‘Sir, were you expecting Ramdas to protest?’

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: A man of great integrity and sincerity, immense courage, and public concern, K. Ramdas never hesitated from speaking his mind and acting according to his conscience.

We can say that about very few men.

The media usually called Ramdas a rationalist or socialist, or an activist, depending on the occasion. Recently, the title of Professor, too, was added to his name. For me, all that was secondary.

Ramdas was simply the finest human being I knew. He was someone I wanted to be when I grew up.

Memories are many since I have known him all my life. Perhaps the earliest has to be a day I spent with him 32 years ago. I was three. We walked from Gandhi Bhavan to his house in the University quarters, holding hands and talking about everything we saw.

I remember playing with him (and his mother, Manjamma, Ajji to us all) all evening, then reading some books and talking endlessly until my father came to pick me up the next morning.

That day began a conversation and friendship, to which differences in our age, life experience and occasionally views were no barriers. I was his student too, for a year in Maharaja’s College, where he was an immense presence for over thirty years, influencing generations of students with his probing questions and oratory.

His personality and public activism were examples to tens of thousands of his students and other youngsters who came into contact with him, in Mysore and all over Karnataka.

Ramdas taught me what it meant to be curious, imaginative and courageous. His infectious zest for life and travel would come forth invariably in every conversation. He inculcated in me a love for motorcycles, open roads and forests. We often chatted about the places we had recently visited. He liked my peripatetic life and advised me to be open to new possibilities and experiences.

Yesterday, I wrote a short piece for Vikranta Karnataka, lamenting the lack of support to M.S. Sathyu, who was threatened last week by the activists of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike.

Mallana Gowda, a sub-editor at Vikranta Karnataka, after reading the piece, immediately called me and asked: “Sir, were you expecting Prof. Ramdas to make a statement supporting Sathyu?”

His question is indicative of what we had come to expect from Ramdas: to condemn unfairness, injustice and physical intimidation wherever he encountered it.

I responded by saying it is our duty to ensure an environment of fear and intimidation isn’t created in Mysore or anywhere, for that matter. But that’s a legacy Ramdas bequeathed to us all, to carry forward a fight for fairness and decency.

Ramdas wasn’t perfect. But he was a good man. And he was my friend. He will be missed.