ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ravinder Kumar: A Personal Tribute

One shudders to think of the colossal national waste which would have resulted in the absence of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library that gave Ravinder Kumar the eminent national space to shape both disciplinary and public dialogue on the future of Indian development. As its director, for well over a decade, Ravinder Kumar deployed that space to nourish forms of reflexive scholarship, in ways that many Indian campuses still unfortunately fail to do.

It is hard to take. But it is a cruel fact that Ravinder is no more. I met him on March 17, at his home, in the companionship of Judith Brown and other distinguished friends. We were looking forward to meeting again and soon, upon my return in mid-April. He was the same Ravinder whom I first came to know in late 1960s in Sydney – a warm hearted, generous human being for whom the world was never stale.

That evening his interests, both richly anecdotal and deeply historical, took our conversation across, and with equal felicity, historic figures and episodes involving the Nehru-Birla relationship and Charlie Chaplin’s last movie! There was in between a reference to the complexity of a British military figure in the second world war, a name that I cannot recall at this point. His gift of memory, the benediction of the craft of history, always, though affectionately, reproached me for my own singular lack of recall. When the conversation inevitably turned to the Tehelka.Com expose, he reminded me of my talk at the Nehru Memorial Museum when I had narrated Lotika Sarkar’s and my first, and last, acts of ‘lobbying’ Indian parliamentarians, when the late Zinabhai Darji ‘savaged’ me for bringing ‘loads of paper’ (memoranda for reform of rape law, post-Mathura) which, according to him, members of parliament rarely had the time or the inclination to read, instead of a ‘briefcase’ full of currency, that is what he said ‘lobbying’ in India means! I had even forgotten that I had archived this incident in a paper, subsequently published.

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