Monday, December 28, 2009

Professor M.P. Sreedharan-A Great Teacher

The Centenary Celebrations of Malabar Christian College, Calicut, my Alma Mater, had started this year. A meeting of the old students of the college convened by the Old Students' Association (O.S.A) was fixed to be held on the 27Th December. Though I had decided to attend the meeting, I was, on that morning, hesitating to travel the distance of about 75 reach Calicut. It was then that my wife showed me an article, in the Mathrubhumi Sunday supplement, on Prof. M.P. Sreedharan, former professor of History and Political Science at Malabar Christian College, on his 10th death anniversary which fell on the 27th December. The article was by Dr. M.G. S. Narayanan, the well known historian and a friend of Prof. Sreedharan.
Memories of my days at Malabar Christian College(1956-60) and memories about Prof.Sreedharan came flashing and flooded my mind. Keeping everything aside and shaking off my hesitation, I rushed to Calicut to see my old college and friends as I thought that the best way to offer my tributes to this great teacher on his death anniversary was to visit the institution he served with eminence where I also had the good fortune of being his student.
Even before joining the college in the academic year1956-57, as a student of M.C.C.High school, I had seen Prof.Sreedharan(just Sreedharan master for his innumerable students ,friends and colleagues), during the various activities of the college and the combined anniversary day of the college and the high school. We also used to see him playing tennis at the college tennis court.He used to be active on the college foot ball and the hockey grounds also. He was a hero to all of us.
When I joined the degree class in 1957 I became his student. Sreedharan Master, fair, handsome, not very tall but well built, always well dressed in a suit or with the shirt neatly tucked in and sporting a tie, with a smiling quizzical face and with thick black hair on the head neatly combed was an epitome of vigour, action and health. For the students he was not only a teacher of high calibre but also a true sportsman and a friend who always played with them and led them in the various sports and games activities for which the college gave a lot of importance. Whenever difficult problems cropped up, the management, staff community and the students looked to Sreedharan master as the trouble shooter for Sreedharan master's intervention always resulted in the problem getting solved to the satisfaction of all. Such was his reputation and standing among all in the college. Hailing from Mahe, a former French colony in India, he was well versed in French. It was he who took efforts and formed the N.C.C. wing at the college and he was in charge of the NCC wing for some time.
He was a strict disciplinarian and a 'no nonsense' teacher when once he entered the class room. We, the students of the Economics group,used to look forward to his classes in political science, a subsidiary subject for us. His rich sonorous voice, commanding personality, firm delivery of English,and the conviction with which he talked to us about Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Engels and on political theories made his classes profound and interesting. His lectures on Rights, Liberty, Sovereignty and Democracy and the Utilitarian Theory of Jeremy Bentham still echo in my memory.It was from Sreedharan Master that I first heard the famous quotation, "your liberty ends where my nose begins". When once he came out of the class room he became the usual friendly affectionate self ,mingling freely with us. In the evenings he joined with the students on the football ground for a serious and robust session of foot ball. In short all that a student longed to see in a teacher was there in abundance in Sreedharan Master, a gentleman to the core.
I left Christian College in 1960 and joined another local college for my post graduation but I used to meet Sreedharan Master often and visited his house on the 'Cannannore road' a couple of times. He always used to enquire about my job and my family etc. I left Calicut in 1970 and after about two decades came back at the local branch of S.B.I. A few days after my arrival I was delightfully surprised to see Sreedharan master entering my cabin with his usual smile and extended hand. I stood up, gripped his hand and offered him a chair. Even after he was seated I continued to stand in reverence ,unable to sit in front of him, till he waved me to sit just as he did in the class room long back.We talked for a few minutes about the college, former teachers and students of my days. Before he left I politely asked him as to what I could do for him at the bank. He said he had already finished his transactions and was on his way out. Of course, I should have known that there was no need for me to help as all the staff members were either his students or their relatives and whenever he visited the branch they vied with each other to expedite his banking transactions. He used to come to my cabin to shake hands with me whenever he visited the branch.
I left Calicut again in 1992 and did not meet him thereafter. I came to know about his demise days later after the event in 1999 when the Mathrubhumi daily reached me by post at Vijayawada (A.P.)
The O.S.A.'s get together went off well. The college is celebrating its centenary. The campus has retained the old grandeur. But more buildings have come up cramping the campus area. The football ground and the hockey ground are still there; so too the tennis court which lacks maintenance.Our old ball badminton court is now tiled and kept in good condition but used for conducting events. Several changes have come about in the layout; departments have changed locations. Sitting in the Main Hall(now named Dr.Muller's hall) , where the meeting was held, I read the inscription, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom' which is still there on the wall behind the stage. To me everything seemed to be the same as of old. I went around the buildings and to the classroom where Prof Sreedharan used to take classes for us. The same old tables are still there in fairly good condition. I met a number of old college mates sharing memories. Before leaving I stood in the front portico for sometime gazing at the football ground. The gentle old campus breeze caressed me to a trance. I left with a heart full of gratitude for the institution and its old teachers to whom I am indebted to for whatever I could achieve in life.

Friday, December 11, 2009


In my collection of gramophone records, there are several records of Hindustani ghazals. One among them is a record specially released by 'The Gramophone Company of India' in connection with the Ghalib Centenary Celebrations in 1969. This is a record containing 11 songs from Minerva Movieton's film Mirza Ghalib(1954). Mirza Azadullah Beg Khan,whose pen name was Mirza Ghalib,was a legendary Urdu-Persian poet who lived in India(1797-1869) and his beautiful ghazals of love and philosophy have lived and flourished through generations and continue to be loved even today. According to knowledgeable ghazal lovers, no better poetry and ghazals had happened prior to Ghalib or after.

His ghazals were used in Hindi films and popularised by music directors like Khayyam and sung by great singers, especially Talat Mahmood in albums like "Ghazals to remember' and 'Memorable ghazals of Talat Mahmood' in his silken voice which make them a treat to the ears.

The film Mirza Ghalib, starring Bharat Bhushan as Ghalib and and Suraiya as his lover Chaudvin, contains eight popular ghazals of Ghalib tuned by music director Ghulam Mohammed sung mainly by Talat Mahmood and Suraiya. 'Phir mujhe deda-i-tar' and 'Wahshat sahi' by Talat Mahmood are soul stirring and has Talat at his best. 'Nukta cheen hai' and 'Aah ko chahiye ek umar 'are by Suraiya. There is also the most popular Ghalib ghazal, 'Yeh na thi hamari kismat' by Suraiya. A Rafi number, 'Hai baski har ek unke' embellishes this record, a great collectors' item.

Efforts to bring this great branch of music to Malayalam have been on since the days of music director M.S.Baburaj and P.Bhaskaran and are even now continued by Ramesh Narayanan,Umbayi, Shahbaz Aman etc. The limitations of the language and the initial reluctance ( as revealed by Umbayi in his interviews) of top Malayalam poets to allow their poems to be tuned as ghazals made Malayalam ghazals not reaching beyond the peripherals of Malayalam music.Who can forget Baburaj's ' Orupushpam mathram', 'Suruma Ezhuthiya mizhikale', and 'Pranasakhi' and several other songs?

Fortunately, things are changing for the better. Umbayi, Ramesh Narayan and Shahbaz Aman have come out with several albums of ghazals penned by Malayalam poets like O.N.V.Kurup,Yousufali Kechery, Sachithanandan, Pradeep Ashtamichira, Kamala Das,Vinayachandran, Kadammanita, Rafeeq Ahmed and others. Ghazal albums of Umbayi (songs sung by Umbayi himself and other singers) like Ghazalmala(Yousufali Kechery).Akale Mounampol(Sachidanandan), Ithuvare Sakhi ninne kathirunnu(Pradeep Ashtamichira) contain pleasing melodious ghazals. In association with O.N.V.Kurup Umbayi has brought out two albums,"Paaduka Saigal Paadoo' and 'Nandi Priyasakhi Nandi'. With the song 'Orunaru pushpamay' and his ghazals in films like RaathriMazha, Ramesh Narayan has given a new stimulus to ghazals in Malayalam. With his album 'Alakalkku', singer and composer Shahbaz Aman along with singer Gayathri has taken ghazals to a different plane in Malayalam by tuning the poetry of Kamala Das, Sachidanandan,Kadammanitta, D.Vinayachandran etc. His earlier album,'Neeyum Nilavum' with the poetry of Poovachal Khader and a few others also was a worthwhile effort.

No doubt the music lovers in Kerala are pleased with their efforts and the fact that more and more established and upcoming singers are taking up Hindustani music and ghazals very seriously. But, at the risk being accused of thinking backwards , I would have been happier if gramophone records of these ghazals are also made available. May be a futile wish.