Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The life and times of Sir Alladi-by V.S.Ravi

                            Nine years ago I had published in the Hindu an article “legal Luminary “ on my grandfather on his fiftieth death anniversary .Ever since that time some of my cousins have been requesting me to write one more article throwing light on many other aspects of his multi-faceted personality for being included in a” blog” on my grandfather .In response to their request I have now written this essay on his life and times . In all modesty I may claim that that this essay has come out rather well - perhaps due to the special affection I have for , and the high esteem in which I hold , our beloved Grandfather, one of the great sons of India , rather than due to my own literary skills .To the older generation the letter will revive nostalgic memories of their association with him .To the younger generation it will reveal glimpses of their glorious heritage which they may not be aware of for no fault of their own .Irrespective of whichever part of the world they are now residing this essay will make them proud to learn about their “roots “ and lineage.

As Stephen Spender wrote

" What is precious is never to forget

The essential delight of the blood drawn through ageless springs "

.Every member of the Alladi Dynasty will be thrilled to the core of his or her being to come to know the facts outlined in this article which has turned out to be a lyrical essay . The sentiments expressed by me have come from the bottom of my heart in one remarkable burst of uninterrupted and eloquent prose and it is but natural that I should feel like sharing them with all of you .

My grandfather the late Sir Alladi Krisnaswamy Iyer hails from a small community called the " Pudur Dravidas " ( Brahmins) who had settled mostly in Nellore district .The most popular theory is that they are Tamilians who while migrating from the Southern part of the Country to the North found in Nellore a hospitable people and prosperous land ( thanks to the fertile soil) and settled there itself without going to the North . They retained their Tamilan names - hence the “ Iyer” suffix ( some of them called themselves Sastri to give themselves a new identity . But then again there is evidence that this may not have been necessary as Sastri was a suffix for Tamilian names also e .g the Rt.Honourable Srinivasa Sastri widely known and admired for his oratorical skill was a Tamil Brahmin Iyer . Patanjali Sastri former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ( who incidentally was one of the Juniors of my Grandfather ) was also an Iyer . While in Nellore district some of the Pudur Dravidas took up Pourohityam ( i.e Veda Parayanam etc involving among other things a deep study of the Vedas) as a profession and some acquired a great knowledge of Telugu Literature . Vedam Venkatraya Sastri the renowned Telugu Scholar is a Puduru Dravida .There were other equally gifted Scholars - too many to be mentioned here ( Some set up Printing Presses e.g Vavillas ) still others moved to Madras again to take up jobs in the Government and in Educational Institutions

Another theory is that we are indeed Andhras and such of those who migrated to Madras acquired the Iyer label .This could also be true like for example in the case of Palghat Brahmins it is said that they were Madras Iyers who had migrated to Palghat and not the other way around .( my own father is a Palghat Brahmin – is he a Tamil Brahmin or a Palghat Iyer that is the question )

Whatever the Historical position ,we Pudur Dravidas ( should I deem myself one despite my father being a Palghat Iyer ) seem to have acquired the best of both the worlds - not taking into account the Pudur Dravida language ( being a cacophony of a mixture of jarring Tamil and Telugu words ) .The food however is an exotic blend of the best of cooking/ recipes of both the peoples - the Sambar ,Rasam , Poriyal , kootu , curry etc of Madras and the Pacchadlu , Vepudu ,Avakkaya ,Pulusu of Andhra.The culture again is a fusion of the best of both the States , Telugu Sahityam ,Kuchipudi dance and Gadwal Sarees , from Andhra and Carnatic Music ( more popular in Madras than in A.P where the emphasis is more on cinema music( ! ) ) Bharata Natyam and Kanjivaram silk Sarees from Madras .

. In my short article “ legal Luminary published in the Hindu nine years ago on my grandfather’s fiftieth death anniversary I had mentioned that , my grandfather though being the son of a man who was doing Pourohityam for a living , developed an urge to choose Law as a profession .His rise in the Legal Firmament was meteor- like bordering on the romantic .Within a few years he acquired a legendary reputation as a great lawyer and was known throughout the erstwhile Madras Presidency for his encyclopaedic knowledge of all branches of law.People from all over the country came to him for legal advice .Honours were not slow in coming to him .In 1926 he was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind Medal in appreciation of his philanthropic and social services .He became Advocate General of Madras in the year 1928 and continued to be in that position for several years - the longest for any Advocate General in any State in the country. In 1930 he was awarded the title of Dewan Bahadur and in 1932 the honour of Knighthood was conferred upon him in recognition of his services to the State .After Independence he gave up his Knighthood ..Many of his juniors went on to become judges e.g Patanjali Sastri referred to above who became Chief Justice of the Supreme court ,N. Rajagopala Iyengar who became a Judge in the Supreme Court My grandfather himself did not like to sit on the Bench - as it lacked the challenge ,skill and excitement of advocacy .No wonder that Judges considered themselves lucky to sit on a bench when he was arguing a case.Judges like the late Hidayatulla another former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Justice Krishna Iyer regarded him as a legal colossus . Chief Justice Hidayatulla himself stated once that whenever Alladi passed through his City ( I don't remember which city - most likely Nagpur ) he would wait patiently in the Railway Platform or at the Airport just to derive intellectual inspiration and savour his wisdom for about 15 minutes or half an hour - though my grandfather did not give advance notice of his travel plans since being humble by nature he discouraged open display of admiration .However what he did not anticipate was that as Hidayatulla himself revealed he would obtain advance information from someone in my grandfather’s Chambers !

.He was held in high esteem not only by Indian Judges but also by British Judges before Independence .Judges of the calibre of Chief Justice Leach and Sir Maurice Gwyer would listen to his arguments with rapture and sometimes interrupt the proceedings and adjourn the case to the afternoon so as to give visiting Judges from other parts of the country or even from England an opportunity to listen to him argue a case in the Court His name became synonymous with the legal profession .When he went to England in 1933 he met the leading figures in the legal world including the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General not to speak of his reviving his old friendship with the eminent Jurist Sir John Power Wallis who introduced him to all the members of the Judicial Committee ( Sir John Powell Wallace who held the high office of the Chief Justice of Madras with distinction for several years and before whom Alladi was constantly pleading came to cherish a very high opinion of his ability as a lawyer and an advocate).When he visited the Old Bailey he was treated with great deference by the presiding Judge ,Justice Charles who also entertained him for lunch .He also visited Cambridge and Oxford and exchanged views on legal matters with some of the most distinguished academic lawyers including Professor Holdsworth

.Stories of his legal acumen some true ,and some apocryphal became part of the folklore of legal history .For example in one of the most popular Tamil Movies of that time one of the characters asked another character who was always found studying Law " do you think you are Alladi?" There were instances when because he could not travel due to ill- health ,rich clients from Andhra would come to Madras just to ask him to " touch " a Case File ". saying it would bring them good luck

.On his having completed 60 years of age in 1943 a special Committee was formed with eminent Judges and Lawyers to celebrate his Shastyabdapoorthi as per Hindu Tradition .A galaxy of Legal and other Luminaries sent special messages praising his distinguished career in law as well as his philanthropic nature and dedication to helping poor students in their education and career . Constraints of space do not permit me to enumerate the names of all the people who sent their good wishes and expressed their admiration for him but it is worth mentioning a few .Prominent among those who wrote very flattering remarks bordering on the superlative were Justice F.W.Gentle Judge High court ,Calcutta ,HON’BLE MR.JUSTICE L.C . HORWILL Judge High Court , Madras ,Hon’ble MR.JUSTICE H.C. HAPPELL Judge ,High Court ,Madras .Lionel Leach ,Chief Justice High Court Madras , Sir Maurice Gwyer Retired Chief Justice of India ,C.Rajagopalachariar , who became Governor General of India on India attaining Independence .Sir S.Radhakrishnan who was then Vice-Chancellor of Benares Hindu University and later became a President of independent India , Nobel Laureate Sir C.V.Raman , Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Aiyar ,,C.R.Reddy Vice-Chancellor Andhra University , The RT.HON’BLE Sir TEJ BAHADUR SAPRU ,Sir B.L Mitter Advocate General of India , The Rt,Hon’ble M.R.JAYAKAR and several others

.As his fame grew far and wide Nehru himself heard about his genius . Once when my grandfather was too sick to travel to Delhi , Nehru came down all the way to Madras just to see him .When he had any doubts on points relating to Indian law or even International Law he would send special emissaries to Madras to seek his opinion .Nehru sent Justice Wanchoo to get my grandfather’s opinion about the desirability of creating a separate Andhra State .It was only after my Grandfather gave his clearance that a separate State was formed .Even Gandhiji himself sometimes sought his legal opinion .I have a letter written in 1946 in Gandhiji's own handwriting stating that Rajaji had just given him my Grandfather's opinion which he had read " with the attention it demands " - Imagine such high praise from Gandhiji .This letter is now one of my most prized possessions

Small wonder then that when the new Republic was formed and a fresh Constitution needed for the Country , Nehru requested him to provide his expertise in framing the new constitution .He was responsible for blending the best provisions of the American Constitution and the British Constitution and tailoring the document to suit the special requirements of the new " Sovereign Democratic Republic ".When the famous British Jurist Sir Ivor Jennings once criticized certain provisions of the Indian Constitution in some context he defended it with such sound arguments that Jennings apologized for having hastily criticized without knowing the full implications of those provisions ! All people who have ever taken to law as a profession know the fact that he is the chief architect of the Indian Constitution .The learned Judge V .R.Krishna Iyer who is generally parsimonious in praising anybody has however written a special article lavishing tributes on his legal acumen and referring to him as one of the chief Architect of the Constitution .In his book on the Constitution ,which is considered a bible by all Judges and advocates in our country ,Justice Ranganadham ,has devoted a staggering number of pages constituting a large section of the book to my grandfather's speeches during the debates in the Constituent Assembly . They are considered lessons in Jurisprudence by Judges and aspiring advocates .There is one fact I may venture to mention without incurring anyone's displeasure If I am not mistaken Ambedkar himself had reportedly said when he had become or was to be appointed as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee that he was surprised to have been chosen as the Chairman when there were " more learned men like Alladi".However in the mood of idealism that had prevailed then it was felt that it would be appropriate to make Ambedkar the Chairman .This fact has unfortunately been forgotten or even perhaps been suppressed .Anyway it is too late now to publicize this especially at this juncture having regard to the political climate in the country and the general mood of the Public It is sad that even though my eldest uncle Kuppuswamy became the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and several others of the family have distinguished themselves in various fields ,nobody has thought of even getting a street named after him .You will agree that this is an unfortunate character trait of Brahmins who are humble to the extent of being timid .

My grandfather’s virtues like humility and generosity have become proverbial .Many poor students were recipients of his munificence .His donations to various charitable causes and educational institutions are too numerous to be enumerated in a short essay like this .He was not surprisingly a source of inspiration for aspiring lawyers many of whom became his juniors and later got elevated to the Bench . The passage of time has not dimmed the splendour of his career and the legend that is Sir Alladi keeps growing in fame with every passing year .

His was not just a life lived but a life charged with intellect , humanity , generosity and humility .. .


Unknown said...
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Hai Baji said...
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Veerabhadram said...

Thanks for writing this article.was able to know more about a great son of India.