Lessons Learned: Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph, in memoriam

rudolphs_indira gandhiLife Lessons

[Professors Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph, University of Chicago professors, brilliant political economists of South Asia, outstanding mentors and wonderful friends, both passed away this winter. Susanne, on December 23rd, 2015, Lloyd on January 16, 2016. Below, I reflect on all the life lessons they taught me over the past 27 years. Painting above by yours truly, presented to Susanne on her 8oth birthday in 2010, depicting Susanne and Lloyd with Indira Gandhi at O’Hare Airport in 1966]

1. Fall of 1995: Susanne and Lloyd take us on a hike to see the mouth of the Ganges at Gangotri. As we pass the tree line, I crumple with altitude sickness. Susanne and Lloyd both feel fine. They are in their sixties. We are in our twenties. As I clutch my stomach and lurch along, Susanne and Lloyd are spry and invigorated. Lloyd has just learned that another University of Chicago economist has been awarded the Nobel Prize, this one for his theory of rational expectations. Lloyd proceeds to attempt to apply this theory to our hiking behavior.

At the flat sandy bank below the glacier, Lloyd and Susanne pitch a four-person tent. I vomit quietly behind a boulder. At sunset, immediately preceding a modest dinner of dal and roti, provided by a man with a small eatery beneath a tarpaulin, Lloyd brings out the perfect size of flask, containing Scotch whiskey for cocktails. After dinner, we retire to our quadruple-sized tent and lie in four sleeping bags in a row. Susanne and Lloyd have miner-style headlamps for reading before bed. Susanne is reading an interesting biography of Mary Shelley. Lloyd is reading Wendy Doniger’s latest book, in which, he notes, she thanks a lover in her acknowledgments. Lloyd wonders if he should note down this pilgrimage to Gangotri in the acknowledgments of his next book.

I curl up into fetal position and wait for morning.

Always bring a flask on a hike. Never forget your bedtime reading and lamp. Avoid being born with a feeble constitution. Economic theory can be applied to daily life. Anything can go into your acknowledgments.

 

2. My second year of graduate school, 1992: Susanne hires me to be a student worker in their office. Lloyd and Susanne have an office suite: twin offices with a common area where the student workers sit. The job involves a huge amount of filing. My predecessor has left suddenly due to mental illness, and so the training is spotty. Every morning Lloyd and Susanne wake up very early and read all their newspapers. Lloyd cuts out all the articles that are pertinent to his own interests or those of virtually anyone he knows. He writes in loopy letters with a fountain pen on post-it notes instructions to us: “One to Deb Harold, one to Dick Taub, one to Brian Greenberg.” We must photocopy these and send them off to the appropriate parties. Often the original is to be filed. Sometimes we find our own names on the recipient list. Then we dutifully make a photocopy for ourselves and file it in our backpacks.

Students sign up for office hours in fifteen-minute segments on a sheet outside the door. Our job is to chat with them while they wait. Well, no, we are supposed to be filing and such, but the students want entertaining. Susanne always dispatches her advisees promptly after 13 minutes. Lloyd must be reminded. Lloyd likes to have a cup of Medaglia D’Oro coffee in the afternoon. If one of the women student workers accidentally makes it for him and brings it in, he becomes very anxious and we have to have a long conversation about whether or not it’s exploitative for him to accept it.

For a while, Lloyd and Susanne resist email. We are instructed to print out every single email they receive and place them in their inboxes, just like regular mail. As this practice fades, we begin to receive 5 AM emails from Susanne full of instructions for the day. Susanne’s instructions are always terse. In handwritten notes, her handwriting is thin and cramped. She uses ballpoint pens. Often, elucidation is required.

When Susanne and Lloyd give talks, Lloyd is famous for going off on tangents of which he loses control. Susanne is famous for cutting the tangents short and summarizing what Lloyd just said while he regains his composure. When they write, it’s the other way round. Lloyd’s ink pen loops all over Susanne’s text, cutting, expanding, copy-editing and critiquing. They do know how to write and speak without one another: Lloyd has a lesser-known specialization in the American presidency. Susanne is also a scholar of Max Weber. But they are at their happiest and most productive when they work together.

Summers are spent in their house in Vermont. As when they go to India every fourth year, they ship all the books and papers they will need for their work in large crates. They also ship their cat (but not to India). While they are gone, we continue to work in the office. Whole mornings can be spent pursuing instructions such as these: “LIR needs Sovereignty in China. Pale green cover. By Smith or Jones. Southeast shelf of LIR study at home or in LIR library office.”

I am also charged with ordering office supplies. I order everything in purple and lavender. No one seems to notice.

Share knowledge. Do not exploit your female workers. If you speak in tangents, find a pithy partner. Reverse is also true. Always edit with nice pens. Bring your work on holiday, as well as your cat.

 

Lloyd and Susanne with Mohan Singh Kanota, 1971
Lloyd and Susanne with Mohan Singh Kanota, 1971

3. The late 1950’s: Susanne and Lloyd first travel to India. Of course the best way to do this is to acquire a Land Rover in England and drive there. Most of the places they drive through are now war-torn, but that doesn’t mean it was easy then either. They tell thrilling tales of fording rivers in the car and all manner of hardships. Somehow or other, they end up in Jaipur, staying with the Maharaja. Perhaps the palace was already a hotel, but they immediately become fast friends with the princely set. There are photographs of hunting expeditions and glamorous parties. These interactions form the basis of their book Essays on Rajputana and they become India scholars. Their last major work, Reversing the Gaze, builds on a lifetime of good-will and intimacy with the history and politics of the princely states.

When the Maharani of Jaipur was imprisoned by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, all she could think of was Susanne’s pineapple upside-down cake.

Always take the most adventurous route. Stay in palaces. Study what you love. Every adventure should become a book. Learn how to make pineapple upside-down cake.

 

4. Fall, 1988: I first meet Susanne in a required social sciences course at the University of Chicago, known informally as ‘Self, Torture and Anxiety’. She is teaching the unit on ‘Self’. Authors to be read: Max Weber, Adam Smith, Karl Marx. What I remember from the course: Susanne introducing herself on the first day, and explaining that she spends every fourth year with her husband and co-author in India, doing research. She is wearing a light blue khadi vest, or so I remember. Cornflower blue was always her favorite color.

I am a Classics major. I think: this woman has a better life path than I do; I go to my adviser and drop Latin and add Hindi. Political economy is something I’m still trying to understand.

Be on the lookout for good life plans. A Classics degree will not get you to India. Political economy is very important.

 

5. 2008, Kensington, California: The Rudolphs have retired to a beautiful house in the Berkeley Hills. I visit for lunch one day. Susanne’s Parkinson’s disease is noticeable now, although she never mentions it. On the other hand, she has just come in from Tai Chi in the park. For lunch, she makes a quiche. I watch as she tenaciously controls her movements, chops mushrooms, beats eggs. Each motion is an act of will for her. Lloyd is in charge of salad. He does not attempt to help her, not because he wouldn’t want to, but because executing these movements is clearly of the greatest importance to her. At lunch, on the deck, in the sun, they explain what projects they are working on. They reveal that they’ve started to watch movies in the evenings instead of working. This is a new world for them, and they seem quite amazed at all the material available. Susanne nods off to sleep. Lloyd gently wakes her and reminds her of the topic at hand. The pain in his face shows his anxiety about her illness, but also his disbelief. How can he be left with the responsibility of keeping the conversation on track?

Try new things. Keep fit. Don’t accept defeat. Respect your partner. Prepare to assume one another’s responsibilities.

 

6. Fall, 1989: I’m in India for the first time on a new study abroad program organized by Susanne. Me and one other student. Susanne isn’t actually there, nor is anyone else there to greet us, save a driver from the American Institute for Indian Studies (AIIS). In a scenario that’s guaranteed to horrify any modern-day study abroad coordinator, we are put in charge of making our own hotel reservations and finding a taxi to take us up to Mussoorie where we will study Hindi. The hotel thing falls through, and we end up sleeping on the sofas at AIIS, after which we are dispatched to an unknown guest house by an irate Pradeep Mehendiratta. When we finally have the courage to leave the guest house, we take a map (to try to determine where we are in New Delhi) and Susanne’s instructions. Go to Kashmiri Gate. Hire a one-way taxi to Landour Bazaar. This should cost you 750-900 rupees.

Be self-reliant. Carry a map. Prepare for surprises. Don’t forget your instructions.

 

7. 2015, Summer: We visit Susanne and Lloyd at their house in Vermont. Susanne is using a walker now, and Lloyd has been ill as well. He says he gets tired a good deal. Until a few years ago he still swam in Silver Lake at the foot of their lawn every day at dawn, but now that’s too much for him. You cut out more and more as you get older, he says, regretfully. He misses playing squash and going on long hikes. Susanne is sometimes present and sometimes not. She engages with bits of the conversation and wanders off with them. Lloyd seems anxious. What if he becomes too ill to care for her? The strain on him is already great. He still reminds her of what we’re discussing, in the most respectful tone.

All their lives they’ve lived in many places at once. Summers in Vermont, fourth years in India: winter in Jaipur, fall and spring in Mussoorie. Then there were always conferences, awards ceremonies and important meetings. They were always in motion. Even then, when they were both quite ill, they’d flown from California to Vermont, to be at their lake house. How much longer could they do this, we wondered, and how could Lloyd bear to return to Vermont without her? Lloyd explains to my daughter that Susanne is suffering from Parkinson’s, a disease that affects the memory. This is the first time I’ve ever heard either of them mention her illness, even though it has been evident for many years. In the evening we watch Mansfield Park. Lloyd no longer drinks a French-press full of coffee after dinner, and no one has any cognac.

Do what you love. Respect those you love. Make every journey matter. Don’t dwell on negative thoughts.

destination-india-a-us-couples-compelling-journey

 

8. Thanksgiving, circa 1994: We are amazed to be invited to dinner at the Rudolphs’. There are other graduate students and also assorted faculty members. As always at their house, we start off with sherry, cheeses and stoned wheat thins. By dinner, the graduate students, us included, are all quite drunk. At dinner there is more to drink. Lloyd and Susanne drink more than us and don’t seem in the least affected. The conversation is high-powered and intellectual. We are very quiet. We can’t contribute much to discussions of the inner workings of Indian parliament, the results of the latest census and controversies surrounding the Mandal Commission. After dinner, there is cognac and strong coffee. The graduate students can barely stand. The Norwegian Rational Choice theorist is only getting started. He is explaining something theoretical that we are in no position to understand. “Take jazz, for example…” he begins. “…or chess…” We don’t know what he’s talking about, but Susanne leans forward, bright-eyed and engaged, asking him all the right questions. Eventually we are bundled out onto the pavement, bleary-eyed and barely cogent. One of us has spilled red wine on the white sofa and covered it up with a sofa cushion, but I won’t say who.

Always serve cheeses with stoned wheat thins before dinner. Invite a nice assortment of people. Do not feed poor graduate students too much liquor. Figure out how to make jazz and chess analogies at dinner parties.

 

9. Christmas Eve, 2015: I’m in the kitchen, preparing eggnog with bourbon and nutmeg (without bourbon for the child). I receive a text from a friend who has heard that Susanne has passed away. Though the news comes as no surprise, I feel the tears coming, and a sense of helplessness. What would Susanne do, I asked myself. She’d pour the drinks with a steady hand. She’d carry on. Instead, I go upstairs and sob. The scene repeats itself: each time I think of her, I become tearful, and ask myself how she’d behave in my place. Susanne would be stoic. She’d think of the right thing.

What do you do when a mentor dies, and you have no example to follow? I try over the next few weeks to write something about Susanne, about what she meant to me, what she taught me about being a professional woman and leading a thoughtful life, but I couldn’t tell the story without Lloyd, and when I thought of Lloyd, waiting behind, as she embarked on the final journey before him, I cried again. I thought of Kazuo Ishiguro’s recent novel, The Buried Giant, which explores just this theme: no matter how tenaciously one might cling to a partner in life, the final journey must be made alone.

Or does it? Just twenty-four days later, word came that Lloyd had also passed away. I don’t know what afterlife they envisioned, or if they did at all. They were not openly religious or spiritual; they were fiercely rational scholars who loved to study, as political scientists, the present moment as it unfolded. But I like to think of them now, together on another journey, to an intellectually stimulating place in the sky, or of their souls finding new incarnations that will meet again, and forge another fruitful partnership, or of the two of them soaring off into another dimension full of conversation, stimulating company, hikes, cocktails and articles to be shared with all their friends.

When in doubt, pursue your research, write your books, pour out the drinks and carry on. Even if you don’t know your final destination, do your best to leave the party together.

Rudolphs

30 Replies to “Lessons Learned: Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph, in memoriam”

  1. Wow, my friend. I knew you were brilliant but this is Beyond. Thanks to your husband for linking to it. I wish I had met them.

  2. Thank you, Daisy for sharing your memories of the Rudolphs. It reminds me of when I spent a year at the University of Chicago on a post-doctoral fellowship (1996-7) and I met the Rudolphs. It was an intense time: I was to come up for tenure that year, and the lap-top with all of my (unbacked-up) revisions to a book mss was stolen when my apartment was burgled. I had also started work on an essay on the “New Nations” project at the University of Chicago, and Kim Marriot sent me to Suzanne. She was surprisingly easy to talk to, and suggested not an essay, but a book that would (re)tell the story of modernization theory (her and Lloyd’s forte) through the history of the Harvard Social Relations department which she observed as a sometime participant during her time at Harvard. Today I regret not having interviewed her, not only because of the archive she pointed me to, but for her oblique, pithy asides on male dominance in the field. Lloyd was the one to keep in touch afterwards, sending not only links to news stories, but the gifts of their considerable scholarship in their later years. Suzanne and Lloyd were generous interlocutors, advising a group of us on how to weigh in on Obama’s cabinet appointments in 2008, and supporting our forays into the writing of policy documents with parallel efforts. At a time when most of our colleagues don’t even follow the news in South Asia, the Rudolphs in retirement, displayed the agility to engage with the political on multiple sets of terrain: they knew who was who in Washington, they were committed to not always saying the same thing, and to saying it differently. I shall miss their intellectual presence and wise counsel.

  3. I am moved to tears not only by this stunningly beautiful and witty memoriam, but by the wealth of student responses attesting to the power of Rudolph teaching and being. The “being” is the important part. They would have loved it all. For me and my family, particularly my daughter Martha, the sad finale to the loving and transformative friendship of almost fifty years.

  4. Thank you, Daisy, for these wonderful vignettes of your experiences with Lloyd and Susanne over the decades, each revealing a different aspect of that wonderful combination of intellectual and social curiosity, personal warmth and open spirit of joy.

    When I heard the sad news, years of memories flooded through me. The University of Chicago Indian Civilization class and the seminars in Foster Hall. The parties for students and faculty and visitors at their home, and meeting their young kids. The protest march to downtown Chicago along the lake shore at the time of the Bangladesh War. Staying at their place in Jaipur, meeting Thakur Mohan Singh at Kanota House, and celebrating Susanne’s 50th birthday party at the Rambagh Hotel. The Rajasthan Studies Group we built together. Borrowing from their Amar Singh diary to write my piece about riddling at Rajasthani weddings. Our long collaboration on The Idea of Rajasthan, including the long weekend planning session at their Vermont summer home. Their move to Berkeley, visiting them in their Kensington home, reconnecting with their now adult kids, and meeting them at Berkeley ISAS events. And, the last time I saw them, at Lloyd’s 85th birthday party at the Piedmont Gardens retirement home in Oakland.

    The world of South Asian Studies has lost two of its great scholars. So many of us were lucky enough to be personally connected to them over the years, and were inspired by their approach to both India and what it is to be scholars and academics, We mourn while at the same time being grateful for their lives and for having known them.

  5. Daisy’s reflections help soothe the pain.

    Susanne and Lloyd touched my life with caring, humor and support. They shaped me as teachers, mentors and friends, and I’ll always be grateful. I never experienced anything like it as a graduate student or aspiring professional.

    And of course they were tough to thank for their generosity because they made it seem easy, matter-of-fact. So I’ll try once again now that they can’t downplay it: Thanks Susanne and Lloyd, I don’t think I could have done it without you!

  6. Thank you for sharing these memories. It brought back to my mind many similar experiences and images of their togetherness. I always will grateful to them for the mentorship and support they offered.

  7. Very accurate and Rudolphesque tribute. Daisy, I seem to recall you as one of the gatekeepers. You were extremely fortunate to have this level of contact with these extraordinary individuals…

  8. This is the end of an era. The trimester the Rudolphs had me as their guest at the Chicago South Asia Seminar in the eighties, when I lived with them in their own house, were a stimulus that never ended since then. It was a daily seminar that taught me, that hospitality and a lively interest in the work of younger scholars is indispensible to academic life.

  9. Thanks for this lovely memoir. I remember hearing from the Rudolphs that they were able to see Nehru for an extended informal interview – I am not sure they even had an appointment. Perhaps this would have been in the early 1950s. Nehru was full of passion when he spoke about India’s place in history, and quite vague on developmental details, Susanne recalled. He was smoking and offered her cigarettes. A foreign brand, she admitted. Lloyd for his part wanted to convey advice about interviewing methods. It is essential to begin with a detailed and involved question, he said, to show your interviewee you knew your stuff – otherwise they would fob you off with a lot of useless information.

    This much and more from a brief meeting with the Rudolphs! They were accomplished, and generous with their knowledge. Studying South Asia for them was a mission. One was flattered to be a colleague in their endeavors. Perhaps they were a part of America’s postwar discovery of the world – there was an innocence and wide-eyed curiosity, and an insistence on thinking problems anew, that were very much part of the time. “Cold War era” it was, but we are all products of it, dare I say, and in this sense we have yet to come to terms with that period. My salutations to these important scholars, who were exemplars, mentors and friends to so many, really so many.

  10. This is a beautiful tribute from a student. It cut through all of the language games and “methodological pluralism” of the UofC’s poli sci dept. to show how education can shape young people and change a life for the better. That’s the ideal behind applying for graduate school, alas not always realized. The author’s choice of juxtaposing descriptions from different time periods of was powerful. Very Eriksonian!
    If more Americans grew up having the chance to interact with teachers like Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, and get to know them as people I doubt American society or our politics would be as narrow, fearful of other and limited as it clearly is in 2016.
    After all of the courses, grades and examinations, it’s those too brief human interactions with a scholar that change dispositions, outlooks and perspective –which after figuring out how to pay the rent –should be the goal of higher education as opposed to filling revenue slots. These teachers had a powerful effect upon you in a way a formal model or 2×2 matrix might not. At least such human interaction could make reading the APSR tolerable.
    The author’s graduate experience was a privileged one. It’s exceptional that this level of engagement and care for a gifted student’s development was possible. Insights into such a rarefied community are heartening to read about.
    Thank you for this essay and for letting others get to know the Rudolphs.

  11. Thank you for the brilliant, touching introduction the Rudolphs to those who didn’t know them personally!

  12. There was an impromptu memorial service for Susanne shortly after she died. It was held in the building where they lived. Lloyd attend, sitting through the entire service in a wheelchair. He spoke briefly. Later that afternoon Frank and I sat with him a while talking quietly. We talked about the service and said we thought it very nice that he had spoken. Tired and weak, he asked to be reminded of what he had said. You said, “She was the love of my life,” I reminded him. “Ah yes,” he said.

  13. In very miserable shape, a few days before he died, Lloyd said, “I’ve had a fabulous life. We have three wonderful children. I don’t regret a thing.” Maru Hoeber

  14. Daisy, I’m smiling and I have tears in my eyes. They were wonderful colleagues, and yet, they were even more wonderful as teachers.

  15. Thank you for this wonderful memoir of the incomparable Rudolphs. I only learned today of their passing, and am incredibly sad. As a graduate student in Chicago in the late 1980s-early 1990s, I took courses from both of them, singly and together (Weber, Political Economy, State Formation), and Susanne was on my PhD committee. She kept me going when I might otherwise have given up on political science. In later years, I only saw them a few times – too few. Through their fierce intelligence, integrity, gentility, and friendship, they have left an indelible mark on the world.

  16. Thanks, Daisy, for this brilliant, moving, amusing, all too alive evocation of two wonderful human persons.

  17. Daisy, this is wonderful. Nice details, grand overview. Clarifies for me that a key to their extensive, positive influence upon others was not just their energy or their humanity or their intellectual acumen but, in addition to all those, their incredible inclusivity. They not only played well with others, they enjoyed doing so. Yet another lesson for me from the Rudolphs!

  18. I am quite certain that the “fiercely rational” Susanne and Lloyd would have shrugged off all conventional notions of an afterlife. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t live on. They live gloriously in the minds and memories of students, colleagues, friends, and brothers. You have proven that in this excellent, lovely, completely real memoir.

  19. Many teachers changed my life. Only one became a friend. He is going to die soon, and I think a lot about what that will be like — what I will feel, how I will find out, what things I will miss out on learning from him. Your piece helps.

  20. Daisy, this is such a beautiful remembrance. How lucky you all were to know, love, and learn with each other. Love and light to you…xoxo

  21. My earliest days at Chicago were spent getting intimidated in and around the Squash courts at Henry Crown by Lloyd and Ron Suny. After the games, they would corner me in the locker room and ask my dissertational intentions.

    Moving from there to watching Susanne and Lloyd run the South Asia Seminar– handling Ajay Sakaria one day, Peter Van der Veer the next — with great aplomb…. they were truly ones to emulate. Thank you Daisy for your memories.

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