India, March 6 -- Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri, a Malayalam poet and a professor in English Literature, often wore just a dhoti, and a thorth (traditional coarse cotton towel from Kerala) thrown across his chest, over his left shoulder. The sartorial simplicity appealed to the cynical Malayalee; yet in full view was Vishnu Narayanan's sacred thread, the tradition, which he could not but honour but was not quite correct in India-outraged.

On February 25, Vishnu Narayanan, 81, died at his home in Kerala. He had come a long way since graduating in Mathematics and Physics (he continued to be interested in science throughout his life, and wrote poems like Einstein's Guest. Also adept at the scriptures, Vishnu Narayanan believed the Vaisheshika s...