An icon. Is no more – in his mortal form. But will live on.
At 92, a mind as vast as the cosmos, an intellect sharper than a razor, he continued to inspire. There was not much that passed him by – philosophy, politics, medical science… He made it his business to keep abreast of everything. Having never ever bowed down to circumstances or social moors, he stood strong. One can never fathom the depths of his genius, the true grit of his personality. Much of his writing has been lost in the yellowed annals of ‘The Mail’ in Chennai, India and in the other newspapers he help launch. However, he leaves behind a handful of blogs, laboriously typed on the laptop even as his eyes were failing, between brutal dialysis sessions.
He could quote Shakespeare, Milton as the occasion ordained, or even the Rig Veda for that matter. He never won an accolade, never won an award and did not care for any. He put his heart and soul in the newspapers he helped start. From television to radio, he covered it all. He wrote speeches for famous politicians, from Indira Gandhi, to MGR. In an era when entrepreneurship was frowned upon, he started newspapers and magazines, taking on behemoths like ‘The Hindu” and “Indian Express”. And when they failed, he moved on, effortlessly, shrugging them off as another experience down the line. He took risks, let nothing set him back. Never one to ever worry about money, he lived like a king, to his last day.
All the education that ever mattered – books strewn around – thoughts strewn around – from Dostoevsky, Norman Mailer to Updike and History of Love – in all their glory – to be chewed upon, and pondered. A bounty of thought and visions of far away lands some real, some imagined lay hanging in the air. ‘We all live in bubbles’ he proclaimed one day. My 5 yr old mind imagined us all in soapy kaleidoscopic bubbles as I walked carefully as to not pop them. “The world is Nothing” he said another day. It took years of rumination to get that one. He said schools were useless, grades a farce and tradition bogus. He filled my head with existentialism, scientific breakthroughs, Freud and the like while we were ‘taught’ grammar and historic dates at school.
He inspired me to be intellectual, irreverent, bold, rebellious, and inquisitive – in an era and culture where girls especially were brought up to be complacent, normative, politically correct and in the box. I was never rebel enough for him.
Assimilating into a new country was for him, an easy uneventful transition, not a full blown rite of passage. One would think that he had lived in his adopted country all his life. And when it was time to start dialysis, 3 brutal times a week, he dealt with it with aplomb, waking up at 5am, making great friends at the dialysis center, and fought on, head on, against it, for 8 years. In the meantime, he researched wearable dialysis gadgets, signed up for clinical trials that never happened and kept his hopes alive nevertheless. Dialysis and any of his other assorted diseases never kept him from enjoying all that life had to offer. His illnesses were mere wrinkles. He ironed them out and moved on.
His intellect carried on as usual. He wrote blogs, followed politics, lived life. In his nineties, when I informed him of the supreme court decision allowing gay marriage, and how things had changed ‘since his time’, he remarked ” things have not changed, this is a concept as old as…and proceeded to educate me on the philosophy of Havelock Ellis. At 92. Between gasps of labored breathing.
Saraswathi Ganapathy. 1924-2016.
He had taken up his mother’s name instead of his father’s in the 1940s.
…A Rebel, a Genius, a Mastermind.
A great mind never dies.