I had the privilege of meeting the late Chief Justice in Moscow, where my father was posted, in 1982. I had just graduated from the L.S.E and so could pass for an orthodox Tambram Leftist like my maternal grandfather. My elder sister on the other hand was in a rebellious mood and initially insisted on appearing before the great man in her hip St. Stephen's/ JNU jhollawallah
uniform of khadi kurta and blue jeans. Mum was furious and rushed out of the kitchen to force my sister to put on a green saree and large bottu. Sister became resentful. She stalked silently into the drawing room, where the learned Judge was holding me enthralled with anecdotes of Soviet advances in E.S.P and Parapsychology, and sat opposite him glowering intently.
The Chief Justice, who had come to Moscow for medical treatment for his eyes, frowned a little but chose to ignore my sister. Silently, she stood up and departed darting at the old man many a dark and louring glance.
Clearly this Tambram patriarch was a misogynist.
Later, the Chief Justice had a word with my Mum. 'There is an evil presence in this house,' he said, 'A misshapen entity manifesting as a hulking greenish presence.'
My sister was greatly delighted to hear this. She immediately changed into her jeans and came outside to have her photograph taken with the avuncular Judge who cooed and purred over her Amazonian stature and Stakhanovite indifference to feminine adornment.
Thus, it turned out, Krishna Iyer was no patriarchal misogynist. Like other men of his generation, he had been deeply in love with his wife and had been devastated by her passing. Indeed, the wife of a brother Judge (a Rightist North Indian Hindu) found a way to influence the great man by pretending to have received messages from his departed spouse chiding him for his incorrigible Leftism.
His faith in what Mendelev called 'Spiritizm' too was not reactionary at all but innocently progressive- the truth is, the childish mischief of the Fox sisters
, though both ended as alcoholics, was a benign tutelary Genius for the, alas not eternal quite!
, adolescence of the Left.