Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Father, friend, philosopher and guide...

Malathi Damodaran: MY first distinct memory concerning my father goes back to when I was eight years old. One day in January 1947, when I woke up in the morning, I found a number of policemen standing outside my house. I was told that they had come to arrest my father. Meanwhile, someone came and told me that my baby brother had been born the previous night. My father was suffering from chicken-pox at that time. He was arrested and subsequently moved to hospital.

In the next four to five years, I met my father only twice, while he was underground. When I joined Queen Mary's College in Madras, he used to visit me often and take me out to the movies and to have ice-cream. When I joined the Christian Medical College, Vellore in 1957, he was the Chief Minister of Kerala and my fellow students were quite curious to know how a Chief Minister's family lived - in particular, how many servants we had and how many cars we owned. They were surprised to learn that we did not own a car and that my mother had only one person to help her. During his first visit to CMC to see me, he addressed a meeting of staff and students and started his speech by stating that this was his first visit to Vellore as a free man - he had been in Vellore on several occasions, as a detainee in the Central Jail. This shocked those gathered there.

Following the severe colitis that he suffered in 1969, he came under the supervision of doctors for a variety of ailments. He could be called a doctor's delight for his complete faith in them and his complete compliance with their advice. He was on a strict, bland diet since 1969 and followed it faithfully. What he loved to eat was sweet dishes, which he was allowed to eat. All of us made it a point to make something sweet for him whenever possible.

He took great pleasure in spending time with his grandchildren whenever he could, right from playing with them when they were little to taking a great deal of interest in whatever they were doing as they grew up and became adults. He also lived to see his great-granddaughter, who was born last year. He was looking forward a great deal to seeing her again this summer.

Malathi Damodaran is a consultant paediatrician in Thiruvananthapuram.

A.D. Damodaran: I got married to EMS' daughter Malathi in September 1965. Our marriage was conducted without any traditional rituals, something highly unusual in those days.

After our marriage, when we were to leave for my home, EMS gave me a copy of his celebrated book Keralam, Malayaalikalude Maathrubhoomi with an autographed inscription: "Vivaahithayaayi makal thante bharthrugruhathil pokumbol oru pithaavinundaakaavunna vikaaravichaarangal prashastha kaviyaaya Kaalidaasan thante viswotharakrithi Shaakunthalathil savistharam prathipaadichittundu. Aa vikaaravichaarangalku ee aatom yugathilum prasakthiyundennu innu enikku thonnunnu." ("The great poet Kalidasa has, in his Shakuntalam, described the emotions and feelings of a father whose daughter is departing for her husband's home after marriage. I consider that even in this atomic age, these feelings are relevant.")

Those were the days when EMS was under strict police vigil and as one working in the Department of Atomic Energy I also came under scrutiny, in the process going through great mental tension, something I had never experienced before. Subsequently, when we settled down in Bombay (and later moved over to Hyderabad), he used to visit us often and stay with us, even when he was the Chief Minister.

I cannot even begin to recount what a profound influence he has had in shaping my professional and personal life. Having great faith in science and technology, he was quite interested in my research and S&T activities, be it in the Department of Atomic Energy, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research or the Government of Kerala. He used proudly to recall always his visit to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. I can recall his delight in going around the Nuclear Fuel Complex at Hyderabad and appreciate its great strategic-technological significance. He abhorred mediocrity and was very much concerned over the growing "amateurishness" in different walks of life including the ranks and, as was emphasised by one and all, he used his pen as a great weapon.
The three books which have attracted me the most are:
(a) Economics and Politics of India's Socialist Pattern, describing the evolution of the Indian bourgeoisie. (b) Kerala Yesterday Today and Tomorrow with his Jaathi-Janmi-Naaduvazhi formulation of the Kerala feudal system, and (c) A History of the Indian Freedom Struggle, published originally through the columns of Desabhimani daily during the Emergency period.

He considered the completion of his recently published Marx Engels Lenin Vicharaprapancham, Oru Mukhavura as a major accomplishment. We happened to visit him on the day this work was completed and his face glowed when he said this to us.

A.D. Damodaran is a former Director of the Regional Research Laboratory, Thiruvananthapuram, and a former Chairman of the State Committee on Science, Technology and Environment, Kerala.
Vol. 15 :: No. 07 :: Apr. 4 - 17, 1998

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