Telling stories about those heady days
It was his lung power that drew him into the freedom movement, and Prof. Krishnaswamy is still at it.
Prof. Krishnaswamy: `I can evoke a spark of patriotism by sharing some memories.'
TOMORROW PROF. Krishnaswamy will talk to students about freedom and Gandhiji, and Nehru's famous `tryst with destiny' midnight speech. So what else is new? Isn't that what most people on the podium talk about on August 15? But wait, Prof. Krishnaswamy was part of the freedom movement, and he will address students of the Swami Vivekananda Educational Society, Hanumanthanagar, a school he helped set up for under-privileged children.
"The only way I can think of to evoke a spark of patriotism in children is by sharing some memories with them," says the septuagenarian Gandhian. A retired physics lecturer of Vijaya College, the professor has come out with several books in English and Kannada including A Hundred Faces of Gandhiji and A Hundred Facets of Vinoba. "Small children have a bit of idealism, and the fire can be ignited in them, but older children lose their idealism when they are exposed to the odd ways of society," says the cheerful singer. Indeed, it was his singing voice that led him into the freedom movement.
"As a student of Malleswara Government School, I sang Saigal numbers with great abandon.
During the 1940s, the freedom movement gathered momentum and organisers often asked me to start singing at a public place just to collect a crowd. I did not need a mike. And had no inhibitions whatsoever!" says the khadi-clad man, who later graduated to singing bhajans. He continuous to lead bhajan sessions at Indian Institute of World Culture, Ramakrishna Ashram, and, recently, at the Thimmesh Prabhu Udyana Vana in Hanumanthanagar at the behest of the Walkers Association!
The spirit of adventure that first propelled Prof. Krishnaswamy towards the freedom movement, also manifested itself in his workplace. Before joining DRDO, he designed an indigenous electro convulsive therapy (ECT) machine for NIMHANS, the premier mental health institution. He had found that repairing the existing machine involved buying expensive imported parts. Later, tenures at the Defence Institute of Physiology, Chennai, and the College of Military Engineering, Pune, honed the linguistic skills of this scientist. He sings in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, and Hindi.
"The emergence of the IT industry in India and the booming industrial scene is really thrilling," says the professor, "but we are far from being a `free' country. We fought for a country free not only from foreign rule but also free from poverty, illiteracy, and religious fundamentalism," says the freedom fighter (even though by government definition he is not a freedom fighter he never went to jail!) "I managed to stay away from jail, and sheepishly went back to school to finish my matriculation."
"Fifty-six years ago, our whole family sat glued to the radio listening the freedom speeches. Today hardly anyone bothers to even watch the televised Independence Day parade and speeches. The sheen of the Independence Day celebration has been fading with every year. If youngsters don't know the passion that drove young people into the freedom movement, it is partly because people who have been part of that struggle do not talk about it to their grandchildren," reasons this bachelor, who quietly goes about his social service.
The professor is actively associated with the Vivekananda Sevashrama, a charitable medical aid project and free eye hospital, and with other activities of the Vivekananda Foundation. He has written nearly 100 articles in Kannada on science, religion and music. He raised funds for various organisations through his bhajan concerts in the U.S.. Cassettes of songs sung by him along with his brother Subbarao, recently awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Award for National Service, have received an enthusiastic response.
An avid reader, the professor enjoys The Hindu crossword and Art Buchwald's column probably one reason why he can inject so much humour in his Independence Day speeches!
Prof. Krishnaswamy can be contacted on 6675758.
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