V.K Krishna Menon

V.K Krishna Menon's atypical character emerges from the pages of modern Indian history in dramatic relief to what is sometimes a featureless personal landscape.

An article in Outlook captures some of the curious and engaging peculiarities of the man.

Scion of a prominent and wealthy Keralite family his early life played out the archetype of the educated Pre-Independence Indian moving from an undergraduate degree
at Presidency college in Chennai to the London School of Economics. In the U.K he fell under the spell of his tutor Harold Laski and the prevailing intellectual fashion of the time, Fabianism, a uniquely British and enlightened variant of Socialism.

On return to India he served as secretary of the India League from 1929 to 1947 becoming in the process a prominent figure in the Independence movement and close confidante of Nehru.

Following Independence, appointed to the the position of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Menon managed to rankle the British authorities in so many interesting ways during his 5 year stint at the job.

Sunil Khilani's article captures the enigma of the man whom both the British Intelligence, MI5, and Americans regarded as an almost Mephistoplean figure, and so watched him with almost constant secret surveillance . Much was made of the angular lupine features, the Communist sympathies,the shady associations, and the unpredictable love life.

The unfocused picture that begins to emerge through all of the real politik misrepresentations is of an intensely loyal, passionate, intelligent albeit mildly disturbed man who lived an atypically unprescibed life.

Consider a few of Menon's interesting asides and try not feel an affinity toward him.

  • He delivered the longest speech in the history of the United Nations spelling out in only 8 hours and in no uncertain terms India's position on Kashmir.
  • During the war he had made friends with a shady figure, Bob Cleminson, whom the British later regarded as an agent provocateur of some kind. Menon had befriended him once and continued to remain loyal even when it was no longer politically expedient.
  • Menon kept the strict control of funding in his own department in his own hands and yet did not pocket any of the money for his own needs. Instead he used the funds to among other things bolster Nehru's book royalty checks so that the great man would believe that the public actually cared about what he wrote.
  • Sir Alec Cuttleback British High Commissioner at the time referred to him as "Nehru's Evil genius". This alone stands out as a kind of testament to the man vilified for an unwillingness to play the old cliche: the sycophantic Indian. Menon may have only been guilty of being hard to understand and fiercely independent and thus refusing to offer the assurance he could be manipulated.