My Mylapore

Mylapore Social History Project initiated by Mylapore Times - the neighbourhood newspaper.

June 23, 2005

Memories on Sastri Hall

Contributed by T. S. Gopal

Sastri Hall at Luz in Mylapore has just celebrated 50 years. Nostalgia floods my mind because of my association in the late 60s and mid70s with this hall.
As Secretary of the Forum of Free Enterprise, I had organised meetings regularly here, addressed by experts and intellectuals and attended by the young and the old alike.
The speakers and presidents of the lecture meetings were men of wisdom and knowledge. The list included inspiring intellectuals like K.Santhanam, Nittur Sreenivasa Rao, K.B. Madhava; legal luminaries like K.Balasubramania Aiyer and T. V. Viswanatha Aiyar. Journalists of integrity like V. K. Narasimhan, A. G. Venkatachari and V. P. V. Rajan and political personalities like R. Venkataraman, Piloo Mody, N. Dandeker and M. Ruthnaswamy and industrialists like M.V.Arunachalam, 'Chitra' S. Narayanaswamy, D.C. Kothari and bankers like T. A. Pai and G.Lakshminarayanan.

Members of the Ranade Library at its premises near Luz circle

A unique event was the lecture on 'Hypertensions in Indian Democracy' held in Sastri Hall in the early 70s. Given the vast scope of the subject it was delivered in two parts on two consecutive evenings. The speaker was R.A. Gopalaswamy, former Chief Secretary to the Govt. of Tamil Nadu, and a great speaker and administrator.
The meeting was presided over by the late C.Subramaniam and the hall overflowed with people on both days. Another meeting to remember was the one on 'Urban Land Ceiling'. In the middle, in walked the late actor 'Gemini' Ganesan, having read about the meeting in the newspapers. As one affected by the Ceiling Act, he shared his views. It was to his credit that instead of being a distracting film star, he proved to be a good speaker who spoke extempore.
The then dynamic Secretary of Ranade Library and Sastri Hall, N.Sridhar played a great role in ensuring that all the lighting and audio systems were in perfect condition.
The galaxy of speakers who adorned the dais filled the hall with wit and wisdom and the applause and laughter from the audience was music to the ears, so different from now when the music that fills the hall is drowned by the ever-increasing traffic of Luz.
Sridhar who could feel the pulse of the people and keep pace with the changing times, welcomed sabhas in and around Mylapore to use the hall for music performances in order to ensure continuous cash flow for Sastri Hall.
It was a hall ideal for music concerts for artistes who felt mikes were an intrusion.
The Gokhale Hall at one end and the Sastri Hall at the other, were instrumental in sustaining the intellectual activity of Chennai from the 50s to the 70s.

T. S. Gopal represented 'Forum of Free Enterprise' in Madras. He lives at 169, Luz Church Road, Mylapore. Mobile: 9840092850

Sastri Hall : Centenary celebrations

The centenary celebrations of South Indian National Association (SINA) and Ranade Library, both Mylapore institutions, were held on June 2 and 3, 2005. One function was held at the GSI-K. N. Shanmughasundaram Hall in Karpagambal Nagar. SINA president A. M. Swaminathan is seen addressing the guests.

The South Indian National Association - Centenary celebrations

The centenary celebrations of The South Indian National Association and the Ranade Library were held on June 2 and 3, 2005. On June 2, Dr. S. P. Thyagarajan, Vice Chancellor, University of Madras, presented the centenary address. The two bodies function from the premises next to The Mylapore Club in Luz (the place is popularly known as Sastri Hall) and were products of the pre-Independence movement.

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June 11, 2005

Mylapore educationist who worked in Triplicane

An educationist who came to live in Mylapore is being remembered by his family on his birth centenary.
T. Ramanujachary, Manager and Correspondent of Sri Hindu Bala Patasala, Higher Elementary School, Chepauk-Triplicane, lived in Mylapore for over thirty years.
And his family remembers him for his contribution to education, especially of the poor in the Triplicane-Chepauk area of the city.

He was born in 1905 in the village of Tirukkoilur to a Vaishnavite family. The family circumstance was such that the parents never thought that their newborn baby would one day make himself a man of some credit and standing. The boy lost his father at the very early age of nine. He was brought up by his mother. Though poor he was, he had the will to come up in life in doing something useful to his society.

This will of his to succeed in life stemmed out of an incident in his life. When he was in his early days of trying to make a living, one day he had to perform the annual rites of his father. He did not have money and had to ask one of his seniors to lend money. The senior told him that if he could not have money to perform his fatherÕs annual rites, then it meant that he was not fit to make a living.
It was from that day that this man resolved that he would start saving and building for the future so that he did not have to go to anybody for the bare minimum requirements in life.
He had his education at the then famous T. T. V. High School, Mint Street, Chennai (Madras). He stopped his education with IV form and joined the Higher Grade TeachersÕ Training at Madras.
He then secured a teacherÕs job in a pial (Thinnai Pallikudam) school in Chepauk. He managed two schools at the same time. Gradually he acquired the friendship of the then eminent educationists, A. Ramaiah Chetty, Ramanujulu Naidu, N. K. Thirumalachari and Veeraraghavan of Aramba Kalvi.

He got recognition for the pial school and gradually converted it into a higher Elementary School.
In 1934, he bought the school where he served as a teacher. The school grew but there was a dark period during the war time. In the early forties, Ramanujachary shifted the school to a big house in Mosque Street, Chepauk.

The school was at its height for three decades under the able headmasterships of N. Rajaratinam, A. V. Ramasarma, T. D. Vimala, T. R. S. Raghavan (his only son) and Aravamudha Iyengar.
The school produced good results at the E. S. L. C. Public Examination and was applauded by the Education department. A good many artists, musicians and others were the products of his school. The School existed for about sixty years (1922 - 1983).
He moved to Mylapore in 1955 after constructing a house of his own in the plot purchased at Plot No. 97 (New No. 4), Sixth Cross Street, C. I. T. Colony, where his son and grandchildren reside now.
Just before his death, he said that he started the school with the intention of giving education to the poor and the needy. But owing to the changes in the educational policy of the Government, he could not continue his service to the cause of education as he desired. His health deteriorated and he passed away in 1983.

Family and relatives have been associated with the school and its activities. They include W. R. Aravamudhan (retd. Chief Manager, IOB, Chennai), who worked in the school for a few months, M. D. Kannan (retd. Senior Audit Officer, A. GÕs Office), W.R. Varadarajan of Communist Party of India, W. K.Vijayaraghavan (Senior Divisional Manager, National Insurance, Mysore), P. V. Narayanan (Consultant, Bangalore), P. V. Jegannathan (Senior Audit Officer, A. G.s Office), his grandson T.S.T. Ramanujam (C. F. O., Serviont), grand daughter Usha Vijayaraghavan and Sheela Ramanujam.

Thannithurai market in Mylapore

Thannithorai Market has been a key market for Mylaporeans. Situated on the banks of Buckingham Canal, off Luz Corner, the market sold produce brought from the land as well as by boats plying in the Canal which originates in south Andhra Pradesh and ends in the Marakkanam Lake.
Hence the name ‘thanni thorai’.
The market continues to exist today and fairly busy. The boats do not ply anymore for the canal is polluted. The city’s metro rail runs alongside the canal and this market.
G. Kuppuswamy is a vegetable vendor at Thannithorai Market. This is his story of the market.

G. Kuppuswamy Naicker’s family has been vegetable vendors for the past two generations. The market in its early days used to receive vegetables from outside Madras. Vegetables would arrive by boat along the Buckingham Canal every day. Baskets loads of vegetables would be delivered. . .

Thannithurai Market
The market place belonged to a Madras High Court judge Mr. Bhashyam Iyengar. He had a residence adjacent to the market where his sister (widowed) was living. Mr. Iyengar had provided that the proceeds from the market should go to his sister for her maintenance.
After him, his son took over but he was not very keen on maintaining and renting the place for the market. So he decided to sell the place. The vendors of the market had established good business there and were not eager to relocate to any other place. They decided to purchase the place jointly from Iyengar . . .

The 10 to 15 vendors who jointly bought the place are the current owners of the market. There are about 25 more vendors who pay rent to these people. It was built by Mr. Iyengar himself as a vegetable market. The structures for the vendors to sit, the rooms, toilets, etc were all built by Mr. Iyengar. No change has been done after that. The ‘thorai’ however is no more in use.

Thannithurai Market

But business has changed.
Business is dull. The market used to be unique in those days. All the well known people would come here for vegetables. Now there are vegetables shops in every street, every nook and corner. Things were very different then. We would not even weigh accurately. We would give them liberally in basketfuls . . .

But we carry on because we do not know any other business.

My sons have studied. In the old days, business was very good. So they got inducted into this business quite early in life. I have two sons - one studied in Vivekananda College and another studied a course in air-conditioning repair. But then they preferred to get into business – they run provision stores.

We are now old. We have given all decision taking rights to two persons among the 10-15 who jointly bought the market. At that time it seemed prudent to do so. It is quite a complicated situation. We cannot convert it to any other improved vegetable market so easily. Yes, it is a very painful decision to even think of selling this market. We were all born and brought up in this market. My mother would leave us on these very thinnai's while she was busy selling vegetables.We have literally grown up here.
So we are planning to sell and make some settlement for other vendors here . . .
My sons too do not like this business. They think vegetable vending is no more a dignified business.

When did the market start?
Can't say. Before Independence perhaps . . . We hoisted the flag on Independence Day.
Iyengar started the market in 1901. My father came in to Madras in the Tamil New Year. (could be 1916). The market was there at that time. There were four or five vendors. He also set up business there within a few years . . .

The thorai supply via boats stopped after the local bus service developed. Usually 40 to 50 kilos of vegetables would came by a boat. They were all freshly cut. The canal was clean and full of water . . .
Vegetables were grown organically without using chemicals . . .

Earlier Luz used to be a very quiet place. There were no lights in the market. We used to have oil lamps at Luz Corner!

We went to Shanmugananda Higher Sec. School now at Natesa Mudaliar Road. Then it was in Valleswarar Koil Street . . .

Mylapore had all communities living in harmony. Naikers, Mudaliars were in and around Mundakakanni Amman Koil Street. Around Mada Veedi and Nadu Theru there were mostly Brahmins. Teynampet was the popular place for the migrants from outside villages who came looking for jobs - they were mostly Rakkiars.
Slowly they settled and bought the local land. They were quite bold and enterprising. It is the Brahmin community who were not interested in buying land, houses . . ..
Somehow our business has revolved around the Brahmin community. They have patronized us throughout. We have also learnt to behave well and be cultured from our Brahmin customers. We have been very much influenced by them. They have been our guides. The current generation is of course different . . .

Did the boats carry only vegetables or did they carry people also?
No. People would go by the Adyar River and the Adyar Boat Club area was the terminus for those boats. Only goods would be ferried on Coovum boats. Beyond Adyar, were plenty of nagamaram and panamaram thoppu (orchards). We would go there by boats, have a wonderful time eating fruits and playing around. Two annas was the fare.

Nageswara Rao Park . . . Alwarpet area . . . TTK Road . . . these were all jungle areas. Most of Alwarpet was Kasturi Iyengar’s property - about 1000 grounds! Later, the government took some land(from this family) for laying roads. Eldam's Road corner always had (actor) Kamalhassan's family house.

The area around the market has changed a lot… Only ten percent continue to live here . .

>>> If you have memories of the canal, the market and of trade and life around this market, mail us. >>>
>>> We also welcome photos of this market taken many years ago. Even photos taken in this area – covering Sanskrit College, Luz Corner, etc. are welcome. >>>