THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For Radha Nair and two of her younger brothers, Krishna and Sankara, it was a solemn feeling when Harsh Vardhan Shringla, foreign secretary, paid tributes to their late father and former Malayali diplomat Kokkat Sankara Pillai who was shot dead inside the Indian High Commission (IHC), Ottawa, Canada, 60 years ago.
The programme was naming of the Chancery Waiting Hall of the IHC as ‘Pillai Memorial Hall’ by the Indian government on Monday at 6.30pm in memory of the diplomat.Over the last few weeks, the IHC authorities had been tracing the life of Pillai from University College, Thiruvananthapuram, to his native place in Kayamkulam.
Pillai was the first rank holder in MSc Mathematics from University College where he later became lecturer. It was during his teaching stint there that Pillai wrote the civil service exams and became a diplomat. A five- minute film on his life was shown at the Memorial Day programme by the IHC authorities which Radha and her siblings watched with emotions writ large on their faces.
“In the webinar, Shringla said the life of a diplomat is not all about glamour. Their lives are often at risk. Many people don’t know about the underlying risk in a diplomat’s job. The foreign secretary recalled the narrow escape he had during his stint in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul,” Radha, 75, told TNIE.
Radha expressed her heartwarming tribute paid to a hitherto unsung martyr, her father.
“But today is not a day that should be shadowed by what happened on 19th April, 1961. 19th April, 2021 is a day bright with a sense of fulfilment and pride. It is a day for heartfelt thanksgiving, not just for our family but for all those who knew, admired, respected, heard of and were inspired by my father,” said Radha.
A plaque providing a brief citation on a 39-year-old young diplomat who laid supreme sacrifice to the country and a tree was also planted on the Chancery premises in Pillai’s memory. The live webinar coverage from Ottawa also saw former ambassador T P Sreenivasan speaking from Thiruvananthapuram who was instrumental in bringing justice to the Kokkat’s family after 60 years.
If not for Pillai, Sreenivasan would not have taken up Indian Foreign Service as a career. He also recalled how he and his wife, Lekha Sreenivasan too had a narrow escape when Kenyan thugs had attacked them grievously during his stint as the Indian ambassador in Nairobi.