Jaipur: Long before the era of 'Smart Cities', in 1973, Jaipur was twinned with Canada's Calgary to foster a shared culture and interest in manufacturing. It is thanks to that twinning that Jaipur now has a hospital that goes by the name 'Calgary' - the Jaipur Calgary Eye Hospital in Malaviya Nagar. What the people of Jaipur do not remember, though, is that Calgary too has a bridge over the River Bow that goes by the name 'Jaipur Bridge'. The man responsible for the twinning of the two cities - Professor TKN Unnithan -- died at the age of 90 on Sunday, and was cremated in the city on Wednesday.
Unnithan was born in 1927 in Thonackadu village of then Travancore State, now called Kerala. He was the first male child born after 80 years in his matrilineal Nair family. He came from a learned family of Sanskrit scholars, but his parents saw the need for modern education and sent him to a government school - he walked six km and forded a stream each day to get to school and back.
His inclination towards academics, however, took him from Kerala (where he studied at St Berchman's College, Changanacherry and Maharaja's, Kochi) to Lucknow University, where he met Gandhian scholars, and later, after a stint at the Planning Commission, to Cambridge and the Netherlands, besides a host of other nations as a teacher at the Rajasthan University, where he founded the department of sociology in 1961.
After 26 years at the University, where he also held the position of vice chancellor and served to bring order to the academic calendar, he retired to his home in Jagatpura. He remained active, running a charitable hospital -- Khejri Sarvodaya General Health & Eye Care Centre - which offered free services to villagers in nearby areas. It was registered as an NGO and received funds from abroad too, but was denied receipt of overseas funds since October 2016 -- one of 11,000 NGOs facing this crunch.