March 02, 2013

Celebrating Dilip Veeraraghavan

Community meetings are good indicators of a neghbourhood’s social health.
And if you look closely at the buzz in Mylapore you will realize that this is one neighbourhood that seems to remain alive around the year.
It is easy to credit this liveliness to concerts and religious discourses that are held here round the year. But if you look closely, there is lots more that engage different groups.
Raga Sudha hall on Luz Avenue is one of the many venues for concerts.
Last week though it drew a completely different set of people.
They were labour union leaders and students, academicians and Left-leaning activists, lawyers and the rest. And they were here to celebrate the life and work or a brilliant scholar-activist and teacher who is no more – Dilip Veeraraghavan.
Dilip grew up in Mylapore, soaked in Marxism, enrolled at the IIT-Madras for his doctoral studies and was the sort who attended factory gate meetings and labour strikes in the city.
In between, he would dip his hands into community campaigns and social issues.
Two decades after he received his Ph D., his research thesis has now been published as a book titled ‘The Making of the Madras Working Class’ and releasing this book at Raga Sudha was the head of the CPI(M) party, Prakash Karat, who had also cut his teeth by attending gate meetings after his studies at Madras Christian College.
Rarely has such a big crowd been at this hall for a non-music event

It was much later, when I interacted with old friends and new ones that I got to realise the amazing circle of friends and well-wishers that Veeraraghavan had cultivated through life. And here they were to celebrate him at the release of what is said to be a very important book on the labour movement in India.
Prakash Karat made an important observation that evening – we do not care to keep and maintain records and very few people attempt to document and write on key developments around us.
It is a message that institutions and communities must consider seriously.
Documenting the life and times of a 1965 sabha or that of a 40-year-old primary school is as important as the early days of labour unions in our city.

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