Father of Indian Psychoanalysis Sudhir Kakar Dies at 85

Renowned psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar, known also for his prowess in table tennis, forged a lifelong friendship with Vikram Lal, former CEO of Eicher Motors, through their shared Delhi neighborhood in the 1970s.

Sudhir Kakar
Sudhir Kakar, Father of Indian Psychoanalysis, passes away.

Renowned psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar led a multifaceted life that spanned academia, sports, literature, and friendship, leaving an indelible mark on Indian intellectual and cultural landscapes. Born with a keen intellect and a thirst for knowledge, Kakar’s journey began in the vibrant city of Delhi, where he cultivated lifelong friendships and pursued his academic passions.

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One such friendship, with Vikram Lal, former CEO of Eicher Motors, blossomed in the backdrop of their shared Delhi locality during the 1970s. Despite their divergent professional paths, Kakar’s affinity for table tennis and Lal’s admiration for his state-level trophies from Rajasthan laid the groundwork for a profound connection. However, it was the convergence of their lives during a time when young couples were scarce in the neighborhood, coupled with Kakar’s wife’s fascination with psychology, that solidified their enduring bond.

Through shared experiences and intellectual discourse, their friendship flourished, providing Kakar with both emotional support and intellectual stimulation.

Kakar’s academic pursuits were equally dynamic, spanning disciplines as diverse as psychology, economics, and engineering. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a doctorate in economics, Kakar’s early career included teaching stints at prestigious institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Management, and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

His interdisciplinary background provided a fertile ground for his later forays into psychoanalysis, a field he embraced after a serendipitous encounter with veteran psychoanalyst Erik Erikson.

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Erikson’s departure from Ahmedabad, where he was researching a biography on Gandhi, marked a pivotal moment in Kakar’s life. Emboldened by his passion for psychoanalysis, Kakar seized the opportunity to pursue his newfound interest further. His impromptu plea to Erikson to study psychoanalysis led to an invitation to the United States, where Kakar embarked on a transformative journey that would shape his future endeavors.

Kakar’s scholarly pursuits extended beyond traditional psychoanalytic theory, encompassing a broad range of subjects including sexuality, mysticism, and religion. His eclectic interests found expression in over 20 non-fiction and fiction works, where he explored the intersections between Freudian psychology, Indian mythology, and contemporary global issues.

Through groundbreaking studies such as “The Inner World” and “Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors,” Kakar deciphered the intricate tapestry of Hindu mythology and its profound impact on Indian psyche and society.

Moreover, Kakar’s keen observations on the nexus between religion and politics shed light on the complexities of communal strife and societal tensions in India. His insights, articulated in interviews and scholarly articles, illuminated the underlying psychological dynamics driving political unrest and communal violence, offering valuable perspectives on India’s socio-political landscape.

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Beyond his academic pursuits, Sudhir Kakar‘s personal life was characterized by warmth, generosity, and a zest for life. Whether enjoying a nightly ritual of cigars and vodka or engaging in stimulating conversations with friends and colleagues, Kakar embraced life with enthusiasm and curiosity. His genuine interest in the lives of others, coupled with his intellectual acumen, endeared him to a wide circle of admirers who cherished his insights and companionship.

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