On 24th April, 2021 Prof. Mallar fell victim to Covid. I think of myself and almost everyone who knows me would agree that I am stoic but I cried and I am still crying while I write this. I have not cried for anyone, not in a very long time. Not when my grandmother died last year, not when my grandfather died in my arms, not even when my father died in 2013. I knew that they were dying. Prof Mallar’s death was a shock.
Everyone who ever came in contact with Prof Mallar came away thinking of him as a kind, patient, gentle soul full of a cheer that was gregarious but solid and real. Everyone came away feeling better about any problem they took to him – even when they had failed in an exam and went to him to protest – he was head of the law school examination committee. No one ever heard him complain or sound frustrated. Not even when he taught us those difficult constitutional law cases where the Supreme Court, his sweetheart, mutilated his Bible, the Indian constitution. Such was his faith in the Supreme Court.
Prof Mallar was a legend and everyone who knew him will testify to that. He was always hopeful about the Supreme Court and the Constitution. With him dies all hope that I have for the Supreme Court and the Constitution.
- Murali Neelakantan, Principal Amicus, NLS Batch of ‘96
Most humble, humorous human
Prof Mallar, to my mind is among the most humble, humorous human that I’ve known, and that I knew him so early in my life is a blessing! His perspective on the Constitution of India, his outlook on life and his various aphorisms and sayings certainly struck a chord among his students (including me!). The spontaneous outpourings of grief at his passing is simply a testimony that he will continue to reign in our memories and hearts! May he Rest In Peace.
- Pramod Rao, Group General Counsel, ICICI Group, NLS Class of ’96
Prof. Mallar and his “Mallarisms”
I would be surprised if any student would even take notice of this bespectacled man in a simple shirt as he would walk in modestly for the first time into the constitutional law class. I would be even more surprised if there would be any student left untouched when Professor Mallar would have let loose on his class his passion for constitutional law over the two trimesters of that course.
In that booming voice, with the trademark accent and nostalgia about his GOVA (Goa as he would pronounce it) days, Professor Mallar had the ability to collectively transport his whole class into courtrooms past where great litigation over India’s basic law have been fought. One could feel the frustration of a Champakam Dorairajan or the intrigue of His Holiness Keshvananda or the outrage of Khanna J in ADM Jabalpur. Professor Mallar who infected the whole classroom with his humanity, compassion, gentleness and above all “Mallarisms” like “I am not a Rhodes scholar, just a scholar on the road”, sadly himself fell prey to a cruel infection that untimely martyred him.
That Professor Mallar was infectious is beyond dispute. His greatest legacy is the antibodies he has ensured in his students, which, even years after his constitutional law class, still protect them from the dark forces that threaten constitutionalism.
-Sanjoy Ghose, Senior Advocate, NLS Class of ’96
Prof. Mallar and his innate ability to shine the light on everyone else but never himself
Many have spoken of the attributes of Prof Mallar- his skill as a teacher, his deep knowledge, his keen legal mind. I must admit that I didn’t quite take advantage of his intellectual prowess and keenness to share having been a backbencher for most of my time at NLS.
That said, his passing has affected me profoundly and I asked myself why the loss of someone who I haven’t spoken to in 22 years has affected me so deeply. The reason I have come to conclude are the traits that I, subconsciously perhaps, have imbibed from him. They are to combine passion with humility.
The passion with which he taught managed to pierce even my juvenile indifference, so much so that one of his famous, forceful constitutional law case references (from his beloved Supreme Court) became almost a greeting in my batch. He also had an innate ability to shine the light on everyone else but never himself. One of his interviews in the NLS Quirks publication shows a person very comfortable in his skin and despite having been a key driver of NLS’s world class curriculum, not taking any credit for it. Take your job seriously but never take yourself seriously, he suggests and if we can all follow that, we will all be better human beings.
When we heard of his passing my classmate Shishir reminded us of one of his quotes: ‘It’s the laugh we will remember, when we remember the way we were’. I would dearly like to hear his laughter once more and when I hopefully do so at some stage away from the material plane: Ultimately, You Will Find, that I may just greet him with a forceful exclamation of Kihoto Hollohan sir!
God bless you, we will miss you sir.
– Navneet Hrishikesan, NLS Class of ’99
A Class Act
Prof Mallar was one of my favourite professors – well before I was able to truly appreciate the importance of his lectures on Constitutional Law.
I did not get a chance to study the subject properly in high school – to understand what the Constitution says; why it’s important; why some of its principles can appear alien to some people; and how it shapes our lives every day.
Prof Mallar was able to introduce this subject in my 2nd year of law school *and* make it interesting (despite our limited attention spans). He spoke about the Supreme Court with love and reverence in equal measure.
For each case discussion, he remembered the political context, the bench strength, each judge’s view and the SCC citation. If he could not find something interesting among the above, one could bet that he would find something else – gossip which no one would write about or perhaps even a mutual friend of a party.
He was a class act for several reasons – principally because he remained grounded despite his many qualities. One example has stayed with me over the years. One evening, during what we 1st year students thought was a ‘students-only’ dance performance, there was trouble with the audio system. Suggestions emerged that it would be a good idea to ‘fill’ time with impersonations.
Prof Mallar was a central part of this ‘performance’ – most students would remember how he’d speak about “RMD Chamarbaugwalla” or “Champakam Dorairajan”; how he’d refer to details using “this one” or “that one” – one shoulder hunched and the other powering thrusts of his other arm; and when he’d look out the window as he nibbled on his spectacles’ temple tips – as if he was reviewing notes etched somewhere in the clouds. His various other “Mallarisms” are remembered across batches.
What I did not know was that at some point that evening, Prof Mallar had decided to walk into the venue to observe what students get up to during such events. He had witnessed the entire ‘performance’.
While it came from a place of unadulterated admiration for the gentleman – in this case, imitation truly was the highest form of flattery – I did not think that he would see it that way and didn’t know how to make it right. Despite assurances from friends, it took me a few days to muster the courage to meet him and apologise. He waved it off with his charismatic smile and noted how he was glad that he was interesting enough to mimic.
Such an incident could have led to a rocky relationship with several professors. However, in relation to Prof Mallar, it came up only once throughout my time at NLS.
Several days after the event, Prof Mallar asked me a question while I was not paying attention in class. When I admitted that I had not followed his question, he took his time to walk across to me – slowly and with a mischievous smile on his face. He placed a hand on my shoulder, pointed in the direction of stage where I had ‘performed’ and said: “Look here, I do not have any objections to anything, as long as talents increase in equal measure – *both* inside *and* outside the classroom.”
This led to ferocious table thumping in class, a ‘got you!’ chuckle from Prof Mallar and a friendly pat on my back. My pride was bruised but I could not help laughing – such was his presence.
This incident was another example of what students and colleagues say about Prof Mallar – that no matter what came across his desk, his distinctive smile never left his face. He remains (and will probably remain) the only person aged 60+ with whom I would have wanted to visit “Gowa”.
We’ll miss you.
- Dheer Bhatnagar, CoS / Founders’ Office at Zenyum HQ, NLS Class of ’14
Photo credit: Prof. V.S. Mallar Fan Page (Facebook)