Remembering Prof. Neelakantan

“So shaken are we , so wan with care / Find we a time for frighted peace to pant / And breathe short-winded accents of new boils / To be commenced in strands afar remote….” thus intoned a lean and hungry looking figure , opening one of the academic sessions in a college classroom in thiruvananthapuram over 37 years ago. It was as if King Henry himself , full of angst about the legitimacy and stability of his regime , nursing guilty feelings about having deposed his predecessor through a civil war , so classically dramatized in Shakespeare’s Henry IV , had come alive .

Cut to 2014 , the writer feels privileged to have been one of the students in that post-graduate class of English department ( also headed by Professor Neelakantan ) in University College . The myriad images of the king , vexed by the machinations of his own progeny and worried about the continuing strife that had erupted into a violent civil war , his sense of relief , as it were, by the breather afforded by an interim spell of calm , and subsequent contemplation of prospects of warring factions burying their differences to fight , as one unified formation , for the cause of the Holy Land , were all brought to sparkling life and elucidated so brilliantly as to form lasting impressions . Neelakantan Sir to his countless students , his reputation as an ornithologist and significant contribution in that field probably figured more prominently than his academic endeavours . Nonetheless , the enduring image that remains in my mind is that of an erudite teacher ,regal , proud , and somewhat aloof in his bearing . Needless to clarify that the ‘lean and hungry look’ , as aforementioned , is not in the same negative vein as Caesar’s comment on Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar , but to positively describe a great teacher who was lean of frame , with insatiable hunger for knowledge and commitment to his task .

(encomium written for a book planned for publication…)


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