Song of Surrender

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sruti Awards Function 20 October 2012

Text of Sruti editor-in-chief V Ramnarayan’s welcome speech

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me immense pleasure to welcome you all to Sruti’s twin awards function this evening, when we honour two eminent artists and gurus in Sri K Kalyanasundaram, of Sri Raja Rajeswari Bharatha Kala Mandir, Mumbai, and Smt Suguna Purushothaman, musician and composer—each of them a torchbearer of a great artistic tradition.

Though they really need no introduction to this audience, they will be formally introduced later this evening.

I extend a warm welcome to them both and our distinguished chief guest Sri Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

Not everyone who goes by the name of Gandhi is a Gandhi. We all know however that our chief guest today is a true Gandhi. His is a rare pedigree. With two of India’s greatest sons for grandfathers, Gopalkrishna started with an almost unfair advantage.

But look at what he has done with that silver spoon—in the ultimate alchemy that an individual can possibly accomplish, he has turned it to platinum: all by his own effort and diligence.

Outstanding scholar, civil servant, diplomat, author, poet, translator, columnist, public speaker non pareil,—doesn’t he seem too good to be true?

Very briefly, Gopalkrishna Gandhi studied English Literature at St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and qualified for the Indian Administrative Service in 1968, joining the service in its Tamil Nadu cadre.

He has held several important positions as high commissioner, ambassador, and most recently as Governor of West Bengal.

A reference to him in Outlook magazine says:

“A discreet, highly competent IAS official for much of his career, Gandhi is also the gifted and formidably multi-lingual scholar who translated Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy into Hindi, wrote a novel, Refuge, on Tamil plantation workers in Sri Lanka, and a life of lost Mughal scion Dara Shukoh in verse (in iambic pentameter—my learned wife informs me).

“He was an extremely popular High Commissioner to South Africa, even more because of his endearing personal style than his lineage. Typically, he went off quietly to do earthquake relief work in rural Gujarat before taking on that assignment. As a Governor of West Bengal who often travels incognito into the countryside, Gandhi has earned great respect for deploring state violence in Nandigram. Of course, he has also earned great flak, from critics ranging from liberal apologists for the CPI (M), to the right-wing pro-SEZ camp.”

Gopal Gandhi’s latest literary effort has been to edit My dear Bapu: Letters from C Rajagopalachari to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Devadas Gandhi and Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

Allow me to read from a couple of letters in this wonderful collection:

My dear Bapu,

“Like the scientists that discovered truths and gave weapons to the warmongers you have given Satyagraha to the world, to the curers of social and political diseases, as well as the mischief-makers. We cannot help or even regret it, any more than we can blame science for the poison gas or the bombs.”

Love, Raja.

My dear Gopu,

Amma brought the three beautiful Mussoorie group pictures and showed them to me. It was an infinite pleasure to see the happy faces of the young administrators gathered together. The pleasure would have been complete if I could bring myself to foresee a happy and successful administration.”

Love, Anna

At this point, just to reinforce the impression all of us have of this truly admirable Indian, let me quote from Ramachandra Guha, author of India After Gandhi.

“Unlike scions of other freedom-fighters, they (the brothers Rajmohan, Ramchandra and Gopalkrishna) never exploited or abused the name of their grandfather. Where the direct descendants of other famous Indians have acted as if they were owed something—or a great deal—by India, these three brothers always asked themselves what they could do for India. Their lives have been marked by an exemplary devotion to their country, and to the principles of its founding fathers.”

Known for his courage, principles and ethics, Gopalkrishna Gandhi is also a man of humour, sensitivity and keen appreciation of the finer points of the arts. He is a steadfast friend and supporter of individuals and institutions engaged in the arts. While remaining firmly anchored in his core beliefs in stressful situations, he also stays cool and understated.

It is our proud privilege to welcome in our midst Sri Gopalkrishna Gandhi, and his wife Smt. Tara Gandhi.

I stand before you today as the editor of a unique magazine as it enters its 30th year because its founder-editor Dr N Pattabhi Raman took the foolhardy step of plunging into serious performing arts journalism in October 1983, amidst many a dire prediction of its early demise.

He and his devoted band of colleagues and successors have kept it going against heavy odds for nearly three decades, without sacrificing the commitment to quality writing with which it started.

Pattabhi was able to collect around him a whole lot of talented people devoted to writing on the arts.  I shall briefly mention a handful of these associates past and present and salute them for their contributions to the magazine over the decades.

His two brothers and co-founders PN Sundaresan and PN Venkatraman.

Sangita Kala Acharya S Rajam whose paintings and columns on music have enriched Sruti.

Cartoonist Sarathy.

Naturalist, photographer and columnist M Krishnan.

Music expert T Sankaran.

Musicologists Dr N Ramanathan and SK Saxena

Critics, correspondents and editors VS Sundararajan

Gowri Ramnarayan, Sunil Kothari, Leela Venkatraman, S Krishnan, Manna Srinivasan, Sulochana Pattabhiraman, Deepak Raja, V Sriram, Lakshmi Devnath, KS Kalidas, Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, Nandini Ramani, Gayathri Sundaresan, Vamanan  and many others who have contributed from time to time.

Finally a big thank you to The Sanmar Group and our trustee Sukanya Sankar for their quiet, unintrusive support, and my colleagues S Janaki, Sudha Narayanan, Sumathi Viswanathan, Kalpana Muralikrishnan, S Riswan, and C Balu.

Welcome one and all to what promises to be a rewarding evening.

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