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Sunday, 30 September 2012

An Immature Youth at CSDS (1977–1983)

When I joined the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in 1977, it was smaller in size, staff, infrastructure, and prestige. I was Personal Assistant to Mr CRM Rao, editor of China Report. I, however, worked more with Bijoy Babu (Bijoy Bhattacharya) who managed the production and distribution of the journal. I used to proofread China Report with him.

When CSDS started publishing Alternatives along with the Institute for World Order, New York, I was associated with the subscription of the journal. Mr Gabriel had worked for some time, but after his departure I took over the complete responsibility with the help of Mr PKK Namboodiri (my cousin) who by then independently handled China Report’s subscription.

Dr Ramashray Roy was the Director then. A couple of days after I joined, he called me to his room for something. During discussions, he asked me to call Mr Chadha on the phone. I hadn’t heard the name before. ‘Chadha’ was strange, but ‘Chanda’ was easier. And I asked for Mr ‘Chanda’. Dr Roy immediately corrected me, ‘Chadha’. And he made me pronounce the name correctly, which I did after a few attempts. I was overwhelmed when I met with Dr Roy sometime back at the Centre after a gap of several years.

I also served under the Directorship of the late Prof. Bashiruddin Ahmed, a down-to-earth and approachable person. One day I talked to him about Jayasree for a possible position in CSDS. He later told another colleague, “We are familiar with the work of Jayanthan and Krishnan (PKK Namboodiri). I don’t think there should be a problem.” When I wanted to resign from CSDS to join TERI, he himself advised me to take leave, and not resign. He said, “Any time you want to come back, do so, and we will take you back. You are always welcome.” After the initial six months’ leave, I extended it for another six months, and then I resigned.

The late Mr CRM Rao was the mildest and softest person I have ever come across. I consider it a privilege to have worked with him. When I left CSDS to join TERI, he wrote, “I am sad that you are leaving, but glad that you are doing so for better prospects.” He invited Jayasree and me to his home, but we could not make it. While working at CSDS, I did go to Mr Rao’s home once and enjoyed the warm treatment accorded by him and his wife.

The late Mr Giri Desingkar was outwardly very strict, but a very warm and loveable person. The first time he asked me to type a letter for him (this was a couple of days after I joined), I went and complained to Mr Rao! Why should I work for an outsider? Mr Rao said, “Yes, yes, he is in the China Report group, and you should help him whenever he wants.” It takes time to come out of the bureaucratic way of the government (doesn’t it?), where I worked for two years before joining the Centre.

A few days after I joined, I typed a letter for Dr Ashis Nandy. There was a mistake, and as I used to do in the government office (Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting), I put ‘xxx’ mark over the mistake and typed the correct version in the margin. When I handed over the letter to Dr Nandy, he said, “Mmm … in the Centre we don’t do such things, okay?” He was not upset (if he was, he didn’t show it), but was telling me the difference between working in a government office and at the Centre. But I remember for several months after that he dared not give me any work. Later on, when I knew how particular he was even regarding full stops, commas, and spaces I realized what a stupid thing was it that I did for him.

I was using an old Remington typewriter and it was extremely hard working on that. I wanted a change of typewriter. I put my problem before Mr CRM Rao, who agreed and talked to Ms Ava Khullar, Secretary. She asked me to send her a note explaining why I needed a new typewriter. I prepared an elaborate note and sent to her. About a week or two later I received a brand new typewriter. And I was very happy and proud. And to my surprise, within the next week, three or four more new typewriters were purchased for use by other people! It was like push-starting a vehicle. The initial push-start was very difficult, which I had to do all alone, and then it was a smooth drive for others!

Even now when I visit the Centre, the nostalgic feelings overwhelm me. I look at the corners where I used to work from. Sometimes I go and see the places where Mr Rao or Mr Bhattacharya used to occupy, or where Mr Khajan Singh used to have his empire from where he used to prepare the journal copies for mailing and prepared the register with paper cuttings. All the places have since been renovated and changed. There were several people with whom I worked and shared very cordial relations. Some of them are still working or are otherwise associated with the Centre.

I propose to write more about my days at the Centre in these columns in due course of time.

(The Golden Jubilee celebrations of CSDS commences in November 2012.)

[Next update on Sunday next]


  1. Received via e-mail:

    It's wonderful to listen the memories of the CSDS. Once i worked with a French sociologist (Danis Vidol) for a few days (i was a Ph. D.
    scholar at JNU) and I met Dr. Ashis Nandi as part of my research assignment.. It was in the late nineties, when T.N.Sheshan created sensation in the political arena through his remarkable electoral reforms and we discussed at length about how a system can be changed from within!

    Many thanks for sharing your experience at CSDS.



  2. Received via e-mail:

    I like your blog articles, which you delivered me every day. so interesting to me. I expect more and more in future. God bless you more. Pls. don't ignore me from your blog list.

    Thanks and regards

    Mathew P.J

  3. Received via e-mail:

    Please keep sending. They are good.

    Moni Singh

  4. Received via e-mail:

    Your blogs made me cry. Keep writing and forwarding. I read all.


  5. Received via e-mail:

    I enjoy reading your blogs. please do not delete me from the list

  6. Received via e-mail:

    First, I do want to receive your blog updates; please continue to mail them.
    The latest on CSDS memoir is excellent.
    Best regards,

  7. Received via e-mail:

    Thank you for sharing your blog. It is indeed interesting to go through it.I also worked with CSDS for two years 1980-82 , I think. I closely worked with Dr.Ramesharay Roy and Dr. V B Singh and published a book Problems in Rural development with three of us. I used to come to office only for few hours every Monday mostly sitting and talking with Professionals there.There were others like me there like Vijay Pillai and Ali Baquar. Therefore we may not have met.

    T.M.Vinod Kumar

    1. Thank you, Prof. Vinod Kumar, for your message.