Monday, March 31, 2008

A. N. Chaturvedi - In Memoriam




A. N. Chaturvedi was the father of my closest friend. He passed away on Saturday, after a brief struggle against cancer. It was detected too late to be treated. We knew he was sinking, but the loss is painful nevertheless.

He was the Director (Legal and Estate) of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan till recently, when his sons persuaded him to retire and spend time with his grandchildren.

Uncle, as I called him, was one of my favorite people. He was a great scholar, historian and philosopher, though you'd never suspect it. Unless someone asked him specifically to speak on history or philosophy, he would be content to listen to other people's conversations, never intervening or correcting anyone.

I would do just that. I would open a conversation, preferably something controversial, and then spar with Uncle for a while. But only for a short while because the depth of his knowledge was such that I couldn't hope to contradict him.

He had a gentle wit and could be quite humorous. His presentation of facts and events would always be in the form of a narrative or story, making it interesting. And he had quite a few unorthodox views on history. I won't get into them (they merit several posts of their own), but the common thread was the gentleness with which he argued his views.

His son and I loved dragging him into controversial territory and would try our best to get him to contradict himself. In ten years that I knew him, I never succeeded even once. He was crystal clear. And consistently good humored. I have never known him to lose his temper. Neither have his children.

He was fond of cricket too, and bet Rs. 100 on India, against his sons, every time there was a game. Whenever India lost (and we know how frequent that is) they would delight in harrying him for the hundred rupees and a great deal of fun was had by all.

I would keep presenting him books, which he would read and promptly return. "It was a gift, Uncle" I would tell him, but he believed that books were meant to be read, not stored. "Pass it along, Narendra", he would say, "I've got it stored here", tapping his temple. And it was well and truly stored. He had an amazing memory, almost photograghic.

The last thing I bought for him was a book called "A corner of a foreign field" by Ramachandra Guha, a delightful history of cricket in India. He was too unwell to read it and the book is still with me. It will remain with me for ever. Whenever I read it, I will remember you, uncle. And I will wish I could have discussed it with you. Rest in peace. You were one of a kind and it is my good fortune that I knew you.

15 comments:

Praveen G K said...

Mr. Shenoy,

I am very sorry to hear the sad demise of Mr. AN Chaturvedi. The blog post says how much the loss means to you! My heartfelt condolences to you.

narendra shenoy said...

Praveen

Thanks. I'm just back from the condolence meeting, but I still can't believe he's gone. Really going to miss him.

AlwaysHappyKya said...

Kind, warm, humorous, intelligent and philosophical - He has a face that somehow tells it all.

May his soul rest in peace.

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

Nicely written. Would be good to see some of the unorthodox views he had.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

people like that never die, they will always live in the hearts and minds of the people they touched. condolences to your friend and his family.

narendra shenoy said...

AlwaysHappyKya - He was that. Thanks for your kind comment.

bpsk - I'll write some of them, though I probably won't be able to do justice. His way of presenting was a bit like Maddy's, which is why I like Maddy's posts so much. Never opinionated, never overbearing, and always giving the listener the feeling that it is a discussion and not a lecture.

cynic - Thanks for your kind words. He will certainly live in my memory for ever, and of many other people.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

My condolences. You know, people who die are not truly dead. They are alive in your memory.

Indrani said...

Very sad indeed. Death does create a vaccum which is very difficult to fill. Time is the best healer they say, but I really don't believe so.

My condolences to you and your friend.

kallu said...

He sounds a wonderful man - no wonder you've written so pithily and well about him - it or he strikes a chord even with strangers. You were lucky to have known him.

narendra shenoy said...

lakshmi - He will surely live on in my memory. Thanks

indrani - Time will heal, I hope. Thanks

kallu - I was indeed fortunate. He was one of those you couldn't help liking instinctively. Thanks

Drenched said...

Sorry to know about it. Death of a close one is such an uncomfortable topic for me that I generally have no "correct" sympathetic words to offer.
I just hope he's in peace.

Pri said...

he sounds like a lovely man.

i've always wanted to read that guha book. wisden cricket asia was supposed to send me a free copy like some 4 years ago. im still waiting. i should probably go out and buy one.

Maddy said...

sometimes when you read about such people, you feel with regret you should have met them during their times...his name itself signifies learning - the one who has mastered all the vedas...
thanks also for the kind words about my writing style..it means a lot..

narendra shenoy said...

Maddy - Thanks. He was a lot like what I imagine you are (must meet you in person sometime). Even when you write about Kerala and Malayalam, subjects I know next to nothing about, I am easily able to relate to, and indeed, enjoy and learn from it. Uncle was like that. He could talk about things I had never heard about and I would still be arguing and discussing without feeling like a chump.

Maddy said...

yup we must meet - do u come down south anytime? we plan to visit banagaluru in aug...