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October 27, 2012 | Comments Off on Friendship, not Agreement | Betsy Woodman
I was about to throw out a shoebox of cassette tapes the other day, but instead, popped one into a portable cassette player (also retrieved from the dark corners of a closet) and had a listen.
The tape was of my sister Lee interviewing my dad in 2002. Most of the lore had been ingrained in our heads, but I’d forgotten exactly how my dad, Everett Woodman, had met his retired schoolteacher friend, P. A. Thiruvenkatachari, “Mr. Patch,” sometime in 1954.
At that time a young cultural affairs officer with the United States Information Service in Chennai, India, my father had been invited to give a talk in Chengalpattu, about thirty-five miles away. He barreled out there (not a trivial drive in those days), expecting to find a “young men’s association” and instead was greeted by fifteen or twenty men in their seventies or older. Drawing on his background in psychology, he spoke on Western theories of personality development. At the end, one of the venerable audience members rose to give the “vote of thanks.”
“It was a good speech,” allowed Mr. Patch. “Maybe not the best we ever heard, but a good speech.” Then the erudite Mr. Patch went through the talk and refuted it point by point.
Thus began a friendship that lasted until Patch’s death in 1972. To paraphrase novelist George Eliot, theirs was a friendship of much agreement, some disputation, and yet more personal liking.
Another speaking engagement: Everett Woodman at PEN Conference, 1954. Seated second to right is Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, then Vice-President of India, and, far right, Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister. The VP and the PM look decidedly underwhelmed.