Monday, March 17, 2014

Not a memorial

It should have been, but it is not. But it is from this spot that a 25-year old Iyengar made preparations to lose his caste, trading it for a chance to do the one thing he loved. Srinivasa Ramanujan moved to this part of Triplicane, Hanumantharayan Koil Street, sometime in May 1913. He had been granted a scholarship by the University of Madras, and leave from the Madras Port Trust. All he had to do was mathematics, and to submit a quarterly report on his progress.

And progress he did. Even though correspondence between him and Prof. Hardy over at Cambridge was strained and infrequent, it was all part of a larger plan that Hardy had set in motion. By the new year, Hardy's 'agent', E.H. Neville, a young Fellow of Trinity College was in Madras for a series of lectures on differential geometry. Whether those letters were a success or not, he managed to overcome Ramanujan's apprehensions about travelling to England. 

And so it was that the morning of March 17, 1914, saw the now kudumi-less Ramanujan waiting to board the S.S. Nevasa, with a second class ticket sent by Binny & Co. To see him off were some of Madras' elite: members of the judiciary, bench and bar, professors, colleagues and officers from the Madras Port Trust and members of the press, including Kasturiranga Iyengar of The Hindu. Neither his mother nor his wife were present, having been bundled off to Kumbakonam a few days earlier. A century later, let alone a memorial, not even a memory remains. Even the plaque that was on the premises earlier has disappeared!

No comments: