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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII No. 16, December 1-15, 2012
Our Readers Write

A George Town childhood

The picture and write-up about Bateha Theatre, formerly the elegant-looking Minerva Theatre, brought back a host of happy childhood memories!

My parents and I lived in a comfortable flat right opposite Minerva Theatre for a few years. It was most probably the proximity to a good English movie theatre that introduced me to the entertaining world of good English movies! As a child of eight, Father would take me for all the good children's movies and cartoons, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as well as musical stories, taking us to foreign worlds. All the serious adult movies were avoided. I still remember that the movie Suez ran for a long time. The title Suez was shown in bright lights on top of the theatre. Though Father told me about the Suez Canal and explained the necessity and importance of a shorter sea route, he never saw the film himself.

I really enjoyed skipping up the long winding staircase to the small theatre. Sunday mornings were perfect for children's shows and both of us would not miss them.

When Deanna Durban's melodious voice came floating into our flat, it meant the end of the matinee show and time for us, my parents and I, to walk across the road for the evening show!

George Town in those days was a homely locality, despite its business centres. The advantage was that all amenities were within walking distance. I walked to my school, St. Columban's Convent near Sloane Square. Years later, when we visited London and saw Sloane Square there, I was reminded of my first school!

All the Tamil and Hindi film theatres were situated in Broadway nearby, where we saw entertaining movies like Nandakumar, Sri Krishna Leela, Rambha's Love, Pattinathar and Tirupathi Venkatachalapathy. When relatives came from Kerala, parents would take them first to a movie and then plan a visit to the Seven Hills and each trip was full of fun for us, the children!

Another great outing for us curious children was a trip to the airconditioned safe deposit vault situated below ground level! As my parents had a vault, we would take visitors to enjoy the cold atmosphere underground!

The family doctor's dispensary as well as the good pharmacists were on Nyniappa Naicken Street, within walking distances. The famous Kotwal Bazaar was not far away. Father's office, a well-known Belgian Company which supplied electrical goods, was on Broadway. Another important landmark which was a great centre of attraction for everyone was the Moore Market. Toys and books were my favourites. Board games and secondhand books could be exchanged after reading, almost like a lending library. On our return we usually boarded the slow-moving trams so that we could relax with our purchases and take a view of the surrounding areas.

Today's Chennai has changed beyond recognition with dense traffic, busy business centres, and dust and dirt everywhere. We cannot even see the old structures. Vanniar Street, where I was born, and the little balcony that I loved from where I watched the world and time pass by and, of course, the School and Broadway still remaining there. But even my very careful part-time driver today thinks twice before taking us for a drive on those roads crammed with lorries, carts filled with merchandise and screaming drivers and passers-by, but I hope that one fine evening I will be able to make a quick flying trip to see my old haunts.

Parvati V. Menon
1A, "Doshi Deepanjali"
1, East Mada Street, Srinagar Colony
Saidapet, Chennai 600 015

Alliance showcases itself

Tamil book readers now have more space at one of Mylapore's oldest publishing companies. Alliance has given itself a new look 112 years after it was founded. From a simple, tiled house overlooking the tank of Sri Kapali Temple, it is now an attractive, modern bookstore.

V. Srinivasan, the grandson of V. Kuppuswamy Aiyar, the founder, now manages the publishing business.

All the books are stacked in racks author-wise and this makes it easy for readers to choose the titles they want. From the series by Cho and the texts of the late Devan to the novels of writers who dominate the Tamil book world, the selection is wide.

Alliance has long republished its best sellers over and over again. These include their top three evergreen titles – Cho's Mahabharatham and Ramayanam, Devan's Thupparium Sambu, and Anupama's Naindha Ullam.

The three top older reprints that sell steadily are Arya Mada Upakyanam, a book first published in 1908 and reprinted for the 55th time. Currently, this book is titled Hindu Mada Upakyanam. The other two are Bala Bharatam and Bala Ramayanam published first in 1908 by Srinivasan's grandfather.

Among other exclusive titles are the translated Tamil version of L.K. Advani's book My country, My life, Narendra Modi's book in translation, Kalviye Karpagatharu, and detective novels by Vaduvur Duraisamy Iyengar.

Vintage memorabilia have found a place in the new-look Alliance building. A century- old clock crowns the building. Inside the store, a showcase displays items used by its founder. These include a calendar published by Alliance Company in 1950, a personal diary, a purse, bank challans, an accounts notebook, a cycle lamp and a paper weight. A book by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose that was banned is also showcased.

Srinivasan says the wooden pillars and cupboards used by his grandfather have been re-used in the new building.

In 1896, Srinivasan's grandfather came to Chennai and started General Supplies Company at Adam Street. In 1901, he established Alliance Company and soon started a Tamil monthly magazine, Viveka Bodhini, that covered healthcare, science, geography and history.

In 1933 he became associated with Rajaji who gave him permission to publish his books copyright-free. Alliance was the first regional publisher permitted to translate Tagore's book (in the 1930s). Netaji's book was published in 1937 and banned by the Government for its 'fiery content for students'.

From 1993 onwards, Cho's books gave a big boost to the company. – (Courtesy: Mylapore Times).

Thriving AIR

Before the advent of Doordarshan, AIR known as Akashvani (MM, Nov. 1st) was the only source of entertainment. I still remember the running commentaries on cricket Tests, the national programme of music rendered by eminent Carnatic and Hindustani musicians on Saturday nights, the children's programme by Vanoli Anna and the English and Tamil News, broadcast from the 1950s to the 1970s. For people like me, it was the only source of information and entertainment, while camping in remote places in Madhya Pradesh during the 1970s. I hope that more interesting and educative programmes are added to AIR stations which still thrive.

K.M. Vedapuri
JD Shanthi Nikethan Apartment
Flat 2B, 141, Rajamannar Salai
K.K. Nagar, Chennai 600 078

Sharing the fruit

I was out of the country all July, and am gradually catching up with the accumulated magazines that arrived during my absence. I am, therefore, late in responding to the piece that appeared in Madras Musings of July 16th, but am still in time for the next mango season.

Several decades ago, I worked in Australia. One of my colleagues at the Sydney Hospital had a weekend cottage in the Blue Mountains, some 100 miles away, set in an apple orchard. He made a small pile by selling the apples.

One year, he had a bumper crop. Unfortunately for him, the whole country had one too, the price of apples dropped, and it was no longer profitable for him to hire labour to pick the fruit. He decided to give them away, and invited us to take turns to make a picnic of it at the cottage and fill the boots of our cars with all the apples we could pick. Many of us enjoyed the fruit, and he did not have the problem of clearing up rotten apples.

May I suggest that Bhuvana Natarajan, and others who share her predicament, offer the fruit to children from some neighbouring school, provided they come and pick them? It would be advisable to make the offer to the headmaster of the school so that the fruit could be picked under the supervision of a teacher who would ensure that the children did not run riot.

M.K. Mani
1, Kasturirangan Road
Chennai 600 018

The right Munro

Reader Rajagopalan's letter on Munro (MM, November 16th), the Munro he refers to in connection with Travancore was Col. John Munro who was Agent to the Governor-General, and not Diwan of Travancore. Sir Thomas was never posted in Travancore.

Sriram V.
Chennai 600 014

Thirty days' feedback!

Thirty days has September, April, June and November, but MM, November 16th, has made it 31 on the net! writes reader N. Dharmeshwaran. And the printer's devil was again at work, changing 'Friendships and Flashbacks' to 'Friendship and Feedbacks'! We regret the errors.

Note: A reader wonders whether we are using the phrase 'printer's devil' correctly. Isn't he an errand boy inside the press room, he asks. A printer's devil is a printer's apprentice. He may be in practice exploited and used as an errand boy, but in fact is meant to be learning the craft. The errand boy referred to by our reader is a person the Americans call a 'gofer' – "go for...".

– The Editor

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In this Issue

Projects in suspended animation
Pedestrian power to take on lack of attention to them
Overpowering stench of apathy
The 'Father of Indian Cricket' in Madras...
...And founder of the MUC 125 years ago
An ideas man in the publishing world
The 'Radio Vadhyar' as a Tamil scholar
Songs, films and essays

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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