I was upset to hear of the death of Dr. Pannikker(Panikker sir, to us). I saw him only twice after I left the Institute of English (where i did my research) some sixteen years ago. Dr. Pannikker was the Director of the Institute. Even while i was there i had very little to do with him as he was not my guide. Yet, it is difficullt to come to terms with his death. For some reason, i seem to think think people like him dont die!
As a research scholar i had to interact with him occasionally - for administrative reasons mostly, and academic, once in a way. I must say, he was a presence. Nay, not just a presence. But an impact!
I remeber the first time i met him. it was a classic case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread. Ihad no inkling that he was a temperamental genius with a fiery temper. After my fellowship was confirmed, i thought i'll speak to the celebrated poet-critic-scholar to help me find a topic. He suggested i take up a woman novlelist and explore some feminist angle. Very earnestly i told him that "feminism is not my cup of tea".
All hell broke loose.
What! he exploded with heavy sarcasm. what then is your cup of tea? Who cares for your cup of tea? Two lack worth books on feminsm gathering dust in the university library and you are worried about your cup of tea.
With biting sarcasm he went on about my cup of tea. I was caught totally unawares and literally froze!! was horrified and it must have shown on my face. After he had finished,I quietly got up and politely asked him if i could take my leave. he asked me to wait and called the peon and ordered two cups of tea. Then over a cup of tea he made small conversation with me. Must say i was too shaken to respond coherently . Nevertheless, i appreciated the fact that this cup of tea was his olive branch.