An Obituary to Prof. Lilavati.
My friend Lilavati, a professor at Hyderabad Central University, passed away last week after a protracted struggle with Alzeimer’s disease. Her life was remarkable and I believe that my words will hardly do any justice to that spectacle.
She began her career as a journalist at Dainik Viswas, a hindi daily that concentrated on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits who were living in different cities across the country. The newspaper of course reported about other issues, but the central theme always revolved around the life and struggle of this persecuted minority. All her life, she was vocal about their struggle. Her focus was in the culture section, where she travelled extensively documenting the art and cultural advances made by the community. It was during these travels that she met Hari Prasad, who was to become her companion for life.
One thing that distinguished Lila was her commitment to the cause of animal rights in the cities that she lived. She volunteered extensively and fostered a number of strays, nursing them back to life. In her brief stay at Gujarat during the early 2000s, she formed many collectives across Vadodara and Ahmedabad to feed and take care of canines affected by social disturbances. Her flair for innovation was visibly demonstrated when she converted a burnt and abandoned house into a zoic paradise where she took care of scores of animals who lost their adobes to communal violence.
Complimenting her social enterprise was her zeal for academic excellence. However she had to face the ire of a hostile administration and fame will find her only towards the end of her career. Her first published work was “Assam as a cradle of Indian civilization”, which explored the archaic roots of neo-Vaishnavite Assam. In this, she developed a thesis that roots of Hindu culture was indeed stronger towards the North East of the country. She traced the evolution of Shakti tradition and developed an architectural language that could be used to describe the key tenets of Tantric Temple construction. With this, she could prove the eastward diffusion of Hindu cultural elements. She was obsessed with the unvarying characteristics of Sanatana Dharma. This was the defining feature of the lexicon she developed to discern the self-preserving quality of Hindutva. She understood Hindutva as a socio-religious philosophy that should guide politics. Her contributions stand as the strong pillars of Aryan out-migration theory, which has been proved beyond doubt in the last couple of decades.
All her lectures were well attended and comprised of discussions around grave social problems. Her students remember assignments which included elaborate reading of Simone de Beauvior and the like. The students were required to logically refute each one of Simone’s assertions. Lilavati encouraged students to ponder upon the vices of modern society and how a return to our roots can facilitate a recovery. She greatly lamented the loss of Indian woman’s modesty. With her sheer brilliance and strong personality, she towered over all those women who had to smoke and dress down to attract a “liberal” following. She fearlessly attacked third wave feminism and took brickbats to that account. To her unwavering faith, Vedas were feminist enough and a return to them should solve all the issues of a modern woman. It wasn’t just a belief of Lilavati, but something that she substantiated with her life’s work.
She was also a noble soul who would lose sleep over the environmental damage caused by human action. A lifelong vegetarian, she staunchly followed a no meat policy till the end of her life. Never was she polluted by meat or anybody who consumed it. It is indeed regrettable that she was unfairly targeted by the media and people for her comments over the beef lyching squads. By quoting her out of context, they greatly slandered her. When she said that beefeaters should occasionally get a taste of their own medicine, she was referring to the effects on global climate caused by the bovine industry. She wasn’t condoning the killings in any manner. In fact, she condemned the Union minister who garlanded the lynchers. She categorically stated that beefeaters should not be subjected to violence. She suggested internment camps were they could be educated about the ills of such a barbaric practice. The merits of internment camps as a sustainable and cost effective solution was later demonstrated in Kashmir and the North East. If we had heeded her words earlier, we would have eliminated a lot of loss in life that we saw in between.
She was committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and promoted it amongst her students. She regularly practised yoga and greatly popularised it in the student fraternities she interacted with as a professor. While working at JNU as a visiting professor in Cultural Astrology, she wrote a book on the benefits of yoga to Indian women, with a chapter dedicated to virgins and brides-to-be. She wrote at length about different asanas that will ease in self control and the machinations of evil men committed to miscegenation.
Her classes were marked by salutations and fragments of vedic poetry that always reminded the students of their roots. She was adamant about the extensive use of statistical tools in testing her hypotheses. Her regression models that helped in predicting troublemakers in society was internationally acclaimed. While it indeed raised questions about being selectively biased against a particular community, she was quite adept in her response. Through mathematical analysis, she proved that her methodology is quite safe as long as the government was truthful. Since the government was committed to Sanatana Dharma, a question of error didn’t raise at all. This again reinforced her distinction as a rare intellectual who could bring the most out of science and humanities alike.
Her loss will be mourned by friends and foes alike. Reams of her work remains unanalysed in her office. Papers left by her in her residence should yield invaluable insights into the working of a great mind that facilitated a holistic revolution in Indian soil. The tools and strategies developed by her shall help the state and patriots to weed out wrong influences that had confined us to slavery for a millenium. The people of Bharat should bow their heads to the great woman who has contributed more to the motherland than to anything else that she knew in her life. Her last days were peaceful and she left a bereaving family that is still coming to terms with the great loss of a loving mother, a doting wife and a sister who will never be replaced.
May her soul continue the journey forward.