A voice of wisdom is lost

Partir, c'est mourir un peu," goes the French proverb. To part is to die a little.

Bidding goodbye to S.K. Rau after his visit to me a few weeks ago, little did I realise that the voice of wisdom, love and support would soon be stilled.

In the Mahabharata, the four younger Pandavas, in exile, fail to return after leaving in search of water. Yudhisthir goes last and faces questions from an Asareearvanini, the last question being what the strangest thing in life is. Yudhisthir replies that death is inevitable but one constantly lives in the belief it will never come.

How true! In the passing away of Satyvolu Rameswara Rau, Andhra Pradesh and India have lost a great human being.

While this is not the era of the da Vincis, here was a man who excelled in many fields of human endeavour. A doctor of philosophy in history, he had a facile familiarity with the classical literature of Sanskrit, Telugu and English, an exemplary career as a civil servant and, above all, was endowed with an indestructible zest for life.

Disguising his erudition, he would comfortably participate in discussions on Shakespeare, Kalidasa or the great Telugu poets such as Nannayya or Peddanna. A self-confessed agnostic, he would even contribute enthusiastically to a discourse on the Bible, the Quran or the Gita. Normally reticent, he, however, made his points like the Gulistaan's description of a wise man never silent when speech is needed, nor speaking when silence is required.

As a research scholar of history in Madras, he was a frequent visitor to our house and a sishya of my father. He joined the first batch of the IAS in 1948 in Orissa and served as the collector of Barhampur and Cuttack districts. In early days in Madras, my sister and a cousin used to tease him about his chances in the civil services examination. When they visited him in Cuttack, he stopped them at the doorstep, rushed in and returned with a jacket on, and said, "Do I look like an officer now?"

... contd.

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