ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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That Diminutive Man, What Intellectual Prowess

The memory tends to be a bit blurred. It was some time in the mid-1960s, Manik, the niece of a very close and respected friend, introduced me to a research scholar at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), Govind Deshpande. Manik, whose formal name was Kalindi, and Govind soon got married. As our acquaintance grew, I was struck as much by the range of Govind’s interests as by the depth of his political convictions. His family was crowded with former freedom fighters who swore by socialism, but his radicalism travelled much further. Govind was completing a course in Chinese Studies at the ICWA. Superficiality would not do, he insisted on learning the language, and thoroughly, so that he could read the relevant books and documents in the original. The Indian authorities would not then allow private citizens to visit China. Never mind, Govind proceeded to Hong Kong and spent some months there to learn the nuances of the Chinese language. What was additionally remarkable, despite the general hostility towards China among the Indian middle class in the wake of the border clashes a few years earlier, Govind was determined to take an objective view of the entire episode.

The nation’s capital breathed conformity; it needed both courage and abhorrence of clichés to declare openly, as Govind did, one’s admiration for Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, reports on which kept filtering in. He followed its course as it evolved, flourished and faded away. Govind’s well-researched tract on that extraordinary phenomenon was not only the first serious piece of work concerning the Cultural Revolution in India; it is the only one the significance of which has not withered over the decades.

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