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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 24, April 1-15, 2013
Our Readers Write

The Pig Fruit

I read with interest Dr. A. Raman's views on the Emu and the Jack fruit (MM, March 16th) as well as the breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), which was introduced from Southeast Asia and the Pacific region in the 19th Century. Several reports suggest breadfruit was cooked and eaten in the whole of Polynesia and grown in northwestern Papua New Guinea some 3500 years ago as an easy-to-grow food crop, which has a potato-like flavour. The trees can last long, growing over 85 feet in height and yielding 200 fruits each. This staple food crop, it is believed, has prevailed over rice cultivation in the Pacific region.

Once, while in Cochin, one of my friends served two slices of breadfruit, thicker than two slices of bread, well roasted, along with tea. I have never tasted such a delicious and filling snack. I can understand reader Pradeep Chakravarthy's view of this fruit which is better when cooked rather than eaten when ripe. I have seen a breadfruit tree in Chennai in the next door compound of dentist Ramakrishna Sajeer's residence, and his wife Veena had occasion to cook the fruit, as they know what it is, hailing as they do from the west coast. This is the only such tree I have seen in Chennai, though there may possibly be a few more.

As regards the Jack tree, it did not reach the central highlands of Papua New Guinea until George Rosario, Manager of Karimui Plantations, took the seeds from his native Kerala and planted them. Several years later, the trees started to bear fruit. The workers were amazed by the large size of fruits. They said the fruits looked like big pigs and, so, they called "Pig Fruit". Everyone around the place tasted it and liked the taste. This comparison may be a surprise to readers, but then the pig is an animal revered in their culture and is even given as a dowry by a bridegroom to his bride – say 50 to 100 pigs – as pig meat is their staple diet.

The close association between humans and animals cannot be seen anywhere else but in PNG. When a mother pig dies, leaving behind a number of piglets, lactating mothers even breastfeed them to save them from starvation and help them survive. People there have no inhibitions about allowing these pigs to come and live with them in their houses. After all, before the advent of the white man, there were no cows or milk in these countries; only pigs and cassowaries were domesticated, the rest of the food being hunted.

When George Rosario was transferred from Karimui to Kobum Plantations, about 150/180 kilometres as the crow flies, he took some 600 seeds from his first set of plants and grew them at Kobum way back in 1986. By 1990, they were about six to seven feet tall and by now they could be huge trees in bearing.

Jack trees are grown throughout the tropics, including East Africa and Brazil – some of the fruits weighing as much as 36 kg! Its name originates from Malayalam word Chakka. The Portuguese called it Jaca and the British made it 'Jack'. Apart from fruit value, its seeds are also edible when cooked.

The tree wood is very hard, is termite resistant, makes good musical instruments like veena and mridangam, furniture, wooden statues, etc. For example, the Buddha statues in Vietnam meant for worship are made with jack wood and the Buddhist monks make a dye from the heartwood for the light brown robes they wear. The deities in several temples in Kerala are made with jack wood dating back to 1000 to 1500 years. Bangladesh values the jackfruit as its national fruit.

K.V.S. Krishna
2 A,. Parkland Apartments
Kamalabhai Street
T. Nagar
Chennai 600 017

Small pox vaccination

Regarding small pox vaccination (MM, March 16th), when it was introduced in Maharashtra, it was objected to by the locals, including Gopalkrishna Gokhale, who was a noted lawyer. A mob there killed an Anglo-Indian Inspector responsible for vaccination.

Dr. D.B. James
37, Sadasiva Metha Street
Metha Nagar
Chennai 600 029

Before Govt's action

With reference to Dr. M.S. Pandian's letter (MM, March 16th), I have not (MM, February 16th) evoked any connection between Rev. Schwartz and "Fort William jurisdiction". Rev. Schwartz for the first time, and the French Catholic missionary Abbe Dubois in later years, introduced anti-pox vaccination through their own missionary constituencies. Colonial or Presidency records cannot always be deemed to provide "omniscient" documentation. Historically speaking, certain missionary initiatives had always preceded governmental action in British India.

Rev. Philip K. Mulley
Anaihatti Road
Kotagiri 643 217
The Nilgiris

International flavour

The recent suggestion made by Chief Minister to celebrate January-February as an international Season of Music Festival is laudable.

In addition to what you have suggested, I wish to add the following events in the Festival to give it an international flavour.

  • The Chennai Open tennis tournament: Madras is the home of Indian tennis. It would be the most appropriate to include this in the Festival.
  • Cricket: In those days in the 1960s, '70s and '80s Pongal meant test matches, just like Boxing Day in Melbourne. We should revive this tradition.
  • The I.I.T. Sarang Festival should be included.
  • DakshinaChitra could be persuaded to conduct art exhibitions and handicrafts workshops.
  • A dance festival at Mamallapuram featuring Bharathanatyam, Kathak, Manipuri, Mohiniattam and Kathakali should also be conducted.

Ranjit Balan
M-103/20, 30th Cross Street
Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090

Missing news

The look at K.S. Krishnan: His Life & Work (MM, March 1st) is very timely when people have to be reminded about the scientific achievements of this great scientist. But the missing news in it is that "the Governing Council had decided to offer Krishnan the directorship of I.I.Sc… M.S. Thaker, Professor of Power Engineering, would assume charge as Director until the time when the Governor-General (who was visitor to the Institute) sent in his approval of K.S. Krishnan's appointment as the permanent director." At that time N.P.L. in New Delhi was not inaugurated.

I was then a student pursuing the prestigious D.I.I.Sc. at the I.I.Sc. We knew what we missed, the scientific environment Krishnan would have created. He was knighted in June 1946 for his work as an experimental scientist. What a great loss the I.I.Sc. suffered!

Prof. R. Parthasarathy
42 , "Heverlee", Ram Nagar
Ist Street, Vijaya Nagar
Velachery, Chennai 600 042

T'Nagar householders

It is true that T. Nagar had some stately houses with huge compounds (MM, February 16th) owned by the upper crust of Madras gentry in the old days.

The Jagadambal Street house that the writer mentioned probably was the huge sprawling compound with two houses owned by a businessman Chellam Naidu. His wife Kamala Bai was a graduate, something very rare in the 1930s and '40s. Their compound was so spacious that they celebrated their daughter's wedding in it. For the reception, a stage was erected and Vyjayanthimala, a rising starlet then, gave a dance recital. That was in 1949-50.

Across the main road from Jagadambal Street was Venkatraman Street, so named not after President RV, but after Venkatraman, I.C.S., one of the early native entrants into the I.C.S. who resided in that street. His sambandhi was the famous Justice Muthuswami Aiyer, the first Indian to be appointed a Judge of the Madras High Court. The grandson or great grandson of these two august personages was my senior colleague, V.G.S. Mani (who passed away a few years ago), the most brilliant officer and thorough gentleman whom it was my honour to work with.

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

For the record

While I appreciate the elephantine memory and meticulousness of my senior colleague, K.V. Ramanathan, in providing details like correct door numbers (MM, February 16th), he has slipped in spelling the name of Krishnaswamy Rao Sahib (not Rao Saheb as he has written). Since I am particular about not misspelling proper names, I went and checked from the embedded name board of his house on Luz Church Road before writing his name in my book.

Dr. G. Sundaram, IAS (RTD.)
A-601, 'Dugar Apartments'
Kesav Perumal Puram
Greenways Road
Chennai 600 028

A correction

KVK was involved with the PS High School and not with the Sivaswami Aiyar School (MM, March 16th). The error is regretted.

Sriram V.

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In this Issue

An innovative budget
Mistaking reconstruction for restoration
On the Bookshelves
That mosquito buzz
A hundred years of the Stanes
Katherine Mayo vs. Mother India
Heading the Academy for 30 years
The Stanley Spirit
Hero, Sati, Memorial and Naga stones

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for Your Diary
Madras Eye


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