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    MGR: A Life R. Kannan Penguin Random House ₹499

    MGR: A Life R. Kannan Penguin Random House ₹499

    In his centenary year, a perceptive biography presents MGR with all his achievements and faltering, his personality and politics

    M.G. Ramachandran never ceases to fascinate. In the 30 years since his death, there are signs to show that his popularity in Tamil Nadu has not declined. If a digitised version of one of his movies from the 1960s is released, it still runs to packed houses. It is his centenary year, and the same veneration that he commanded among his followers seems to prevail even among a generation that could not have seen him in his heyday.

    R. Kannan’s informative biography brings out the major reasons for the MGR phenomenon: an everlasting reputation for charity, the trust he inspired in the masses that he stood for their welfare, and his carefully cultivated image as a do-gooder. What makes this a perceptive account is that it rarely descends to hagiography, and touches, albeit in a nuanced way, the man’s undoubted shortcomings.

    Early episodes in MGR’s life accounts are revealing. Much of this part is perhaps drawn from MGR’s own memoirs and from contemporary accounts, but what Kannan offers is the first cogent narrative of MGR’s early years, the debilitating poverty in which he grew up, the role of his mother and brother in shaping his outlook in life. The portrayal of Ramachandran’s poverty-stricken life as a child theatre artiste makes for a moving read. Too poor to go to school, he and his brother lived through ordeals and torments in a theatre company as they had no other means of livelihood. MGR had early exposure to both the survival throes and the petty jealousies of an incipient theatre and cinema career. These experiences informed his welfare-centric policies several decades later as chief minister.

    Tinsel world stories

    Many pages are devoted to MGR’s experiences in the tinsel world, understandably so, as this was the medium that was used to project his image. Initially used by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to draw crowds, he was somehow catapulted into the political limelight due to various factors. His mentors in theatre and politics were not his only influences. Even those who saw him as a threat and still others who underestimated his rise in the party, were also indirect motivators for his aspirations.

    Almost all of MGR’s film songs were written with an eye on his emerging political career. Even though this is well known, the author’s engaging account — as well as free-wheeling translations — of the various songs that made him a hero, a revolutionary, a friend of the masses, a philanthropist, a teetotaller and the scourge of evil, helps in understanding the direction in which he was heading in politics.

    There is a lot about his career in cinema, but somehow, there seem to be too many details about how he signed up particular films and how he landed a certain role. There is not enough about many other aspects of his film career, including his directorial ventures and his insight into various trades in the industry. Given the build-up in the biography about his career trajectory, the account of his three successive stints as chief minister can be seen as sketchy. As this part is narrated mainly through public events and major political developments, the reader does not get a full insight into the functioning of MGR as an administrator. At the same time, the author does convey the essentials. One gets a sense of how MGR did not believe in the core Dravidian principle of rationalism and opposition to religion, of how he lived in perpetual fear of the Centre and how tax investigations influenced his political decisions.

    Chief minister’s diary

    As chief minister for 10 years, he relied on intuition and the unique connect he had with the masses in making major announcements. Of course, there were blunders and long phases of inactivity, economic and administrative stagnation and political uncertainty because of his bouts of illnesses. The transition from a person who managed to run a relatively clean government to one who allowed corruption to acquire huge proportions has been captured. The extent to which the liquor trade and the privatisation of engineering and medical education contributed to it is amply clear in the account.

    Nearly a century ago, E.M. Forster contrasted the western or English character with that of the easterners. “The Oriental has behind him a tradition of kingly munificence and splendour,” he wrote, contrasting these qualities with the “middle class prudence” of an Englishman. Forster would have been delighted had he met someone with MGR’s reputation for munificence.

    But MGR had other qualities that monarchs are famed for. He rewarded loyalty and punished disloyalty. He rarely brooked dissent, although political heavyweights within his party did take him on occasionally. Farmers and government employees, political rivals and the media, all bore the brunt of his authoritarian style, although he sometimes tried to balance the strong-arm tactics with occasional sops. He was whimsical to a fault, once attempting to undermine caste-based reservations by introducing economic criteria and then rolling back the decision and raising backward classes quota from 31% to 50%. This biography does not miss any of this.

    When writing about a larger than life figure, one tends to place more emphasis on the aura and mythology around the person and less on the man himself. R. Kannan manages to tease out a balanced picture of the man, with all his idiosyncrasies and foibles, his achievements and faltering, his personality and politics.

    MGR: A Life; R. Kannan, Penguin Random House, ₹499.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Books> Reviews / by K. Venkataraman / September 16th, 2017

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    Narayanan Kumar receives Foreign Minister’s Commendations

    The Consulate General of Japan awarded the Foreign Minister’s Commendations to Narayanan Kumar, president of the Indo-Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IJCCI), on Tuesday.

    Seiji Baba, Consul General of Japan, who presented the certificates of commendation, said Mr. Kumar has contributed significantly to the development of Japan-India relations, especially in business cooperation, as well as the dissemination of knowledge, culture and information about Japan.

    “He has done this through a number of programmes of the IJCCI, including publishing Gateway Newsletter and establishing the Centre for Japanese Studies. He visited Japan as the head of an IJCCI delegation and met Kiyoshi Odawara, the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs,” he added.

    Mr. Baba also noted the contributions made by IJCCI to promote business relations between the two countries.

    Mr. Kumar said,“I really hope business cooperation between the two countries will reach great heights,” he added.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Staff Reporter / Chennai – August 30th, 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.


    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.


    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).



    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: / The Hindu / Home> Madras Miscellany> Society / by S. Muthiah / July 31st, 2017

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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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