For a time, I was transported back to the world of AK Ramanujan attending the session ‘The World of AK Ramanujan’ presided over by Girish Karnad, Guillermo Rodriguez, and moderated by Chandan Gowda. Girish Karnad’s personal acquaintance with AK Ramanujan and Rodriguez’s relationship with Ramanujan that developed through a close trailing after him through his works and interviewing Ramanujan’s acquaintances made the session seem almost like a nostalgic journey of two friends of Ramanujan.

Karnad paid the highest tributes to Ramanujan in the session when he remarked that while he had met many intellectuals throughout his life, only few could he call genius. Rodriguez added to it by remarking how any session on Ramanujan, be it in any country are always packed with people.

The session also witnessed Rodriguez narrating his experience trailing the footpaths of AK Ramanujan. It was in the 1990s that Rodriguez got introduced to AK Ramanujan’s poetry.  He found the poems to have a magical light to them, multiple layers and overladen with mythology. Rodriguez highlighted in his talk how Ramanujan’s poetry and mythology have become windows into understanding India in Spain. Indian folk tales also entered Spain through Ramanujan. Enchanted with this genius, he traveled all over India, trailing the paths Ramanujan took and interviewing the people Ramanujan was close to. It was this journey that finally landed him near Girish Karnad. After failing several attempts to dodge, Girish Karnad finally humoured him. He suggested him to go to Chicago where Ramanujan’s family lives and where he lives on through his journals and works that are preserved in the Chicago University.  

Rodriguez was fortunate to discover and acquaint with Ramanujan’s journals and other works in the university before it was filed. Hence, he was privy to a world of Ramanujan that the world does not know about. Rodriguez remarked how Ramanujan had studied the literature written by women, much before it was even considered seriously. That is now called as Gender Studies. Through the course of his journey, he also discovered that Ramanujan prefered Dravidian languages and was wary of Sanskrit as he felt that it formalized literature.  

The session also witnessed Girish karnad narrating instances of his equation with Ramanujan. Once Girish Karnad read out Ramanujan’s poetry out to him. He responded to Girish Karnad by asking why he was being so dramatic while reading and told him to keep it at ‘room temperature’. Girish Karnad fired back remarking that how could anyone be mellow while dragging someone by their hair; the meaning encapsulated in this imagery is that Ramanujan’s poetry is so dramatic and impactful that it cannot be ordinary.

The session ended with Girish Karnad remarking that though Ramanujan wrote about his anguish a lot, he never revealed himself.   


About the Author: Vibhuthi Viswanathan is a Potterhead and chocoholic.Curling up with the ‘Balabhumi’ and spinning out tales from its illustrations to her little brother was her first interactions with a book. Although she has moved on from good old BalaBhumi, she still hasn’t stopped twirling words and pauses. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.