Memories on Sastri Hall
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