V. S. Varadarajan Memorial

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Quotations and Remembrances

This happened in one of the trips that Raja took to Italy. I was living in Turin at that time, and I had finally managed to get Raja to visit me in his way to Genoa and Naples. It was a very hot August, Italy was suffering a terrible heat wave and I was worried all the time, trying to have Raja under the air conditioning whenever possible. It was in the early 00's. I used to drive an old model of Fiat Panda by then, which, needless to say, had no air conditioning. But he would not complain. We were talking about Special Geometry but in the weekend, we took a day off. He wanted to visit the 'Sacra di San Michele', a beautiful monastery, built one thousand years ago in the top of a mountain (monte Pirchiriano), forty kilometers from Turin. I had been there climbing the via ferrata that takes you to the top of the mountain, but I had not entered the building, so I also enjoyed the visit. Moreover, it was fresher than Turin! I'm certain that the visit was planned by Veda, even when she was not accompanying Raja that time. When we entered the church, there were these little candles that you find in front of a picture or statue of some religious character. One can light them as an offering to God, the Virgin Mary or a Saint and then one leaves some coins for the church. Here, it must have been the Archangel San Michele. I have to admit that we were in awe, imbued in the spirituality of the place. Raja lighted three candles: he told me the three personal thoughts he made while he performed the ritual, but that, I have forgotten. After the visit we sat in the terrace of the canteen to have a little rest and refreshments. As you know, Raja had an encyclopedic knowledge of the lives of famous mathematicians and physicists, and he loved to share the anecdotes with everybody. He asked me which theoretical physicist I admired the most. I said Einstein, but Dirac came very close. Then he went on with a joke that Dirac liked to tell. There was this man visiting a nice, important church. He met the couple that worked as the housekeepers of the church. He learnt that they had had seven couples of twins. 'Seven couples of twins?' said the man who could not believe it. Then he asked the woman 'So, you always had twins?' and the woman answered 'No, some times we had none.' I think the woman qualified as a natural mathematician. --Collected by Marian LLedo

There was one story which he told many times. Raja was at a kinkos type store to have an enlarged photocopy of a partiture of a Mozart piece he was learning. Since the queue was long he left the materials. When he returned there was a different attendant who asked Raja if he was Mr Mozart. To which he replied: "I wish!" And will always burst laughing. --Collected by Cristina Cadavid