The Lions of Odesa

The lions of Odesa are a reminder of the ravages of war as it looms over Ukraine.

Odesa steps
Odesa Steps. Photograph: Dave Proffer

Odesa (single ‘s’ in Ukrainian) on the Black Sea shore of South-Western Ukraine is the country’s largest port city. About 300 km away, as I write this, the capital city of Kyiv (changed from the earlier Russian Kiev) is surrounded by Russian troops. It reminded me of the lions of Odesa in the classic montage sequence of Eisenstein’s 1925 film, Battleship Potemkin, one of the greatest ever made. Based on a real-life event of 1905, the crew of the battleship had staged a mutiny against their officers. The citizenry of Odesa was welcoming the ship and its crew with cheers and supplies sent on boats. Continue reading “The Lions of Odesa”

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Who will be the next President?

Ramnath Kovind, 14th President of India
President Ramnath Kovind (presidentofindia.nic.in)

The attention of the political media is currently focused on the five states going to the polls during February/March. I am jumping ahead to speculate who will be the 15th President of India to succeed Ramnath Kovind whose term will expire on 24 July 2022. As we will see, the outcome of the five state elections will play a critical role in who the next President will be.

Those who are/were in high positions fall into two broad categories. At one end are those who are/were a decoration to their posts and continue to be so in public memory. At the other end, the designations are a decoration around their neck. Some such indicator would be required to remember who they were. In between are those whose positions rub off on them over time, and they grow to become distinguished personalities. Presidents of India are no exception. On the brighter side, barring a few, the rest have done the nation proud.

Continue reading “Who will be the next President?”

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The Benegal Brothers

Radhabai and Raghavendra Rao

The collective contribution of the four Benegal brothers, Sanjiva Rao, Narsing Rau, Rama Rau, and Shiva Rao, to the idea and making of India has few parallels. Sons of Radhabai and Dr. Raghavendra Rao, a medical doctor, they are a fine example of what being rooted in Indian tradition and values, but being open to modern and progressive ideas can achieve. Despite their conservative upbringing, two found their spouses from another country, and a third from another community. All could have achieved much more than what they did only if they had been ambitious, or compromised on their values or ideals. But, every one chose to serve the country in their own humble ways. In an era of credit grabbing and blame passing, the Benegal brothers remain relatively unknown and under appreciated. Continue reading “The Benegal Brothers”

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Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Triumph and Tragedy

Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Courtesy: National Portrait Gallery, London)

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, tribulations, and a lasting legacy. Continue reading “Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Triumph and Tragedy”

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Sidney Wadsworth: A Judge in Madras

Caroline Keen, A Judge in Madras: Sir Sidney Wadsworth and the Indian Civil Service, 1913-47, Harper Collins, 2021. Rs. 699.

Most British (and Indian) officers of the Indian Civil Service diligently maintained copious diaries filled with detailed accounts of their working life in India with the hope of turning them into one or more books after retirement. Only a few of them successfully sustained the habit throughout their service. Fewer still turned them into books. One of those who wrote a manuscript after retirement, but never published it, fearing lack of demand and publisher interest, was Sir Sidney Wadsworth. Born in 1888, Wadsworth joined the ICS in Madras in 1913. Also posted to Madras, from the same batch, was Benegal Rama Rau, later Governor, Reserve Bank of India. Sidney retired in 1947 to the Isle of Man, where his father in law, Sir Robert Clegg ICS, also of Madras, spent his last years. “A Judge in Madras” is based on the draft memoirs of Sir Sidney Wadsworth. Continue reading “Sidney Wadsworth: A Judge in Madras”

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A brief meeting with K.R. Gowri

K.R. Gowri

Speaking of politicians from Kerala, one of the most respected must be KR Gowri, now 101 years old. Also referred to affectionately as Gowri Amma, she could be the oldest living politician in India. There does not seem to be any book on her, as yet. Even if there is, I am yet to come across. There is, however, a Wikipedia page here.

Born in Alappuzha district of Kerala, she was the first female from her community to have studied law. Having joined the Communist Party early, under the influence of an elder brother, she was a member of the legislative assembly of Travancore-Cochin in 1952 and 1954. She went on to become the only lady in the first Communist Ministry in Kerala led by EMS Namboodiripad, from 1957 to 1959 Continue reading “A brief meeting with K.R. Gowri”

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A train journey with PKV

PKV Election Poster

Today is the 74th Independence Day. As I write this, Malayalam news media is full of discussions on the gold smuggling scandal that has been the rage for the last six weeks. In stark contrast to the jet setting life style and outlook of present day leaders, I was reminded of two incidents from a few decades back. Continue reading “A train journey with PKV”

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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”

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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”

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