BENGALURU: An annual lecture series in memory of General K S Thimayya enters its tenth year on November 22.
'Old Boys' of Bishop Cotton School started the lectures to commemorate the memory of General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya, also an alumni of the school. In an exclusive Aditya Sondhi interview with the City Express, managing trustee recounts the decade-long journey.
What inspired you to start this lecture series?
When Col Lalit Rai addressed a small group of us on his experiences in Kargil (where he won a Vir Chakra), it struck me that Bishop Cotton had an alumni that had so much to share. The lecture series was started in the memory of Gen Thimayya, one of our most towering old boys and one of India's greatest generals. This would not only showcase the depth of the alumni, but also improve the quality of interaction among the participants and inspire the younger listeners to greatness.
Did any of you know Gen Thimayya personally?
Most trustees were born only after the General had passed on. But one trustee, Jairaj Daniel, remembers his father leaving him in the care of the General while he attended meetings of the board of governors at the school. Gen Thimayya had no reservations about spending the next hour or so chatting with the four-year-old! Another trustee, C N Kumar, fondly remembers him visiting the school as Chief of the Army Staff and the patron of the Old Cottonians' Association. 'Timmy' was regarded as a 'Soldier's General.' He was always close to his men, witty and jovial in tough situations, and fearless in thought and execution.
In the ZoJi la sector, he personally implemented the movement of tanks to hitherto unseen heights. His brand of leadership is to be treasured.
Is Bengaluru a good place to hold strategic affairs lectures?
Indeed, for the critical mass of retired military and government officers coupled with the Bengalurean hunger for intellectual stimulation.
However, I must clarify that our lectures go beyond strategic affairs and span art, science, social service and entrepreneurship.
Over the past 10 years, what difficulties have you encountered in organising these lectures?
This endeavour is run by seven friends, six of whom are large-hearted and spirited. Expectedly, with such ‘start-ups’, funding and logistics are always a challenge. Initially, we also found it challenging to convey our intent behind the lectures.
Fortunately, our patrons took to the lectures early enough to convince us that the effort was not in vain and needed to be sustained. Special thanks are due to the school, the family of the General and the armed forces veterans for their unstinting support.
Which lectures sparked the most intense discussions?
By far, Col Rai’s talk on Kargil in 2007 evoked the strongest feelings among the audience, with an intense and moving account of the valour of his troops. Dr Ajit Varki’s talk on experiments in glyco-biology, Phil Wollen’s talk on ahimsa and the vegan movement, and G K Pillai’s talk on internal security were very robustly received by the guests.
Give us an overview of how the lectures could shape up in the next 10 years. Any long-term vision?
The trustees aim to invite younger speakers and those with more eclectic life experiences. We also hope the lectures become more of a Bengaluru calendar-event and attract wider participation.