Friday, January 23, 2009

Kosambi: Life and Work

... Yet socially however, he was an exile not only in Maharashtra but also in Pune itself where he had produced such voluminous work. The intellectuals of Pune, a retreat for scholars and known for its educational institutions failed to honour or reward this great thinker. On the contrary he had created a number of enemies for himself amongst these intellectuals and finally had to resign from Ferguson College. Kosambi had himself to thank for all the bitterness that was caused. He was not an amicable person and had many disagreeable facets to his personality. He was short tempered. He would not stand any nonsense ( pp 47) and would not hesitate to cut any one to his size irrespective of his age, seniority of prestige. Many times he would loose his temper for small negligible mistakes and offend others. He took great pride in his intelligence. His intellect was not matched with humility because of which he tended to underestimate others. In addition he had a childlike impishness and indulged in teasing people. He was also given to using shock treatment to stir people out of their habitual thinking by taking an extreme stand. He would never attempt to interact or mingle with others and in case anyone dared to communicate with him he seemed to disappoint him as far as possible.

Here are a few episodes illustrating this queer behaviour. Many youngsters eagerly sought his guidance in history, Marxism, etc., and requested him to hold tutorial classes for them. However when they ventured to ask him about it, he used to forewarn them, (q 20) His reply used to be, ‘Yes, I will. But only on one condition, i.e., those who attend the class on the first day must attend all the subsequent classes on time. Bring the others only if you can guarantee their attendance.’ Who can guarantee such regular attendance and strict punctuality on the part of all students and that too in India? So the frightened pupil would withdraw never to turn up again. He would ask even casual visitors such awkward questions so that confused and discomfited, they would soon leave him. This treatment was not restricted to ordinary or unfamiliar visitors. He was notorious for treating even the distinguished and well-known people in the same manner. Once P.G. Sahasrabuddhe visited him with the intension of discussing Marxism. At the outset Kosambi asked him if he had read certain books. When the answer was negative, he bluntly dismissed Sahasrabuddhe asking him to read those books first and then approach him. He would not waste even a few minutes in any informal talk.

Read Kosambi: Life and Work by Chintamani Deshmukh translated from the Marathi by Suman Oak

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