A colleague and a good friend
Dr. K.V.Sridharan, whom I used to call Shree, was a conversationalist, non-conventionalist and a person with great untapped potential. Born to a school teacher of Mangalore origin he had his early education in Kodungalloor, Kerala, where they lived since their forefathers migrated along with several Konkani Brahmins during the invasion by Tippu Sultan of Mysore. For his Intermediate studies he moved to Palghat. Thereafter he came over to Madres and joined the Presidency College for B A Hons in Economics. After graduation he joined the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay, for Professional Social Work Training and completed the training in June 1953, with specialization in Labour Welfare and Personnel Management.
Professional life - Life at MSSW
It was July 1953 that he came and met me at the madras School of Social Work, looking for a job. Those were the early days of the Madras School of Social Work and therefore we had a few vacancies. I advised him to meet Mrs. Mary Clubwala Jadhav, Hon. secretary, which he did. Dr. K.V.Sridharan was selected as an Assistant Lecturer and we three – one from the Delhi School of Social work (Mr M Vishwanathan), one from the University of Baroda (myself) and one from the TISS (Dr. K.V.Sridharan) worked very closely to build up the MSSW in conducting Diploma training programmes effectively.
This was a period I got to know more about him. I found Shree a very intelligent person and also a good sportsman. I got used to playing with him in the field and found him to be good at games and will beat me in table tennis and Shuttle Cock even though I was known as a good player in these. I found him to be a good writer and an eloquent speaker on the subjects pertaining to Social Work.
After three years of working in the Madras School of Social Work, Dr. K.V.Sridharan applied to the US Education Foundation for a Fulbright Scholarship to go for higher studies in USA in the year 1956, he was awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to join the Ohio State University in Columbus, USA, to do his graduate studies. Later, instead of his master’s degree, he got admitted directly for his PhD. With about 4 years of work he got his doctoral degree in social administration. He worked for one more year to get work experience in USA.
He came back to Madras and as his contract with the Madras School of Social Work was over in 1957, he was without a job and was hunting for a good job. Those were days when the community or the public not having any knowledge of Social Work as a profession.
With my contacts in the USEFI (US Education Foundation in India) in Delhi, I talked to the director Dr (Ms)Olive Riddick to see whether Dr. Sridharan could be placed in her office. Dr. Sridharan was given a small assignment and he later got into the Cleveland International Youth Exchange Programme as its organizing secretary. He worked there for two years and when that job was over, he was again unemployed.
He joined the National Institute of Social Sciences in Bangalore – a Postgraduate School of Social Sciences, as its Director. After working for a few years he had some difference of opinion with the founder of that organization and he had to leave that position too. Since then Dr. Sridharan was unemployed and was doing consultancy work.
Later Dr. Sridharan joined the Viswa Yuvak Kendra, New Delhi, as its Director / Secretary where he worked for three years. After leaving that he settled in Bangalore and was mostly doing voluntary and consultancy work.
Dr. Sridharan was very popular among foreign students in Columbus in Ohio University. There he was awarded the prestigious “Sphinx” (Inscrutable person) award as a popular student. I understood he was also the recipient of an award by the Rotary Club in Bangalore.
My Impression about his performance
Dr. Sridharan could get along with anybody and was a good conversationalist. He created a good impression of himself with anyone who met him. As a good friend, I advised him several times to be more serious minded and regular in his work as he is very casual at work.
Another example of his lethargy is that he submitted his M.Lit thesis at the last minute after five years to the University of Madras. He was not very organized in his personal life and that was reflected in all the jobs he was engaged. Hence all the employers remarked of his lethargy and lack of seriousness.
While he was working in Bangalore, he found his companion Dr.Uma and since then he was completely dependent on her for all his activities. I used to wonder whether he did the right thing with the choice of Dr Uma, who was a dominating person and possessive too. But they were a happy couple.
Dr. Uma was a medical doctor and she had many talents. She gave up her medical practice after her marriage. She could write short stories in Telugu on current topics including social problems and social illness. She was an artist and could make artistic clay models. Together they could have been ideal couple for the growth of the social work profession.
Dr.Sridharan was a non-conventionalist. He and Dr.Uma had a live-in relationship. I advised him to go to a Priest and get a simple marriage conducted in temple which I believe he refused. He could speak many languages – English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Konkani(no Script). Hence he was a versatile person. He could have shined in India as an eminent educationalist. I am very sorry to mention this in my remarks about Sridharan that he didn’t make a good impression of himself on any of his employment. He used to complete the tasks assigned to him only in the last minute, under pressure and persuasion. I advised him from time to time to complete his work in time so that his employers will be satisfied and people who recommended him will not be blamed. He did not prove effective as an Executive.
If I have been too critical of my friend i am sorry for myself. I didn’t want to flatter a friend who could not use his potential for the benefit of mankind. In spite of all the weakness of Dr.K.V.Sridharan, I continued to be his best friend. May his sole rest in peace!
My last meeting with him
Two weeks prior to his death I visited him at Bangalore and spent considerable time with him talking about various things. He was repenting for many of his inadequacies and inability of not living up to the expectation of people. When I visited him last he was bedridden and I asked him what was really wrong with him as he was two or three years younger than me. When I talked to him I found that his days were numbered and later when I visited Dr.Uma, who was also sick and bedridden, she told me that his end was near. I am really sorry that a person of good talents could not do justice to his profession or the posts he held. In his passing away I lost a very close and dear friend.
Dr.K.V.Sridharan had no worldly possessions. He never aimed for anything. The couple decided not to have any children. He had one acre pricey land in Kodungallur in Kerala which he donated for the Ramakrishna Mission and when I asked why he did not keep the land for a house of his own, he said that he did not want to leave any worldly possession in his native place.
After donating the land to Ramakrishna Mission he lived the rest of his life in Bangalore in a rented house.
After His death, within a couple of months, Dr.Uma also passed away. This sad news was conveyed to me very late and so I could not attend the funeral.
Dr.K.V.Sridharan did not leave any foot prints behind in spite of his versatile abilities and talents. Very sad!
“ I shall pass thru this World but once; any good thing therefore I can do, or any kindness. I can show to any human being, let me do it now, let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again”
Prof K.N. George
Former Director and Hon secretary, The Madras
School of Social Work, Chennai - 600008
Down Memory Lane-Dr K.V. Sreedharan
Dr K.V. Sreedharan was born in Crangnore (Kannanur) North Malabar District of the Madras province – as it was known before Independence. His father was a high-school teacher, popularly known as “Pai Master”. After his high-school education Sreedharan studied at Madras and obtained an M.A degree in economics with first class. Several years later he also got the M.Litt degree of Madras University. Dr Sreedharan passed out of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 1953, with the Diploma in Social Service Administration, specializing in Labour Welfare and Personnel Management. He joined as lecturer at the newly started Madras school of Social Work and for a brief period was its acting Director. He got ful bright Fellowship to do PhD in Social Work at the Cleveland University, Ohio, U.S.A and obtained his PhD degree in 1960. He searched for a suitable senior position in schools of social work. Not succeeding in this, he joined the United States Educational Foundation in India, as a co-ordinator of Cleveland International Youth Leadership Programme. While in Delhi, in 1963 he became the first editor of Social Work Forum, the quarterly journal of Indian Association of Trained Social Workers. He held that position for about four years, until he left for Bangalore to become the Director, National Institute of Social Sciences (Refer, Feb.2011. Social Work Foot Prints). Later he was Director, Nehru Yuwak Kendra in New Delhi for two years. He was also the Editor of Social Work Educator, quarterly journal of the Association of Schools of Social Work in India, for about two years.
His life partner, Dr.Uma Shankar, a medical graduate of St.Johns Medical College, Bangalore, had worked for about two years at the Cancer Hospital in Madras and later at a Charitable Dispensary at Sheshadripuram, Bangalore. She was disillusioned with the medical profession with what she saw from inside and chose not to practice medicine. She devised health education kit with visual aids and conducted health education programmes for NGO`s working in rural and tribal areas.
K.V.Shreedharan had done a brief U.N. assignment at New York and was a Visiting Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences for a term. Dr Sreedharan was honoured as a distinguished citizen of Bangalore by the Rotary Club of Bangalore and as distinguished alumnus by the Ohio University U.S.A.
Dr Sreedharan was the first Indian to obtain a PhD degree in social work from U.S.A. He had an impressive academic background, was very intelligent and had a good command of English. Yet he could not get or hold a job for long in the field of social work education. He could have contributed by writing but he did not. Partly circumstances and partly his own nature, combined to deprive him of what he deserved professionally. It is a tragedy.
Rtd. Professor, Delhi School of Social Work, Delhi
A Great Human being: Shri
I am happy to learn that Samaja Karyada Hejjegalu is bringing out a special issue on late Dr.K.V.Sridharan, known to his friends as Shri.
I met him in Bangalore around 1975 when I was on a rescue mission to the National Institute of Social Sciences which was in serious doldrums. There was a conflict between the management and the director, Dr.Sridharan. He gave up a prestigious and lucrative job in New Delhi and took over the post of director of the NISW, a relatively unknown outfit. He was the director of the Viswayuvak Kendra earlier. Dr.Sridharan was removed from his post of director, NISS unceremoniously. He appealed to the Association of Schools of Social Work in India (ASSWI) for intervention on his behalf. Social work educators and practitioners felt outraged at the ill treatment meted out to Dr.Sridharan. A fact finding committee was constituted by the ASSWI (K.N.George, Madras School of Social work was the president) with Fr.Sales of the Rajagiri college and myself to inquire into the complaint against the NISS and to recommend remedial measures. We made out a strongly worded report and the rest is history. Subsequent events following our report did not set right the wrongs suffered by Dr.Sridharan. He was not absorbed into the faculty of the department of social work, Bangalore University. Of course the loser is the University for not having him on the faculty along with other staff members of the NISS. From then on Shri was a freelance educator and trainer along with his wife, Dr.Uma whom he married later on in life.
When I took over as the president of the ASSWI, a need for a permanent secretariat was keenly felt. A post of executive secretary was created and Dr.Sridharan was the natural choice for this post. He started functioning from Bangalore .The Social Work Educator, a newsletter of the ASSWI, was started with him as the editor. The momentum gained in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s could not be sustained and Sri had to leave the services of the ASSWI .It was a most unhappy situation-a leading Social work educator without being in a proper assignment!
Whenever I was in Bangalore, I made a point to meet him and spend some time with him and his wife. In spite of his traumatic experiences and difficult times, he never lost his charm, humility, poise and humor! He was known for his anecdotes.
Shri was a great human being and my sincere salutations to him.
Prof . K.V. Ramana
Former president, ASWI, Former vice chancellor Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, April 4, 2012
A Tribute to A Mentor: Shree
“Shree” (as the Late Dr.K.V.Sridharan was fondly called by people close to him) was an excellent motivator and facilitator of learning rather than a Professor. When PhD degree holders were scarce in Indian schools of social work, he pursued his doctoral research in social work in a prestigious university in the United States. He was a rare person who chose to work in India at a time when the educated Indians preferred to migrate to America. He consciously preferred a spartan life to a life of luxury and comfort for which he had many opportunities. He was Director of the Madras School of Social Work for a brief period. Many young social workers were benefited to go to USA for training under the Cleveland International Programme for Social Workers and Young Leaders during his tenure in the United States Education Foundation in India. He never compromised his convictions. As Director of the National Institute of Social Sciences at Bangalore, he had to face the toughest challenge of his life when he had to dare the most powerful Chief Minister of Karnataka and the management of NISS to protect the autonomy of the Institute and the interests of the students.
Dr.Sridharan refused to buckle under pressure even at great personal cost. The chain of events at NISS with the support of the students, parents, faculty, civil society and media ultimately led to the creation of the department of social work at the University of Bangalore. Later on, he accepted the directorship of the famous Vishwa Yuvak Kendra at Delhi.
I was fortunate to work with Dr. Sridhran closely when I was General Secretary of the Association of Schools Of Social Work in India. (ASSWI). He acceded to our request to be the first Executive Secretary of the national body for one year. His guidance was immense value to me, which I cherish with nostalgia. A gentle and courteous person, Shree was always positive and supportive. The last years of Shree were with the NGOs. He devoted a lot of time for training and mentoring grassroots development personnel of two NGOs in Odisha, particularly Thread, near Bhubaneswar, Odisha
Any tribute to Dr. Sridhran will be incomplete without appreciating the role of his life-partner Dr.Uma, a medical practitioner, who devoted her life for helping the poor patients. They were indeed made for each other with identical preferences in life. Shree always introduced her as Uma instead of as “my wife” That Shree is no more in our midst is difficult to believe, but that is the fact of life which we must accept.
T K Nair
Rtd professor of Social Work, Chennai
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