Biography—An essence of C.T.K

A Life in pursuit of Knowledge

Personal Life

Cadambur Tiruvenkatachari Krishnamachari was born on 5th June, 1909 in Tiruvellore, South India. He was the third son of Tiruvenkatachari and Padmammal. He had two older brothers - Rajagopal and Venugopal – who were both luminaries in their own right. They all had one young sister - Kamala. Tiruvenkatachari was the Deputy Collector in the Madras Presidency region and was mainly posted in the Telugu speaking regions of India. This unique circumstance lead to Krishnamachari knowing to read and write Telugu and not Tamil - his native mother tongue. Tiruvenkatachari was awarded the Rao-Bahadur Medal and title in his later years as recognition for his service as a Deputy Collector.

CTK and his family lived in Triplicane on Big Street and all of them studied in Hindu Higher secondary school. He did his intermediate schooling in Presidency College. His genius showed promise when he won the Star distinction for English. His intellect and enquiring mind had questions even at that young age. One day he met a sanyasi attached to the Ramakrishna Mission on the Marina beach in Madras. Seizing the opportunity to question someone on philosophical matters, he conversed with him awhile. The yogi patiently attempted to answer him and invited him to visit the local Ramakrishna mission to continue the conversation. CTK followed up on the offer and spent an austere two years of his life - questioning and seeking answers. This encounter and subsequent years lead him to study philosophy and charge headlong into his life long quest with energy and passion.

Following the two years in the intermediate college, he got his BA (Honors) from Madras Christian College and distinguished himself by also winning the Samuel Sathyanathan Gold medal.  He then started his lifelong quest to teach and encourage questioning minds at American College as a tutor and later became a lecturer there. When opportunity came up for him to join MCC as an assistant professor in 1940, he took it for many reasons - one among them to be closer to his brother Rajagopal who was teaching in the mathematics department there. His other brother Venugopal had chosen to go into the public service and would later on become a member in the distinguished board chairing the Indian Railways.

In keeping with the age of enquiry, CTK was interested in all matters spiritual and studied parapsychology, psychoanalysis and conducted many a séance at home with his family members. As he was busy and involved in his academic interests, he remained unmarried for a while. He was 40 by the time he felt he was ready and contrary to his westernized outlook, he married Mythili Lakshminarasimha Iyengar through an arranged match. Even his own family had misgivings about him marrying a 25 year old girl from a traditional family but typical to his personality, he not only made the marriage work, but together they made it a brilliant icon for arranged marriages by celebrating 43 years of happy and contented married life.  They had one daughter - Nirmala who distinguished herself academically and proved her mettle as her father’s daughter.

Mythili passed away in Jan, 1992. Although in good health, CTK passed away within a year. A well respected academic and a world renowned intellect he might have been, but at the end losing his wife was still the crippling blow that swept him away barely a year later in Jan, 1993.

Towards the end of 1952 he started to work on his doctoral thesis - 'On some spatial representations of time and their significance for problem of precognition'. An amateur typist, he typed the entire thesis with his two fingers on his own typewriter. His supervisor was Professor Parthasarathy (Major) and in 1953, his thesis was sent to a board of three judges that included Sir Karl Popper at University of London - as in the manner of those days - to be judged. He was awarded his PhD with top honors (as expected) and at the same time the University allowed him to convert his BA (Honors) degree to be an MA degree.

By 1958, he had quickly gone up the hierarchy at the Philosophy department and became the Head of the Department of Philosophy and moved into a bigger bungalow inside the college campus. From then to his retirement in 1969, the family lived at Staff Bungalow 15 (behind Bishop Heber Hall) on the Madras Christian College Campus at Tambaram.  Following his retirement, he continued as a UGC professor until 1972. He also was the acting head of the department of Philosophy until 1971. Following his retirement, the family moved to a home - which they called 'The Cloister' - that was outside to the college campus. Both Krishnamachari and Mythili continued to live there until the end of their lives.






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