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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XX No. 19, January 16-31, 2011
Our Readers Write

Atithi Devo Bhava!

There is a common belief in our country that if a crow caws persistently at your house, it heralds the arrival of guests.This is not just an old wive’s tale, but is based on keen observation.

The Indian house crow (Corvus splendens, Corvidue), along with other species of the Corvidue family, is regarded as one of the most intelligent of birds, with an excellent memory, good eyesight and also a fairly long life. Some of them are known to live upto 30 years in captivity though, in the wild, their lifespan may be shorter (MM, January 1st).

Now, it is a time-honoured practice in our country that a guest in the house is regarded akin to God and he is treated to a splendid repast (atithi devo bhava). It follows as a natural spin-off that the food that is left over/castaway is also of a high quality, greatly appreciated by the crows of the village. Crows forage, as is well known.

Travel in the past was by either foot or bullock cart. The crow, flying here and there or perched high up in the branches, was able to spot the arrival of visitors to the village much in advance.

The crow, with its keen eyesight and strong memory, recognised the visitor(s). It also remembered the house(s) from where it got those tasty eatables in the past. It would then make a beeline to the house and caw in anticipation! Further, its long lifespan helps it to recognise the visitor(s) year after year, and it passes on the information to its fledglings.

D. Srinivasan
11/6, SBI Colony,
Jeevarathnam Nagar
Adyar, Chennai 600 020

Why no crows?

I refer to Dr. James’s letter (MM, January 1st) on ‘crows’. I too have wondered as to where crows stay at night. We see them hovering around trees or dwellings during the day.

When I went to Indore in Madhya Pradesh, I learnt that there was not a single crow in and around the city, yet there were a large number of trees there. My cousin who worked for a public sector bank found no crows during his three-year tenure there to offer cooked rice to them on the occasion of his father's annual ceremony. Can anybody tell readers why some parts of the country do not have crows? Even if we take ‘heat’ as the reason, Delhi and Rajasthan, where there is a very hot season, have crows.

7/12, Peters Colony,
Chennai 600 014

Zealous Anderson

The obituary notes found in church records pertaining to Dr. James Anderson (MM, December 16, 2010) supply slightly variant dates in respect of his career. A Swede by origin, Anderson is said to have commenced his service with the British East India Company (on the trail of their spice trade) at Manila (Philippines). He subsequently moved to Vellore and thereafter to Madras as Surgeon in 1771. He became a Surgeon- Major in 1780, Physician-General in 1786 and First Member, Medical Board, in 1800.

Anderson’s enthusiastic contribution to botanical pursuits as recorded by Dr.A. Raman caused, as stated, Anderson to pay attention to commercial exploitation of several plants. Anderson was also an ardent advocate of vaccination, pioneered by the missionary Schwartz (d. 1798). He married Maria Rheta de La Mabonay in 1766 and afterwards occupied a house in Madras owned by Sir Thomas Pycroft.

Even as early as in 1799, a poem written on this most distinguished member of the Asiatic Society had this to say on Anderson:

In zealous Anderson we see conjoined

To skill profound a preserving mind,

Son of the Swede!

An epitaph made to commemorate him, but which cannot be traced now, contained these words of eulogy:

Yes - long shall lived his just renown

The worthiest claimant of the civic crown...

A bust of Anderson placed over his tombstone (in St. Mary’s churchyard) covered by a patent magnifying glass disappeared long ago (even when the British establishment was in charge). “The wonderfully life-like and natural figure” on the monument of Anderson found at St. George's Cathedral (crisply reproduced in Madras Musings) was crafted by Chantrey.

Rev. Philip K.Mulley
CSI St.John’s Church
Mount Road
Coonoor 643 102

No alternative

Reader Jayaraman’s advice makes me feel that we have to be lovable to the cockroach.

No one loves it, but it loves all of us and it is everywhere, surviving natural calamities the world over.

If we start making flour balls and develop the habit of driving it away, where will it go? To the next house or to the next room of yours?

Why do we instinctively feel that we have to smash one when we see it?

We are allergic to it because of its colour and its habits of suddenly flying in your face, of living in your bathroom and then settling on food, etc.

Love it or not, kill it whenever you see one, and have no regrets of any kind.

It’s harsh, but everyone does this at some point of time. No one has a tub of cockroaches in his house and feeds them everyday.

Baskar C.S.
17, Ramarao Road
Chennai 600 004

In a bind

You have been relentlessly advocating the need to save old buildings from being pulled down. But I think that all these appeals have not had their effect. Why? Have you tried to find out?

My feeling is – I refer to owners of private buildings – it is not worthwhile owning a two-storey, 150-year-old house with teakwood rafters, windows with shutters, four feet high and wide. Many houses in George Town (in Pondy too) are still like that. For that matter, I too have a house like that. But of what use, for such houses do not fetch money? And we would like to earn some, that too in an honest way. What better way than develop the property an ancestor has left us?

You find it easy to talk, and preach, about heritage and maintaining it. Admit it, you’re helpless, caught in a bind. Owner(s) of an edifice will purposely let it fall into ruin and once it is rubble, a concrete monster (not the scarlet phoenix) will rise from that heap.

So think of a better way to spread your message. Call for suggestions to start with.

N. Nanda Kumar

EDITOR’S NOTE: Firstly, most heritage buildings are public buildings that reflect our history. There is no shortage of funds to restore and preserve such buildings; there’s only a shortage of will. As for private buildings, a Heritage Act will provide rules on Transfer of Development Rights which will certainly help owners’ earn an income.

Errors and fears

An inadvertent error crept into the box item headlined ‘The Belgian influence’ in your issue of January 1st. The Belgian town's name is ‘Ieper’ and not ‘Leper’. I presume a printer’s devil was at work.

Regarding reader C.G. Prasad’s letter on horsing around: a) the Gurkhas are from Nepal and not Northeast; b) his remarks that the parents’ wish that the child will be in the saddle in future domestic and official affairs reminded me of most IAS trainees being scared of horse-riding in the Academy in Mussoorie and the riding-instructor shouting at them in Hindi: “If you cannot control a horse, how are you going to control a district?”

Dr. G. Sundaram, ias (Rtd)
A-601,‘Dugar Apartments’
Keshav Perumal Puram
Greenways Road
Chennai 600 028


In this issue

Scant attention paid to heritage by Metro
Traditional markets making way for malls
AFS helped to protect wartime Madras
The decisive third battle
Breathing the air of Broadway
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Dates for your diary


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