Achievements in double
By S. MUTHIAH
A. Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar (left) and A. Ramaswami Mudaliar
A HUNDRED years ago this year, two 16-year-olds (twins) joined the Madras Christian College. Their headmaster at the Municipal High School, Kurnool, K.R. Raghunatha Char, had predicted a great future for them. But even he could not have foreseen what they would achieve, particularly doubly so in many an instance.
The look-alikes took their first in arts, with Telugu as second language, at the Madras Christian before going on to professional studies. They both went on to wield memorable pens. They both became known for their oratory in impeccable English. They both were elected to the Madras Legislative Council. They were both knighted. They both were awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Laws by the Oxford University. Both were vice-chancellors of universities, one of Madras for 27 years, the other of Travancore/Kerala for eight years. They both served India well in the councils of the world, one at the United Nations and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the other at the World Health Organisation and UNESCO. They were both recognised by Independent India with the Padma Vibhushan. And they both celebrated their 81st birthdays.
But there were differences too. One was older than the other by 47 minutes. And, in later life, perhaps to help viewers differentiate between them, he had a moustache. He focussed on politics, economics, administration, industry and commerce. Of the younger brother, it was said, "He can perform with the same distinction all the work done by his illustrious twin... but what can the latter do if he is called upon to attend on an extended breech patient?"
Indeed, the younger found his metier in medicine (completing his MD long after he was an established name in the medical world) and education, which paved the way for 15 honorary doctorates against his elder's six.
The younger, called `the safest midwife' by many and described by C. Subramaniam, among others, as always taking "a paternal interest in the maternity hospital", was one of the greatest obstetricians and gynaecologists of his time. His magnum opus, Clinical Obstetrics, was first published in 1938 and I last remember seeing it reprinted in 1972 - and, for all I know, may still be in use. It was the kind of record that was to lead to his appointment in 1939 as the first Indian principal of the Madras Medical College.
The elder gave up the law to enter politics. Joining the fledgling Justice Party in 1917, he became editor of its journal, Justice, which pioneered cartooning in India. One of his sub-editors was C.N. Annadurai. From these provincial beginnings, he was to step on to the national and then international stage.
Together, the Arcot Twins blazed an unmatched trail of success for over 50 years. Today, the ever-black-suited and lace turbaned A. Ramaswami Mudaliar and A. Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar are only a distant memory. When their 116th birthday is marked by the family tomorrow, I wonder how many will remember them and their signal contributions.
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