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    He cracked the Rajiv assassination case; helped identify bomber Dhanu

    Renowned forensic expert, Pakkiriswamy Chandra Sekharan, who helped investigators crack the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and played a seminal role in getting back the stolen 1,500-year-old Pathur Nataraja idol from the U.K., died here on Tuesday.

    He was 83 and is survived by his wife and daughter.

    A former director of the Tamil Nadu Forensic Sciences department, Prof. Chandra Sekharan was awarded the Padma Bhushan.

    An acknowledged expert as well as a pioneer in some forensic techniques, Prof. Chandra Sekharan deconstructed the suicide bomb attack on Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

    He made the sensational disclosure a day after the assassination that the killer was a woman who acted as a human bomb.

    He pieced together tattered pieces of denim fabric to conclude that the assassin was wearing a vest or jacket in which a bomb could have been packed.

    He proceeded to reconstruct the belt bomb as well as its two-switch circuitry, one to switch on the mechanism and the other to detonate the RDX bomb.

    K. Ragothaman, the chief investigating officer, recalled Prof. Chandra Sekharan’s great help. The forensic expert obtained the roll of film from a camera used by Hari Babu, a photographer who was killed in the explosion, to get pictures of the fateful public meeting.

    “But for those 10 crucial photographs, we would not have been able to detect the case. While video footage taken minutes before the explosion was suppressed by none other than the then Intelligence Bureau Director, Prof. Chandra Sekharan preserved the valuable evidence and gave it to us,” Mr. Ragothaman said.

    D.R. Kaarthikeyan, former CBI Director and Chief of the Special Investigation Team that investigated the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, said Prof. Chandra Sekharan had enormous knowledge in forensic science and his service was of immense help in the case.

    Tracking Nataraja

    He used both forensic science and traditional knowledge in establishing India’s claim over the Nataraja idol at the Royal Court of Justice in the U.K.

    After the idols were stolen from the Viswanatha Swamy temple, they were hidden for some time in a haystack. Termites devoured the haystack and in the process left their ‘galleries’ on the idols. The idols were later unearthed, but the Nataraja idol alone was sold and it found its way to London. “Though the idol was cleaned a couple of times, the lower part was left untouched and I spotted the termite nest. I used that to win the case,” he once told The Hindu.

    He was a much sought-after expert witness, appearing in courts across India, as well as in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Sri Lanka for both prosecution and defence.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> National / by Special Correspondent / Chennai – July 11th, 2017

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    It is appropriate that his birth centenary celebration begins in the city which still has a strong bond to him

    N. Arumugam, Madurai Corporation employee, performs puja at Bharatha Ratna Ponmanachemmal MGR Amma Tirukoil at Anuppanadi in Madurai. | Photo Credit: R_ASHOK

    N. Arumugam, Madurai Corporation employee, performs puja at Bharatha Ratna Ponmanachemmal MGR Amma Tirukoil at Anuppanadi in Madurai. | Photo Credit: R_ASHOK

    N. Arumugam, a Madurai Corporation employee, rushes to a nearby shop to buy camphor and agarbathi as he sees people visiting Bharatha Ratna Ponmanachemmal MGR Amma Tirukoil (MGR Temple) in East Anuppanadi. He performs daily puja and aarthi to the idol of MGR, modelled on the ‘Murugan’ form he took in Thani Piravi. He takes care of the ‘first temple’ for MGR constructed by Nagarajan, a local AIADMK functionary, with public support in 1988. Arumugam is one among the many die-hard MGR fans who keep the legend alive in Madurai.

    Twenty nine years after his death, memories of the 1960s and the 70s are relived by people past their prime in theatres where MGR’s films are released. The extended MGR family assembles in front of the theatre for the first show. Eighty-five-year-old Backiam of Sappanikoil Street is perhaps the oldest fan to visit theatres.

    Another fan, Mariappan of Villapuram, a physically challenged person, uses a tricycle to move around. Coordinating all of them is M. Tamilnesan of Anna Nagar, an ‘MGR devotee.’ An incredible fan following for a 100-year-old legend is not a surprise in Madurai. This is the city that gave MGR many of his firsts, on and off screen.

    Though born in Hantana, Kandy, Sri Lanka, on January 17, 1917, Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran’s entry into Madurai Original Boys Company, following in the footsteps of his elder brother M.G. Chakrapani at the age of six, is the first chapter in the never-ending story of his association with the city. On his centenary, Madurai can eminently claim to replace ‘Marudur’ in the three magic letters.

    It was Madurai Veeran, released on April 13, 1956, that created the record for a Tamil movie crossing 100 days in 40 theatres. It ran for 200 days, crossing silver jubilee, the longest for an MGR film at that time, in Chinthamani Theatre. Twenty one of his films released in this theatre ran for over 100 days.

    A grand function was organised at Tamukkam on October 26, 1958, to celebrate the success of Nadodi Mannan. His first fan club, which later became the bedrock of AIADMK, was started in Madurai. His last film was Maduraiyai Meetta Sundarapandian. It was T. M. Soundararajan of Madurai who lent his ‘bronze voice’ to MGR in all his famous songs. MGR organised a mega conference of his fans associations in Madurai in 1986 in which the famous picture of Jayalalithaa presenting him a silver sceptre was shot.

    On the political front, the genesis of MGR’s ouster from the parent party and subsequent launch of the ADMK can be traced to the August 1972 Madurai district unit conference of the DMK, writes B. Thirumalai in his book, Madurai Arasiyal. Since his request to allow Jayalalithaa to perform a dance drama at the meet was turned down, MGR went round the city with her, hogging public attention, in an open vehicle. The crowd started to disperse after hearing him at the conference, though the star speaker, M. Karunanidhi, was yet to get his turn. This meet sowed the seeds of discord between the two leaders.

    When he was actually expelled from the DMK, there was unrest in Madurai and some schools had to be closed from November 15, 1972, to January 8, 1973, recalls Mr. Thirumalai.

    The ‘first flag’ of MGR’s would-be party was hoisted at Jhansi Rani Park. When MGR visited Madurai after floating the ADMK on October 17, 1972, his train took 10 hours to reach the city from Dindigul. The first victory certificate for his new party and symbol (Two Leaves), which came in the 1973 Lok Sabha by-election to Dindigul constituency, was handed over to the winner, K. Maya Thevar, at the Madurai Collector’s office.

    He announced the formation of World Tamil Sangam at Madurai World Tamil Conference in 1981. It came into existence in 2016. In acknowledgement of people’s love for him, MGR chose to contest all the Assembly elections from 1977 from south Tamil Nadu – Aruppukottai (1977), Madurai West (1980) and Andipatti (1984). It is only appropriate that the celebration of his birth centenary begins here on June 30.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by S. Annamalai / Madurai – June 30th, 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: / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / June 18th, 2017

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    June 9th, 2017adminLeaders


    A man of integrity and outstanding intellect, he shunned publicity and positions

    Veteran Parliamentarian Era Sezhiyan, highly regarded as a Constitutionalist who recommended the abolition of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), died in Vellore on Tuesday. He was 95.

    He was living for some years in the Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) run by G. Viswanathan, his close associate since his DMK days.

    Sezhiyan also republished the report of the Shah Commission constituted to go into various kinds of excesses committed during the Emergency under the title ‘Shah Commission Report Lost and Regained’.

    He was the younger brother of late Navalar V.R. Nedunchezhian and both of them were the founding members of the DMK. He jointly edited the magazine Manram with his brother. Though Nedunchezhian later joined the AIADMK launched by MGR, Sezhian chose to involve himself in the Janata Party as he was attracted by Jayaprakash Narayan’s political ideals. He also functioned as the president of the Janata party’s Tamil Nadu unit.

    “He did not share his brother’s views and stayed away from the Makkal DMK founded by the latter at one point. He also did not take the AIADMK seriously. When I requested him to become the presidium chairman of the MDMK launched by Mr. Vaiko. he politely turned down the offer,” said K. Thirunavukkarasu, historian of the Dravidian movement.

    Close to ‘Anna’

    Born R. Srinivasan, he changed his name to Sezhiyan on the lines of Dravidian leaders who opted for Tamil names instead of Sanskritised names. He studied in Annamalai University and was very close to DMK founder C.N. Annadurai and DMK leader M. Karunanidhi. In his autobiography Nenjukku Neethi, Mr. Karunanidhi has recalled that both Nedunchezhian and Sezhian walked all the way from their village Vadakandam to attend his marriage.

    “He wrote in Anna’s Dravida Nadu magazine in 1937 itself. Anna used to say when everyone seeks his advice on family and political matters, he would look up to Sezhiyan’s counsel,” said Mr. Thirunavukkarasu.

    He represented the DMK in the Lok Sabha between 1962 and 1977 and the Janata Party in the Rajya Sabha between 1978 and 1984. As Chairman of Public Accounts Committee (1971-73), he presented a record number of 96 Reports to Parliament.

    He lost to Congress candidate and actress Vaijayanthimala in South Madras constituency in the 1984 Lok Sabha polls.

    “It was Sezhiyan and Murasoli Maran who prepared a report on the recommendations of Justice Rajamannar on Centre-State relationships,” recalled Mr. Thirunavukkarasu.

    Parliament Gallery published by The Hindu in 1964 described him as a brilliant student of mathematics with statistics as special subject who topped the list in the University examinations. He also held a diploma in French.

    “As is expected of him by his party, he is at his best whenever the official language question comes up before the House. His 20-minute speech on this subject was punctuated by as many as 25 interruptions, apart from steady hecklings by protagonists of Hindi. With patience and perseverance, he hunts for government circulars and instructions to support his questions aimed at proving that there is a subtle imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states,” The Hindu had reported.

    His speeches in Parliament were published as a book, Parliament for the People.

    “Delhi is known to be the graveyard of many empires. Let not… one more graveyard be dug here by this measure,” he said during a debate on the anti-secession Bill.

    When a Congress member said, “Many empires in the South also have gone to the grave,” Mr. Sezhiyan retorted, “Any empire not representing the people is bound to go that way.”

    He shunned publicity and positions. “He refused the offer made by the then Union Finance Minister H.M. Patil to become the chairman of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) in 1978. He also turned down the offers of Governor’s post offered during the National Front government led by V.P. Singh,” said Mr. Thirunavukkarasu.

    His last association with a political party was Lok Shakthi founded by Ramakrishna Hegde. In 2001, Sezhiyan retired from active party politics.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by B. Kolappan / Chennai – June 06th, 2017

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    May 26th, 2017adminLeaders
    DMK working president M.K. Stalin paying final tribute to N. Periasamy, DMK leader who expired in Chennai on Friday.

    DMK working president M.K. Stalin paying final tribute to N. Periasamy, DMK leader who expired in Chennai on Friday.

    A veteran party leader and a former MLA, he is the father of former minister Geetha Jeevan and party functionary N P Jegan.

    DMK’s Tuticorin (South) district secretary and former MLA, N. Periasamy died at a private hospital here on Friday after a brief illness, the party said.

    Party working president M.K. Stalin along with leaders including Rajya Sabha MP, R S Barathy placed a wreath on the body of 78-year-old Periasamy.

    Periasamy was undergoing treatment for an ailment for sometime at the hospital and he died at 7 am, the party said.

    A veteran party leader and a former MLA, he is the father of former minister Geetha Jeevan and party functionary N P Jegan.

    A party release said party flags will be flown at half-mast for three days beginning today and party programmes will be deferred.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by PTI / Chennai – May 26th, 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.


    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: / The Hindu / Home> Society> Madras Miscellany / by S. Muthiah / May 15th, 2017

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    Industrialist and philanthropist P R Ramasubrahmaneya Rajha, chairman of  Ramco Group of Companies, died in Rajapalayam after a brief illness. He was 82.

    He leaves behind his wife Sudarsanam, son P R Venketrama Raja, daughters Nalina, Sarada Deepa and five grandchildren.

    Popularly known as the Raja of Rajapalayam, Rajha donned the Ramco chairman’s robe when he was just 27 years old, with just two businesses– Rajapalayam Mills (a textile mill) and Madras Cements (now Ramco Cements) with a single plant capacity of 66,000 tonnes a year.

    Today, the group has businesses spanning across, cement, textiles, software and roofing sheets with annual revenues of more than Rs 6,000 crore. The flagship, Ramco Cements, has a capacity to make 18 million tonnes of cement a year, cumulatively the textile business has 5 lakh spindles capacity, Ramco Industries has a roofing capacity of one million tonnes a year and Ramco Systems is also on a strong footing after stuttering for some time.

    “In the passing of Rajha, the cement industry has lost a stalwart. I have known him for more than four decades. He was one of the first in the industry to put up a dry process cement plant. A pious, religious person, he had a quiet and sober leadership style. All of us will miss him,” said India Cements vice chairman & managing director N Srinivasan.

    The group supports eight educational institutions in Rajapalayam including Ramco Institute of Technology.

    “He was one of the outstanding leaders known for his vision, values and philanthropy. His death is a great loss to Tamil Nadu and the country,” recalled TVS Motor Company chairman Venu Srinivasan.

    Rajha was deeply associated with temples and donated liberally to building new ones and renovating dilapidated temples.

    source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / TNN / May 12th, 2017

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    Chennai :

    Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday presented Avvaiyar award for 2017 to Padma Venkataraman, chairperson, Women’s Indian Association (WIA) and daughter of former President R Venkataraman.

    The award which has been instituted to encourage women excel in social reforms, women’s development, communal harmony, arts, science, culture, journalism and administration, carries `1 lakh, a gold medal and a citation. She was chosen for the award in appreciation of her services to rehabilitation of the leprosy-affected for over 30 years.

    Thanking the Chief Minister, Padma Venkatraman recalled the services of WIA to the leprosy-affected and its work with the State government covering all 10 government-run homes, colonies and the community-based people.

    She said the award would strengthen WIA’s resolve to service society further.

    She lived for many years in Vienna, Austria, where she was, among other positions she held, a permanent representative of All India Women’s Conference to the UN, member of several non-profit panels accredited to the UN, such as Committee on Narcotics and  Committee on Disabled. She was also vice-president of a non-profit organisation, Committee on Women and president, United Nations Women’s Guild.

    source: / The New Indian Express / Home> States> Tamil Nadu / by Express News Service / May 03rd, 2017

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    That was a question I was recently asked in connection with a reference I had made to Umda Bagh and its links with education in the city for nearly 125 years. Good question, and off I went ahunting for information.

    Into the Umda Bagh campus moved c.1895 the Madrasa-I-Azam, the chief Muslim school in the South and which was established in 1849. This developed partially into a Government Muhammadan College with its own buildings in 1934.

    In 1948, the College was reconstituted as the Government Arts College for Men. The College moved to Nandanam in 1972 and a women’s college opened in its stead in 1974. This was named the Quaid-E-Millat Government College for Women, leaving many a student puzzling over the prefixed name, which I’m told means ‘Leader of the Nation’.

    A Tirunelveli Rowther, Mohammed Ismail went into business in the 1920s and became a leader in the worlds of leather and Madras commerce. That leadership led him into politics, in which he had shown interest from when, as a 13-year-old, he started in 1909 the Young Muslim Society in Tirunelveli.

    Nine years later, he founded the Council of Islamic Scholars and joined the Indian Muslim League. In 1946, he led the League’s Madras unit in the Assembly elections and became Leader of the Opposition. He was also elected to the first Lok Sabha, which simultaneously served as the Indian Constituent Assembly. And, an intriguing election that year was as the founding President of the Madras State Mutton Dealers’ Association, which he remained till his death 26 years later.

    When Pakistan was born in 1947, the Muslim League divided and an Indian Union Muslim League came into being. Mohammed Ismail was elected its first President. After serving in the Rajya Sabha from 1952 to 1958, he moved into Kerala politics with States’ Reorganisation in 1956. Leading the IUML, he won Lok Sabha seats in 1962, 1967 and 1971. He died a year after his last election, revered in both Tamil Nadu and Kerala as the Quaid-E-Millat, a leader who ensured communal harmony. Interestingly, his education had been in Hindu, Catholic and Protestant schools and colleges!

    Perhaps the greatest tribute paid to him was by Congress Chief Minister M Bhaktavatsalam who, describing his dignified and conciliatory behaviour in the Legislature, said he was “a model for all Opposition leaders”.


    When the postman knocked…

    V Mahalingam writes (Miscellany, April 17): “N Kannayiram went to the West Indies as a replacement for G Kasturirangan of Mysore who cried off because of groin injury and not as replacement for CD Gopinath.

    Also CDG didn’t opt out as he was not happy with the cricket board’s ways. He pulled out as he was suffering from collar bone injuries and he was replaced by L Adisesh of Mysore who also pulled out. Totally there were four replacements before the tour.”

    With this column’s word length now abbreviated, I don’t have the luxury of elaboration. But even then, there was no reason to link two entirely different sentences about Kannayiram and Gopinath except for the fact that they were adjacent to each other. Juxtaposition is not the equivalent of replacement! More interesting is my correspondent saying it was “collarbone injuries” that made Gopinath skip the tour.

    Reporting a long interview with Gopinath for the book Office Chai, Planter’s Brew — Gopinath approving every word of the final text — this writer stated: “(In 1952) Gopinath, being South Indian, was ‘rather strangely called Madrasi in a rather contemptuous way’ by other members of the team. This was an era when cricket essentially meant Bombay — and in Gopinath’s words, ‘…it was almost as if, if you came from Madras, you had no business to play cricket…’ He goes on that around then Gordon Woodroffe’s offered him a job — it was a time when the first Indians were being recruited by British firms — and he was mulling over it because he felt the remuneration was inadequate given his academic and sporting record.

    But his father, an old Imperial Bank hand, pointed out he’d get fair treatment in a British firm and could go far (he did; he became its first Indian Chairman). The interview then records, “Musing on the advice and his issues with (Indian) cricket, Gopinath decided to refuse the West Indian tour.” No mention of collar bone injuries anywhere.

    Subash Chandra Bose at the Tea hosted for him at the Beehive Foundry, Madras on September 3,1939. To his right is K S Rao, owner of the Beehive Group, and third from right (seated) a mystery man only recently identified by the owner of this picture. Standing is C. Audikesavalu Chettiar, Rao’s partner.

    Subash Chandra Bose at the Tea hosted for him at the Beehive Foundry, Madras on September 3,1939. To his right is K S Rao, owner of the Beehive Group, and third from right (seated) a mystery man only recently identified by the owner of this picture. Standing is C. Audikesavalu Chettiar, Rao’s partner.

    Ramesh Kumar, who’s kept the Beehive Foundry name going in its original Oakes & Co. premises on Popham’s Broadway (Miscellany, June 2, 2014), now Prakasam Salai, sends me today’s picture of yesteryear. It’s of Subhas Chandra Bose being hosted at tea at the Beehive premises on September 3, 1939. With him are Kowtha Suryanarayana Rao, the founder of the group that owns the premises, and his partner C Audikesavalu Chettiar, Ramesh Kumar’s grandfather. To Rao’s right is a person whom I wonder how many recognise, despite his being a well-known name in Tamil Nadu. He is Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar.

    Rao founded the Swadharma Swaarajya Sangh (Orthodox National League) in 1913 for the “revival of the declining spiritual and cultural values of Bharateeya life, dharma and religion”, I wonder how much Bose or Thevar had in common with it? I also wonder, given the date of the felicitation, whether Bose fled to Germany from Madras; that was the day India was dragged into a World War.

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

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / Madras Miscellany / by S. Muthiah / May 01st, 2017

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    Believe it or not, there are a few who want to change the name of Yale University! It was initially named Yale College after Elihu Yale, Governor of Madras (1687-1692), who had, in 1715 and 1721, gifted about £800 worth of textiles and books to what was the Collegiate School of Connecticut. Their reason: The donor had not only kept slaves in Madras but had also encouraged slave exports.

    These liberals of the anti-Trump brigade cite precedent. Yale in February re-named its Calhoun College, Hopper College because John Calhoun, a Vice President of America, had been “a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately supported slavery”, according to Yale’s President who amplified, “He was fundamentally in conflict with Yale’s mission and values.” So was Yale, say the liberals pointing to Yale’s Madras record of dubiously enriching himself and supporting slavery.

    Writing about the last year of Yale’s Governorship, historian HD Love says, “The use of slaves for domestic purposes in Madras had always been recognised and sales and purchases were invariably registered at the Choultry (a Government office). The iniquitous practice of stealing children for export was, of course, illegal… (In 1683 there was) absolute prohibition against the exportation of slaves of any age. In 1687 (Yale’s first year as Governor), however, the trade was sanctioned under regulation, a duty of one pagoda being exacted for each slave sent from Madras by sea.” In September that year, 665 slaves were exported, giving an idea of the trade. The next year, the export of slaves was prohibited. The Council’s policy kept chopping and changing till, in 1790, the Council “resolved that any Traffic in the sale or purchase of Slaves be prohibited by public Proclamation”.


    Yale, whether involved in the trade or not, was, as Governor, permissive about it, it would appear. The records state he permitted 10 slaves to be sent on every ship to England. Citing Yale’s own involvement, the pro-changers refer to three paintings of Yale in the Yale Library collection showing a dark-skinned boy in them. But, the picture seen in all sources and which I found in the first authoritative biography of Yale (by Hiram Bingham) says the boy is the “page boy of the Duke of Devonshire” whose brother Yale’s daughter Anne was to marry.

    As for slavery in the Madras Presidency, a 19th Century report says it was commonplace, affecting about 20 per cent of the population (the figure in 1930 was still 12 per cent!). But this slavery was what continues to this day as ‘bonded labour’. The poor borrowed from the landowners and when they could not pay back they entered into a bond to work for the lender for so many years. Laws against such practices were enacted in 1811, 1812, 1823 and 1843, when total abolition was decreed. Selling of slaves became a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code of 1862.

    But to get back to the Yale issue; it’s been said that virtually every old private college in the US was endowed by men from slave-owning families.

    Last ‘great white hunter’?

    Joshua Mathew from Bengaluru, an IT professional and history buff, tells me that he has the rights for all the books by Kenneth Anderson, the Jim Corbett of the South, who tracked and killed man-eating leopards and tigers and then wrote about them and the southern terrain they flourished in. Anderson, of five-generation British lineage, and his wife Blossom, of Australian and Ceylon Burgher parentage, called Bangalore home. Their son Donald, whom Mathew calls “the last great white hunter-author”, is the subject of a book by Mathew awaiting publication.

    Many Andersons married in St Andrew’s Kirk in Madras, says Mathew, but Kenneth Anderson’s greater connection with Madras was his friendship with Wiele the photographer. They hunted and, later, photographed in the wild together, leading Anderson to spend his post-hunting years ‘shooting’ with the camera. His pictures of the Nilgiris in the early 20th Century brought Mathew to my door after reading of Albert Penn, the photographer of the Nilgiris, in this paper.


    Wiele, of German origin but who may have been British — I’ve found no mention of his being interned during the First World War — opened a photographic studio in Madras in the 1880s. Around 1890, Theodor Klein, also German, joined him. Their Wiele and Klein photographic studio was at 11, Mount Road, facing Round Tana (later the G Venkatapathi Naidu building). Branches in Ooty and Coonoor were added. Wiele later sold his share to Klein, moved to Bangalore and successfully ran a studio there in the early 1900s (Mathew tells me Wiele’s daughter visits Bangalore every year). In Madras, Klein hired young Michael Peyerl, another German, as assistant, then took him as partner.

    Klein died during the Second World War internment. His widow Valeska inherited his share and ran the business with Peyerl till after Independence when they sold it to Indian interests and moved together to Europe. Klein and Peyerl remained a well-known name in Madras till 1987 when a fire wrote finis to it.

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

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture> Madras Miscellany / by S. Muthiah / February 27th, 2017

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