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Durable Link to this BlogThursday, February 13, 2003

Remembering Prof. M.N. Srinivas

Remembering Prof. M.N. Srinivas (1916-1999)

All of us in India use the term "Vote-Bank". Today, I want to remember the man who gave us this term (also brahmanization) and much more.

I first met Professor M.N.Srinivas (known popularly as MNS) in 1991-2 at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan during the felicitation function of R.K. Laxman. He had a sophisticated Indo-Oxford accent as he introduced Laxman in an affectionate tone. Prof. Srinivas appeared to me as a pucca scholar with long flowing white hair, thick glasses, and deep resonant voice. Apparently, R.K. Laxman (India's most prominent cartoonist), R.K. Narayan (one of India's great English language writers) and MNS were childhood friends and grew up together in the neighborhood of Laxmipuram in Mysore, and to what great heights each had risen!

Mysore Narasimhacharya Srinivas was born in Mysore in a joint family. He lost his father early and was raised by an elder brother. He was a frail boy with myopia, which went undetected for a long time, and was a major barrier for him taking up study of science or medicine. Finally he opted for sociology, where me met such distinguished faculty like  B.R. Wadia and M.H.Krishna.  He later went to Mumbai and took up research under Prof. G.S.Ghurye.  Ghurye stressed the importance of field work in sociology and it was from Ghurye that Srinivas learnt the  importance of  regional social problems.  Srinivas obtained a degree in Law in addition to a Ph.D., and then proceeded to Oxford on a fellowship.

While at Oxford, he published several scholarly papers and established himself. However, when Baroda University was created, he returned to India to take up a position there as a teacher. Later he went to Delhi University where he served for 18 years, establishing a sound frame of teaching sociology. He also established processes for the study of social anthropology and sociology suited to Indian conditions. He was an authority on the subject, and went on to serve as the Director of Institute for Social and Economic Change at Bangalore.

I had the honor of interviewing Prof. Srinivas and his talented wife Rukmini for a program at All India Radio, Bangalore. Mrs. Rukmini Srinivas told me that she was a post-graduate in English literature, and was teaching at the prestigious St. Mary's College Madras, but gave up her career to marry Srinivas. Besides taking active interest in his teaching and research, she was the primary raiser of their two lovely daughters, who are now settled abroad. Smt. Rukmini had varied interests like mushroom cultivation, gardening, and traveling.

Prof. Srinivas was a visiting professor at the universities of Canberra, Stanford, Oxford, and Cornell. He was a Rockefeller Fellow, and an awadree of a Carnegie Research Grant.

While at Stanford, he met with a sad accident. He was about to complete the revised version of his famous book Remembered Village. At that time some students were agitating against the War in Vietnam at Stanford, and during an arson, all his papers got burnt down. Srinivas lost six years of research and extensive field-work in the tragedy.

He passed away in Bangalore in 1999. Those who met him, will always remember him.

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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