'Yours Krishna Menon'
by Elizabeth Menon

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''History is not what really happens, but what people are really taught'', words of V K Krishna Menon during one of his interviews! So, that is what we know of history and all those in it; depending on the author, the tone and the approach differ and once that reaches the people, it's perception changes even further. Its true of any history, be it history of events, myths, or any religious books; we know it as we are told by those who wrote it, perhaps influenced by the custom, beliefs or political views of that era! Krishna Menon is the most fascinating and misunderstood man in Indian politics or even perhaps in world politics. His contribution to the Indian freedom struggle is mostly ignored by the politicians and historians and when they choose to mention him, its only to bring up the Indo- Chinese War that India lost while he was the Defence Minister or perhaps the 'eight hour speech' at the UN Security Council in 1957!

It is amazing to note that even less worthy are remembered on their birthdays or death anniversary days, when this most fascinating man who has done so much for his country is ignored! His attributes are many: his dedication to 'Home Rule Movement' while he was a student at the Presidency College in Madras, twenty three years of struggle for India's freedom while he was in London, India's first High Commissioner to London, his unbeaten record at the UN for his eight hour speech defending India's stand on Kashmir, his quick thinking that saved Goa, his contribution in writing the Indian Constitution...the list is thus endless, but mostly ignored!

Lalit Mohan Joshi, the Director of South Asian Cinema Foundation and the production company Rungmunch, decided to question this negative perception of Krishna Menon in history. His period play, 'Yours Krishna Menon', was shown at the Nehru Centre on 31 August, in front of distinguished guests, including the High Commissioner of India in London Hon. Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, Mrs Sharma, Deputy High Commissioner Hon. Mr. Asok Muckerji, Director of Nehru Centre Mrs.Monika Kapil Mohta, Menon's biographer Mr. T J S George and Krishna Menon's niece Narayani. Nehru Centre was packed with people who couldn't wait to see ''their Krishna Menon'! Selections from this play was shown as part of the 'India Now' celebrations of the 60 th anniversary of India's independence, to pay tribute to India's freedom fighters. The play is part fiction, based on historical documents, publications and interviews, according to Lalit Joshi, director of 'Yours Krishna Menon'. Dr Kusum Pant Joshi has done extensive research for this play and her commentary during the play was the backbone of the whole show.

National Anthem and the voice over of Nehru's famous speech, ''At the stroke of midnight.....'', welcomed the audience. The play starts with a vendor selling newspaper on the streets of London and then an insight into Krishna Menon from a conversation between Prof. Laski of London School of Economics and Mrs Laski, referring to him as their favourite student in a very affectionate way. Audience were given a glimpse into Krishna Menon's activities and his choice of challenges and hardships while he was a student at the LSE and the University of London, in pursuing his fight for India's independence which he continued even after his entry into the English Bar.

Then there is the delightful interlude at his house in Thalasseri, where his father, an aristocratic lawyer and one of the richest in Kerala at the time Mr. Krishna Kurup, his sisters Janaki and Chinnamalloo waiting for their 'Appa's ' return from Madras after his 'famous flag hoisting';young Krishna hoisted the India Rule Flag above the Presidency College and narrowly escaped dismissal only with the help of Prof. Candeth who had recognized his pupil's potential. His involvement with the Theosophy Society, activities at the Home Rule Movement with Annie Besant and the subsequent journey to England in 1924 to further his studies are brought to the audience. His loving relationship with his family is shown in such a way that a soft side of Krishna Menon is revealed, which is not an attribute that is usually portrayed to the public.

The Audience gets a good picture of the Political turmoil of the era, through discussions among leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai and Viceroy of India Lord Willington. The play also shows that after joining the Labour Party, Krishna Menon was elected Borough Councillor of St Pancras London. He also inspired a fact-finding delegation headed by Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson to visit India and worked as its Secretary.

All the actors played their part well, especially Krishen Tandon who played Krishna, Pepper (Annie Besant), Shamsuddin Agha (Mahatma Gandhi), Hina Bakshi ( Meenakshy Iyer), Gautam Sachdev ( Krishna Kurup), Emma Jane Goodwin (Barbara), Bernard Doogan (Viceroy of India), Roopa Venkateswaran (Janaki). A special mention to Uthara who played the part of Rukmini, a student at the Presidency College, who spotted the Home Rule flag above the Presidency College; some of the audience actually turned to see if they can spot it too!

Lalit Joshi has succeeded in showing the positive aspects of Krishna Menon's life and to emphasize the fact that India's freedom was always his passion and goal in life. One must remember here that Krishna Menon was almost driven to achieve his goal and never felt the need to justify his actions or boast about it as he knew that his focal point was always India's freedom. Let's join Lalit Joshi to pay homage to the Unsung Hero!

© E Menon

 

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