A.S. Seshan (1925-1989) was born in colonial India in the south, and, like many others in SCI, followed a rather unusual path for someone from his background at that period in history. Growing up he pursued many interests, and his versatility led to skill in diverse areas: sports (as a cricketer), music (playing the flute), painting, photography, and bridge to mention a few. Family legend had it that he did everything his sisters could, including knitting and crochet.
He entered SCI India in his formative years, went to Europe as an LTV in 1953-54, became editor of PAX-India (SCI-India’s newsletter), and took a special interested in publishing, fund-raising, workcamps and organizing special events. Over the course of his life he made significant and creative contributions to SCI, such as his role in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Indian Branch and as a member of the International Secretariat (IS) team in Bangalore during the `80s. In fact, he had sent off at the train station some participants from the Asian Secretaries meeting, held in conjunction with the International Committee meeting in Bangalore in 1989, the night before his death from a heart attack.
To the many visitors to his open house, Seshan was able to instil the SCI spirit and encourage many new, young members, while also acting as a devil’s advocate and challenging all to look at their motives. He was uncompromising on his stand for the ‘weak’ and ‘powerless’ in society and a passionate believer in peace. He was at once a rebel and a gentle human being.
In the New Year message from the IS in 1986, following its designation by the United Nations as the international year of peace, Seshan wrote about Spinoza’s definition, “peace is a virtue originating in spiritual strength” as being as relevant as ever. He referred to writings by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein indicating that people must primarily see themselves as members of the human race – of a common biological species – whoever they may be. Seshan noted with gratification in that letter that SCI members had been steady in their conviction of peace and had been carrying on silently – practising peace as a virtue in spiritual strength. Seshan himself had an undiminished belief in Peace and SCI’s efficacy.
He took his degree in library science in India, and worked in the British Library in London following years of experience in the British Council in India. He completed his Master’s degree as a documentation specialist in the U.S. in 1960. His professional stints saw him with the Indian Council of Agriculture, the Asian Institute of Educational Planning in India and with UNESCO in Panama. However, his most cherished venture was after his retirement at age 52 engaging in farming near Bangalore.
His widow, Valli, continues to live in Bangalore and their daughter, Suprabha, is involved with environmental issues and is a mainstay of the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary in Kerala.