Saturday, May 10, 2008

A philosopher and social worker

Sometimes you feel enervated when you meet people with an extra ounce of zeal and energy. And when the person is well over 70, it can surprise you. Prof. T.N. Ganapathy struck me as a livewire when I met him in his cozy little study filled with books on philosophy. When he was general secretary of the Ashok Nagar Citizen’s Council (1979-90), Ganapathy had fought valiantly against encroachments. He was the one who coined the name ‘Citizen’s Guardian’ for an NGO that is now active in protecting the common man’s rights, raising issues, battling encroachers and lawsuits as well, after its success in a court case that enabled a park to be constructed on Ashok Nagar’s First Avenue.

Prof. Ganapathy has 54 years experience as a teacher of philosophy, including a three-year stint as senior fellow at the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi; the institute published his The Philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas in 1993. After retiring as head, department of philosophy, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College (a record 23 years, 1968-91), he served as member of the academic council at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparti. Since 2000, Prof. Ganapathy has been the director of the Yoga Siddha Research Centre, co-sponsored by the Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas Inc., Canada. The founder-secretary of the Tamil Nadu Philosophical Society has authored many books – on logic, theism, absolutism, Tamil siddhas. The Yoga of Siddha Boganathar was translated into German and Russian.

Born in Manganallur, Tanjore, Ganapathy was the 11th of 14 children; only three survived beyond five years. His father S. Natesa Iyer was stationmaster in Manganallur; mother Kamalambal a pious woman with no formal education. “I inherited her wisdom,” he says, recollecting the days he stayed in a joint family with 40 cousins. Ganapathy was brought up by his uncle and aunt, Venkataraman Iyer and Meenambal. One of his books is dedicated to them. He studied at the Hindu High School, Madras; Tandankurai Village Panchayat School; Madras Christian College; Board High School, Ayyampet; and Peter’s High School, Tiruchy. Intermediate and B.A. Philosophy was at National College, Tiruchy, when Ganapathy travelled by train from Tanjore and walked ten miles every day. “I am what I am because of some great teachers like A. Paul and Shanmugham Chettiar who moulded me.” After graduating in 1952, Ganapathy taught philosophy in the same college. He later stood first in M.A. Philosophy (Nagpur University).

Prof Ganapathy is now focused on organising the Second World Conference on Siddha Philosophy in December, in Chennai.

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