by Axel Michaels, South Asia Institute & Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University
December 30 is a significant day because it is the birthday of some significant people:
39 AD Titus
1819 Theodor Fontane
1865 Rudyard Kipling
1879 Ramana Maharshi
1880 Alfred Einstein
1942 Vladimir Bukovsky
Above all, it is the birthday of two people who are particularly dear to me: Monica Juneja and Ilse Fromm-Michaels.
I don’t have to say much about Monica. Without her, Heidelberg University’s Cluster “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” would not have been so successful. Her clear and astute formulations in discussions and debates, the precise and far-reaching analyses in her publications, her endearing intellectual attentiveness have always left me greatly impressed. Monica is the cornerstone and outstanding pillar of the transcultural enterprise, who certainly should also be mentioned in the German (and English) Wikipedia list of the exceptional individuals born on December 30.
Ilse Fromm-Michaels is my grandmother who died in 1986. When I compare the two, I find that they have much in common in my memory and perception: Pioneers in their fields – Monica as a global art historian, Ilse as a composer –, highly charismatic personalities, conscientious, attentive, responsibly and politically engaged, and with a fine sense of humor.
And so, on the occasion of this symbolic birthday, along with good wishes for further creativity and health, I present Monica with a hitherto unpublished limerick of my grandmother – in the hope that she may retain her upright walk and the many headstands that give her the inspiring different view of the things in this world/ life:
Wenn ich über Kopf in mein Zimmer blick‘,
dann erscheint mir die Sicht wie ein schlimmer Trick.
Alles steht verkehrt,
was sonst anders gehört,
und genau so erscheint‘s mir im Limerick.
Ilse Fromm-Michaels (ca. 1975)
30th December 2020
Axel Michaels is senior professor of Classical Indology and Religious Studies at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University and also served as former co-director of the former Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe” (November 2008 to September 2017), today the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies. Michaels is also head of the research unit “Documents on the History of Religion and Law or pre-modern Nepal” at the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. His publications include Exploring the Senses (ed. with Christoph Wulf, 2014), Getting Married – Hindu and Buddhist Marriage Rituals among Newars of Bhaktapur und Patan, Nepal (with Niels Gutschow, 2012), and Der Hinduismus: Geschichte und Gegenwart (1998, English trans. 2006, Indian trans. 2005). His fields of interest include Ethno-Indology, ritual studies, the social and legal history of Hinduism, and the cultural history and religion of Nepal.