Why Dr P. V . Ramachandra was nicknamed after a peanut (Kadalai in Tamil) has many interpretations in school folklore. One interpretation said he distributed chikkis -( sweetened peanut bars), whenever you visited him. But that was not true. I am not saying I made a pest of myself at people’s houses for the snacks they offered. But I am saying that that particular strain of the origin of the nickname is not true. There was always warm hospitality coupled with tasty snacks such as kodubele, vadais, sweets of different varieties at their place, but chikkis were not a staple stand-by as was commonly believed. These things were important to get right.
Another version said the name was because he had been seen buying Lonavla chikkis on the station platform even as the train huffed and puffed getting ready to leave.
Even the mystery surrounding the origin of the nickname is a mild, gentle one, like the man it was bestowed on. Kaddu or Kadalai was the Deputy Headmaster of the Lawrence School. Another one of those stalwart people who joined the school as bachelors with my father, and retired three decades later bestowing on all those who knew him care, and affection.
I thought of Kaddu a few weeks ago as I read this sparkling piece of wisdom in the Anne of Green Gables series by L M Montgomery:
Rilla of Ingleside: L M Montgomery
“Sometimes I wish something dramatic would happen once in a while.”, said Rilla
“Don’t wish it. Dramatic things always have a bitterness for someone.” said Miss Oliver
That in essence was my impression of him. Life sometimes flowed swiftly in the small community we lived in. Drama swirled in pockets of the river where the currents were especially swift. In a school housing teenaged children day in and day out, it was inevitable. I am always in admiration of those who can be serene in a whirlpool. PVR had the ability that I strive for: to be an amused spectator when possible, and when his intervention was demanded, to be as undramatic, and useful, as possible.
His energies were diverted into quiet intellectual pursuits such as philately, and extensive academic interests such as reading, writing and research. This curiosity enabled him to pursue a string of degrees in a variety of subjects. He held advanced degrees in Mathematics, Economics, History and a Doctorate in Sanskrit on the subject of Shringara Rasa. For all of these achievements, he was a remarkably humble and quiet man.
I heard the sad news of his passing a few days ago. My father sounded sadder than usual as he recalled the strength of his friendship with Dr PVR. A mild, gentle man whose passing has once again reminded the Lawrencian community about how lucky we were to have had the influence and wisdom of personalities such as him.