many worlds, was chaotic and turbulent, with its triumphs and tribulations, and a lasting legacy.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali (licensed from National Portrait Gallery, London)

In December 1953, six months after Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, London experienced another severe winter. The same time, previous year, the city had suffered the Great Smog. Wednesday, the 9th, was freezing cold. Movement was difficult. In the evening, in Trafalgar Square, Westminster, the police found an old man in tattered clothes, destitute and disoriented, on the steps of a house. He had a suitcase full of papers, but no money in his pockets. They admitted him to the Westminster Hospital, which discharged him the next day. A London City Council home for the elderly, in nearby Dovehouse Street, Chelsea, took him in. The same day he suffered a heart attack, and was rushed to the St Stephen’s Hospital. He died soon thereafter. Continue reading “Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Triumph and Tragedy”

University College: My brief stint, and a bit of history

College logo

Last year, 2019, University College, Trivandrum, was in the news for all the wrong reasons. It brought back memories of my own association with the College over the years. I discuss below, my association with the College, a bit of history, and some alumni. Continue reading “University College: My brief stint, and a bit of history”

Srinivasa Ramanujan: A Life in Infinity

Opened in 1901, the Victoria Students Hostel in Triplicane, Chennai, is an Indo-Saracenic structure designed in the style of residences at Oxford and Cambridge by Henry Irwin, Consulting Architect for the Madras Presidency. It was built in memory of Pundi Runganadha Mudaliar, Professor of Mathematics at Presidency College, who had died at the age of 45. The hostel housed students of Presidency College, and nearby colleges including the College of Engineering. Continue reading “Srinivasa Ramanujan: A Life in Infinity”

A Case of Two Lullabies

This article was first published in Business Standard on 16 March 2013. It is a comment on the controversy around the lullaby in the film Life of Pi. It was alleged that the lullaby was plagiarised from a 200-years old lullaby in Malayalam, composed by Irayimman Thampi in 1813 on the occasion of the birth of his nephew, Swati Tirunal, already anointed the ruler of Travancore. The original lullaby continues to be very popular even today in the State of Kerala, India, where Malayalam is spoken. Continue reading “A Case of Two Lullabies”

The Victoria Students Hostel

“In great cities, the great buildings tell you things you don’t know and remember things which you’ve forgotten. It’s a collective wisdom, an engine superior to your own intelligence. Architecture is the biggest unwritten document of history.”

—Daniel Libeskind, We mustn’t forget the deep emotional impact of the buildings around us – Special to CNN – 7/1/2015

“One century’s building is another century’s useful aberration.”

— Jane Jacobs, The Life and Death of Great American Cities

When great cities forget their great buildings, it evokes images of falling giant trees, burning libraries, blue whale victims losing their grips over ledges, abandoned parents, distant wails of unborn children, and wasted memories. A visit to the Victoria Students Hostel was one such experience, aberrations from the past. Continue reading “The Victoria Students Hostel”

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