Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVI No. 04, June 1-15, 2016

Our readers write

Who’s a Doctor?

I read with interest the two letters referring to the 175th year of the Presidency College, Madras. Studying at MPC has given me a high level of self-esteem. I studied when the late J. Ramachandran was the Principal. He was passionate about gardening and plants. The college gardens were maintained spick and span during his time. It was a matter of pride for me to climb the two-way staircase leading to the offices of the Principal and college Manager. Walls along the sides of the staircase were adorned with large portraits of the previous Principals and even seeing those portraits was inspirational.

Anyway, my purpose here is to add further to the remark of S.S. Rajagopalan, who had alluded to a snippet about the comment of the Duke of Edinburgh. Only in Madras is it that anyone who teaches in a college refers to him/herself as a ‘Professor’, just because the person is involved as an academic at the tertiary level. I find the random use of the title ‘Professor’ awkward, since this means nothing. A person can work for the title of ‘Doctor’ by writing a thesis and use it as a part of his/her name. However, the title ‘Professor’ is meant as recognition of the knowledge and wisdom the person professes. I am not sure how many of us truly and illuminatingly profess brilliant knowledge and wisdom. Are we professors just because we teach in a university context and wish to recognise ourselves as of a different genre from the teachers of primary and high schools?

This is nothing but tragedy. Only those men and women who profess knowledge and wisdom should be addressed as Professors; not everyone. This is similar to our present-day politicians who have been generously granted honorary doctorates by administrators of universities and who call themselves as Dr So-and-So or Dr. This-and-That, shamelessly. If this was acceptable practice, then why did those two pearls of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who were honoured with honorary doctorates by multiple universities both in India and abroad, not use Dr as a title before their names? There is a thing called etiquette, dear politicians. It needs to be learnt.

Anantanarayanan Raman
Charles Sturt University
PO Box 883, Orange
NSW 2800, Australia

A book a week

To add one more name to the list of Professors in English that Dr. A. Raman has mentioned (MM, May 16th), there was Prof. A. Gopalakrishnan, of New College during the period 1956-60 (the first batch of three-year degree students introduced). I did my B.Sc there and had the finest experience of listening/learning from him. He inculcated reading habits among his students by asking us to read any one book in English every week and submit on Monday morning the gist of what we had read. He used to correct the gist and discuss the summaries with us.

A. Sampath
6/3 Vaigai Street
Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090

Remarkable Ramanujan

Your colorful full-page in MM, May 1st, was an excellent tribute to Ramanujan. I take this opportunity to share a couple of pieces of information, which I felt excited about.

In a Chicago library, I came across a book titled, Mathematical Mysteries: The Beauty and Magic of Numbers by Calvin C. Clawson. Of the 14 chapters, two were devoted to Ramanujan: Chapter Ten: “The Remarkable Ramanujan”, and Chapter Eleven: “Ramanujan’s Equations”, describing Ramanujan as “an expert in infinite series, continued fractions, and other exotic mathematical creatures.”

Among the numerous Ramanujan discoveries mentioned, one that I felt mind-boggling was his conjecture that exp (pi.sqrt 163) will be an integer. It seems that in 1974, John Brillo (University of Arizona) claimed to have proved it to be so: an integer ending ….. 640,768,744. Later, with more accurate values of pi and e, and with super computers, it was found not to be an integer, but ….. 743.99999 ….. , the 9s extending to over a million places. Imagine three irrational numbers combining in quite a complicated way to generate an Integer or virtually so, and Ramanujan discovering it!

Ramanujan’s genius and insight is totally uncanny, absolutely beyond our comprehension. The only explanation is that it was Divine, as he himself claimed.

M. Ratna Prabhu
B 11, Sterling Apts, Part 1
Sterling City, Bopal
Ahmedabad 380 058

Not an ad

After the publication of an article I had written in Madras Musings (MM, February 16th), I have been flooded with enquires as to where the ayurvedic oil I had written about was available. The name of the oil is RU JA, NIL and is available at ‘Sada-yush’, 129/65 Royapettah High Road, Chennai 600 004, which is next to the Raymond showroom. The name of the Ayurvedic doctor is Dr. K.K. Shanmugadasn, and his mobile no is 93804 31296. I hope you will publish this letter and not regard it as an advertisemen.

Radha Padmanabhan
A-1, Alsa Regency
165/16 Eldams Road
Chennai 600 018

Om Shanthi!

Shanthi Theatre on Mount Road has been demolished and it is really a sentimental moment for seniors like me who have seen a number of very good Tamil Movies in this theatre, especially the legendary Sivaji Ganesan’s films. Named after his daughter Shanthi, it was mostly family movies that used to be released here and it was a homely experience indeed. The structure of the hall was so very well planned that it was like viewing a movie at home.

An incident I remember was when a dozen of us went to a comedy starring Sivaji and our CM Jayalalitha and took a lot of crunchy snacks like mixture. The sound when we started munching on them disturbed other viewers and they took objection. We settled the issue happily by offering them a share! The film was Galatta Kalyanam. It was one of the early releases in the historic theatre. OM Shanthi, OM to Shanthi now!

S. Venugopalan
7-A, Prashanthi Apts.
T.M. Maistry St.
Vannandurai, Chennai 600 041

What The Bible sayeth…

G. Daniels of Royapuram writes: “I recently read that, more than Shakespeare (MM, May 16th), it is the King James Bible that has supplied more phrases to modern English idiom than any other literary sources.” Some of which are:

It came to pass
Salt of the earth
Grapes of wrath
How are the mighty fallen
Know for a certainty
Root of the matter
Thorn in the flesh
At death’s door
The way of all flesh
A law unto himself
Scum of the earth
The haves and havenots
Bite the dust
My brother’s keeper
The skin of one’s teeth
As old as the hills
Casting pearls before swine (at their wit’s end)
The powers that be
Eat, drink and be merry, and so on.

The author of the article Ambarish Satwik adds, “These are all resonant phrases living on in the English-speaking world. But let us not forget that this prose for all seasons was laid down, built and assembled from common and colloquial speech; prepared for the public from vulgate raw material.”

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