The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography offers Lives of the Week, a free service which one can sign up to and receive a daily mail with a biographical sketch of some personality at random. I have signed up for this service and find this a very interesting way to learn about people whom I might never have heard of or ever have reason to hear about otherwise. But sometimes, the biographies are of people I have heard about in the past and even in these cases, I often come across some new bits of information.
Sometime back I received a mail with a biographical sketch of Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan written by Antony R. H. Copley (Reader in Modern History, Rutherford College, University of Kent, Canterbury), which mentioned a few things that I hadn't heard about before. I googled to see if I could find any mention of this anywhere on the web and couldn't fine anything. So here are those few bits.
- Radhakrishnan, Sir Sarvepalli (1888-1975), philosopher and president of India, was born on 5 September 1888, in the pilgrimage centre village of Tiruttani, in the then undivided presidency of Madras. He was the second son of middle-class but poor parents, Sarvepalli Veeraswami, a tahsildar, a minor revenue official, and his wife, Sitamma. At least, this is the official version. More probably, he was the illegitimate son of a visiting Vaishnavite official: certainly he was physically quite different from his four brothers and sister. His capacity to absorb both the anti-Brahman prejudice that clearly slowed down his early academic career, and the Bengali hostility to southerners which isolated him in his early years at the University of Calcutta, might well have acted as a screen for coming to terms with the deeper pain of illegitimacy.
- Indeed, he had been considered as a possible successor to Trygve Lie as secretary-general of the United Nations.
- In May 1903 Radhakrishnan had married Sivakamu (d. 1956), daughter of Talpuru Chenchurammiah, a railway station-master, with whom he had five daughters and one son, the distinguished historian Sarvepalli Gopal; but he was unfaithful, and his sexual philanderings deeply hurt his wife.
I must admit that I haven't yet read the biography of President Radhakrishnan written by his son Sarvepalli Gopal and so am not sure if some of the above are mentioned in the book - (Radhakrishan-A Biography, By Sarvepalli Gopal, published by Oxford University Press, ISBN 019562999X.
While the author is free to speculate on what might have happened and how it affected the man and those around him, I don't know if the author has based his speculation on evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) or not.