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When I get time, I listen to music, or read books. If any is left, I blog!

Monday 12 September 2011

Loved by Few, Hated by Many & Feared by All

Have You Heard of V K Krishna Menon? Five out of ten may say 'No'. The rest might remember, but most would choose to heap abuses on the man they vaguely knew or knew only through prejudiced caricatures. The super scribes and superfluous historians had always an extra word or two to portray him!
Read the opening sentence of an article that appeared in the Time Magazine of 26 May 1961:
          'In stately procession, the delegates rolled up to the Palais des Nations in Qeneva - the US's Dean Rusk in a black Homburg, India's smartly tailored V. K. Krishna Menon sweeping an arrogant eye over the press gallery, Russia's grinning Andrei Gromyko, China's dumpy Marshal Chen Yi...'. 

The man who rubbed shoulders with the world's mighty and sardonically rubbed them on the wrong side, was on the cover of the Time Magazine of 2 Feb 1962, a rare achievement for an Indian those days. Twelve years later, Time Magazine wrote his obituary thus:
          '- Died. V K Krishna Menon 77, virulently anti-Western former Indian Defence Minister and delegate to the United Nations of an apparent heart attack in New Delhi. Son of a wealthy lawyer, Menon was an ascetic, acerbic, anti-colonialist firebrand who lived in London and agitated against British rule in India for 28 years...'. 

Krishna Menon reached England in 1924 to pursue education. He earned his BSc with first class honours, following it up with MSc in Political Science and MA in Psychology.  He co-founded with Sir Allen Lane two publishing firms, 'Penguin Books' (fiction) and 'Pelicans' (non-fiction), both of which grew to be successful ventures. The partners however split over publishing E M Forster's novel, 'A Passage to India'. Anticipating objections in publishing a book with favourable references to India's freedom struggle, Menon tricked Allen Lane into believing that it was a travelogue!

'Fight the enemy in its own territory' - that was Menon's strategy. He joined the Labour party and was elected Borough councillor for St. Pancras. He held the seat for the next four more terms. During this period, Menon initiated a library movement sponsoring a chain of mobile libraries, book exhibitions and literary meets. The launch of the 'sixpence' books, while at 'Penguin' and 'Pelican' had made him the 'architect of the paperback revolution' in Britain. As a tribute, St. Pancras conferred on Menon, the coveted 'Freedom of the Borough' title, the only other recipient being Bernard Shaw. 

Menon nearly became a Member of the British Parliament when the Labour Party decided to field him from Dundee in 1939. But his refusal to relent in the fight against the British empire cost him that honour. 

He once said, "I have no past, have no journals or diaries. When I die, I will leave nothing behind'. 

As if on cue, Menon's bronze bust by the famed sculptor Fredda Brilliant erected at the Fitzroy Square in 1979 was stolen. A bust that replaced it was also promptly stolen. The third bust erected at Camden Centre is now kept under 'lock and key'!
Why in the world would anyone steal the bust of a much maligned person? 

Click below to read further....

"Nobody in India appreciated the fact that I encroached 
upon 4000 sq. miles of territory belonging to China."
- V K Krishna Menon


  1. Anonymous9:21 pm

    really..i didn't know that Penguin books had been founded by this man..

  2. Shivram. M9:57 pm

    I remember in 2008 Krishna Menon was conferred posthumously, the South African “Order of the Companions of O R Tambo”. The award was in honour of his sustained support of over two decades for South Africa's struggle against colonialism and apartheid. Until then the award had been given to only three individuals including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

    The award ceremony however had to be postponed because no legal heir of Menon could be contacted. It took a joint search by the Indian and South African governments over six months to locate a grand nephew of Menon to receive the award.

    So much for the ignoramuses who keep referring to Menon's involvement in a Jeep scandal. He lived on 20 cups of coffee and biscuits. He had no family or friends. And to blame him of corruption.... !!!

  3. Raghavendra5:43 pm

    Global diplomacy has always been hypocrisy at its best! Krishna Menon was the sole exception. For being brutally frank he earned abuses and rebukes... but not until he died. Who wasn't afraid of his stinging retorts?

  4. rema.singh8:47 am

    Wish Krishna Menon was around now! His greatness looms larger, when we search for a similar statesman and a visionary among our politicians, and utterly fail to find even a fractionated one!

  5. Wow, he co-found Penguin books? Didn't know that! Thanks :-)

  6. S U Pillai7:41 am

    There are many anecdotes and interesting facts about him.
    During his days in the UN as India's permanent representative, he was the one who vociferously argued for admitting China into UN and US the country which vetoed it. That China is now a permanent member of the SC with Veto power, is often anti-India and the US and China are "Bhai-Bhai"!
    A powerful orator, he had set the record for the longest speech in UN, if I remember right, to avoid the voting on a critical issue.
    There is a story that he once admonished the famous journalist Walter Cronkite, pointing his walking stick at him; but had the greatness to express afterwards his regret for loosing his temper.