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A Personal Tribute

Harish Trivedi

The passing away of Professor Meenakshi Mukherjee on 16 September came as a sudden and terrible blow to the whole of the literary community in India and beyond. She was dear to all of us who knew her. In whatever role or capacity we first met her, we found that soon enough she had become a cherished friend. That was her special gift—a gift not merely for friendship but for a lively, caring and often enabling relationship so that we not only enjoyed meeting her each time but were enriched by knowing her.   The influence of her published scholarly work has already been enormous for several decades; she must be one of the most frequently cited Indian literary critics of her generation. Characteristically, she had just added yet another volume, on R.C. Dutt, to her already substantial oeuvre even as she passed away; the book was launched the day after she died. But in the scores of messages that have been pouring in from all over the world—especially on the groupmail of an academic association that she had headed for long with distinction—what comes through is that she was valued as a person quite as much as a scholar if not even more so. There will be time enough to revisit her books and to find further value in them but at this sad moment when hearts are full, it may be best to pay her a personal homage. (For a brief overview of her academic achievement, see, among other appreciations, The Hindu, Sunday 27 September.)   I first met Meenakshi in 1976 when she was teaching in Lady Shriram College and I was teaching in St Stephen’s College. There was a seminar on the novel in the old Mughal building of Zakir Hussain College at Ajmeri Gate and we came out and immediately fell arguing over A Passage to India and A House for Mr Biswas. She then invited me to speak at her college on Naipaul and I invited her to judge a literary competition at my college, but soon enough there was no need to invite each other as we were meeting all the time anyhow. When Meenakshi and Sujit, her equally distinguished husband and perhaps the even more charming half of that perfectly matched couple (and not only all the young ladies said so!) moved to their flat in Hauz Khas, their softly lit drawing ...

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