Centre for the study of Developing Societies (CSDS) is celebrating its Golden Jubilee. As a former employee I got an invitation to attend the inaugural function on Saturday, 17 November. I was thrilled. Yes! I’ll go. It was a month ago that I created a blog and started posting my notes. I thought this was an apt occasion to write something about CSDS in my blog. Subsequently I posted a small note on my experiences in the Centre. I had also planned to write more on the Centre later. One of the readers suggested that I elaborate it and write a longer piece now rather than later, since the Golden Jubilee celebration is being inaugurated in November. I thought for a while and then decided, ‘Yes, that’s a good idea. Let me do it.’
I elaborated the original note, added several more items and prepared a longer article. I then wanted to improve it by adding a few photographs of those who have since passed away from among those colleagues mentioned in the article. It was decided to include the photographs of Prof. Bashiruddin Ahmed, Mr CRM Rao, Prof. Giri Deshingkar, and Mr Bharat Singh.
I checked the web site of CSDS. No photos were available there. A photo of Prof. Bashiruddin Ahmed was downloaded from the Internet. Mr Harsh, Mr Bharat Singh’s son, provided me a photo of his father. Then came the most difficult photos, that of Prof. Deshingkar and Mr Rao. I googled Priya Deshingkar. I had heard that she was in the
I fortunately got her e-mail address. But I was not sure if it was the current
one. I took a chance and sent her a mail. I doubted if she would get the mail
at all. I kept my fingers crossed. The second day I received an enthusiastic
response from Priya. She had written that she felt it good when somebody
remembered her father. She also promised to send me a photo of Prof. Deshingkar
soon. It was getting more exciting. She sent the photo after a couple of days.
Thank you once again, Priya, for your support. UK
Meanwhile I had been trying to get a photograph of Mr Rao. Jayasree (my wife, working in CSDS) checked with a colleague at the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS). She was told that no photo of Mr Rao was available there. Mrs Rao and Meenakshi, their daughter, used to stay in Sahvikas Apartments where several other colleagues from CSDS also stay. But she had shifted to
couple of years ago and nobody knew about her current address.
I then decided to check up with old friends of Mr Rao. Maybe some of them may know about Meenakshi’s current whereabouts. I first called Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty at Council for Social Development. He was out of station and would return only by the middle of November. I then tried Prof. Srimati Chakraborti of
She used to contribute articles to China Report as a Ph.D. scholar when I used
to work there. She didn’t have the contact details of Meenakshi. She suggested
maybe I should contact Prof. Ashis Nandy or Prof. D.L. Sheth. Every time my
efforts reached a dead end. Delhi University
I telephoned Prof. Nandy. He said he had had some contact of Meenakshi’s, but it was old. I told him that any lead would do, and I can begin from there all over again. He was very busy with some meetings and would get back to me in a couple of days. Simultaneously I had been trying the Internet. I googled Meenakshi Rao. There were hundreds of them and several of them in
I had no other leads such as her husband’s name or her office name. I also
didn’t know if she had changed her surname after marriage.
I also sent a mail to Prof. Alka Acharya, Director, ICS, requesting her help in the matter. Since ICS didn’t have a photo of Mr Rao, Prof. Acharya forwarded the mail to her colleagues requesting them to help me, in case any of them had a photo of his in their private collection. I hoped and prayed at least one of them would have it. But unfortunately none responded. Probably none didn’t have a photo of Mr Rao.
I googled S 261 Greater Kailash as a last resort. I didn’t know what I had expected to get from S 261. But I chanced upon the name of Mr RL Nigam. I remembered he used to be a close friend of Mr Rao connected with the journal Radical Humanist. Suddenly I reprimanded myself, ‘Oh, God! How could I forget Radical Humanist (of which Mr Rao was the Managing Editor)?’
The next moment I was going through Radical Humanist Association’s web site. Alas, no mention of Mr Rao anywhere. Will they have a photo of his? There is nothing wrong in taking a chance. I sent a request through their web site explaining my need. This was addressed to the general mail box. Will anybody see it? Even if someone did, will he/she give any importance to it? Will he/she pass it on to anybody else who would be able to help me? I was not sure.
The problem was, I didn’t have much time, either. I took yet another chance. I called up Mr Vinod Jain, Chairman of the Executive Council of the Indian Radial Humanist Association. I didn’t know him, I also didn’t know how he would react to such a foolish request. He must be a very busy person. But he turned out to be extremely cordial and helpful. He too said he had some contact with Meenakshi, but would take some time to dig it out. I literally began to keep my fingers crossed.
I also started to believe that maybe the write-up will have to go without Mr Rao’s photograph, which would be a pity. I consoled myself, ‘Well, you have tried everything possible. Even then if it has to go without one, let it be. You can’t help it.’
On Friday, 9 November, I thought maybe something would turn out encouraging during the weekend. But nothing did.
On Monday morning I was nearly depressed. I have only three days. The printer would take may be a day or two. I should have the printed document latest by Friday, 16 November. And the week had holidays due to Deepawali, Vishwakarma day, and Bhaiya Dooj. I told myself, ‘I shall wait till tomorrow evening. If nothing happens by then, I shall give the document for printing without Mr Rao’s photo on Wednesday morning.’
I reached office and was settling down when the phone rang. It was an unfamiliar number.
I said, ‘Hello’. The utterly meaningless, but the most common word used while talking over the phone.
‘Is it Mr Jayanthan?’
‘I am CRM Rao’s daughter.’
Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t hide my excitement. It was like the person I have been searching for more than three years suddenly appeared before me. I felt like I was talking to a long lost friend, though Meenakshi and I have never met or talked before now. During the last few weeks she had never left my mind. The feeling was nothing less than sheer ecstasy.
I almost shouted, ‘Meenakshi? I have been trying to get your contact since the last several weeks.’
Meenakshi said, ‘Mr Vinod Jain (of Radical Humanist) said you wanted to contact me. And I thought I would call you.’
Meenakshi said she was happy that her father was still remembered by old colleagues. She sounded quite excited. We talked for a few minutes at the end of which she promised to send me Mr Rao’s photo by the end of the day. I got up from my chair excitedly. I actually wanted to dance and shout and laugh and cry.
I got the photo the next day, a day before the deadline I had set for myself.
I thank the Gods, Meenakshi, Mr Vinod Jain, and everybody else who must have exerted at least some effort to help me.
I have since got the document printed with all the photos I originally intended.