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    Records show that it was Sullivan who had laid the groundwork for establishing Ooty

    Records show that it was Sullivan who had laid the groundwork for establishing Ooty

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    HIGHLIGHTS

    • The Nilgiri Mountains was in possession of the British since 1800
    • Collector John Sullivan had laid the groundwork for establishing Ooty

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    About 190 monsoons ago, the Board of Control of East India Company, on the recommendation of governor Sir Thomas Munro, gave its stamp of approval to establish a hill station on the Nilgiris primarily to revitalise sick soldiers. And what is known today as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ was established on July 6, 1827.

    “The Nilgiri Mountains was in possession of the British since 1800. It was only after collector John Sullivan’s visit to the hills in 1819 that the idea of developing a station on the hills for the sake of sick soldiers came about,” says Venugopal Dharmalingam, director, Nilgiri Documentation Centre (NDC), a trust recording the history of the Nilgiris.A factor that greatly helped this idea was the appointment of Sir Thomas Munro as governor of Madras Presidency . “To learn the tragic irony that Munro met his untimely death on the very day, July 6, 1827, at Pattikonda in Andhra Pradesh, is saddening,” says Dharmalingam.

    Records show that it was Sullivan who had laid the groundwork for establishing Ooty. He had made repeated requests to the Madras government from 1820 to set up a hospital in the hills. To convince his superiors, Sullivan created a sense of the English countryside  by building colonial-style bungalows, well planned roads, introduced English vegetables, trees and fruits. Till that time sick soldiers and officials had to go to England or Mauritius or Cape Town for rest and recuperation.

    “It is interesting to learn that the Board in London could not believe that so near to the Coimbatore was a cold and salubrious place which was the dream of every British suffering in the hot, disease-ridden plains,” says Venugopal, adding it was only in 1826, the recommendation came through when Munro visited Nilgiris and saw for himself what Sullivan had been exalting about.

    Munro sent his recommendation in May 1827 to the board stating that though the Nilgiris may not be suitable for setting up a hospital, but officers of the civil and military services could visit the hills on their own for recovery. “To reinforce his proposal, Munro argued that a sum of Rs 170 lakh had been spent in the previous three years to send sick officers to England.”

    Stating further the healthfulness of the Nilgiris had not been correctly assessed by the young medical officers, Munro’s recommendations thus go, “It seems therefore advisable that we should station permanently on the Hills a Medical Officer qualified to make the necessary observations on the climate”.

    Thus was born the hill station, to heal the sick British soldiers, and which till date has remained one of the most popular retreats for tired souls.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / by Shantha Thiagarajan / TNN / July 13th, 2017

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    Whether it was to celebrate Madras’ August birthday or not, Vikram Raghavan, a regular contributor to this column from the American capital, a Madras history buff, and a collector of Madras memorabilia, has just picked up the Thomas Daniell aquatint of Fort St George seen here. Thomas Daniell and nephew William were in India from 1785 to 1793 (Miscellany, April 21, 2008) and published in Britain between 1795 and 1808 “a monumental work”, Oriental Scenery, with 144 prints of Indian scenes. Of these, half a dozen are of Madras. A few more are of Mamallapuram, Tanjore, Madura and Rameswaram.

    My favourites, one of which I would like to get a real-life glimpse of, are two of the earliest pictorial representations of sport in Madras. A print of the Assembly Rooms on the Race Course at Madras hangs in the Fort Museum. The other is of Cricket in India, an original aquatint which is with a private collector in Calcutta who once sent me a poor transparency of it. As this representation was dated 1792, it was probably done in Madras because that was when the Daniells had left Calcutta and were here. And if that was so, the match was at The Island, the only grounds for the game at the time.

    In the picture, the bowler is shown bowling under-arm, the practice then; the bat is a club-like implement like a baseball bat; many of the fielders wear coloured trousers and the scorer is sitting a little wide off gully. A cow ambles about in a corner of the field in the foreground and at the left, by a few trees, is a tent, probably the pavilion. All this is really recognisable only if the picture is seen large. So take my word for it! It was sailors from East Indiamen, locally stationed British soldiers, and East India Company Writers and younger merchants who introduced the game in India. The first recorded cricket activity in the country dates to 1721, when visiting sailors played a game in Cambay, Gujarat, “to divert ourselves”, according to ship’s captain Nicholas Downton.

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    As for the Assembly Rooms, they were a kind of grandstand and clubhouse a little south of today’s racecourse where “entertainments” were held, a ball organised for every race day evening; the races were in the morning, then it was off to work and back again for waltzes and minuets. The first reference to organised sport in Madras, racing at St Thomas’ Mount, is in 1775.

    As for Vikram’s original colour-engraved aquatint, it dates to 1797 and is titled South East View of the Fort St George, Madras. The scene was probably viewed from somewhere near Royapuram. It shows masula and other boats, four men pulling a boat through the surf, and ships well out to sea in Madras Roads. Madras Harbour was many years in the future.

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    When the postman knocked…

    Clarifying my Institute of Mental Health (IMH) story (Miscellany, June 26) is my Australian correspondent, Dr A Raman, whose hobby is Madras medical history. His research deserves a book one day. Meanwhile, a more accurate story from him than mine about what began in Purasawalkam in 1794 as ‘The Madras Madhouse’ run by Valentine Connolly. It was a leased building (at ₹825 a month) to which Surgeon Maurice Fitzgerald succeeded, holding charge until 1803. James Dalton took over, rebuilt the facility and ran it till 1815 as Dalton’s Mad Hospital. Its cases included ‘circular insanity’, later described as ‘manic depressive illness’ and today as ‘bipolar illness’.

    Government involvement started in 1867 with approval for a facility to be called the Madras Lunatic Asylum (later called the Government Mental Hospital and from 1978 the IMH). The Asylum, raised in the 66.5 acres of Locock’s Gardens, Kilpauk, opened in 1871 with 150 patients and Surgeon John Murray as Superintendent. By 1915, there were 800 patients, 80 per cent of them civilians. About half the cases were classified as ‘mania’, about 20 per cent as ‘melancholia’ and about 25 per cent as ‘dementia’. ‘Criminal lunatics’ were kept segregated.

    Cycling Yogis will mark Madras Week with a booklet called Cycling Trails. It includes 40 trails with details about what to see on them. Every trail in the booklet has been cycled on by the compilers over the last year. Some of the trails which caught my attention were called ‘Madras the First’, ‘Madras the Oldest’, ‘Historic Residences’, ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ and ‘Police Heritage’. For booklets, contact ramanujar4u@gmail.com, then make use of them during Madras Month.

    This is not about Madras at all, but strange things happen around us all the time. And the recent strike by our Government medicos drew Don Abey’s attention to it. He refers to the Government Medical Officers’ Association in Sri Lanka calling off their agitation in mid-strike when the National Movement for Consumer Rights threatened “it would stage ceremonies in front of the homes of GMOA executive committee members to invoke God’s curses on them for holding hundreds of thousands of patients to ransom!” Powerful are the threat of death-threatening curses and pleas of consignment to Hell!

     The chronicler of Madras that is Chennai tells stories of people, places, and events from the years gone by, and sometimes, from today.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> Madras Miscellany – History & Culture / by S. Muthiah / Chennai – July 10th, 2017

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    “After obtaining permission from Tamil Nadu government, the restoration project was taken up in coordination with TELC The bungalow has now been restored without affecting the original structure,” she said adding that the bungalow had been converted as a museum

    Nagapattinam :

    A heritage bungalow occupied by German-born Danish missionary Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg, who set up the country’s first ever printing press in 1712, has been restored and converted as a museum at nearby Tarangambadi.

    Francke Foundation, Halle, Germany, has sponsored the restoration work and museum project in coordination with Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church  (TELC),  Jasmine Eppert, project manager of the museum, told PTI.

    Ziegenbalg’s translation of the New Testament into Tamil in 1715, and the New Jerusalem church that he and his associates constructed in 1718, are still in use today.

    Eppert further said Francke Foundation wanted to preserve Ziegenbalg’s legacy and came forward to restore the bungalow where Ziegenbalg lived in Tarangambadi.

    “After obtaining permission from Tamil Nadu government , the restoration project was taken up in coordination with TELC. The bungalow has now been restored without affecting the original structure,” she said adding that the bungalow had been converted as a museum.

    “Articles used by Ziegenbalg, including remains of the printing machines used by him, models of the typeface letters, books have all been collected and put up in the museum. The museum will be inaugurated on July 15,” she said.

     

    source: http://www.outlookindia.com / Outlook / Home> The News Scroll / Nagapattinam – July 06th, 2017

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    The Madras Literary Society, Chennai. | Photo Credit: R.Pavithra

    The Madras Literary Society, Chennai. | Photo Credit: R.Pavithra

    Despite its dwindling membership, The Madras Literary Society, home to several books dating back to the 18th and 19th Centuries, continues to guard its rich legacy

    Nestled between 70,000 tomes is a world of books from the 17th and 18th Centuries. From Aristotle to letters from Annie Besant, this 205-year-old treasure trove perched in the heart of Nungambakkam has acquired its out-of-the-way status in recent years. With a loyal membership of not more than 300 avid readers, the Madras Literary Society, tested by the challenges of time, boasts yellowing pages and dusty shelves that hold books far older than most of its regular visitors. Set up in 1812 and moved to its current red-bricked Rajasthani inspired building in 1906, the society was initially created for educational and military purposes of the British colonist as a mausoleum of English, French, Dutch, Latin and Portuguese books.

    A team of four manages the society which stands tall with its gold emblem emblazoned on its multiple doors. R Vinayagam, the assistant librarian, shied away from the constant questions and admitted that he enjoys his occasional PG Wodehouse and Sherlock Holmes as he rifles through the catalogues. When asked about any ghosts lurking in the midst of the murky and tall shelves, librarian Uma Maheshwari laughed saying, “We have thousands of protectors against ghosts”, referring to the books. The staff entertain a smattering of visitors on a daily basis which mostly consists of researchers, retired personnel and housewives, looking for ancient volumes as they climb up the cobwebbed iron ladders.

    Apart from the various 18th to 19th Century books, the collection constantly continues to expand thanks to the 800-900 donations they received along with some books that the Society itself has purchased in the last two years.

    In 2006 and 2007, the Society underwent renovation which saw sections of the library being closed off for the general public, which eventually led to a decline in its 790-strong family cutting membership by nearly half.S Muthiah, one of the oldest members of the society, nostalgically recalled, “It used to be a wonderful library, but it’s a bit run-down now.” But this only pushed the Society to innovate various ways to encourage new members to join the library and rebuild. During The Hindu Lit Fest, the Society introduced the concept of ‘Book Adoption’ which spurred people to pay for the preservation of depreciating copies of books such as Isaac Newton’s Latin volume from 1726. “They have been making gallant efforts to restore books and public support is needed for that. Individual restoration has been initiated for rare books and quite a few have been restored,” Muthiah said.

    With valiant efforts such as these, Madras Literary Society is taking strides to guard its long and rich legacy.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / by Divya Murthy & Fiza Anand / July 05th, 2017

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    Chennai :

    Chennai Rail Museum opened a a new gallery on Sunday. Hydari Gallery is named for a former general manager of  Integral Coach Factory (ICF) .

    Chennai Rail Museum opens new gallery showcasing glorious heritage of Indian Rail

    source: http://www.youtube.com / The Times of India

    The gallery showcases rail heritage photos, scale models and three tier running models of different coaches. Referring to former ICF chief I Hydari as a “combination of technical competence and great leadership”, a senior ICF official spoke about his valuable contribution to the development of Indian Railways.

    “I think this museum is informative and the work is absolutely amazing. There is so much of information since the inception of railways and it is remarkable,” said Urmila Satyanarayana .

    The exhibits and photos tells the story of railways and its contribution to the growth in trade and transport. There were talks on the railway line built on Bhor Ghat in the early 1860s connecting Mumbai and Deccan Plateau in an attempt to make cotton transport easier.

    Bharathanatyam exponent Urmila Satyanarayana and director of Art World Sarala Banerjee inaugurated the gallery. ICF general manager S Mani was also present.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / TNN / July 10th, 2017

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    Tuticorin  :

    The 106th death anniversary of freedom fighter R Vanchinathan was observed at several places, including Vanchi Maniyachchi Maniyachchi Junction railway station and Kovilpatti in Tuticorin  district, on Saturday.

    The participants demanded the government to set up a memorial for Vanchinathan at Vanchi railway junction and also urged the rail department to erect Vanchi’s statue at the junction. It was at Vanchi Maniyachi junction where Vanchinathan shot dead the British government – appointed – Tirunelveli collector Robert William D’ Escourt Ashe dead, before killing himself on June 17, 1911.

    Tuticorin collector N Venkatesh garlanded the photo of Vanchinathan at the railway station and paid homages to it. In his speech, the collector recalled the history of the freedom fighter Vanchi. Vanchi was born to forest officer Regupathi Iyer and Rukmaniammal at Sengottai in Tirunelveli. He joined the freedom movement after hearing public speeches of veteran freedom fighters V O Chidambaram and Subramania Siva, said the collector, while asking students to involve themselves in public life.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / June 18th, 2017

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    The honorary director of the Nilgiri Documentation Center, Venugopal Dharmalingam, laid a wreath at the grave of the first Commissioner of the separate Nilgiris, James Wilkinson Breeks at the St. Stephens Church on Tuesday.

    Mr. Venugopal said that June 6 marks the anniversary of the tragic death of Mr. Breeks 145 years ago in 1872.

    “The Nilgiris, which was a taluk of the Coimbatore district from 1800, was made a separate district in 1872 and placed under a Commissioner. Mr. Breeks was the Private Secretary and later the son in law of Governor Dennison,” he said.

    He said that Mr. Breeks’ lasting legacy was his tireless excavations of the pre-historic grave sites on the Nilgiri hills which revealed a human history of over 3,000 years of the hills. “The collection includes pottery, animal and human figurines, ornaments in iron, bronze, gold and a magnificent bronze bowl,” he added.

    Mr. Breeks apparently died due to the emission of some poisonous gas while opening one of the grave sites, and died at the age of 42.

    “The work of the NDC is to bring to light, the history literally buried in the Nilgiris,” said Mr. Venugopal. Murali Kumar, the general manager of Sullivan Court, accompanied him.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Coimbatore / Staff Reporter / Udhagamandalam – June 06th, 2017

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    Digging deeper: P.S. Sriraman, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, launching the third phase of the excavation work at Keezhadi on Saturday. | Photo Credit: S. James

    Digging deeper: P.S. Sriraman, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, launching the third phase of the excavation work at Keezhadi on Saturday. | Photo Credit: S. James

    Four trenches to be dug in an area of 400 square metres

    The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Saturday began the third phase of excavation at Keezhadi in Sivaganga district, roughly 12 km from here.

    P.S. Sriraman, Superintending Archaeologist, Excavations Branch (Bengaluru), ASI, who is now in-charge of the Keezhadi site, told reporters here that the excavation would continue through the end of September.

    “We are hoping to make more interesting findings in this phase,” he said.

    Four trenches in an area of around 400 square metres would be dug initially at the coconut groves at Pallichanthai Thidal in Keezhadi, where the excavation has been on since 2015, and the area will gradually be expanded throughout the third phase depending on the findings, he said.

    Saying that ₹40 lakh had been allocated by the ASI for the third phase, Mr. Sriraman stressed that there was no shortage of funds.

    On-site museum

    He said that shifting of artefacts, likely to be discovered at the excavation site, to ASI offices elsewhere could not be ruled out for advanced analysis and ensure preservation of the artefacts.

    “However, setting up an on-site museum, similar to the ones set up at various ASI sites, is under consideration. If that happens, all the artefacts will be brought here itself,” he said.

    Highlighting that carbon-dating of two samples of charcoal from the excavation site has indicated that the human settlement at the site was around 200 BC, Mr. Sriraman said more samples would be sent abroad for carbon dating.

    A total of 5,800 artefacts were found in the last two phases of excavation.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by Arunachalam  / Madurai – May 27th, 2017

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    In the past few weeks — as well as at a celebration — we’ve heard much about the splendid growth of the Chemplast Sanmar Group from scratch 50 years ago and of how over those years it had nurtured and then been nurtured by N Sankar, whose first job, unpaid apprentice, was on the day Chemicals and Plastics India opened its doors. To me, the happiest part of that success has been how the Group has returned much back to society, promoting education and training, community welfare and healthcare, greening and nature, sport and art, and even saving failing journals like Madras Musings. But one thing I missed in all this was the seeding of the group.

    (Clockwise) KS Narayanan (extreme left) and TS Narayanaswami (extreme right) at the Indo-Commercial Bank’s Vizianagaram branch in 1938

    (Clockwise) KS Narayanan (extreme left) and TS Narayanaswami (extreme right) at the Indo-Commercial Bank’s Vizianagaram branch in 1938

    Those seeds were first sown in the back of beyond, in the village of Kallidaikurichi in Tinnevelly District when Nanu Sastrigal entered textile retailing, then moved into financing. His eldest son SNN Sankaralingam Iyer took the business further and with landowners in Tanjore helped found the Indo-Commercial Bank in Mayavaram in 1932. SNN’s eldest son KS Narayanan (KSN) joined the bank in 1936, gaining experience while moving from branch to branch. He also became a close friend of TS Narayanaswami (TSN), who was with the bank. The two enjoyed a warm working relationship till Narayanaswami passed away in 1968. By then, they had moved beyond banking.

    In fact, KSN moved earlier. In the late 1930s, he was Madras-bound to shepherd a failing ink manufacturing unit, Nanco, that had been acquired. By 1941, it was a success. With a War on, he next turned to a commodity in short supply, rubber, acquiring a re-treading unit in Coimbatore. There followed the first foray into chemicals, a sick unit there making calcium carbide, Industrial Chemicals, being taken over.

    Meanwhile, SNN who had bought substantial acreage in Tinnevelly to farm, found it was limestone-rich. His thoughts turned to cement. And so was born India Cements in 1949, with Narayanaswami helping SNN set it up while KSN went to Denmark to train with cement major FL Smidth. At a time when India was yet to industrialise, this was a major venture. When TSN died, KSN headed India Cements till retiring at 60, in 1980.

    Why KSN and TSN decided to get into chemical products we’ll never know, but in 1962 they thought of manufacturing PVC. TSN went to the US and negotiated a joint venture agreement with BF Goodrich, a PVC major. Agreement led to starting Chemicals and Plastics India Ltd in Mettur, near Mettur Chemicals which would supply the necessary chlorine. The plant went on stream on May 4, 1967, the date the Golden Jubilee celebrations recalled. This was one of the first Indo-American joint ventures, also among the first with a multinational in South India. The story only grows from thereon.

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    The death of a trainer

    Few knew him outside the two worlds he’ll sorely be missed in, those of printers and Salesians. They merged for Bro Julian Santi, who passed away recently, in the Salesian Institute of Graphic Arts he set up in Kilpauk in the late 1960s with help from friends and Salesians in Italy from where he arrived in 1957.

    We first met years later and, even after, it was infrequently, but for over 40 years I would meet ex-students of his. And they were generally a class apart. Most of us printers, and several abroad, preferred them when recruiting, because they came with two advantages: More machine experience than those from other printing schools, and they considered themselves craftsmen, not ready-made white collar supervisors, which many from elsewhere thought they should be because they’d got a few letters as suffixes. Training on the job and a strong work ethic, that a printer had to be a hands-on person, not necessarily a whiz in theory, was what Santi taught his wards. Few of our training institutions look at students that way.

    Was Santi a printer himself, was he SIGA’s Principal, I never discovered, but I did find out he was a trainer par excellence, a man who taught his wards the dignity of working with their hands. I hope he has rooted that culture deep in SIGA.

    *****

    When the postman knocked…

    Several items over the last six weeks have brought much mail and, happily, several noteworthy pictures. They’ll appear over the following weeks, one at a time, starting today to supplement the earliest, Marmalong Bridge.

    The Marmalong Bridge seen c.1900

    The Marmalong Bridge seen c.1900

    DH Rao for whom bridges, lighthouses and the Buckingham Canal are passions, sent me today’s picture. Rao had seen it at a Corporation of Madras exhibition where it was dated to 1900. Its caption added, “In 1966 it was dismantled and replaced with today’s bridge.” The caption also said that a plaque was removed and re-positioned at the bridge’s north end. That plaque, recalling Uscan’s contribution, is little cared for today and is almost hidden by road-raising.

    Rao adds he came across the following, written in 1829, by a French naval officer, J Dumont D’Urville: “An entire neighbourhood is reserved for Muslims and we go there by the Armenian bridge (Saidapet?) built on the river Mylapore. This bridge 395 metres in length (has) 29 arches of various sizes.”

    The chronicler of Madras that is Chennai tells stories of people, places and events from the years gone by, and sometimes, from today.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> Madras Miscellany / by S. Muthiah / May 15th, 2017

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    Several visitors from abroad come every year looking for ancestors — something, meaning lineages, few Indians are interested in. I can only suggest to them the Archives or this church or that cemetery. But, what is a constant surprise is how much information they already have. And, providing an example were my latest visitors, Norman and Gwen Rider from the UK. They were looking for information about Charles Robert MacGregor Ferguson (1847-1920), the second great-grandfather of Gwen. This is what they’d already found:

    Charles Ferguson was the son of Private James Ferguson, 15th Hussars, and Harriet (Chinnema) Chinamal. They had married in Bangalore where Charles Ferguson was born and baptised. James Ferguson died there in 1849. Harriet Chinamal died in Madras in 1903 and was buried in St Andrew’s Kirk. Tracing her family is one of the Riders’ least-likely-to-succeed quests.

    The other quest is trying to trace Charles Ferguson’s career. He married Anne Elizabeth Ward in St Matthias’ Church, Vepery, in 1868. She died in Coonoor in 1878 after bearing him three children. He then married Alice Emmeline D’Abreu and had two daughters before she died the same year he did, when she was 64. Details about his career are scanty, also occasionally fanciful as in: “1861 — Lucknow. Government Survey Department, Post and Telegraph Department and became Postmaster General in Lucknow until 1902 and received a Government pension till the day of his death in 1920.” Joining service at 14? It was possible in those days for Anglo-Indian boys who’d learn on the job. But, Postmaster General sounds like gilding the lily. He was ‘Telegraph master’ in Pudupet in 1868, then, judging by family births and deaths (all listed), in Coonoor, Lucknow and Chittagong.

    The note on Charles’ retirement reads: “Government pension Yelagiri Hills area of South India. Joined a group of Scots families who farmed at Sunnybanks and Bethany where they were self-sufficient growing crops and keeping animals.” He died in Salem and was buried there. Norman Rider added that it was recorded that on his father’s death Charles was left in the care of his godmother, Maria Sandway, in Bangalore in 1849 and that, it was believed, sometime thereafter, that the boy was placed in the Madras Male Orphans’ Asylum (from which St George’s, Shenoy Nagar, grew).

    That’s quite a compilation from church and cemetery records and the British Library’s India: Select Births and Baptisms, 1786-1947 and India: Select Deaths and Burials 1719-1948. Even ‘select’, those must be quite some compendiums. But, for all that, the Riders still wonder whether there are Post and Telegraph and St George’s records to help them.

    The Riders are only a couple of the hundreds of persons from the UK and elsewhere who come in search of roots. With all the modern technology available, can’t some kind of network be established to help these searchers?

    A dance doyenne remembered…

    Kalakshetra and Nrithyodaya recently remembered someone who had made Bharatanatyam a significant part of the Singapore cultural scene for which she was awarded that country’s highest honour for artists, The Cultural Medallion, and was selected for its Women’s Hall of Fame. The remembrance was the passing away of that dance ambassador, 79-year-old Neila Sathyalingam, in Singapore, recently.

    ‘Neila Maami’, to all her students, did post-graduation and, later, taught, at Kalakshetra. She and husband S Sathyalingam, a talented mridangist, an alumni, and a teacher there, moved to Singapore in 1974 with his job and founded Apsaras Arts in 1977. Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music flourished in Singapore as Apsaras grew. That growth included Rukmini Devi-style dance dramas, Kannagi and Sivagami, her last, two memorable ones.

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    The wedding of Suntharalingam Sathyalingam and Neila Balendra linked two of Colombo’s leading Jaffna Tamil families. Sathyalingam and I grew up together as neighbours, but none of that family’s love of music and dance rubbed off on me. Instead, I learnt about politics and ethnicity at the knee of that maverick Ceylonese politician, his father C Suntharalingam, a mathematics Tripos, too, who first used the word ‘Eelam’ in Parliament. None of his family was as committed to politics.

    …. and a young hero too

    The ambush of CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh reminded me of a 60-year old action that Capt D P Ramachandran of the Colours of Glory Foundation narrated to me in great detail a while ago. In the 1956 ambush, a 30-plus patrol of the Sikh Light Infantry found itself surrounded by 500 Naga insurgents. Second Lieutenant Polur Muthuswamy Raman of North Arcot District had the choice to surrender or suicidally fight it out. The 21-year-old chose the latter. Four hours later, during which Raman was twice wounded, there was relief. Another patrol of Sikhs at a higher elevation, spotting their colleagues pinned down, fought their way downhill to join them. The link-up broke the insurgents, but Raman and Major Mehta Singh, who had led the other detachment, lost their lives.

    Mehta Singh received the Kirti Chakra, the second highest gallantry award for counter-insurgency action. Raman got the highest award, the Ashok Chakra. Proudly, almost six decades after its alumnus had laid down his life in Nagaland, the National Defence Academy named a new academic building the ‘Raman Block’.

    The chronicler of Madras that is Chennai tells stories of people, places and events from the years gone by and, sometimes, from today.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> Madras Miscellany – History & Culture / by S. Muthiah / May 08th, 2017

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