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Durable Link to this BlogSaturday, November 06, 2010

Dr. Rajeshwari Chatterjee (1922 - 2010)

I had gone for a short holiday to my son's place to Birmingham (USA) and returned last month, only to know my friend Dr. Rajeshwari is no more. It was indeed shocking news because I always thought that she waved away Yama the God of death far away, by her tremendous courage and grit. She also had gone to Nevada (USA) for her specified stay as U.S. citizen. But I was told that she returned hastily, after 2 months and breathed her last, just three days later after a brief hospitalization. Had she some premonition that the final hour had come? I will never be knowing. Though she looked frail, she was hale and hearty. She was always busy person. We used to spend hours together discussing books, social events, history and politics. She used to attend literary and cultural programms, daring hours of sitting and discomfort involved in traveling to and fro amidst the ever snarling traffic of Bangalore streets.

It was at one such meeting only that I was introduced to Dr. Rajeshwari. I knew that she was a niece of Prof. B.M. Shreekanhaiah the great Kannada revivalist, poet and teacher to a host of Kannada writers and she was grand daughter of Smt. Kamalamma, who was a great educationist and social reformer, But now I came to know, this small woman with highest qualifications was the first lady Engineer in Karnataka and had obtained PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from Ann Arbor, State of Michigan (USA) in 1940's itself. She had an illustrious career teaching, guiding students for the Doctorate and lending her expertise to various universities besides publishing research papers. She was a professor in the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

It was more than brilliant career and brimming self-confidence, that drew me to this ageing learned lady. It was her razor-sharp memory, her ever-curious nature to know men and matters round her, and social awareness.

She at once took liking to me, introduced some of her friends, fond of our website www.kamat.com, spending hours on pouring the contents and discussing on telephone. She demanded all books my husband wrote in Kannada, read and remembered them. Every time we met, she regretted that she could not meet Kamat during his lifetime, being so close, in Malleswaram itself. Having married a Bengali, she was more curious to know about rural Bengal. Her husband late Dr. S.K. Chatterjee also her senior colleague, had settled down locally. Krishna Kamat worked in village Bengal (Plassey, West Bengal) and I was in Calcutta for full three years and I teased her that we know much about Bengal and Bengalis, than her own family. The Chatterjees have one daughter Dr. Indira Mishra, her husband also holds a doctorate degree and they have two growing sons.

We Kamats are indebted to Dr. Rajeshwari-amma, for an old copy (1916) of Ramayana which had hand painted pictures by no less than Balasaheb Pant Pratinidhi, the ruler of Aundh state in Maharashtra. A born democrat, he was the first ruler to advocate peoples" rights in self government. The pictures are often beamed in Kamat"s potpourri. I am dearly missing Madam Rajeshwari at the cultural program, which I attended at times. She had sponsored dance and music recitals. She has also left endowments at some learned bodies, which arrange lectures by dignitaries and experts on specified occasions. She was a role model for Indian Senior Citizens with Indian mind and adapted modern living ways.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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