Published: 07th August 2020
RIP Professor Rajani: A dramatist, a Himalayan bibliophile and a gentleman from MCC
An English professor, Rajani is remembered for his plays, friendships and a kind heart. He was 79 at the time of his death
Memories of P Rajani are still afresh on Dr Ganesh Krishnamoorthy's mind. He enthusiastically tells us about how the octogenarian rode a two-wheeler, organised plays, played cricket and came back frequently from the Himalayas with frostbite. For a few minutes, he forgot that his beloved Professor Rajani is no more.
For almost two decades, until his retirement, Rajani was a professor of English in the Madras Christian College. Later he joined the University of Madras as the Tagore Chair. At 79, he passed away, after contracting COVID, on the evening on August 7. "We thought that he will bounce back. He was stable a few days ago," says Ganesh, who is the former Head of the English department at MCC.
Among many anecdotes about Rajani, he shares a rather heartwarming one. "He had a kind heart. He would help out teachers and students in every way possible. A few years ago, I was suffering from cervical spondylosis and couldn't even get up. When Rajani got to know about this, he rushed to my house with a chair on which I could rest comfortably," he says. He also remembers Rajani the cricketer and avid traveller. "He was passionate about the Himalayas. I don't think he was a believer of Lord Shiva, but he would go there constantly," he says.
It may not be wrong to say that Rajani breathed drama and theatre. "He was in charge of organising plays in MCC during his tenure there. He would also come back to direct plays later," says the professor. Rajani directed numerous plays and conducted workshops for the students of MCC in later years. He was best remembered for his plays even in Madras University. "He was so keen on theatre that he would even create plays out of poems. In fact, many of his students are known theatre trainers today," says Dr S Armstrong from the university. Rajani had a 10-year-long tenure there.
Rajani also maintained a free library for his acquaintances in his house, he recalls. "There was only one rule. You must return the book without any damage," he says. He adds that Rajani managed the college's alumni relations for a long time. "This was one of the reasons why many of them were active in the alumni network," he says. It wasn't surprising, when Rajani contracted the virus, that the alumni ran from pillar to post, arranging blood and trying their best to make sure that their favourite professor comes back to life.
As Shakespeare said,
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances"
And Rajani's was a rather unexpected one.