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A will to serve

KAUSALYA SANTHANAMKAUSALYA SANTHANAM

Thanks to the Charles Wallace Trust awards, 2,200 Indians have been to Britain to undertake training and study in a number of subjects.


ONE MAN'S thoughtful legacy today fulfils the dreams of many. Every year, talented Indians between the ages of 25-45, travel to Britain on an award that expands their horizon and increases their knowledge in the fields of the arts and the humanities.

When Charles Wallace, a British businessman in India, died in 1916, he left a considerable fortune. By the terms of his will, his estate was, after provision for his children, to be divided between the British Treasury and the Treasury of British India because he felt that "all possessions great and small being acquired from or through the people, as mine were, should return to the people".

"Since 1981, when it was set up, the Charles Wallace Trust has awarded 100 scholarships annually and 2,200 Indians have been to Britain to undertake training and study in a number of subjects," says Frank Taylor, Secretary of the Trust who was in Chennai recently.

"A parallel trust, the INTACH (U.K.) benefits interested Britons wishing to visit India for educational purposes".

Taylor, who lives and works in Richmond, Surrey, has been the secretary of the Trust for the past ten years. "Charles Wallace knew that India would soon become independent but he did not know that the sub-continent would be divided into four countries."

His will was for an undivided India. "Therefore there are now smaller trusts for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma," adds Taylor who worked for five years in these before taking charge of the Indian one.

The Charles Wallace Trust awards are managed by the British Council in India. Every year, at least 10 to12 candidates from South India go to the U.K. with support from the trust.

"We get a number of applications from Chennai, Bangalore and Kerala", says Taylor. His interest in the Trust is partly a personal one for he had lived in Calcutta for five years "from mid-1965 when the Indo-Pak war broke out to 1970 when the naxalite trouble started." He was then working in the British Council.

Taylor, who joined the British Council in 1960 served in Egypt, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and London.

After retiring in 1992, he was Director, Books, Library and the Information division, of the British Council. He comes to India every year to select candidates for the awards.

What made Wallace will his millions to a cause like this?

"Wallace came to India in 1875 as a young man. He was invited as a consultant to a major company in Bengal that managed tea gardens and which needed to have its affairs sorted out", explains Taylor.

"If I were you, I would close down the enterprise and start afresh" was the bold advice Wallace offered. Impressed by his dynamism, the company invited the young man to join them. Wallace spent his life working for the firm, which diversified, into timber and textiles. By the time Wallace died, he was a very wealthy man. Though his last child died in 1971, the Trust was started only in 1981 as his grandchildren contested the will," says Taylor.

"Since Wallace was deeply interested in the arts, we decided to concentrate on this and the humanities."

The Charles Wallace India Trust in cooperation with the INTACH (U.K.) and the Triangle Arts Trust conducts Khoj workshops in art. These are held in Delhi and Bangalore they benefit a number of young artists, says Taylor.

"We get the maximum number of applications for art, drama and music. India has become more interested in conservation and we are glad to build up work in this field. Some of the architects we have had as awardees have done major restoration work such as the restoration of the clock tower and buildings in Mumbai. People are trained in conservation efforts in York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. We have writers in residence programmes as well." Do women apply in large numbers?

"Because women work in the arts and humanities, we have always had a 50-50 ratio of women applicants to men. This has not changed." Are new areas being considered? "We are trying to look at subjects not covered. We are thinking of the area of writing about the arts. We should concentrate on this as some of the writing is very obscure".

As to the follow up on the programme and how successful the candidates are post-Charles Wallace awards. "Some become well known and some disappear without a trace".

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