Farewell, Navaratna S. Rajaram
It is with sadness that I write about the passing of one of modern India’s greatest scholars and historians. Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram really should need no introduction in a fair world, but we still live in that age where mainstream bookstores don’t widely stock the works of India’s best native thinkers.
I had the honour of interacting with him somewhat regularly over the last 2 years. From being an avid reader of his work, I became someone fortunate enough to be guided and mentored. He was instrumental in helping launch this website, with his kind words and encouragement, especially for the True History section. I know from various sources that he has helped inspire countless others to write clearly and fearlessly, and with scholarly rigour, including a writer on YAI.
Over the last 2 years, he was making a difficult yet steady recovery from a stroke. While physically slower, his mind remained sharp throughout our interaction. There were occasional moments where our interpretation of history differed, yet he as the widely published elder would accept disagreements and listen keenly without prejudice, even from a relative non-entity. We sometimes critiqued the works of other authors, including those who were Hindu-centric, and he would display a refreshing balanced view. Without naming others, when I pointed out that a specific piece by an author was not up to the mark, he would contextualize, clarify or even accept my view. Yet, he would point out to other works by the same author that were worthy reads. These are habits worth emulating, an objectivity, a willingness to accommodate different views, and see the best that people had to offer.
A common family friend who first personally introduced us mentioned that I had become a little like he was in his younger days, as Dr. Rajaram too obsessed about eating tiffin in the right places, while announcing to friends where the best idli, vada or kara bath could be found. This is perhaps a southern Indian or a Bangalorean obsession. This friend visited him last year, but not before making a detour to pick up some of Dr. Rajaram’s favourite snacks in Gandhi Bazaar, not far from his alma mater, BMS College of Engineering in Basavangudi. As a fellow BMS alum, we have lost one of our legends.
Just last week, he wanted to re-publish an old article about Sita Ram Goel, titled “The Prophet of Nationalism”. This will be out soon, but it is beautiful that he was of that mould, and never forgot other prophets who like him are that beautiful tree that gives shade and brings forth many branches in this next generation of thinkers and public intellectuals. Many of this current set who were inspired by him can be sure that he too spoke approvingly in return.
I last met him about 7 months ago, and given unfortunate circumstances including a personal family loss, my next visit to him would have happened this month. However, I rest content in the fact that he is now in a better place. India has lost one of its great thinkers, someone who has been instrumental in upholding the dharmic spirit that keeps rising in this new India.
Om Shanti. Om Namo Shivaya.
ॐ शान्ति | ॐ नमः शिवाय
See here, for Dr. Rajaram’s last interview.
See here, by Pankaj Saxena, who provides a useful overview of his work.
And by Aravindam Neelakandan