Saturday, November 14, 2015

When Sir C.V. Raman wanted to learn Russian …

… he turned to Mr. K. Narayan, a graduate from our Department at IISc waiting to join the Bhilai Steel Plant that was being created [the story is from 1958]. Nayantara Narayanan recounts an interesting episode, which plays out over a period of perhaps several months, in which the Nobel Laureate learns Russian to become fluent enough to give his Lenin Peace Prize lecture in that language.

When a 27-year-old metallurgist taught Nobel laureate CV Raman how to speak Russian:

Raman asked Narayan to come to his house every morning before starting work. The house, a bungalow named Panchavati surrounded by a sprawling mango grove in the heart of Malleswaram, was walking distance from where Narayan himself lived. And so the lessons began. Narayan used [the Russian language primer by Nina Potapova] to teach Raman basic Russian.

“He evinced a very keen interest, like a Gurukul student of old. Every day he would do his homework and repeat his lessons back to me,” said Narayan. Even though Raman was 60 years old and Narayan only 27, the older man liked to maintain the teacher-student relationship. As payment for the lessons, Narayan would get to sit down with Raman and his wife for a breakfast of hot coffee and idlis.

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[Cross-posted from our department's website]


  1. Vijay Sethuraman said...

    Abi, do we have a recording of his speech? Would love to hear how Russian sounds like in Tamil accent! Vijay.