1970. Or maybe late 1969. Evening. Ranade Library in Luz, Mylapore. Malcolm Adiseshiah was about to deliver a lecture on economics at the Srinivasa Sastri Hall.
|Malcolm Adiseshiah and wife - photo at MIDS, Adayar, Madras|
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began. Then he corrected himself.
“Lady and Gentlemen,” he said, smiling at the only lady in the room.
After a pause, while other necks craned to glimpse the only lady in the room, he improved upon his correction.
“Lady with a baby in her hand, and Gentlemen,” he grinned, and this time the audience broke into
laughter and approval.
My father, Rangarathnam, told me this story. At that time he was an upcoming lawyer in the Madras High Court - a Mylapore vakeel in Tamil parlance; a part time lecture on Mercantile and Commercial Law at the Vivekanda College; an amateur novelist – at least one of his stories had been published in either Kumudam or Ananda Vikatan, under the pseudonym Athreyan; with a suspended career in politics – he had contested the 1967 Madras elections under a Congress ticket for post of Corporation Councillor and had lost in the DMK wave.
The lady with the baby was Pushpa. She had written her MA (Economics) final papers in April 1969, while eight months pregnant.
She was my mother.
I was reminded of the incident when I attended a lecture at MIDS, in Adayar, yesterday. MIDS was founded by that very Adiseshiah.
There is famous incident in the life of Subrahmanya Bharathi, when he went to meet Sister Nivedita and she asked him why she hadn't brought his wife.
My dad always beamed with pride when he told me this story. I think about this when I see the rare couple attend a program together.
The photo below is of my parents, at a School Day function in CIT Colony English Primary School, Mylapore where my sister, my brother and I studied first. This photo is from 1978 - my father was Chief Guest and my mother gave away the prizes.