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An illustrious lineage


It must be a unique record, father, son and grandson (through his daughter) all serving India in the same sensitive posts at different times. K.P.S. Menon of the Indian Civil Service by way of Madras Christian College and Oxford, served as India's Agent-General in Ceylon and China, then as India's first Foreign Secretary. His son, also K.P.S. Menon, served as High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka, Ambassador to China and Foreign Secretary, and Shivshankar Menon, son of the senior K.P.S. Menon's daughter Malini Nair, has just taken over as India's Foreign Secretary, after following in his uncle's footsteps both in Sri Lanka and China.

Natives of Ottapalam, 200 km north of Kochi, they are closely linked with an elder from the same town who perhaps was even more distinguished than all of them, Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, the father-in-law of K.P.S. Menon Senior. Ottapalam has also given India such eminent personalities as Sir C. Madhavan Nair, Judge of the Madras High Court and Privy Council Member; C. Karunakaran Nair, the Inspector General of Police who quelled the Razakar uprising in Hyderabad; Lt. Gen. K.P.S. Candeth who led the Goa operation; S.K. Chettur, Civilian, Commerce Secretary and High Commissioner to Singapore; and K. K. Chettur, Indian Ambassador to Tokyo — all of them close family of Sir Sankaran Nair.

Having the earliest ties with Madras of all of them — and perhaps the closest links — was Sankaran Nair. Educated in Presidency College and Law College, Madras, he became a Madras High Court vakil in 1880 and soon proved the equal of the English barristers who dominated the courts at the time. He was appointed Advocate General in 1907 and to the High Court Bench in 1908, serving as a judge till 1915. He was knighted in 1912. When he was appointed to the Viceroy's Council in 1915, the more interesting part of his life began, but it was also to spell disappointment and disillusionment.

Few remember today Sankaran Nair's long and close connections with The Hindu which ended in unhappy circumstances. In June 1901, after G. Subramania Aiyer quit the paper, M. Veeraraghavachariar wanted to make it a limited company. Amongst the Directors the prospectus listed in its attempt to raise Rs.1,20,000 was Sankaran Nair. S. Kasturiranga Iyengar was listed as the Legal Adviser, a role he played from 1895. Later, in a letter to a friend in March 1905, Kasturiranga Iyengar stated, "Mr. Sankaran Nair and myself have agreed to purchase The Hindu from Mr. Veeraraghavachariar for Rs.75,000. One more partner may be taken in the concern sooner or later... " Sankaran Nair's and Kasturiranga Iyengar's friendship was forged in the `Battle of the Vakils'. The `Mylapore Group' of vakils of the Madras High Court, led by V. Krishnaswami Aiyer, was not very happy with the idea of mofussil lawyers practising in Madras. The latter formed the `Egmore Group', led by Sankaran Nair. Kasturiranga Iyengar, a migrant from Coimbatore, joined them. The third partner in taking over The Hindu was another from this group, T. Rangachari.

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