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    MadrasSchoolCF07nov2017

    The East Indians, as Anglo Indians were known till 1911, were well served by schools and churches in almost every locality where they were in numbers. In New Town and Vepery areas, near where they served in the General Hospital and Gun Factory, the German missionaries representing the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge had done their bit. In Royapuram, the railway and harbour employees were well served by St Kevin’s and St Peter’s. And in Perambur, the railway hub, there was the Railways School and the Lourdes Shrine, all serving Protestants and Catholics. But where the poorest East Indians lived, in the Narasingapuram, Chintadripet, Pudupet and Royapettah areas there was nothing between St Mary’s in the Fort and St George’s Cathedral for those who worked in stables like Waller’s, coach-builders like Simpson’s, as printers in Addison’s, and sales-clerks in Spencer’s and Higginbotham’s. That was till the Rev Henry Taylor arrived in 1842 and was temporarily posted to sahibdom’s St George’s.

    Struck by the poorer East Indians’ conditions in the Round Tana area, Taylor rented a room there in July 1842 and commenced worship and primary classes. That will on November 26, be celebrated as the 175th anniversary of Christ Church, Mount Road, and its school. Growth followed thanks to Thomas Parker Waller who owned a large stable and coach rental here. When a building and compound he offered the new institution was deemed too small, he negotiated exchange of a part of his estate for an adjacent property and gifted in perpetuity the latter, then worth ₹ 12,000, to the new church. Here, Taylor’s successor, Rev Robert Carver (Miscellany, February 6) established in 1843 two schools called the Mount Road Male and Female Schools, to be duly called the Christ Church School. Another building in this property was used for worship. Work on the church began in 1850 to John Law’s design and Christ Church, Mount Road, was consecrated in 1852. The Church, including furniture from Deschamps, then a leading furniture maker, cost ₹ 37,000.

    Remembered in the Church with a memorial tablet and in the name of a primary school opened in 1986 is TP Waller. Another tablet, one in the porch, remembers his son, a veterinarian, who died in 1830. Connected or not, another Waller name figures in the School’s history; Bishop Edward Waller (1922-41) helped the school considerably with Diocesan funding.

    Funds were till the 20th Century a constant problem for the School. Typically, an 1854 note showed expenses being ₹90 a month and school fees only about ₹30 from around 120 students! It was a poor school with poorer children. This lack of funds was to over the years affect the character of the school, which kept shuttling between being a middle school and a lower school.

    The history of this period is too depressing, not to mention full of upheavals, to record. But what seemed like a closed chapter became a new chapter with Waller’s infusion of funds and support from St George’s Cathedral, St Mary’s in the Fort and St Matthias, Vepery.

    This made possible a new block in 1928 at a cost of ₹40,000 and recognition as a High School in 1947. In 1949, when St George’s Cathedral School closed, Christ Church welcomed its students, as numbers meant viability. Today, with over 2,000 students it is a co-educational higher secondary school from 1905 with good results and many a university entrant, a far cry from 1930 when it reported “After years of barren results, it is refreshing to find one passing in the Middle School examination”! That was a School that changed from 1936 after the previous 25 years had recorded “hardly one per cent in passes”. Since then it has been recording 90-100 % passes and students joining India’s most prestigious services and institutions. Among them is Dr John Varghese, principal of St Stephen’s College, Delhi.

    The mystery of the missing award

    My mention on August 27th of the Jagirdar of Arni’s Gold Medal for Physics/ Chemistry not having been awarded for years, has brought intriguing information. In letters to the Arni family in 2005, Presidency College categorically stated their records showed no such awards. Yet, in 1992, plaques were seen in the College’s Central Hall listing Arni Award winners in Physics and Chemistry.

    Still more intriguing is that the CVs of many leading Indian scientists mention them as having received the award. These include Dr CV Raman in 1905, Dr Govind Rao (‘Father of Chemical Engineering in India’) in 1921, and Dr S Chandrasekhar in 1930. Later winners found include in 1956 (Physics) Dr TR Viswanathan, a Director of Texas Instruments after stints at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and Berkeley, in 1974 (Chemistry) Dr N Pattabhiraman, Professor of Oncology, Lombardi Cancer Centre, Washington DC, Dr N Gopalaswamy (1977, Physics) who was with NASA, and Dr S Moorthy Babu, Anna University.

    With so many winners, listed as late as 1986 (Dr Babu), how could an award vanish into thin air? Be that as it may, would the College like to start all over again with the help of the Arni family?

    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> History & Culture> Madras Miscellany / by S Muthiah / November 07th, 2017

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    John Pennycuick’s grave in England.

    John Pennycuick’s grave in England.

    Film-maker traces British engineer’s roots in the country

    The famed British civil engineer John Pennycuick, who built the Mullaperiyar dam, may be extremely popular in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu for building the dam and his life may have inspired actor Rajinikanth’s Lingaa, but he is reportedly practically unknown in England.

    Having grown up listening to stories about John Pennycuick in Uthamapalayam in Theni district, Santhana Beeroli, a documentary filmmaker, wants to change it by making a film about the illustrious British engineer who constructed what is generally called an engineering marvel.

    “In my home town, Pennycuick is a massive hero. Ever since I was a kid, I grew up listening to his story and was interested in knowing more about him. This is one of the reasons why I came to the U.K. to study. My wish is that Mullaiperiyar dam should become a famous tourist spot in his memory,” he says.

    Despite John Pennycuick’s popularity in Tamil Nadu, finding Pennycuick’s family roots proved to be difficult, confesses Santhana Beeroli, who currently lives in Croydon, London.

    After failing to find any leads, Mr. Beeroli says that he had to approach a professor at the History Department, University of Chester, where the film-maker was pursuing his Masters in Business Administration.

    “I only knew that he died in Camberly, where he had his family home, which he reportedly sold to fund the dam. The professor recommended that I look for leads in the British Library in Euston. Luckily, I found valuable information about the Mullaiperiyar dam, the designs, financial aspects [balance sheets], his own appointment letter, which gave me an idea about the kind of engineering marvel that it is,” said Mr. Beeroli.

    He adds, “Over nine years’ time, during which he built the dam, he didn’t take a single day’s leave so as to ensure that people who worked on the dam were not going off track. It was a complex engineering feat – to divert a westward flowing river towards the east to irrigate the plains. Apart from these information, I also documented the oral history about how the dam was built by speaking to people whose grandfathers and fathers worked to build the dam.”

    While the library had documented important information, Mr. Beeroli says that it proved almost impossible to trace his family members. “The British lifestyle values privacy and since almost 100 years had passed, it was very difficult to find his family. But through a website that helps find family trees, I was able to gather that he had at least four daughters and a son. I was able to figure out that his great grandson was John Hope.”

    Asked about how Pennycuick’s descendants reacted, Mr. Beeroli said that most of them were surprised and inspired by the story of their illustrious ancestor.

    “The people in the church where he was laid to rest didn’t realise how important and revered Pennycuick is in Tamil Nadu. My wish is to take his family to the dam. The film is 70% complete already and soon will be ready,” he says.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by Udhav Naig / Chennai – November 02nd, 2017

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    My Binny story last week had me recalling the life the early 19th Century sahibs led, as reflected in John Binny’s and Thomas Parry’s wills. Discussion of that lifestyle is sure to generate a plethora of views, but one view I don’t think can be denied, namely, that they had a conscience and a sense of obligation. But discussing the morality of the times is not my intent today, I merely present the gist of two fascinating documents.

    John Binny, a bachelor, died in Madras in 1824. His last home leave began in August 1816. In his 1823 will he left a legacy to “a child now of the age 5 years and 5 months named John William Crouchley and boards with one under the charge of Mrs Wicklow…” Make of that what you will. Rather different is the record in India. The Company kept paying 8 pagodas (about ₹25) monthly in Binny’s name to each of two children. They each also received an annual clothing allowance of ₹105 and the elder, Charles, got ₹11 monthly from 1821 for education in the Madras Free School. In later years, the Binny records list a clerk, Charles Binny, who seemed of modest means. Was the second child his sister Belmina who received a marriage settlement of ₹3000, making you wonder whether that too had been left by John Binny? F De Souza, who wrote The House of Binny 50 years ago, leaves you wondering – particularly for answers.

    Thomas Parry

    Thomas Parry

    Thomas Parry, in Madras from 1788, nine years before Binny, has a better recorded life, judging by his will, curiously also dated 1823. He too died in 1824. He left ₹110,000 in investments to Mary Pearce, whom he’d married in 1794. She went back for good to England in 1807 with their two children, both dying young there. Unfettered in India, Parry seemed to have enjoyed a home at every place he had business in on the way from Madras to Cuddalore, judging by his will. His legacies started with amounts to young George Parry Gibson (who travelled with him) and Emma Louisa Gibson, both left in the care of a Mrs Dowden. Compounding the mystery, he also left something for two Army captains called Gibson and Dowden!

    A little clearer is his relationship with Mary Ann Carr, an Anglo Indian, by whom he had Thomas William Parry and Edward Moorat Parry in the early 1820s. Both probably died young, for only Mary Ann is remembered in the will. But then so are Elizabeth Chinnery, Charlotte Myers, Mrs Weehedie of Tranquebar and the son of Babkismah Candy. Parry certainly enjoyed the good life, even as he built a business empire that still flourishes.

    To Parry and Binny India owes its industrial beginnings. While Binny’s is no longer a name in business circles, Parry’s is a respected one, the name remembered in a major junction and the firm’s headquarters building, instead of giving way to new highrise, remaining a landmark in Madras. But where the Parry’s name is endangered is in San Thomé. His home, Leith Castle, near his industrial unit, the first in the country, a tannery and a leather goods ‘factory,’ is a threatened heritage precinct.

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    What’s happened to the prize?

    Nobel Prize time reminded 90-year-old Ramachandran (Chandru) Arni of Hyderabad that long before CV Raman and S Chandrasekhar won Nobel Prizes for Physics, they’d won the Jagirdar of Arni’s Gold Medal for Physics/Chemistry at Presidency College, Madras. Why isn’t the College awarding the medal nowadays, he wonders. I look forward to hearing from Presidency, but meanwhile my correspondent’s surname struck a chord.

    Arni Palace today

    Arni Palace today

    I first heard of the Jagirdar of Arni when writing a book on the West End Hotel, Bangalore, that, mysteriously, never got published. The West End was the second home of the then Jagirdar, Srinivasa Rao Sahib, the father of my correspondent who lists him as the 12th and last Jagirdar of the 211 sq miles zamin near Vellore. I’d written that the Jagirdar had stayed there occupying a three-room suite for over 36 years and that he was a regular at the Crazy Horse Bar at boisterous post-race parties. His son tells me horses and gambling were very much part of his life, but his “magnificent obsession” was cars. He bought his first car in 1923, when 19, and by 1948, when the Jagir was abolished by Government, had bought 182 cars! He kept the cars in immaculate condition, drove them himself and never lost on a sale of any of them.

    Arni House Front view

    Arni House Front view

    The Arni Jagir dates to 1640, when this Maharashtrian Brahmin family received it from Shahjee (the father of Shivaji) for services rendered in the Carnatic. It was the 10th Jagirdar, also Srinivasa Rao Sahib – a name the eldest generally took – who created the endowment for the prize at Presidency in 1877.

    A footnote Chandru Arni adds is that his mother was the great great grand-daughter of Purniah, Dewan to Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and the Mysore Royal Family. An old Presidencian himself, he says he is the country’s first games developer and the first, in 1953, to a win an official meet in a self-built sports car.

    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> News> Cities> Chennai / Madras Miscellany – by S. Muthiah / October 30th, 2017

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    Vipulananda Adigalar

    Vipulananda Adigalar

    Film throws light on unknown facets of Vipulananda Adigalar’s life

    Tracing the unknown aspects of a prominent personality in the world of Tamil literature is quite a challenging task and Mu. Elangovan, a faculty in the Kanchi Mamunivar Centre for Post Graduate Studies, Puducherry, has travelled across the sea to do exactly that.

    After a year of research, documentation and interviews, Mr. Elangovan has brought out a 50-minute documentary to depict the life of Vipulananda Adigalar, who wrote the famous Yazh Nool (a book of stringed musical instruments), a principal research treatise on Isai Tamil.

    “I wanted to know more about his life. While I began collecting his books, manuscripts, photographs and letters, many unknown facts about him attracted my attention. I felt that a documentary film would be the proper medium to bring these facts before the public. SivamVeluppillai, who works in a private firm in Canada and Kasupathi Nataraja, an elderly person in Sri Lanka helped me complete this work,” said Mr.Elangovan.

    Taught in T.N.

    The famed Tamil scholar and educationist, who was born in Karaitivu near Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, in 1892, edited several magazines, translated works and played an instrumental role in establishing several academic institutions in Sri Lanka. On the invitation of Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar, the founder of the Annamalai University, Vipulananda Adigalar even served there from 1931 to 1933 as Tamil Professor.

    While teaching in Annamalai University, he translated Vivekanandar’s Gnana deepamKarma YogamRaja yogam, Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutram. He was a pioneer in teaching and propagating Bharathiar’s Poems in the academic circle during the British rule. “He was the first scholar to recognise and appreciate Bharathiar’s poetic genius. He protested the visit of the English Governor to Annamalai University by hoisting black flag at his residence,” he added.

    Vipulananda had his early education at his native place Karaitivu, Kalmunai, Batticaloa, and later he studied Technical Education at Colombo, got his B.Sc Degree by passing the Cambridge University Examinations, and also ‘Pandithar’ title of the Madurai Tamil Sangam at the age of 24; served as a teacher at Colombo, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Jaffna, received Mahatma Gandhi when he visited Jaffna and also hosted Maraimalai Adigal at Jaffna.

    Mr. Elangovan travelled to Sri Lanka and Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, Chennai, Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Mayavathi (the Himalayan foot) for making the documentary.

    “This documentary will remind the future generations about the excellence of Vipulananda Adigalar. It has interviews of those who have been his co-workers, friends and relatives, and addition to his writings, photographs. This film will be released first in Sri Lanka.”

    In Sri Lanka, he visited Colombo Tamil Sangam, Sri Lanka Ramakrishna Mutt Branches, Swami Vipulananda Institute of Aesthetic Studies at Eastern University as well as his relatives and many other places including Karaithivu, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Mandur, Thetratthivu, Colombo, Rosalla, Kandy, where evidences of his life and works are available.

    The documentary also depicts Vipulananda’s association with Ramakrishna Math and his visit to Chennai where he had his ascetic training from 1922 to 1924. His Brahmachariya name was Prabodha Saithanyer and got his spiritual initiation from Swamy Sivananda in 1924 and later he was called Vipulananda Adigalar. Vipulanandar established and superintended various schools in Sri Lanka from 1925 to 1931. He founded Sivananda Vidyalayam in memory of his Guru who initiated him in the spiritual order and thereby paved way for several thousand poor pupils to receive education.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Puducherry / by S. Senthalir / Puducherry – October 30th, 2017

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    Archaeology enthusiasts had found many pieces of black and red ware, which are said to have belonged to the Iron Age

    Archaeology enthusiasts had found many pieces of black and red ware, which are said to have belonged to the Iron Age

    Madurai :

    The remnants of a fort, which may be several hundred-years-old has been discovered in Padiyur in Dindigul district by a group of archeologists. V Narayanamoorthy , an archaeology enthusiast, along with professors Raja and Manoharan from Palani Andavar Arts College, went to the spot, which is about five kilometers east of Dindigul on the Dindigul- Trichy highway and goes into the village. A student from this village, Veera Karuppiah, had informed them about a large mound spread over an area of about five kilometers in his village, which was known as “kottaimedu” and looks like the wall of a fortress.

    The mound stands about 30 feet above the ground on an elevated surface. There is also a culvert belonging to the 19th century with the words, “Narimedu” inscribed on it. “The student who told us about this site said that there were many pottery pieces scattered around the mound,” he said.They had found many pieces of black and red ware, which is said to have belonged to the Iron Age. They also found terracotta figures, beads, an urn and a terracotta lamp. A school has been constructed on half of this sand mound. Raja, Manoharan and Narayanamoorthy claimed that much could be obtained if this area was excavated scientifically.

    “The word padi, refers to a place where an army was stationed according to Sangam literature and as the surrounding villages are called, Thamaraipadi, Mullipadi, Seelapadi and Melapadiyur, it strengthens the thought that this mound could be an ancient fort,” he said.

    They have sent details of their findings to the Archeological Survey of India to be assessed.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Madurai News / TNN / October 30th, 2017

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    Under the hammer.(EPA/Piyal Adhikary)

    Under the hammer. (EPA/Piyal Adhikary)

    The audience was silent and tense, with heads rapidly turning from the auctioneer to the two people engaged in a heated bidding match. “Going once, going twice, sold at 10,500!” he yelled. A balding man sniggered and instructed his accountant to write a cheque. The two bidders, accustomed to such thrilling encounters, shook hands. Kannan, a first-timer at the auction house mumbled discreetly: “I could have bought what they were fighting over in Chennai’s Pondy Bazaar for Rs600. This was an ego match.”

    Murray and Company, which started out in Chennai’s Parrys’ area, opposite the high court on Thambu Chetty Street, has been thriving for the last 90 years. It started off by auctioning properties from the Madras high court and eventually became a household name in the 1960s.

    In the 1920s, the last functioning British auction house, Dowden and Company, which worked out of Broadway in Chennai, moved back to the UK. Two years after Dowden’s departure, the government of India and the Madras high court expressed a need for auctioneers in the city. That year S Vedantam and his brother S Rajam started Murray and Company as an auctioneering firm specialising in immovable properties.

    In 1930, a building that later became the Life Insurance Corporation’s office (and has now been demolished) functioned as the headquarters of the auction house. Everything from used machines and vehicles, industrial processes and maintenance scrap, unused spares, stock, and unclaimed cargo were sold off here. Thus began the custom of the famed Sunday Murray and Company auction.

    Murray02CF25oct2017

    The thrill of the bid

    Hemant Srivatsa, the auctioneer and one of the two partners of the auctioning and valuing firm, sat on a plush teakwood podium. Two men held up a gold plated imitation of a Ram Durbar painting. Srivatsa looked at the article and smirked. “My problem with this Durbar is that everyone is standing,” he said. But the audience was in bidding mode, and the wisecrack was lost in the confusion over the valued price.

    “Bring an almirah, bring a toy, bring industrial scrap, bring your grandfather’s chair, Murray’s will handle it!” Kannan had said describing the auction held at Gemini Tower on Oct. 01. At least some of the 100-150 people present were seated on the antique chairs and sofas put up for auction. Many were present only for the spectacle and thrill.

    Sujan Gangadhar, Srivatsa’s partner in the firm, took the dais and sighed looking at the clock. A hundred and seventy-six items still had to be auctioned in two-and-a-half hours. He positioned his glasses, took a deep breath and began. For Gangadhar, this was a test of stamina. For Srivatsa, it was about auctioning the right item at the right time.

    Fame and idiosyncrasies

    The auction hall in Mount Road was where Ramnath Goenka once bought the Express Estate, where the Apollo Hospital property in Greams Road was auctioned off by the royal family of Kochi and where The Madras Club and the Agurchand Mansions were auctioned off.

    The humour at the Sunday auctions is timeless. According to many who attended auctions in the past, Rajam conducted the auctions best, peppering monotonous announcements with quips like: “Sold to the lady whose husband has his hand on her mouth!”

    There were more elaborate jokes too. In the 1930s the founder secretary of Vidya Mandir School, Subbaraya Aiyer, a tall, heavy-set man, had squeezed himself into a child’s rocking chair during the auction in Mandaveli. Ramnath Goenka was visibly amused and bid for the rocking chair Aiyar sat on. Later, Goenka is believed to have had the chair delivered to Aiyar’s house with a note: “This chair suits you and I hope you enjoy it.”

    In 1930, the Travancore Royal Family approached Aiyar and requested that Murray auction off their jewellery, chandeliers, and lustre lamps. “While the chandeliers and miscellaneous items were sold, the jewellery never was. To date, we have never known why,” Srivatsa said.

    In a bid to preserve the sanctity of the auction, cellphone bids during the auction are not accepted. Telephone bids, however, are accepted and executed regularly. “We have a bidding form and we allow telephone bids in advance,” said Sujan, acknowledging that he saw a future in accepting remote bids, and might eventually reconsider his stance.

    Method to madness

    The process for auctioning curios begins with cataloguing them, recounting their history in a thorough fashion, described in poetic detail. Srivatsa navigates through the ebb and flow of the process.

    Murray03CF25oct2017

    “It’s all about maintaining that attention span through interest points,” he said. “A swivel chair will always follow a desk, not a piece of crockery.”

    Property auctions hold equal weight, but the process is long drawn and rife with legal tussles. “Normally in mortgaged property and properties sold by the court, nobody likes to lose their property—so if there is a default, there is always a question of whether the auction was done correctly, and no lawyer worth his salt will cast a few allegations just to make his case stronger. But the proof is in the cross-examination,” said Gangadhar.

    Srivatsa is a repository of history and adores the thrill of auctions. Gangadhar is more interested in securing Murray’s future. “Online auctions, e-auctions are the way to go,” he said. “People don’t have the time to sit through an auction anymore. They want specifics, they want to save time. Unfortunate perhaps, that this generation will not discover the thrill of auctions. We intend to keep the physical auctions, but want to tap the market that bids from their computer.”

    This post first appeared on Scroll.in. We welcome your comments at  ideas.india@qz.com 

    source: http://www.qz.com / Quartz.com / Quartz India / by Divya Karthikeyan, Scroll.in / October 23rd, 2-017 – Quartz India

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    James Ajoo, a man who grew up in Chennai, realised that his grandfather was a pawn in one of the greatest heists of the 19th century – the Great Tea Robbery.

    Canton, Kwangtung province, China. Photograph by John Thomson, 1867. Image: Wellcome Image

    Canton, Kwangtung province, China. Photograph by John Thomson, 1867. Image: Wellcome Image

    When James Ajoo, a Chennai-based English professor, was growing up, he often wondered why his surname was so different from that of his classmates. It was not a typical South Indian name – for that matter, it didn’t even sound Indian. When he asked his paternal grandmother, her answer was so unexpected that it set him off on a quest to trace his roots.

    His grandmother told him that his ancestor was one of the six Chinese tea manufacturers that Robert Fortune smuggled into India to help the English manufacture tea, harvested from their newly planted tea estates. Some of these estates are in what is now The Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu. His grandfather was a primary player, albeit a pawn, in one of the greatest heists of the 19th century – the Great Tea Robbery pulled off by Robert Fortune, a botanist and plant hunter who stole tea from Imperial China.

    In modern day terms, there are three serious violations: Geographical Indications (GIs), bio-piracy and the theft of a process.

    James Ajoo

    James Ajoo

    James questioned other older members of his family, but none of them knew anything more. The information he had gathered was inadequate. Several years later, when James went to the US to study, he found the time and resources to further research his ancestor, the mysterious John Ajoo.

    European interest in China

    Since the Ajoo family story in India is tied up with that of Robert Fortune and the nascent tea industry in India, let’s start with the Scottish botanist. What made him a hero in the times he lived in and a villain thereafter? Robert Fortune was best known for stealing tea plants from China, the only country where tea was grown at that time. Tea growing and manufacture in China was a closely guarded secret.

    Trade with China was much sought after by the European trading powers of that time, primarily the English, Americans and the Dutch. Trade with China grew and flourished right through the 18th century, when the English East India Company traded woolens and Indian cottons for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain.

    However, with the widespread popularity of tea in England, tea soon became the single largest export item out of China, while the imports declined. The Chinese made things more difficult by insisting that tea has to be paid for in silver. Soon, there was a shortage of silver and the English were forced to look for other commodities to offset the balance of trade.

    L0056403 China: women tea plantation workers by John Thomson Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Fukien province, China: women tea plantation workers. Photograph by John Thomson, 1871. 1871 By: J. ThomsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

    L0056403 China: women tea plantation workers by John Thomson
    Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
    images@wellcome.ac.uk
    http://wellcomeimages.org
    Fukien province, China: women tea plantation workers. Photograph by John Thomson, 1871.
    1871 By: J. ThomsonPublished: –
    Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

    This is when they introduced opium grown in India to China, which proved to be a profitable business.

    The tea robber

    After the Treaty of Nanking in 1848, Fortune was sent by the Royal Horticultural Society to collect exotic plants from China, tea primarily. The latter was to be replanted in parts of India which was considered to be congenial to tea and thus break China’s monopoly of global trade.

    “The task required a plant hunter, a gardener, a thief, a spy,” writes Sarah Rose, in her award-winning book ‘For All the Tea in China’, which charts Fortune’s great British Tea Robbery. Though some of the saplings perished, the tea seeds brought back by Fortune were instrumental in starting the tea industry in India and breaking Chinese monopoly on tea.

    Rober Fortune. Source: Wiki Commons

    Rober Fortune. Source: Wiki Commons

    In 1849, Fortune disguised as a wealthy Chinese trader travelled to the remote tea growing areas in China and witnessed both green and black tea being processed. He realized that manufacturing tea was a complex and intricate process and experienced tea manufacturers would be required. So, he recruited a team of experienced tea farmers and manufacturers from Hawgchow, present day Huizhou in the Anhui province of China, with help of Chinese contractors called Wang tih Poon and Hoo. Fortune and this small band of Chinese set sail for India from Shanghai.

    John Ajoo enters India

    James Ajoo, now in his 30s, is of the opinion that his ancestor took the name John when he arrived in India, because he had been secretly converted to Christianity by the Jesuits who had been active in China since 1582. The name Ajoo, he says, could be the phonetic pronunciation of a Chinese surname.

    James started his research by digging deep into the available material on the internet. After months of searching, he finally got lucky when he found a log entry made on February 15, 1851 which mentions that the Chinese tea manufacturers are to be paid from that date and the order was to be executed by the Chinese contractor Wang tih Poon.

    Ajoo was clutching at straws but persisted in his search; he combed through endless maritime lists and passenger arrivals lists and then finally, struck gold when he found an old notice of passenger arrivals into Calcutta port on November 27, 1851, when the streamer Lady Mary Wood docked in Calcutta with six Chinese on board. (Most records show that there were eight Chinese – six tea manufacturers and two pewterers, whose sole job was preparing lead casings to the tea chests).

    When Ajoo came to Nilgiris

    James Ajoo followed the progress of the Chinese tea manufacturers who were sent to work in the tea gardens of the North-West Province. It was hard work, (for James Ajoo) for there was but a scant mention here or there. In May 1862, the Chinese left government service and entered private employment for higher wages.

    The next year, a report on the tea plantations in East Indies made to the House of Commons mentioned that Dr HFC Cleghorn, Conservator of Forests of the Madras Presidency, had asked the government for Chinese tea manufacturers to help tea growers in the Neilgherries (as Nilgiris was spelt those days). This report also states that there were no Chinese tea manufacturers available for the Nilgiris planters, and instead “native” tea manufacturers were offered.

    However, may be because of continued pressure from the Nilgiris planters, two Chinese tea manufacturers were sent to the hills in 1864, one of them being John Ajoo. It is interesting to note that these two were not the only Chinese in the Nilgiris at the time.

    Did Chinese PoWs teach Indians how to manufacture tea?

    Between 1856 and 1860, the British brought in Chinese Prisoners of War (PoWs) captured during the second Anglo Chinese war, also known as the Opium Wars, which involved British trade in opium to China and China’s sovereignty. Chinese prisoners were also brought to the Nilgiris from the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca, Dinding and Penang. They were initially sent to the Nilgiris because of the overcrowding in the Madras jails, but later, when it was discovered the Chinese were good workmen, they were put to work in the newly opened tea and cinchona plantations.

    An 1850 depiction of the tea cultivation process in Assam. By Joseph Lionel Williams after Thomas Brown, via Wiki Commons

    An 1850 depiction of the tea cultivation process in Assam. By Joseph Lionel Williams after Thomas Brown, via Wiki Commons

    Many senior Nilgiri planters have poofed the idea that the Chinese PoWs taught the pioneer planters how to plant and manufacture tea, mainly because the PoWs were mostly seafaring men with no experience in tea farming or manufacture. Sir Percival Griffiths, a British civil servant and tea historian is one who dismissed claims that Chinese PoWs instructed planters how to plant and manufacture tea. But records indicate that at this time, Miss Cockburn, (pronounced Coburn) daughter of the Collector of Salem and pioneer tea and coffee planter, had one Chinese man help on the tea estate near Kotagiri, while Thaishola Estate, where many PoWs were housed, has anecdotal evidence that the Chinese planted tea and has a Jail Thottam (garden) even today.

    Chinaman’s field

    James Ajoo at this point, reiterates that his ancestor, John Ajoo, a free man, worked with some planters in the Nilgiris for a short while and was then lured away to work with a tea planter called AW Turner, who founded the North Travancore Land Planting Agricultural Society in Munnar.

    S Muthiah, the Chennai based historian, in his book “A Planting Century” which records the history of South India’s plantations has made a mention of John Ajoo, a Chinaman who planted 13 acres of tea in Munnar, and this plot of land was known popularly as the Chinaman’s Field.

    Somewhere along the line, John Ajoo married a local woman, though there is no mention of that. (It would be pertinent to note that most of the Chinese PoWs who settled down in Nattuvattom, a small hamlet in the Nilgiris where the Government cinchona factory was located, married local women and lived the rest of their lives tending cattle and growing garden vegetables.)

    The Chinaman’s son

    \John Ajoo’s son John Antony, referred to as the Chinaman’s son, was born in June 1869 and would become the owner of a small estate called Vialkadavu near Talliar Estate in which the Turner family had an interest.

    Now John Antony was quite a colorful character and had worked in a provision store owned by an Englishman in Munnar town. He taught himself English, joined the Anglican Church and endeared himself to the English planters in the area. He was a skilled tracker and shikari and in the course of time, became a favourite with the planters for the hunting jaunts; which lead him to be acquainted with the Sri Kerala Varma Valiya Koilthampuranan, who was married to Her Highness Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, the adopted niece of the Maharajah of Travancore.

    A plac of John Antony

    A plac of John Antony

    Anecdotal evidence within the family is that, the marriage of John Antony to Mariamma was brought about by none other than the Koilthampuranan himself. Mariamma, it is said, was a child widow of a member of royal family. Nothing more is known of the mysterious Mariamma (that may not even be her real name) as there is no documentary evidence to the marriage or her background.

    John Antony died when he was 82 after establishing himself as a planter and with a large acreage under him. He was also a founder member of the Travancore Cardamom Planters Association in Madurai district. Subsequently, the Ajoos moved away from the plantations and turned to the Church with many of them becoming pastors.

    James Ajoo has never visited the land of his ancestor but hopes to do so one day. But now he has a story to tell too, of John Ajoo’s long journey from the tea growing farms of his youth in China, to the High Ranges in the south of India. One wonders, did John Ajoo ever think of going back home?  We will never know.

    source: http://www.thenewsminute.com / The News Minute / Home> History / by Nina Varghese / Sunday – October 22nd, 2017

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    What do you know about Campbellabad, I was asked the other day. Thinking I still knew the Political Geography I had once specialised in, “It’s a town in Pakistan,” I casually answered. Only to be told it’s a 300-year-old village in Tuticorin District. When my caller wanted to know whether what the locals had told him, that it was named after a Madras Governor, was correct, I was a little more careful. “I think Governor Campbell was some time later but let me check,” I hesitantly answered.

    So achecking I went. And found Sir Archibald Campbell was Governor from 1786 to 1789, not quite 300 years ago. But I also found that there was another Archibald Campbell, a Madras Civilian from 1896 to 1937. He has been involved with the raising of the Mettur Dam (1925-934), retired as Chief Secretary and had served on the Boards of Revenue and Irrigation. He was more likely to have had something to do with land settlement for which the Muslim settlers could have named their new village after him. But that was just 100 years ago.

    CampbellCF31jul2017

    Later that day, who should I bump into but Civilian Campbell — or at least a bust of him in the 1901 banqueting hall of the Freemasons of Madras. He had been an ardent Freemason and started the Sir Arthur Campbell Lodge in Madras in 1930. This was the first Lodge where both Europeans and Indians could be members, on condition each spent at least six months a year in the others’ country (Miscellany, March 11, 2013).

    While the bust and I looked each other in the eye, the voices swirling around us talked of the August celebration of 300 years of English Freemasonry with the consecration of the first Grand Lodge of the English Order in London. There was that number again, but this time the records showed the date was indeed 1717. Thirty-five years later, the Grand Lodge of Madras was consecrated. From then on, till the British left India, virtually every British official who was anyone in Madras was a Freemason, it would seem.

    Two winners of honours

    Two residents of Madras many decades ago whom I met recently were on quick visits to the city. To me the link between them were the honours they’d won, rather more distinguished and national in the case of one, rather more local in the case of the other. But both were greeted with the same warmth and enthusiasm by their former colleagues on the occasion of the 150th year celebrations of their respective affiliations.

    It was while visiting his old school, Lawrence of

    Lovedale, as a distinguished guest that Paul Sabapathy from Birmingham heard that he had been honoured for the third time by the Queen of England. An OBE in 1995 for urban regeneration, a CBE in 2004 for his contribution to business and higher education was being followed by a CVO (Companion of the Royal Victorian Order) for his services as Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands.

    LtSabapathyCF31jul20176

    As Lord Lieutenant, he was the Queen’s personal representative in the area from 2007 to 2015. It could well have been a knighthood if an email of his had not been leaked. In it, after a visit to the Pakistan consulate in the city, he was critical of the Pakistani community of Birmingham. Apologising, then stepping down was not enough.

    Sabapathy, who went to Birmingham 53 years ago, soon after graduating from Madras Christian College, had a rather remarkable record in Britain. He was the first non-white to be a Lord Lieutenant (a 550-year-old institution), chairman of a British University (Birmingham City U), and a President of the Walsall Chamber of Commerce.

    Unlike Sabapathy, Demitrius Sarandis was no public figure except in the small world of rowing in India. And in the even smaller world of the Madras Boat Club (MBC) he was welcomed for all he had achieved when he was a member (1958-1962).

    SarandisCF31jul2017

     

    Sarandis, from Greece, came out as a 22-year-old to Madras in 1957 to monitor the machinery that his company in the UK had supplied to the South India Flour Mills. While first living in that legendary chummery Chesney Hall, and then closer to the Club, he established an enviable record becoming the MBC’s Captain of Boats within three years. He’d never rowed in his life till a fellow resident at the chummery made him a member of the Boat Club. There, some thought him too small, others, seeing his scanty hair and luxuriant moustache, thought him more aged than he was and too old (35) to row successfully. But taught by the boat boys, he rowed competitively for the first time in 1959. Beating KR Ramachandran, reckoned till then the best Club sculler, Sarandis went on to team with him and win the Pairs too. In three years, his trophy cupboard was full. But then, faced with visa problems, he had to go back — and greater honours were not to be his.

    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> Madras Miscellany> Society / by S. Muthiah / July 31st, 2017

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    Indira Bayi | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

    Indira Bayi | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

    She was the daughter of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, Queen Regent of erstwhile Travancore.

    Indira Bayi, daughter of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, who was Queen Regent of erstwhile Travancore, died in Chennai early Thursday. She was 90.

    Wife of the late K.K. Varma, founder-chairman of the erstwhile India Meters Ltd, and long-time chairman of the Madras Kerala Samajam, she is survived by son Shreekumar Varma and daughter Shobhana Varma. Indira Bayi was born during the regency of her mother (1924 to 1931). Years later, she would become the first woman from the royal family to enrol for college education. Some of her short stories have appeared in a few magazines and two anthologies of her stories have been brought out.

    The cremation will be held at the Besant Nagar crematorium at noon on Friday.

    source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Thiruvananthapuram / by Special Correspondent / Thiruvananthapuram – Chennai / July 21st, 2017

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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

    ___________________________________

    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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