Another duke I revere is the distinguished anthropologist Dr Kailash C Malhotra, who retired a few years ago as professor at the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. He lives in Delhi since his retirement. But he is very active in a host of academic, activist and advisory pursuits. He had been actively involved in promoting forest management and protection through empowerment of forest-dwelling communities. In 1997-98, whenever I felt overwrought and distraught, I would phone him and ask to come meet him. I remember the long, cross-city journeys to the ISI. His working day was from around noon to late evening, and he used to ask me to come in mid-evening. I would open my heart to him and seek his counsel. His personality and presence - warm, empathic, loving, friendly, helpful, cheering, encouraging, paternal - was a great source of inspiration and strength. Once while I was in a taxi on the way to meet him, a lorry in front bore the inscription “Kailash Body-building Works”. I was very happy and thought that was a good sign, and when I met KCM I told him how apt that was, since I was really heading for a tonic at Kailash’s body-building works!
The last time I met KCM was when he was delivering lectures at the Asiatic Society in Calcutta in 2000 on “Sacred Groves” and “Biodiversity and indigenous communities”. Once again, deeply inspiring and thought-provoking.
In 1995, KCM spoke to me about the short study on “Avenue Trees in Calcutta” that he had done in 1986. I wrote this up as an article in his name, together with an opening quote from Patrick Geddes and an illustration I got my friend Manab to do, and showed this to him. He was taken aback, and pleased! I gave it to The Telegraph for publication, and I believe it was published shortly thereafter. Sadly I missed that.
I used his narrative in the presentation “The Child in the City” that I prepared for the Calcutta Metropolitan Festival of Art in 1997 (which I joined the arts community in West Bengal in organising, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of India’s independence). “The Child in the City” has been presented in seven cities in four countries.