Hindu (03-08-2004)
RAMAN'S effect

The Raman Trust that has been taking care of Panchavati, Sir C.V. Raman's house, is working on making it a museum, with a laboratory and children's activity centre attached to it, writes MALA KUMAR

Panchavati is the home of the Nobel Laureate, which will soon be used by the people he loved most in the world, students Photo: K. Gopinathan.

THE EFFECT as one enters the beautifully wooded premises of Panchavati is magical here are the trees that Sir C.V. Raman cherished. This is the tree that gave him the wood apples he ate. Here stands the majestic jackfruit tree that the great man is supposed to have planted himself. Special just like him, are the fruits of this tree for the pods are reddish in colour, not yellow as they usually are. Here stood the man who must have wondered about the vibrations that produced the enchanting birdcalls he loved so much. Panchavati is the home of the Nobel Laureate, which will soon be used by the people he loved most in the world, students! The Raman Trust that has been taking care of Panchavati is working on making it a museum with a laboratory and children's activity centre attached to it.

A disconnect

Deputy Commissioner Jagadeo Kumaraswamy Naik and his family.

Sadly, a group of students chatting over plates of panipuri along the wall of the property in Malleswaram, did not know the history of the place! But many Bangaloreans remember the place with affection and pride. Bird watchers say that the woods around the house once had at least 90 nests of several rare birds. Others talk about the time when the scientist used to peer for hours at the butterflies in the garden, unmindful of the calls for dinner coming from the house. His niece-in-law, Ms. Kausalya Ramaseshan, remembers the time when `Professor' used to stop eating suddenly and ask his nephew Ramaseshan, "What was I eating just now?" "Sir, you just finished thayir saadam...", the nephew would say. And that was all he got to say usually, for with C.V.Raman around, others hardly ever got a chance to talk! But he talked with such passion and devotion about all things concerning science and nature that it was a pleasure to listen to him, say people who knew him.

His lady love

The lovely hexagonal hall of Panchavati is where Raman and others listened to veena recitals by his wife, Lady Lokasundari. In fact, it was the sound of a 14-year old girl's rendering on the veena that drew a 17-year old cyclist to her house! At the end of the recital, Raman is supposed to have asked for the girl's hand in marriage and `Loki' became his partner in his experiments with sound. Panchavati still has a few of the stringed instruments and drums that he studied. "My mother-in-law was a very generous person she never thought twice before giving anything away, says Sir C.V.Raman's daughter-in-law, Dominique Radhakrishnan. And obviously Lady Raman never thought twice about giving orders either when the maverick flautist Mahalingam `Mali' used to perform at her house, he had strict orders not to carry his bottle in. So Mali used to run to the gate every few minutes, have a swig and come back to his performance!

Sir C.V. Raman in his signature Mysore peta .

Sir C.V. Raman bought the house in 1942, and his love story with music continued here. The house was built in 1911-12 by the then Deputy Commissioner, Jagadeo Kumaraswamy Naik. His wife Laxmammani was a revolutionary social worker, recall her grand daughters, Lakshmi Raju and Arundhati Verma Desai. "She went on horseback carrying a leather whip and chased away dacoits!" The tradition of social work is probably in the DNA of the place, for several years later, Lady Raman too worked hard on a Women and Child welfare centre here. And now Panchavati is to become a learning centre for children.

The `Professor', as every one in the family still refers to Sir C.V.Raman, was an avid reader. His collection at Panchavati includes Shakespeare and Holmes, and books on astronomy and a host of other subjects. While he respected all the sciences, he did get away with saying anything! At the Silver Jubilee celebration of the Chemical Society of Central College, he is supposed to have declared, "Chemistry is the dirty part of Physics." The man is known to have terrorised people with his demand for punctuality, and his impatience with adults who sauntered into his home or the research centre. But the minute a student walked in, he was welcomed with a smile. The Nobel Laureate showed the students around, showed them his gem collection, talked to them about the beauty of nature, and about the physics of all things natural. He loved to talk. The house still has the beautiful cot with its inlaid mirrors where the great scientist used to sleep after a long day of working on and talking about science. He talked in his sleep too clearly and audibly, which made the exasperated Lady exclaim often, "Do you have to continue to talk in the night too?"

Inspiring place

Copy of an old newspaper that featured the Raman couple.

For, Panchavati is an inspiring place, says a family friend of the Ramans. "Sir Raman was a true Rishi, I think, for he saw the real world with his mind. There is something in the aakaasha of this place that inspires one to higher things," says Ashcharyacharya, an artist who used the house as a studio for some time. The First National Professor of Independent India went on to set up the Raman Research Institute after his retirement from Indian Institute of Science. He left Panchavati to live at the Institute quarters, and continued to learn from observation. Compared to the 2.5 acres of Panchavati, Bharat Ratna C.V.Raman, now had 48 acres to study.

At a time when old buildings are being brought down to give place to spanking new buildings, it is reassuring to see Sir C.V.Raman's house, along with its Studebaker `47 car, getting a face-lift.