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Madras Musings wishes all its readers a very Happy New Year!                      (ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 18, January 1-15, 2013
Our Readers Write

Those Island days...

I read with great interest the article titled 'Radio Vadhyar' (MM, December 1st), which was brought to my notice by my mother Meena Venkateswaran who grew up in Colombo and studied at the Holy Family Convent on Galle Road there.

My great grandfather, the late Sankara Iyer from Ambasamudram, decided in the early 20th Century to try his luck in Colombo (or 'Kozhumbu' as we used to then refer to it). After a few years of struggle, he joined Lever Brothers as a clerk and rose in stature in the organisation due to what we call these days as 'marketing savvy'.

When World War II broke out, the Englishmen who were running Lever Brothers wanted to hand over the Company to a reliable person and thus was born Sankar Iyer and Sons started by my great-grandfather. That firm was completely in charge of marketing Lever Brothers' products (those days all imported) all over Ceylon. (In fact, many old-timers from Ceylon know him as 'Kozhumbu' Sankara Iyer.) Sankara Iyer did a remarkable job and set up a fine distribution network to sell soaps, detergents and many such household products.

It was around that time that the Sivapathasundarams came into contact with our family due to the fact that my mother was a good singer. Radio Ceylon featured her in a lot of Classical kutcheris and also used her as a singer of jingles. In fact, my mother was known to many people in Colombo as Vayathu Vali Akka, since she sang a famous jingle advertising a health product to overcome stomach pain and other ailments.

Sankara Iyer unfortunately died at a very young age. He left behind three sons, S. Mahadevan, S. Narasimhan and S. Annaswami, and five daughters, Janaki, Maragatham, Muthulakshmi, Savithri and Lalitha.

My grand-aunt Muthulakshmi, who was physically disabled and could not walk after an unfortunate accident, took a lot of interest in music and was responsible for teaching Carnatic music to all my aunts there, as well as to my mother. In fact, it was she who noticed that I liked playing the drum and got me to learn the mridangam in Colombo, when we used to visit there for our annual school holidays. Sivapathasundaram and his wife were great friends of my mother and visited our family home very often.

After the War, Lever Brothers' organisation returned to Colombo and offered a Director's position to my grand-uncle Mahadevan (who took it up) and to my grandfather Narasimhan who refused it on the moral ground that his younger brother Annaswami was not offered the position for some reason. The fact that Annaswami had an entrepreneurial streak in him is another story; he went on to start his own manufacturing business in Kelaniya (on the outskirts of Colombo) making wood screws, wire nails and barbed wire products. This factory was burned to the ground in 1982/83 when the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict erupted all over the beautiful island.

My mother remembers quite a few things about the past and becomes most excited and nostalgic about the great Sivapathasundaram who was a regular visitor to all our homes even when he lived for some time in Madras. He was loved by all of us. We are so lucky to have had so many such great influences in our lives.

As a postscript, I do sorely miss Ranjitha Ashok and Biswajit and hope to see them soon in Madras Musings.

V. Nilakantan(Nilu)
New No. 27, Old No.14, Chinniah Road
Opp. Kamaraj Memorial,Tirumalai Pillai Road
T' Nagar, Chennai 600 017

Public conveniences

That the public conveniences are to be made free of charge (MM December 1st) is great news for stretched bladders, but it is also true that if no charge is levied the place will become unusable. Unfortunately, there cannot be a 'Pee now, pay later' arrangement. Some agency like Sulabh should be contracted and their services subsidised.

Apart from pedestrians, motorists also face this problem when traffic is held up for long periods and the airconditioning induces micturition. In future, cars should have factory-fitted septic tanks. Also every petrol filling station should have a clean loo so that when the car's tank is being filled, the passenger can void his.

C.G. Prasad
9, C. S. Mudali Street
Kondithope, Chennai 600 079


The article titled 'Animal Farm – Version 2' that appeared in the last issue of Madras Musings was by Ranjitha Ashok. We regret leaving out her name.

– The Editor

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In this Issue

How about a Festival of Chennai?
Are things moving again in the Poonga?
Bharati complains about the Police
In-Sight into ensuring better eye-sight
A memorial to a life of service
Three pioneers of industrialisation
18th Century Madras Lockyer saw

Our Regulars

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


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