Durgabai Deshmukh – A Memory
Durgabai's stature grew and grew culminating in her resigning her post in the Planning Commission. Her acquaintance with Chintamani Deshmukh blossomed and bore many an invaluable fruit. Wedded in 1953, the Deshmukhs visited Vizianagaram, usually referred to as the Citadel of Learning in Andhra, in 1957.
It was perhaps a single minute's experienc on a very formal occasion, which the great woman's intellectual and kindly nature could transform into a moment of inspiration of me. The Principal and we, the faculty, of the celebrated college, gave a banquet in their honour. Round Mahal in the historic Vizianagaram Fort is the palace which has witnessed gorgeous scenes like Maharaja Ananda Gajapati making a princely donation of one lakh rupees to Max Mueller, to bring out the Second Edition of his Rig Veda in England.
The Principal was introducing the faculty members, now on their feet, one after another to the distinguished guests drawing up the rear, shaking hands with each.
My heart was going pit-a-pat, when the Principal stopped before the young man standing by my side. My turn would be the next. Sri Vasantharao Venkata Rao garu a principal of hallowed memory was saying of Mr.V.S.R.Anjaneyulu, Dept of Geology”. “CSR Anjaneyulu!” the lady asked in surprise. Evidently, she remembered the Thespian film actor CSR. I knew the Ravikantis, close relations of Durgabai who lived in Jidduvari Street of Vizianagaram: “Rama Rao, Department of Languages,” The Principal introduced me to the dignitaries.
“Young Man, how old are you?” She asked.
“Nineteen,” I mumbled.
“He joined as a Tutor three months ago,” our Principal explained, hastily.
“You should get your MA soon and become a Lecturer!”
Then, Chintamani Deshmukh shook me by the hand.
My cheeks bedewed with tears of thoughtful gratitude, I remember often that a very short and thoughtful remark from a generous and forward-looking person could be an inspiration that leads one into ever widening vistas of action. Decades later, as an English Language Teaching expert, when in 1992, I got the Best Teacher Award (awarded to College lecturers by the State Government), the honour did not make me as half as happy as her kind words of encouragement, no, benediction.
Long live the Evolved New Woman!