‘I saw Radhakrishnan twice during the time when there was no helicopter culture. I can still remember an incident on the Srisailam - Hyderabad Highway, when it was still not built.
‘In 1964, a Presidential convoy of five cars was travelling from Kurnool. One car in the convoy hit a small boy and fortunately right before a big hospital. The boy was immediately rushed to the hospital. The then President Radhakrishnan sat near the emergency room eagerly awaiting the result. Doctors treated the boy for small injuries, gave first aid and sent him with his guardians.
‘Radhakrishnan came out of the hospital and while boarding the car saw the district police officer Victor questioning the team about the accident. President approached the police officer, patted him on the back and said: “Be calm, cool yourself. They are also human beings”.’
14 amazing facts in the life of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan:
1) Andhra Mahasabha took place on November 17, 18 in 1928 at Nandyal. The meeting was chaired by Anne Besant and attended by Prakasam Panthulu, Kattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy, Konda Venkatappaya along with the world renowned philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. He spoke in Telugu and on the suggestion of Chilukuri Narayana Rao, ‘Datta Madala Jillalu’ became ‘Rayalaseema’ in the meeting.
2) When Radhakrishnan was transferred from Mysore University to Calcutta University, his students and colleagues and several residents took him to the railway station seated on a flower decorated vehicle. No Diwan or Maharajah would have been honoured in this way.
3) He was the first Indian to be invited to speak in Oxford University. The hall overflowed and people stood in corridors to hear him speak.
4) Radhakrishnan wrote the introductory words to Suravaram Pratapa Reddy’s thesis, “Hindu Festivals” (1931).
5) Radhakrishnan was the Vice Chancellor for Andhra University between 1931-36. He worked for the development of the university and invited great scholars and started many research departments. Dr TR Seshadri, Dr Suri Bhagavantam, Acharya Hiren Mukherjee, Acharya Humayun Kabira, Acharya Mamidipudi Venkata Rangaiah, CV Raman are some of the scholars invited by him.
6) He was the first ambassador appointed to Soviet Russia. When he was questioned, “A person who believes God to be everything is being sent as an ambassador to a country which doesn’t believe in God. Where is the relation?” He closed the critics mouth with the answer, “Truth, Eternity and Beauty are the symbols of God. Russians believe in them”.
7) Russian dictator Stalin personally welcomed Radhakrishnan to his official home in Kremlin. While returning back to India, Radhakrishnan personally took leave of Stalin, patted him on his back and enquired about his health. Stalin moved by the touch said: “You are the first person to perceive me as a human being and not as a devil. I deeply grieve your leaving our country but I wish for your long life. I don’t know till when I would live,” he said.
8) Vice President is the de-facto head of Rajya Sabha and Radhakrishnan successfully worked for ten years in the capacity. Some of the dignitaries in Rajya Sabha during his tenure were: Alladi Krishna Swamy Iyer, Satyendranath Bose, Prithviraj Kapoor, Rukmini Devi Arundel, Zakir Hussein, Maithili Saran Gupta, Kakasaheb Kalelkar, Radha Kumud Mukherjee, PV Kane, Moturi Satyanarayana, Wadia, Tarachand, Bhupesha Gupta, Phanikker, Jairamadas Daulat Ram, Tarasankar Bandyopadyaya, Mohanlal Saxena and VT Krishnamachari. He pacified these voracious speakers with Sanskrit slokas.
9) On January 11, 12, 13, 14 in 1953 the 8th Anniversary celebrations of “Andhra Saraswatha Parishad“ were held under the leadership of Gadiyaram Alampur in Raichur district. Vice President Radhakrishnan arrived to the opening in a special Railway Coupe of the Nizam along with Hyderabad State CM Burugula Ramakrishna Rao.
10) I listened to his presidential Independence speech on August 14th in Radio and all the subsequent speeches. In 1964 when agitation arose against Hindi as the official medium and when this agitation took the form of violence, he gave an example of a Sanskrit sloka that said “All languages are the forms of Goddess Saraswathi”.
11) Radhakrishnan toured England when Chagla was the High Commissioner. One day while coming back from Commonwealth, he found that his publisher Allen & Unwin had an office nearby and went into the building despite everyone suggesting against it. When Allen opened the door and saw the Indian President on his doorstep, he was stunned and said, ‘I would have made the necessary arrangements if I knew you were coming’. To which Radhakrishnan replied, “I have come not as an Indian President but as a writer of my book”. He enquired about the publishing details.
12) Dr Radhakrishnan was the only President to give oath of office to three Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastry and Indira Gandhi.
13) Though he adorned the highest office in the country, considered as a great scholar in contemporary world, won over many laurels, he was still a humble, obedient Telugu man who wore the traditional panche and turban.
14) When he needed to sign in Telugu, he signed Sarvepalli Radhakrishnaiah, which was his original name.
(Author Kalkuru Chandrasekhar was the owner of a hotel. He was a Kannada, Telugu and English Scholar. An Udupi Brahmin settled in Kurnool and a good friend to Sivaramakanth.)