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    The mandapam housing the memorial to Dr. Sundara Reddy. / The Hindu

    The mandapam housing the memorial to Dr. Sundara Reddy. / The Hindu

    “You need permission,” says the watchman at Ramaniyam Sanjivini, a residential complex in Thiruvanmiyur, and despatches his assistant to call the secretary of the building association. I blink at the CCTV camera, hoping the secretary will take kindly to what he sees. Soon, a couple of dhoti-clad seniors walk toward me. “I need to photograph the memorials of Dr. Sundara Reddy and Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy,” I tell them. “Historian Narasiah told me I’d find the shrine and the memorials here.” They point to the round-about ahead; a few steps down and I’m face-to-face with the stone memorials — Dr. Sundara Reddy’s under a traditional mandapam and Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy’s out in the open air.

    The memorial to Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy / The Hindu

    The memorial to Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy / The Hindu

    Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy deserves more than just an open stone plaque in a private property. Born in the princely state of Pudukkottai on July 30, 1886 to Narayanaswami Iyer and Chandramma (16), a devadasi, Muthulakshmi was one of eight siblings. An exceptionally bright child, she completed schooling from home, fought for higher education, and was admitted to college as the first girl student when the Maharaja passed an order for her to be enrolled. (She sat behind a screen visible to the teachers alone, and left the class while the boys remained seated.) She topped the Intermediate exams, refused to get married and insisted on doing medicine, a decision brought on by her mother’s cancer attack and death of a cousin during childbirth.

    In Madras, she met Sarojini Naidu at Dr. Nanjunda Rao’s Mylapore bungalow, and with her attended Annie Besant’s speeches at Adyar, and was drawn to the Home Rule Movement. Having stood first in her Medical degree (MB & ChM) exam, she worked at the Women and Children’s Hospital in Egmore, the first lady house surgeon in Madras’ medical history. She married Dr. Sundara Reddy in 1913.

    Meeting the kids in Dr. Vardappa Naidu’s Destitute Home for Boys and Girls on her child’s Vidyabhyasam Day, she vowed to help them. When her youngest sister died of cancer, Muthulakshmi decided to do all she could to tackle the disease. Foregoing her handsome practice, she went to London with her husband and two boys for PG studies. In June 1926, she attended the International Congress of Women in Paris as India’s representative. When she returned, the Women’s Indian Association proposed her name for the Legislative Council and she became the first woman legislator in the Council. She was also the first alderwoman between 1937 and 1939. During her time, the Council passed a resolution giving the right of franchise to women. Her association with a home run by Sister Subbulakshmi brought her close to the plight of women and children, and she piloted the legislation preventing child marriage. Her bill for abolition of the devadasi system was passed after much debate in February, 1929. In 1937, she moved a bill for Inam lands to be given to devadasis. In 1930, when a batch of seven freed devadasi girls were refused accommodation in Madras hostels, she started the Avvai Home to house and train children and young girls, selling her jewellery for its basic facilities. She organised the first Vigilance Association, Rescue Home for Women and supported the Children’s Aid Society.

    She resigned from the Council when Gandhiji was arrested in 1929-30. She was then editing Stri Dharma, a journal promoting the national movement. She went as a delegate to London to depose before the Lothian Committee on Franchise and to Chicago to attend the International Congress of Women. In 1935, MMC moved a resolution for a specialised hospital for cancer, but she had to wait to see it happen. After constant campaigning, she collected Rs. 2 lakh and established the Cancer Institute in 1955. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956. In 1967, she spoke for half-an-hour at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Women’s Indian Association, her last public speech. She passed away on July 22, 1968.

    How did the plaque get there? The land belonged to Dr. Reddy and her son lived there, said Narasiah. After he passed away, the builder purchased it. While researching on Dr. Reddy, Narasiah came to know of the memorial at the residential complex. “I showed Sridhar of Ramaniyam the memorials at the site, and requested him to preserve them along with a shrine where the Reddys used to pray.” It turned out he had already promised Dr. Shantha of the Cancer Institute the memorials would be left untouched. “Dr. Shantha visits it often to see that it is well-maintained,” said the seniors.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus / by Geeta Padmanabhan / March 03rd, 2015

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    The dam constructed by Parakrama Pandian in Kuruvithurai. Photo: Special Arrangement

    The dam constructed by Parakrama Pandian in Kuruvithurai. Photo: Special Arrangement

    Inscriptions dating back to 12th Century, found along river Vaigai, talk about the efficient water management system devised by the Pandiya Kings

    With summer round the corner, most of us are already worried about water scarcity this season. Experts have done their bit by sounding the alarm on the depleting water table. But have you ever wondered how are ancestors used, managed and conserved this elixir of life?

    When it comes to effective conservation, distribution and management of water, one cannot dispense the role of King Karikal Chola, who built the Grand Anaicut across River Cauvery. There are several historical evidences to prove that ancient Tamil rulers had effective water management systems in place in their respective kingdoms.

    The Pandiya kings constructed check dams across River Vaigai. King Maravarman Arikesari, also known as Koon Pandiyan, who ruled Madurai during Seventh century built a check dam across Vaigai and named it after himself. It is near the Kuruvikaran Salai road and archaeologists have found a stone inscription there. Likewise, King Parakrama Pandiyan constructed a check dam Sitranai in Kuruvithurai near Madurai. He also extracted granite from the nearby hill Kuruvikal and built a stone quarry. Stone inscriptions in Kuruvithurai Perumal Temple record this.

    The stone inscription in the Kuruvithurai Perumal Temple. Photo: Special Arrangement

    The stone inscription in the Kuruvithurai Perumal Temple. Photo: Special Arrangement

    In the olden days, exclusive groups were constituted for the upkeep of the water bodies. These were theyeri variyam (lake board) and kalingu variyam (sluice board). According to B. Thirumalai and R. Sivakumar, authors of ‘Vaiyai Thadam Thedi’, the landmark ruling of Sri Vallabha Pandiyan, who established the riparian rights of the lower ayacut farmers, is remembered even today. “The case of a landlord cutting off the main channel by digging a channel upstream and depriving farmers of the lower areas was brought to the King,” says Sivakumar.

    “The practice of creating a water body to help people has been there for ages,” says C. Santhalingam. Secretary, Pandya Nadu Centre for Historical Research. Tamil Brahmi inscriptions recovered from Nadumuthalaikulam near Vikkramangalam give evidence of existence of a 2000-year-old man-made lake. “Kings created water bodies and collected land tax from people. Pallavas constructed lakes across their kingdom and named the lakes after them. Some of the man-made lakes are Chithiramega Thadagam and Vairamega Thadagam,” he says.

    There were also several lakes like the Thoosi Mamandoor Yeri near Kanchipuram, the biggest of the lot. “The rulers did not end with that. They appointed guards to stop people from polluting and created a corpus fund for the maintenance of the water body. The board used the money to desilt the lake and to distribute food and clothes for victims of floods. They also let the lake on contract for fishing and for ferrying people on coracles to generate funds. Many rich people also donated liberally,” he says.

    “For effective distribution there are different types of sluice gates like Pulikan madai (which has three outlets). Depending upon the storage the water is released through these outlets. The one with seven outlets is located near Srivilliputhur. It is constructed by the Koon Pandiyan and to control the flow a pillar is erected at the centre of the main sluice gate,” he says.

    Lakes were given much importance in those days. They were quoted in Sangam literature to identify the geographical division of that place, like the Madakulakeezh which refers to the land irrigated by the Madakulam Lake.

    “Predominantly an agrarian community dependent on water source, our ancestors knew the importance of conserving water. They were farsighted, sensitive to environmental issues and better equipped than the current times,” concludes Santhalingam.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus / by T. Saravanan / Madurai – March 04th, 2015

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    Sam Paul at Jonah’s goes to Japan. Photo: M. Karunakaran / The Hindu

    Sam Paul at Jonah’s goes to Japan. Photo: M. Karunakaran / The Hindu

    From educational institutions and restaurants to gyms and styling salons, Sam Paul has ventured into a slew of businesses. The city businessman tells why he’s always looking for new frontiers to conquer.

    There are two men, employed by Sam Paul, who look after newspaper clippings.

    Every morning, Sam wakes up at 7, fits in an hour of exercise and then, sits down to scan the local papers. Since 2004, from the first mention of the launch of Casa Piccola in Chennai, he’s collected about 500 news clippings of himself. He often makes it to the papers for something or the other; news about the latest Toni & Guy store launch, party pictures, involvement in charity activities and social, news about his acting venture in the upcoming movie Patra… even the smallest mention, he clips, files, indexes and laminates. “We need some cheap thrills, no?” laughs Sam.

    The reason he values these clippings and takes such care in making sure they are preserved is because, he says, he treasures the recognition and appreciation that comes his way. “This is achievement! I am well-heeled — I own a house, I drive a Porsche. I have good people working for me. What else do I need?”

    Sam, who has been the reason for the arrival of many big brands in the city, schooled here. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in Engineering and followed it up with a doctorate from College of Engineering, Guindy. He started working with his father, helping manage educational institutions owned by the family, had many grand business ideas which his father disagreed to and eventually, was asked to leave home for being too rebellious.

    Relentless, Sam worked to prove himself, sleeping on the floor of his friend’s place in the meantime. Using the money he earned, and then some, he opened Casa Piccola in 2004, which was all the rage those days. “I just wanted to show my father that I was capable of earning my own money. But from there to where I am right now, it’s all God’s grace. Nothing else.”

    Over a decade later, he has chiselled an identity for himself as a restaurateur in Chennai. He manages Crimson Chakra, Haagen-Dazs and Jonah’s Bistro. His latest, Jonah’s goes to Japan, in collaboration with Momoyama, introduces an Asian twist to the existing European menu designed by ‘MADChef’ Kaushik. “Right now, I’m tripping on Japanese,” grins Sam.

    At the launch of the restaurant, Sam bustles about, greeting old friends and making new ones. He’s a people’s person; no doubt about it. He says he has the knack to identify the right ones too. “My greatest asset is that my staff have remained with me… it’s important to have the right people,” says Sam, adding that the same men who worked at Casa Piccola are cooking up a storm in Jonah’s kitchen too.

    As the dishes stream out, Sam talks about the peasant origins of the beef goulash, fusses over the amount of fish in the seafood broth and insists that the chicken parmigiana would pair better with mashed potato, as opposed to spaghetti. “I’ve been doing this since 2004, you start to know a little by now,” chuckles the foodie.

    This, however, is not all that he knows. In 2010, sometime in between opening new restaurants, managing educational institutions and being responsible for the mushrooming of Toni & Guy outlets in the city, he got bored of all that he was doing and bounded off to study law at the Government Law College. “I was 32 years old at that time, and I sat with these boys who were 18-19 years old and studied for three years. In fact, I got debarred for six months for not having enough attendance,” laughs Sam. He now practises law at the High Court and works with N. Chandrasekaran, Special Public Prosecutor for CBI cases.

    That hardly confines him from juggling other things though: Sam just acted in a film and is producing another. He’s looking to do some celebrity DJing born out of a love for music and the request of a few friends. Keeping in line with body building titles that Sam won when he was in University, he launched a new project last month — Slam, the fitness studio. He is further looking to expand the Jonah’s brand and working to bring Doner Kebab to India, because, he says, “I am very particular about my kebabs.”

    “That’s the greatest thing in life: to be able to do what you want. If I want to do something, I just have to think of the way to do it professionally… it’s all about God’s grace and having the right people by your side.” smiles the 37-year-old.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus / by Raveena Joseph / March 03rd, 2015

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    An aerial view of the portrait of Mother Teresa created by students of a private school at Kavanur, in Vellore on Saturday | express

    An aerial view of the portrait of Mother Teresa created by students of a private school at Kavanur, in Vellore on Saturday | express

    Vellore :

    The chances of your hearing about Kavanur near Timiri is as remote as the village is. Located in the eastern part of the district, the village is likely to enter Limca Book of World Records, courtesy the artistic skill of 70-odd students of a private school.

    On Saturday, the children made a 72 feet by 60 feet portrait of Mother Teresa, using small black pebbles. The weight of the pebbles was around three tonnes, a record of its own kind, worthy of finding place in the Limca Book of Records.

    The initiative was taken by the drawing teacher Navakumar (29), who is a self-styled record breaker himself. In 2006, he entered the record book by drawing a picture of Tamil saint Thiruvalluvar using enamel paint on 133 feet by 60 feet canvas.

    In 2008, he attempted another portrait on a 280 feet by two feet canvas to draw the world flags. The attempt gave him another entry in the record books in 2009. In 2010, he drew a picture of Gandhi on water on a three feet container using kolam, which gave him another entry into Limca records.

    Navakumar, a part time arts teacher at a government school in Seemapudur village, also goes to the Indira Nursery and Primary School in Kavanur every week to teach drawing to kids free of cost. He also runs an art studio in Vellore, where he teaches children and elders various forms of drawing. According to Navakumar the previous record was held by students in the age group of eight to 10 for drawing a portrait with the dimension of 30 feet by 40 feet using colour powders. This attempt by the Kavanur school students in the same age group would break this record comfortably, he said.

    “When I told the school correspondent R Settu about the possibility of training the school children for a Limca record, he put me on the job,” recalled Navakumar. He began training the kids on the pebble portrait three months ago. Last week, he organized practical sessions on the school grounds.

    “We decided to go for the portrait of aged persons, as the facial wrinkles could be better captured. Though difficult, it makes a lot of difference in artistry,” said Navakumar when asked why he chose Mother Teresa.

    “By drawing her portrait, children would learn about her and imbibe her qualities,” he added.

    On Saturday, the district educational officer D Manoharan was the chief guest when the children toiled for nearly an hour before putting on display the portrait under the guidance of Navakumar. The whole event was documented, videographed in the presence of government officials  and would be sent to Limca Books.

    source: / The New Indian Express / Home> States> Tamil Nadu / by V. Narayana Murthi / March 03rd, 2015

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    Coimbatore :

    The civic body began its Coimbatore Guinness Championship Campaign on Sunday to clean up the city. Despite facing a shortage of sanitary workers and push carts, the civic body officials roped in hundreds of volunteers and college students to go around the city collecting litter and promote source segregating.

    The championship will begin on Wednesday after officials purchase push carts and begin to evaluate workers, said K Vijayakarthikeyan, corporation commissioner. The challenge will end on March 11, he added.

    On Monday, officials inspected six wards and instructed sanitary workers to begin the championship. “Around 20 volunteers from NGOs have been allotted to each ward. Each zone will have a non-governmental organisation leading the effort. A team of sanitary inspectors and corporation officials will monitor them and evaluate their work.

    “A jury will judge the best zone, best ward and best team,” said Suresh Bhandari, co-ordinator of Clean Cities Foundation.

    Each ward would require at least 15 push carts but have been provided only seven push carts, said an official.

    The civic body aims to create awareness about source segregation through this championship, as volunteers will go door to door to educate residents on segregating waste at source into three parts-wet, dry and hazardous. “The dry waste which is plastic waste will be weighed at collection centres such as ward offices and sold to companies. Workers will earn 4 per kg. The wet waste will be transported to Vellalore dump yard,” said Sri Rangaraj, sanitary inspector, central zone. Officials will evaluate every sanitary worker based on five criteria such as appearance, work skills, segregation, weighing and cleaning.

    The volunteers have informed hotels, residents of apartments and other commercial complexes to segregate waste and hand it over to workers. “We have distributed around two lakh contest cards to school students who will get it signed by their parents. They will receive certificates from the corporation at the end of the championship,” said a higher official.

    Registrations are taking place through a website and a missed call service-814436000-has been activated. As on Sunday evening, 2,500 residents had registered on the website and 300 had registered through the missed calls service. “We have already reached the two lakh mark so far. If the numbers increase, it will help us win with a bigger margin,” said Suresh.

    On March 5, Dr Sanjay Gupta, coordinator of the Guinness Book of World records will visit the city to instruct them on the methodology. “Since the verification of two lakh contest cards will take a few weeks, we are hopeful that by the end of March, we will get the results and will enter the Guinness Book of world records,” added an official. While activists said that the championship was a gimmick to divert attention from the Vellalore dump yard issues, corporation officials maintained that they were planning to set up at least 15 segregation sheds after the championship ends.

    “We will make sure that the drive continues even after the championship ends,” said a higher official.

    source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Coimbatore / TNN / March 03rd, 2015

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    Egmore Railway Station in 1939

    Egmore Railway Station in 1939

    At a quiz I conducted recently, one of my questions was: What were the railway companies that were combined to create the Southern Railway in April 1951? The majority of answers recorded South Indian Railway (SIR) and did not proceed further. A few put down Madras Railway Co and SIR. Still fewer said Madras & South Mahratta Railway and South Indian Railway. And only one person got it right saying Madras & South Mahratta Railway, South Indian Railway and Mysore State Railway. I recalled these answers a few days later when, thanks to new traffic regulations, I saw the Egmore Station after a few years and found it looking as handsome as one of a city’s prime heritage buildings should look.

    Egmore Railway Station today.

    Egmore Railway Station today.

    Purist conservationists will undoubtedly sniff at what red and white colour washes have done to the building’s red brick, Tada sandstone and Pallavaram granite. But I have always held that they should be thankful for little mercies; after the latest ‘restoration’, many a layperson or a visitor is sure to stand and stare for a while at a building which stands out midst all the tawdry construction surrounding it. Certainly I did — and as I did so I wondered what the answers would be to another quiz question: The South Indian Railway had five stations in Madras; what were the three main ones? I wonder how many would have got Tambaram, Egmore and Beach. Egmore may have been the main Madras SIR station, but Beach was the end of the line and Tambaram and Beach were the two termini of the SIR’s electrified suburban railway system established in 1931 and which in its very first year handled nearly three million passengers.

    Trichy Junction in 1935

    Trichy Junction in 1935

    The SIR’s main railway station, however, was in Trichinopoly, where its headquarters was. The first SIR headquarters was in Negapatam (Nagapattinam) from where its first train ran to Tiruvallur on July 15, 1861, then in December that year to Tanjore and on March 11, 1862 to Trichinopoly to which the headquarters began moving from 1865 and went on till 1880. Remodelling of the old station began in 1900 and went on till 1935, T. Samyanada Pillai of Bangalore responsible for the work. Pillai, based on his splendid work in Trichinopoly, was given the contract for building the Egmore Station we see today. Work began on it in 1905 and it opened for use on June 11, 1908. The station was designed by Henry Irwin, with specialised engineering work being carried out by Arbuthnot’s Industrials and the entire supervision being done by SIR’s company architect E.C.H. Bird.

    Beach Station interior (1929)

    Beach Station interior (1929)


    Handsome stations were also built at Beach (which also received M&SM traffic) and Tambaram befitting their status. That handsomeness can nowhere be seen in these two stations today, given surrounding construction, lack of upkeep and all the grime. They too could use the attention and facelift given to Egmore.


    The houses by the Adyar

    The other day I was reminded of a story I had told in these columns some years ago (Miscellany, July 13, 2009) when reading something about the Andhra Mahila Sabha. The Sabha’s nurse-midwife training scheme had to find accommodation for increasing numbers of trainees (120) in the 1950s. The Sabha had put down roots just north of the Adyar River and on the western edge of what is now Durgabai Deshmukh Road — named after the Sabha’s founder — and was then Adyar Bridge Road. Fortunately for the Sabha there was a garden house abutting it to its north, reaching out to the southern edge of Greenway’s Road. The owner was offering the large house and its 171/2 acres for Rs.1.75 lakh. Which the Sabha did not have. But he agreed to rent it at Rs. 500 a month.

    When Union Health Minister Rajkumari Amrit Kaur came to inaugurate the children’s ward of the Sabha in 1950, Durgabai Deshmukh told her the problems she was facing with accommodation for the trainees. At the time the trainees were in the rented house, but the Sabha needed to own it to expand further and the owner was not willing to bring down his price. Let’s go and see him, the Minister promptly said. They found him sick and in bed, but overawed when his visitor introduced herself. She told him that she was willing to grant Rs. 1 lakh to the Sabha if they could acquire his premises for that amount. He agreed and Yerolyte came into the Sabha’s hands. The building still stands and is the administrative centre of the Sabha. Next to it has come up a modern hotel run by the Sabha.

    Discovering what Yerolyte is the other day is what led to this item. Having discovered what Yerolyte is now being used for, I began to search for information about other garden houses that had come up on the north bank of the Adyar. To the east of Elphinstone Bridge, now supplemented by Thiru-Vi-Ka Bridge, are Brodie Castle dating to 1798, at present home to the Tamil Nadu Government College of Music, Underwood Gardens, now the residence of the Regional Manager of the State Bank of India, andSomerford that’s been incorporated into Chettinad Palace.

    To the west of the Bridge, going west from the Adyar, the first block of buildings comprises, from river inland, Bridge House, Government property which I think has now been replaced with a newer building,Cranleigh, named after an English village in Surrey which has been replaced by the Andhra Mahila Sabha Hospital, and Yerolyte. The next block west once comprised Riverside, Hovingham, Greenway, Cherwell and Ardmayle, the three aside from Riverside and Greenway probably taking their names from villages in Yorkshire, Oxfordshire and Tipperary (Ireland) respectively, all no longer in existence and replaced by Government bungalows for Ministers. The next block includes Adyar House, used as a Police commando training centre (a glimpse into which shows an old building, possibly the original house), Beachborough, named after a hamlet in Kent, a house now built over it, and Ben’s Gardens, once leased to Parry’s by the Diocese of Madras-Mylapore and where Parry’s built a few more houses for its Directors. Then come, Serle’s Garden, no longer in existence, like neighbouring Pugh’s Garden. Still surviving, however, is what was Norton’s Garden (1853), built by the lawyer John Bruce Norton, and which c.1907 was re-named The Grange. With a Government management training institution in it,The Grange is fairly well maintained, but could take lessons from the last building on this stretch,Moubray’s Garden/Cupola (c.1790), and the first modern house to be built on the banks of the Adyar. Today it is beautifully maintained by its owner, the Madras Club.


    The tank that vanished

    Was there a huge tank in the middle of Madras that has vanished, asks schoolgirl S Prema who tells me that she is interested in the environment. Yes, indeed, there was a tank called the Long Tank which once stretched about 6 km from the Adyar River to Loyola College, following the western side of Mount Road and Nungambakkam High Road. Reminders of it are found in such names as Lake Area and Tank Bund Road. It was in reality two tanks, the Mambalam/ Mylapore Tank in the north and the Nungambakkam Tank in the south, and spread through parts of Saidapet, Mambalam, Nandanam, T. Nagar and Nungambakkam.

    To meet the demands of a growing population, plans were drawn up from 1923 to reclaim land from the Long Tank and this was done from 1930 to create the 1,600 acres for the Mambalam Housing Scheme that gave us Theagaroya Nagar or T. Nagar. From 1941, further reclamation gave us the Lake Area in Nungambakkam. At the westernmost end of the Tank, 54 acres were reclaimed earlier for the Loyola College campus and in 1974 what was left of the Tank was reclaimed to give the city the Valluvar Kottam campus alongside Tank Bund Road.

    Map showing the Long Tank

    Map showing the Long Tank

    Once, when the Long Tank had water for most of the year, it was home to the Madras Boat Club’s activities. In fact, there was a Long Tank Regatta. It’s first recorded in 1893 that this was held “on the fine expanse of water that starts from the Cathedral Corner (once where Gemini Studio’s property was) to Sydapet”. Till any kind of boathouse was built by the Long Tank, the Club used the spacious premises of Blacker’s Gardens — kindly lent for the occasions by whoever the occupant was at the time. The Club’s first Boathouse, a temporary one, was inaugurated on December 5, 1896 and a permanent one in 1899. The Tank also hosted sailing events, the Boat Club at that time also nurturing yachting.

    The earliest record of competitive rowing dates to November 21, 1875, ‘Scratch Fours’ races being held in the Long Tank. The first regatta held there was on February 4, 1884 on a course that was about half a mile. These continued till 1904, by when the Club had firmly put down roots in its present home in Adyar. The Long Tank, however, continued to be used by some oarsmen till work on reclaiming land began in the late 1920s.

    There would be 200-300 “ladies and gentlemen (present, representing) the fashion and beauty of Madras,” as well as the Governor and his Lady and their retinue, the Band that would play through the evening and night, refreshments aplenty, and dinner and dancing. Now where their ghosts waltzed, there is no tank, only a congested clutter of buildings just as what you’ll see where the other important tanks of the city were. Once, the ten most important tanks of Madras were Vyasarpadi, Perambur, Peravallur, Madavakkam, Chetput, Spur, Nungambakkam, Mylapore/Mambalam, Kottur and Kalikundram. None of them exist in today’s concrete jungle.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus / by S. Muthiah / March 01st, 2015

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    Chennai :

    V S Aarthi, a Class 9 student from SBOA Matriculation School and Junior College at Anna Nagar, won the first prize at an extempore speech competition conducted by the British Council here on Thursday.

    Amrutha Desikan and Akileah Raman (both from PSBB school at K K Nagar) won the second and third prizes, respectively.

    As many as 50 students from 10 schools in the city participated in the competition. The contestants for the competition were chosen based on their performance in a computer-based English language competency test held last week.

    The British Council has launched an English language competency test — Aptis — in Chennai and Delhi to test the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills of students aged between 13 and 17 years.

    “The test content has been designed based on the day-to-day activities of teenagers, and the topics reflect the scenarios that they go through every day,” said Gwen Caudwell, Aptis product development manager.

    Caudwell said the test content had been designed based on global parameters but the topics had been chosen based on the activities that are carried out in India.

    Mei-Kwei-Barker, director, South India, British Council, said, “The response for the test has been good, both in Delhi and Chennai. The students have performed well in speaking.”

    Aarthi said, “Winning this extempore contest has given me a moral boost. I can now do public speaking anytime, anywhere.”

    source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Chennai / by Adarsh Jain, TNN / February 26th, 2015

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    Sir Edward Barnes by William Salter

    Sir Edward Barnes by William Salter

    Satyajit Ray astonished me at our first meeting. I had trotted out various Santiniketan connections I expected him to know. He looked at me for a moment while I felt his brain darting through the lanes and bylanes of the genealogical network. Then he said, “You must be related to Bussa Susheila Das!” It was the last name I expected to hear from the Maestro. Bussamami – whose death last week, three years short of a century, must be counted a merciful release – was the most fashionable, Anglicized and probably richest of my relatives. In georgette and furs, sporting a long cigarette-holder, she was a vision of elegant grandeur, the Last Burra Memsahib. When I told her about Ray, she said, “It must be because of Keshub Sen!”

    If so, the Brahmo Samaj meant more to Ray than anyone imagined. Although neither Bussamami nor her husband, Mohie R. Das, had set foot in a Brahmo temple for many years, she was Brahmananda Keshub Chunder Sen’s great granddaughter. She was also the great granddaughter of General Sir Edward Barnes, India’s commander-in-chief and governor of Ceylon. That connection was embarrassingly highlighted when Bussamami stayed with us in Singapore. On the day she arrived, the afternoon tabloid, New Paper, which normally confined itself to sensational local tidbits, went to town with an unexpected cover story on Barnes and his Ceylonese mistress. As governor, he lived in what is today Colombo’s Mount Lavinia Hotel from which a secret underground tunnel snaked away to his inamorata’s dwelling. Bussamami wasn’t disconcerted.

    She had flown in wearing a saree. It was her habitual garb when travelling abroad she explained. “I get better service.” At one time people laughingly called her “Susheila please!” because of her strenuous but unsuccessful efforts to banish the Bussa nickname. She was indignant when a British Indian woman in Singapore asked why she didn’t have a British passport. “Why should I?” she retorted. “India is my home. I’m Indian. I have property there.” The patrial clause in British immigration law would at once have granted her British citizenship. But people like her didn’t need to emigrate to raise their living standards or become Westernized. They easily did both in India. Her sister, Moneesha Chaudhuri, whose husband was the first Indian head of Andrew Yule, the biggest British managing agency in India, and an army chief’s brother, was also like that. She once refused the then whites-only Saturday Club’s invitation to play the piano in a concert under her English mother’s maiden name. “After all, you could pass for English,” they pleaded. She didn’t take it as a compliment.

    Singaporeans found it intriguing that Bussamami and I were related twice over. She and my mother were second cousins, great granddaughters of Annada Charan Khastagir, who presided over an All-India National Conference session in 1883, preparatory to the Indian National Congress being launched two years later. Her husband, Mohiemama, and my mother were first cousins, grandchildren of Bihari Lal Gupta, who was responsible for the Ilbert Bill, which led to the AINC and INC. She and her husband being related, the marriage presented difficulties: one version for which I can’t vouch was they went to French Chandernagore for the registration.

    Mohiemama’s father, S.R. Das, founded Doon School. He himself was the first Indian head of Mackinnon Mackenzie, the Inchcape shipping giant. When he joined Mackinnon’s exalted band of covenanted hands (UK-based officers who had signed a contract with the company) in England, the Numbers One, Two and Three were known in inverse order as Three, Two and One. Those figures indicated their monthly salary in lakhs of rupees. Mohiemama’s ways were upper-class English, the legacy of public school in Britain and Cambridge. My son, Deep, quoted Bussamami in this newspaper (“Learning To Speak Like The Masters”, October 13, 2004) as saying when asked if her husband went to Mill Hill or Millfield school, “Mill Hill of course. Millfield was only for the post-war nouveau riche!” Being dark and heavily built, he borrowed a turban from Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur – husband of the beautiful Gayatri Devi, who was Bussamami’s cousin – to visit America in the Fifties. He enjoyed describing how he clamped the turban on his head before entering restaurants in the American Deep South.

    They settled down in a gracious villa called Faraway in remote Coonoor. But their world straddled Calcutta, Darjeeling, Hong Kong, London and the south of France. Or rather, small gilded niches in all these places, with extensions to Simla, Colombo and Singapore. World War II and the 300 Club had lent zest to their cosmopolitan set. Not everyone could come to grips with this dizzy diversity. Raj Thapar, wife of Seminar magazine’s Romesh Thapar, betrayed her own provincialism by dismissing Bussamami in All These Years as “an erstwhile crooner”. Yes, she, Moneeshamashi and their only brother K.C. (Bhaiya or Kacy) Sen were all gifted musicians. In her youth, Bussamami had indeed given music lessons in Calcutta, and Moneeshamashi continued to do so for free at St Paul’s School, Darjeeling. But the sleaziness that Thapar’s comment sought to convey just didn’t go with the Ingabanga (Satyendranath Tagore’s term for Anglicized Bengalis) elite.

    Kacy called his delightful memoirs The Absolute Anglo-Indian. He wasn’t “a person whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent, but who is a native of India”, which is how the Government of India Act, 1935, defines Anglo-Indian. Nevertheless, his was the culture of the Rangers Club, Grail Club and the club of which he says “if ever there was a place that separated the men from the boys, and no angels feared to tread, it was the good old Golden Slipper”. I was struck as a child by his imaginative wedding invitation, “Bridgette and I are going to be married at the Golden Slipper Club.” His Cavaliers was a popular band. He frequently compered at the Oberoi Grand Hotel’s open-air Scherezade night club, which occupied the space now taken up by the swimming pool.

    He provided Ray with Devika Halder aka Vicky Redwood for Mahanagar ”over a cup of tea on the verandah” of his flat. The voice off-screen in Mahanagar was Devika’s, but the song was a ballad, Time Gave Me No Chance, he had composed in his rowing days. Major Sharat Kumar Roy of the American army was an unusual wartime buddy and surely the only Indian to be commemorated by a mountain in Greenland: he discovered Mount Sharat. Laced into the light-hearted banter of Sen’s memoirs was the fear that the “Absolute Anglo-Indian” would become the “Obsolete Anglo-Indian”.

    Bussamami built personal bridges to very different milieus. Cooch Behar, Mayurbhanj, Jaipur, Nandgaon and other royals, some also descendants of Keshub Sen, were relatives and intimates. When I mentioned the novelist, Maurice Dekobra, she told me she had known him as the Paris-born, Maurice Tessier. Axel Khan, whom I met as India’s ambassador in pre-unification Berlin, was another old friend. Rumer Godden produced a flood of memories, which were borne out by Ann Chisholm’s biography, Rumer Godden: A Storyteller’s Life. Her apology for arriving late for dinner with my wife and I in our Calcutta flat was that she had got lost in the suburban lanes to Kanan’s house. Kanan who? She meant the legendary star, Kanan Devi, whom the young Bussamami had taught her dancing steps in the Thirties. They had remained friends ever since.

    The real burra memsahib didn’t need to keep up appearances. Neither did she have to try to be stylish. To adapt the Comte de Buffon, the style was the woman herself. There won’t be another like her.

    source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Story / by Sunanda K. Datta-Ray / Saturday – February 28th, 2015

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    A view of flowing of the Vaigai river and pathway for pedestrains at Madurai. Photo: The Hindu Archives

    A view of flowing of the Vaigai river and pathway for pedestrains at Madurai. Photo: The Hindu Archives

    Curious explorers, a two-member dance company that visited beautiful Madurai and a page out of the archives…. Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh shares her findings.

    India was a place of great curiosity and interest to many westerners in the early parts of the 20th century. Notwithstanding the threats about epidemic diseases and unhygienic surroundings, many from America and Europe dared the adventure and lived to write their own memoirs.

    Ted Shawn and Ruth St Denis, who formed a company and was a couple in real life, known as Denishawn, were American dancers. Today considered the founding parents of American modern dance, they travelled to India as part of their grand tour of the Orient between 1925 and 1926 CE. Their interest in the East and particularly in India owed it to St. Denis’s obsession with the Nautch and the dancer. Initially Ruth’s disciple, Ted Shawn became her dancing partner and husband. Shawn was also drawn to Indian dances. He was especially interested in the Nataraja Tatva and the dance of Lord Siva.

    In May 1926, towards the fag end of their Indian tour, the company travelled to Madras, to perform. They had visited many North Indian cities like Lucknow, Benaras, Calcutta and Hyderabad in the South, before coming to Madras. Wherever the company travelled they dressed themselves in native costumes and posed for pictures, shopped for Indian artefacts and tried to see the local dances. Shawn and Ruth’s particular interest in Nautch had them always searching for performances, perhaps to absorb more from the ‘authentic’ into Ruth’s already staged Radha and Nautch repertoire. But in the 1920s it was rather difficult for foreigners to go into the interior dwellings of dancers and watch their performances, unless invited. In his account, Shawn laments that they could only see some street performers. He of course, calls these as nautch too but remarks that they are “quite not up-to-the-mark.”

    However, when they come to Madras they are greeted by, one Mr. Krishnaswamy Rao who, as the last leg of their Indian trip before taking the ship to Colombo, arranges a visit to Madura (Majura or Madurai). Upon the recommendation and arrangement made by Dr. A.K. Coomaraswamy (whose writings and guidance Ted took to create his Indian dances like the Cosmic Dance of Siva), Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis along with their company dancers which had Doris Humphery and her likes in it, readied themselves to watch the dance of a devadasi named Kamalambal in Madurai.

    Here is his observation:

    “Kamalambal, a temple deva-dassi, danced for us for several hours. She was technically very fine and attractive in a plump way, and an extremely wonderful pantomimist. She was quite the finest we had seen in all of India,” Shawn exclaims. He also admires the beauty of Madurai and compares it to Benaras calling the city a “dream or something read in a book.”

    Madurai Kamalambal during one of her performances.

    Madurai Kamalambal during one of her performances.

    The beauty of Madurai with its teeming South Indians seems to have really captured the dancers. Records Shawn, “The men with their heads shaven half way back and a bush of hair on the rear half, wearing the scantiest bit of goods in the way of a G-string that I ever saw, as their only garment, the women heavily swathed in thick, but richly coloured cotton saris, made the city itself exciting.”

    During my recent research of the Denishawn archives, parts of important ethnographic details such as these pictures emerged. One of the missions of the company during the travels to the Orient was to take pictures and video footage (film reels) of Indian lives, music and art. Their visits to the bazaars of Calcutta, Palaces in Lucknow, tea party gardens where Ruth is dressed as a Nautch dancer and is posing are all archived. Photograph and video filming were done by Ruth St. Denis’s brother who was called “Brother St. Denis” or simply “brother.” His actual name was Rene St Denis and he was their travel manager as well for this tour.

    The photo here is a picture taken a few days after May 10, 1926, which is when the company gave their last performance in India at Madras. Then they travelled to Madurai to watch Kamalambal (picture). She is seen here with her team (Sadir melam) comprising a nattuvan, a pilangrovi player, a muttukaran and another player with what seems like a clarionet. This photograph has been doing the rounds for years now as part of Sadir archives, but it is only now that we get to know the name of the dancer, date and the place it was photographed in and the photographer’s name.

    Kamalambal and her team with the dance constumes.

    Kamalambal and her team with the dance constumes.

    The other photo with many girls clad in dance costume and posing, sitting and standing in front of a large tent, which is an often seen image of 20th century Sadir dancers, seems also a photo courtesy of Brother St. Denis taken. during this trip.

    We thus put a name to the face in the picture and a name to the man behind the lens too. That’s the story of how Brother brings us our own Madura Kamalambal after an incredible eighty years.

    (The author is a dancer, choreographer and dance historian. She is the Director of Ranga Mandira School of Performing Arts and Research Academy. As a recipient of the Fulbright fellowship, she is currently researching and teaching at University of California, Los Angeles, in the World Arts Cultures department.)

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> Friday Review> History & Culture / by Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh / February 26th, 2015

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    S. Thabuna, a former student of Cluny Matriculation Higher Secondary School, has won the Bal Shree award for creative writing at the national level for 2011-12.

    The Bal Shree Honour Scheme was constituted by the Centre in 1993 to recognise and tap creativity in children in the age group of 9 to 16. Ms. Thabuna, now an MBBS student at the Government Kilpauk Medical College received the honour for her talent in creative writing.

    She told The Hindu that topics were given just before the competitions began.

    “The national competition went on for four days, and each topic was challenging,” she said adding that she wanted to become a medical writer.

    She wanted more school students to participate in the competitions.

    Her parents A. Sivaprakasam and S. Girija said that they were proud of their daughter winning a national level award.

    B. Hemanathan, Regional Assistant Director, Art and Culture Department, Salem Zone, said that the competitions were held in painting, collage designing, formations from waste materials, clay modelling, c classical vocal, and Bharatanatyam.

    Union Minister for Human Resource Development Smriti Zubin Irani presented the Bal Shree award at a function held in New Delhi recently.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> National> Tamil Nadu / by Staff Reporter / Salem – February 25th, 2015

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