Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao
Published in Deccan Chronicle on 21st November 1985
A tennis match was being played at Hyderabad under the patronage of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan. He noticed a young lady, known to him, watching the match and asked her to sit by his side. He ordered an ice-cream for her and when it was brought by his principal caterer, the Nizam sent it back thrice, scolding him for bringing a large quantity of the dessert. Nizam made him reduce it further and further, until only a few mouth-full were left.
The lady was Mrs. Anujee Menon. This incident was narrated by late K.S.P. Menon, to tell how economical the Nizam was and how much he loved money. However to Nizam, ‘Menon was a Just Man’.
A distinguished writer and diplomat of India, K.P.S. Menon worked as Under Secretary to the Resident during the Nizam’s days and recalling his stay at Hyderabad, he mentioned about the city as a place where “all the forces of waning empire were there; autocracy, feudalism and paramountacy – and through them the voices of people”.
Mr. Kumara Padma Sivasankara Menon was born in Kottayam of Kerala State on 18th October, 1898. A member of the Indian Civil Service, he was Ambassador at China and Soviet Union and played a major role in the implementation of Non-alignment policy along with Jawaharlal Nehru.
Menon was fond of stories of Gods and Ghosts in his childhood and the characters of mythological stories narrated to him by his mother became his living companions according to him. Besides this, during his childhood, he liked his elephant Laxmi. He felt immensely happy and proud, when along with the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine and the Major of Odessa, he received two of Laxmi’s species, Ravi and Shashi, the two baby elephants sent by Jawaharlal with a message of friendship from the children of India to the children of Russia, while Menon was in Soviet Union.
KPS had a superstition, that he had a “black tongue” or “evil eye”. He believed that when he says something good about any person or a thing, some misfortune will befall them. Once, when he admired one poultry of a friend in Colombo, within two days not even a single fowl was left.
Making allowance for his superstition, Joseph Stalin of Russia died within seventeen days of his statement to journalists that Stalin was in excellent health. This happened in 1953 when to disprove a talk, which was in circulation then, that Stalin was not in good health, Menon met him and after seeing him in perfect health, he spoke like that.
This scared the Hungarian Prime Minister Rakosi, who requested Menon not to speak well of his health anywhere. Menon felt sorry many times for obliging the Prime Minister, because later history proved that Rakosi was responsible for the miseries of Hungarians by thoroughly Russifying and Stalinizing their country.
According to Menon, a diplomat says “yes” to mean “Perhaps” says “Perhaps” to mean “No” and never says “No”. He foresaw about his becoming a diplomat while he was still a student in Madras.
After obtaining his degree from Madras University, in 1918, Menon left for Oxford and joined the Christ Church College and was always proud of being an Oxonian. In the year 1921, he got a first at Oxford in his post-graduation and a few weeks after that he found his name at the top of the list of successful candidates for Indian Civil Service examinations.
Back in India, he was posted in the Madras Presidency as Assistant Collector. He married Anujee, daughter of the well known reformer Sir Sankaran Nair in 1923.
Once on his way to Ceylon, Menon met Sarojini Naidu in Bombay’s Taj Mahal Hotel. A poem which was written by her and dedicated to him titled “To KPS from my Bath” thrilled him always. The theme for that poem came into her mind while taking bath, soon after their talk.
In Ceylon, he was introduced to Nehru, who came there to address a public meeting. Menon wrote “had Nehru asked me to follow him. I could not have said ‘No’ and perhaps I might have missed the privilege of serving Nehru as the first foreign secretary in independent India”.
In the war time China, Menon worked as Agent General for India. There he had a memorable association with the famous and formidable Soong Sisters: Soong-Chia-Ling, Soong-Mei-Ling and Soong-Al-Ling. They married the three most powerful figures of China between the revolutions from 1911 to 1948 and all of them were presidents of that country at one time or other. They were Sun-Yat-Sen, Chiang-Kai-Shek, and H.H. Kung. Menon’s association with them resulted in his earliest dispatches to the Government of India, known as the “Song of Soongs”. In the middle of his stay in Chungking, the war time capital of China, Menon performed an adventurous overland journey from India to China which lasted for 120 days.
K.P.S. Menon met V.K. Krishna Menon in 1946, at the UN General Assembly, after he was appointed as Chief Advisor to Indian delegation to the San Francisco Conference. KPS first reaction to VKKM was one of “vague irritation”. They argued over a speech prepared by KPS for Mrs. Vijaya Laxmi Pundit. When this was brought to the notice of Nehru, he reacted “So the two Menon’s could not get on with each other”!
A member of the Indian Civil Service, Menon described it as the “Steel Frame of the British Government of India”. To him Communism was a perpetual “Bugbear” and Congress is of communal and sectional dissentions. He was of the opinion that, though the Nehru era had survived in its essentials in the present day, the glory of that era had faded.
In his preface to the enlarged edition of “Many Worlds Revisited”-a book on his association with Jawaharlal Nehru in various capacities in various countries, was reflected in his book ‘Many Worlds’, but he was no longer in a position to view or present India in such rosy colours, subsequently.
According to him, the imposition of emergency in India could not stop the continuation of “bizarre” period, an era of politicking and the general elections of 1977 restored “demagogy” more than restoring “democracy”. The result of the happenings was that Menon had to remain a “bemused, bewildered and sometimes an indignant spectator”. Menon passed away on November 21, 1982 at the age of 84 years.
The greatest tribute to this distinguished personality of our country is, to understand his feeling so that his soul may visit India to present it in a rosy colour to the outer world.