Wednesday, November 09, 2005

K.R. Narayanan - 'Citizen President' and cerebral giant.

Former President Kocheril Raman Narayanan, the only Dalit,and the only Malayali, to have occupied India's Presidential Palace the Rashtrapati Bhavan is no more . He passed away at the Indian Army's R&R (Research and Referral) Military Hospital in New Delhi today November 9 2005. He had been admitted there on Oct 29 in a very critical condition. K.R.Narayanan was an unassuming man. As a schoolboy I often used to confuse him with R.K.Narayan the novelist.He came from a modest family in Kerala. How he fought adversity and discrimination is a fascinating story. Interesting biographical details are available in this obit in Rediff.

I remember an interview he had given to Debonair in the eighties. I am not sure whether the editor at that time was Vinod Mehta or Anil Dharker. KRN was a senior IFS officer then and was just a few years away from joining politics. He had recounted an incident about Krishna Menon. As a young man KRN had once visited the Indian High Commission in London when Menon was the High Commissioner (as Ambassadors of Commonwealth countires are known). He was shown into Menon's office where Menon was dictating a letter to his secretary. He asked KRN to make some tea for all three of them. After KRN had made the tea Krishna Menon had taken a sip from his cup and had then told his secretary "Now you will make some tea for us."

During the early nineties India was lucky to have four very well read and highly educated personalities at top positions. These were President Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, Vice President K.R. Narayanan, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

K.R.N had donated his ancestral house in Kerala to an institute conducting research in Ayurveda. This modest house is now known as Navajyoti Karunakaraguru Research Centre for Ayurveda and Siddha at Uzhavoor village,Kottayam district. The ceremony was presided by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh as this report from Rediff tells us. He is survived by his Burmese wife Usha and two daughters Amrita and Chitra. Chitra is an IFS officer and is India's Ambassador to Turkey. K.R.Narayanan will be remembered as an honest and upright man who kept an extremely clean image and also as one of India's best diplomats ever but he will not be remembered for his socialist leanings - an ideology which today's India has moved away from. The architect of this liberalisation being the present Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.