A Lasting Impression


Mrs. Nirmala Ramanujan (Daughter)

I feel I am one of a fortunate few who had a father of a kind that few people could boast of. And because of this I feel thrilled and a little sad at the same time. Thrilled, because of this privilege God had granted me and sad because I did not completely inherit his intellect. To this day I still feel bad about this fact, especially recently when I was going through his research papers to make a list of his publications and I could not even understand some of the titles. I know for sure that I am not capable of writing about his research. So I thought I would write about some facets of his personality that many outsiders would not know much.

I happened to be CTK’s only child and in the 1950s there were not many children in the campus of Madras Christian College where we resided. So my father was also my playmate, a friend and a companion. He was always wonderful with children. With me he excelled at this companionship. Without any elaborate toys, sometimes with just colored beads and blocks he would create a wonderful, imaginary world for me. He would play with me in the mornings till it was time for him to go to college, and then come back and play again in the evenings. Even when we traveled on the train he would play with his two hands, creating with them two characters, one good and the other naughty! It was no surprise then that I never missed any companions my own age. As I grew older, he invented remarkable board games to play with me. We would create a board at home from scratch, create rules and chips to play with. One of the ones that comes to my mind is what we called ‘Hercules Labors’. Looking back, I still marvel at how complex and completely innovative the game was. In fact, my cousin who lived in the United States would constantly tell my father that he had to get these patented, but my father would dismiss those notions—as he felt that the games had served their purpose—namely to entertain his dearest people.

CTK was also an excellent story teller, especially when narrating crime and ghost stories.  Many of my nephews and nieces may still remember that. Of course with my daughters he conceived of many more interesting ways to narrate stories by making cardboard props. He even painted his front door panels with themes from fairy tales. He was the ultimate grand father.














Front door panels painted by CTK

(Left—Red Riding hood and the Wolf, Right—Beauty and the Beast)


Once in the 50s his students, for fun, listed his three main interests in life. They were, Nirmala, his research and movies! My mother felt a little bitter that she was not in the list. But looking back I feel she ought not to have felt that way. Because going to the movies was a deliberately cultivated interest, which my father developed, for my mother’s sake. She need not have felt sad as he did it only for her. In fact we used to be going to a movie almost every week  and Dr. Siromoney, who was a good friend would tease us if he saw us going out asking us which movie we were going to. He would even try and guess the name of the movie. My mother was not college educated but would try and share my father’s research interest listening to him when he would talk about his papers and friends. She was also a good hostess for many scholars who came from outside India to meet my father.

My parents were wonderfully matched despite  the vast difference in their backgrounds. It was no wonder then that my father passed away within a year of my mothers demise.

CTK was amazing the way he interacted with students-  not only his own but also those  from other departments. Many students would drop in at home to discuss various subjects with him. The confidence he inspired within them was tremendous. In the early 1950,a student had contracted a disease, which he was ashamed to tell anyone . By a strange choice he came to my father, though he was not his teacher  and confessed to him his worries. My father without admonishing him or questioning him took him to the college doctor, who also happened to be his close friend and treated him spending money out of his own pocket. That student never forgot this timely help and kept in touch till the end. In the 60s a student, again from outside his department had mental difficulties. .The professor in charge had to send word to his father to come and pick him up. But for one day somebody had to take care of him .And that student came to my father’s house and wouldn’t leave it, till the father came. There was so much trust even in his troubled state. These are just two instances. I am sure his students would remember many more such cases.

For all his friends and neighbors, he was also a great adviser. Even strangers would come and ask him for advice and guidance.

Though he was a Hindu Brahmin, he never practiced the traditional form of Hinduism .That is he never kept idols or visited temples. He called that the lower form of Hinduism. His religion was a higher Upanishad kind of religion. But he was broad minded and had friends in all circles. He studied all religions deeply and was a good friend to every one. He was proud of Hinduism because it encompassed every thing and never confined anybody in a narrow field. He was very sad when Babri Masjid was demolished just a month before his death.

I am glad my daughters and I have this opportunity to honor a giant, a Renaissance man like figure through this medium. We feel blessed to call him our own.

I take this chance to thank every one who contributed to this website, Especially Prof Madivanan who I feel is a true disciple (Sishyan) of that great Teacher.


Grand daughters

Sukanya Ramanujan

A tribute to an intellectual and a grandfather

I had the misfortune of being only 10 years old when my maternal grandfather Dr C T Krishnamachari passed away. I therefore  have only what I can describe as vague memories and impressions of both him and my grandmother  Mrs. Mythili Krishnamachari. I think I learnt more about him after he passed away from the legacy that he left behind, rather than when he was alive.  But this is not to say that I learnt nothing from him whilst he was living. One of the things I clearly remember him teaching me and my sister was the Latin saying: 'De Gustibus no est disputandum' (meaning tastes are not to be discussed). He probably taught it to us over some small argument we were having with him, but I still remember it to this day and use it as a valuable lesson. And I always remember the piles of books that he used to be reading at any point of time. During the last year of his life I also remember him trying to teach me logic puzzles (including the one where the Cretan says all Cretans are liars) and also the games of chess that I played with him. He thought I was a good chess player (of course he was the doting grandfather!).

But as I have already mentioned, it was only as I grew older that I realized what an amazing person he had been all his life. Growing up in East Tambaram, I always came across people who spoke about my grandparents in nothing but the best terms. Even during my term at Madras Christian College as I was doing by Bachelors', I always used to come across teachers who kept introducing me to others as C T K's granddaughter. This of course meant that there were certain standards that I had to necessarily live up to.

In terms of the legacy that he left behind I think it is important to mention the vast love for learning that he instilled in all of us (in this aspect my sister and I were fortunate that my father and mother were also no different). My grandfather possessed a huge library- a big part of which still remains in our house. (We donated a part of it- especially the specialist books to Madras Christian College and also some to his ex-colleagues and students. On the lighter side (and in a non-grudging way I'm not sure if I would have allowed this to happen if I had been older. My attitude to books currently in my house can be summed up as : 'Once they check-in, they don't check-out'). In any case, one could (and still can) find books on a grand variety subjects and by numerous authors in his library. Ranging from Thucydides' book on the Peloponnesian war to Jacob Burkhart's civilization of the renaissance in Italy to books on philosophers like Kant, Kierkegaard and many others, to books on physical and other sciences (biology being one of his favorites I believe, though apparently he didn't pursue it actively as he loathed dissection). This did not mean that he hardly ever read anything light- in fact between him and my mother a vast collection of books in the mystery and crime genre was amassed. Literature and languages was also not left out. My grandfather had a teach yourself book for a whopping number of languages (French, German, Danish, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Russian- you name it! He did this apparently to get the gist of scholarly articles written in other languages). My mother often mentions that my grandfather would have been happy to see his granddaughter learning a multitude of languages herself  as this was one of his interests. My mother herself caught a fair bit of this desire and learnt French. I feel I am just continuing the tradition. This is saying nothing about the heavy bound books full of handwritten notes on a variety of themes- no photocopiers or printers in those days! Of course the vast amount of research that he had conducted and the scholarly papers that he wrote and got published in international journals need a special mention. (Even to this day, a search in Google gets hundreds of hits to his name from people referencing his papers.)

All this was not to say that my grandfather was nothing but a cold intellectual- quite to the contrary. Over the years I have learnt through my mother that he was a warm person who could engage with people of all ages and interests. As both my mother and sister have already mentioned- he was quite popular with the children in the neighborhood as he could be a great playmate and devised all manners of new games for them. He was also very protective of his family and would not take the slightest insult to any of the family members. Although I do miss not having been able to engage with him as a grown-up person, I feel I am fortunate to have been a part of his family and his incredible legacy.








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