Recollections by V. M. Padmini Chettur (October 2006)
G. K. Chettur, my father, was the oldest of the four sons of Mr. and Mrs. P. K. Krishna Menon. His brothers were K. K. Chettur, I. F. S., Ambassador of India to Japan and Belgium, Col. R. K. Chettur, an Army doctor and surgeon, and S. K. Chettur, I. C. S., India’s representative to Malaysia in 1945 who retired as chief secretary of Tamil Nadu (Madras).
Govinda Krishna Chettur did his M.A. from Oxford University in 1918-21, during which time he was the president of the Oxford Majlis. After his Oxford years, he wrote, "Is it not possible for Universities in India to exercise a similar ennobling influence on students? Is it not possible to alter the conditions under which they exist, to render them as Indian in character, as Oxford is distinctively English? One wonders whether our Universities have always been the dry uninspiring official institutions that confront one today in India." Accordingly, he took up his assignment as Principal, Govt. College, Mangalore, in 1922 at only 24 years of age, the youngest Principal of a Govt. College. He first met his wife Subhadra at Queen Mary’s College, Madras, from which she graduated in 1924. They were married in 1925 and had one daughter, Padmini.
Among Chettur's poems, Sounds and Images is a double sonnet sequence written in 1921 during his last year’s stay at Oxford. "The Last Enchantment" was dedicated to Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, his uncle, and consists of Govinda Krishna's first impressions of Oxford, war days, and meetings with famous poets such as W. B. Yeats, Arther Symons, John Masefield, Rabindranath Tagore, and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, the nightingale of India, his personal friend and mentor.
His other works include The Temple Tank (1932) and The Shadow of God (1935), which was dedicated to the memory of his mother whom he loved dearly. She was well versed in both English and Sanskrit. The Ghost City (1932), a work of fiction, was dedicated to "Chocha," his pet name for his wife Subhadra, and also to his parents. His College Composition (1933), a wonderful book on grammar and structural English for college-age students, contains a wealth of information regarding the usage of the English language, correct use of words, sentence structure, and aids to essay-writing styles (graphic, elevated, humorous, etc.). Last, he edited Altars of Silence (1935), a collection of short articles on Shakespeare, Thomas Kempis, J. H. Newman, Seneca, and others that dealt with themes of meditation and prayer.
I was a tiny tot when cruel fate snatched away my father. Memories of him are hazy but one picture surfaces from the recesses of my mind, which remains clear even up to this day. I remember my father lying in bed and my mother sitting silently by his side, shedding silent tears. I even remember asking her why she was crying, but she remained silent with tears flowing unabated. Being a toddler, I did not understand the gravity of the situation at that time. Then one day I was told that my father had gone on a long journey. Little did I realize that it was his final journey and that I would never see him again.
But he continued to live in my memories ever since. As I grew older I came to understand him through his writings and my mother’s recollections of him. The more I came to know about him my admiration and love for him grew and along with it a desire to write something about him. I did not have a clue as to how I could about doing it and so it remained un-attempted. Recently I was told that there was a website dedicated to my father, the late G. K. Chettur, and that it had samples of his works but did not furnish any information regarding the life and times of G. K. Chettur. I felt that God had given me an opportunity to fulfill my long cherished wish of writing something about my father--a daughter’s humble dedication.
Browsing through his works after a long gap provided an exciting and nostalgic journey down memory lane and this time I did not attempt to fight back the tears that flowed unabated, strengthening the bond of love and affection for my dear father all over again.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my cousin, Ms. Sreelatha Puthiyaveettil, without whose encouragement and support I would not have undertaken this venture. She is a post-graduate in English language and literature, an avid reader of fiction and poetry, specially romantic poetry, and the author of a critical appreciation of my father’s sonnets, with special emphasis on The Triumph of Love and a few sonnets from The Temple Tank. She is at present busy with the translation of regional works of fiction into English.
Chettur, Govinda Krishna. Sounds and Images. London: Erskine Macdonald, 1921.
--. Gumataraya. Mangalore: Basel Mission Bookshop, 1932.
--. The Temple Tank and Other Poems. Mangalore: Basel Mission Bookshop, 1932.
--. The Triumph of Love. Mangalore: Basel Mission Bookshop, 1932.
--. The Shadow of God. London: Longmans, 1934.
The photograph is of Padmini, Subhadra, and Govinda Kristna Chettur, courtesy of Sreelatha Puthiyaveettil.