A Tribute to an Intellectual and a Grandfather

Dr C T Krishnamachari
Dr C T Krishnamachari

(This is part of a larger project that my mother, sister and I have been working on in memory of my grandfather. To learn more go to www.ctkchari.org  and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._T._K._Chari)

I had the misfortune of being only 11 years old when my maternal grandfather Dr C T Krishnamachari passed away. I therefore  have only what I can describe as vague memories and impressions of both him and my grandmother  Mrs. Mythili Krishnamachari. I think I learnt more about him after he passed away from the legacy that he left behind, rather than when he was alive.  But this is not to say that I learnt nothing from him whilst he was living.
One of the things I clearly remember him teaching me and my sister was the latin saying: ‘De Gustibus no est disputandum’ (meaning tastes are not to be discussed). He probably taught it to us over some small argument we were having with him, but I still remember it to this day and use it as a valuable lesson. And I always remember the piles of books that he used to be reading at any point of time. During the last year of his life I also remember him trying to teach me logic puzzles (including the one where the Cretan says all Cretans are liars) and also the games of chess that I played with him. He thought I was a good chess player (of course he was the doting grandfather!).
But as I have already mentioned, it was only as I grew older that I realised what an amazing person he had been all his life. Growing up in East Tambaram, I always came across people who spoke about my grandparents in nothing but the best terms. Even during my term at Madras Christian College as I was doing by Bachelors, I always used to come across teachers who kept introducing me to others as C T K’s granddaughter. This of course meant that there were certain standards that I had to necessarily live up to.
In terms of the legacy that he left behind I think it is important to mention the vast love for learning that he instilled in all of us (in this aspect my sister and I were fortunate that my father and mother were also no different). My grandfather possessed a huge library- a big part of which still remains in our house. (We donated a part of it- especially the specialist books to Madras Christian College and also some to his ex-colleagues and students. On the lighter side (and in a non-grudging way I’m not sure if I would have allowed this to happen if I had been older. My attitude to books of any reasonable quality currently in my house can be summed up as : ‘Once they check-in, they don’t check-out’). In any case, one could (and still can) find books on a grand variety subjects and by numerous authors in his library. Ranging from Thucydides’ book on the Peloponesian war to Jacob Burkhardt’s civilisation of the renaissance in Italy to books on philosphers like Kant, Kierkegaard and many others, to books on physical and other sciences (biology being one of his favourites I believe, though apparently he didn’t pursue it actively as he loathed dissection). This did not mean that he hardly ever read anything light- in fact between him and my mother a vast collection of books in the mystery and crime genre was amassed. Literature and languages was also not left out. My grandfather had a teach yourself book for a whopping number of languages (French, German, Danish, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Russian- you name it! He did this apparently to get the gist of scholarly articles written in other languages). My mother often mentions that my grandfather would have been happy to see his granddaughter learning a multitude of languages herself  as this was one of his interests. My mother herself caught a fair bit of this desire and learnt French. I feel I am just continuing the tradition. This is saying nothing about the heavy bound books full of handwritten notes on a vareity of themes- no photocopiers or printers in those days!
Ofcourse the vast amount of research that he had conducted and the scholarly papers that he wrote and got published in international journals need a special mention. (Even to this day, a search in google gets hundreds of hits to his name from people referencing his papers.)
All this was not to say that my grandfather was nothing but a cold intellectual- quite to the contrary. Over the years I have learnt through my mother that he was a warm person who could engage with people of all ages and interests. As both my mother and sister have already mentioned- he was quite popular with the children in the neighbourhood as he could be a great playmate and devised all manners of new games for them. He was also very protective of his family and would not take the slightest insult to any of the family members.

C T Krishnamachari with granddaughters Lavanya and Sukanya
C T Krishnamachari with granddaughters Lavanya and Sukanya

Although I do miss not having been able to engage with him as a grown-up person, I feel I am fortunate to have been a part of his family and his incredible legacy.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nirmala says:

    Read this now and feel proud about father and grand daughter!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Aww and I feel proud about my mother!

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