Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVI No. 14, November 1-15, 2016

Our Readers write

Grin & bear it

Charukesi’s agony about the ugly walls of Madras is honest but nothing can be done about it. The Tamils of Chennai and Tami Nadu have lost their aesthetic sense and allow the walls be uglied by the politicians, film-wallahs, magazines and even by the annual December music men. Not an inch is left free.

Politicians disfigure the walls with their birthday announcements months in advance. I have not seen this kind of brazen nonsense anywhere in India. By and large, the city presents a dirty facade, yet no one is concerned about it. The Government and the corporation are indifferent even to the order of the courts.

Autos charge as they like. No one wears helmets. Traffic rules are left to the whims of the police.Well. We just have to bear it all with a grin.

T. Santhanam

A sickened reader

Sriram’s column MMM is sickening to the core. It is full of sarcasm, the cheapest form of humour. It reveals his sick mind. I suggest he consult a psychiatrist.Till then please do not carry his sick column. Or please delete my name from your mailing list.

Ashok Kumar

Editor’s Note: You have the choice to read MMM or not. Our advice is don’t read him, but continue reading the rest of MM, if you feel that way. Or don’t read that too and read only MMM, in which case he should be flattered! Assuming you do read the rest of the paper, we will continue sending the paper to you till you write a formal letter asking us to stop sending it to you.

Such indifference

I was surprised to see my name (albeit in its translated format a very old joke as long as I can remember from my 1st Standard in school) “mentioned in despatches” in MMM’s column. More surprised because I do not recall referring the problem of noise invasion from Royapettah YMCA to Madras Musings, at least over the last one year. I have long since given up on it after a rather acerbic (from my side) exchange of letters with the then Chennai City Police Commissioner, (the present DGP/TN) about a year ago. Of course, the replies from the police were from the level of the Inspector, the Commissioner being too exalted a person to waste his time on such mundane trivia as noise pollution.

What however, surprised me the most is the statement ..“as to what MM can do about it, is beyond MMM’s comprehension.” Being a niché publication with a limited though influential readership, I thought the least that Madras Musings can do is to run an article on the blatant violations of noise pollution norms ( such as they are) in this city to awaken the conscience of those in authority. After all, if an attitude of resignation is adopted, why bother to publish articles like “Whom are we voting for”? Perhaps a letter from the Editor Pearl Sir to the Commissioner of Police and the Corporation Commissioner may elicit a more cogent and informed response than the rank bureaucratic nonsense and obfuscations that I have received so far from the lowest functionary in the police hierarchy authorised to sign letters, in response to my RTIA queries.

There is however one matter in which I feel Madras Musings should take some interest. The stink and filth in front of the Bhattad Tower where Madras Musing’s office is located show no signs of abating. The political party that spearheads the Swachh Bharat campaign, whose local office is located in the building, to which I addressed a letter recently has not even acknowleged it. Probably it seems to wallow in the scent. Other occupants of the building, unfortunately, do not seem to care.

Probably I should approach our proactive MLA of neighbouring Mylapore and ex-City Police Chief Dance King for a solution.

K. Balakesari
a.k.a Young Lion
3/1, Kesari Kuteeram
22, Westcott Road
Chennai 600 014

Jesuits in Madras

Further, the features on the Jesuits in Madras (Madras Musings, September 16), Jesuit chronicler Louis Frois (November 16, 1559) has stated that Fr. Cypriano (Cyprian) was “the first Jesuit to reside and die in Mylapore”. He spent ten years in Madras (1549-59). His funeral was conducted by the Franciscans who seemed to have already had an oratory in Mylapore. Fr. Cypriano was succeeded by Fr. Francis Pisa in 1563 and he started pastoring several Indian Christians who had been attending the Church of St. John the Baptist since 1566. There was also an asylum for orphan girls, and a small hospital at Mylapore under the care of Jesuits.

At the time of the consecration of the Church of the Mother of God, “meant only for Indian Christians”, by A. de Valignano, the Jesuit General’s Visitor in 1575, there was a priest who did not know Tamil but was being assisted by a Catechist from Mannar (Tuticorin Coast).

There were about 2000 converts. Fr.Valignano’s future support, including the sending of three Jesuit priests, enabled them to start a school for more than 200 children, with a class of Latin too. It is on record that in the 1500s the Jesuits baptised about 3000 more adherents.

In the following years emerged more Catholic churches. There were altogether seven of them which were destroyed during Golconda attacks (1646 & 1662), first abetted by the English and later by the Dutch, “thus aiding the Moors”.

Venkata II, the vassal of Vijayanagar initially at Chandragiri and later at Vellore, welcomed the Jesuits to his court in 1599. He granted them an annual revenue of 1000 gold pieces for their expenses. There were four Jesuits, including Fr. Rubino (Madras Musings, October 1,). Fr. Rubino along with Roberto de Nobili worked (1609) that the missionaries should adapt themselves to Indian customs. By the end of 1611, the Jesuits withdrew from Vellore and Chandragiri following the premptory order of Philip III of Spain (and Portugal) who it was said, had received a very slanderous report about the activities of the Jesuits.

As noted (Madras Musings, October 1st) Beschi was certainly the most distinguished of the Jesuit missionaries to the Tamils. Chanda Sahib, the Nawab of Carnatic, bestowed on Beschi many privileges including the award of a tax exempt inam and also granted him “the pomp and pageantry of a potentate”. Beschi was constantly a sharp and pungent critic of the Protestants but he sought to excel them through Tamil literary pursuits in the elucidation of Christian faith. An internationally renowned Protestant historian, Bishop Stephen Neill (also well versed in Tamil), had this to say (1985) on Beschi’s contribution: Europe in India has never produced works more distinguished by scholarship and elegance than these.

P.S. To add a personal touch, I can still recall, the vivid and delightful manner in which Fr. Lawrence Sundaram (mentioned in connection with Dhyana Ashram) used to handle Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at St.Joseph’s College, Tiruchi in the mid 1960s.

Rev.Philip K. Mulley
Anaihatti Road,
Kotagiri 643217

Musings on the Madras Museum

I visited the Zoology section of Madras Government Museum in 2014 and found it to be an interesting place. As a wildlife biologist, I found the Natural History Section very interesting as well as important for educational and scientific reasons. I also noticed that there were several aspects of this sections that needed drastic improvement. I have for three years mused on writing about these things. The recent article “Will the Museum see better days?” in Madras Musing, September 16th, finally prompted me to send in my musings in the Museum.

Mammals and birds sections can be improved by using correct names on signage. For instance, Nilgiri Tahr, which is the Tamil Nadu State animal is mentioned as Neelagiri Kaattu Velladugal, while in fact it has a well established and nice Tamil name Varaiyadu. Leopard Cat is mentioned as Puthar Kattu Poonai instead of Siruthai Poonai. The Tamil name of the Rusty Spotted Cat has been literally translated into Irumbu thuru nira Pulli Poonai instead of Sempulli Poonai. The names given for certain species need to be updated and the nameboards with correct and recent common and scientific names should be placed.

There are various websites, such as Wikipedia and IUCN, that give, the recent common and scientific names of the mammals and birds, and should be referred to. Displaying linguistically and scientifically correct names in the exhibits is a basic and important component in educating visitors.

Bird specimens stuffed and displayed are of great historical and scientific importance. It should be noted that several bird specimens displayed there are collected from Tamil Nadu, especially from in and around that Madras planned region. Recently, while compiling a checklist of ‘Birds of Tamil Nadu’, ornithologists referred to nearly 30-odd birds from this collection as they were considered an authentic historical record of this region.

The way some of these specimens we exhibited was, however not aesthetically pleasing. For instance, wings, head, tail of the Pin-tailed Snipe had been chopped into pieces and mounted on a plank for display. To show the different types of beaks, the heads of the bird specimens were put for display. The authorities should remove such displays and think of better and novel ways of presenting a theme. Consulting with experts to restore and conserve the specimens which are in good shape and the other artifacts would help in preserving the historic collections from further deterioration.

One of the historically important exhibits in the mammals section is the skeleton of a male Asiatic Elephant which was captured near Chengam, North Arcot District (now Tiruvannamalai District) in 1887. There is also a miniature model explaining how the elephants were caught through the pitfall method in the olden days. In this age where the Asiatic elephant is in decline, due to various anthropogenic activities, it is more important to educate the visitors on how they are becoming endangered and on what we can do to conserve them.

There are several positive aspects about the museum as well. Some of the specimens are very rare and are of historical importance, yet are exhibited for the public. For example, to view the skin of the Malabar Civet and Pink Headed Duck in other museums, you have to get prior permission.

The website of this museum is another important and useful resource. One of the best things is that the museum authorities have digitised hundreds of its old publications (starting from the year 1882) and made than available for public through their website. Whoever initiated and executed this commendable work should be appreciated.

Besides its noble action of sharing its publications with the public, the museum authorities should also consider taking part in GLAM-Wiki initiative (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums” with Wikipedia). There are several institutions already a part of this initiative. One such example is the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, a national museum of natural history and a research centre on biodiversity in Leiden, Netherlands. This museum had uploaded thousands of images from its natural history collection on Wikimedia Commons.

Like other museums in India and outside, the Government Museum in Chennai should improve interpretations using audio-visuals, implement outreach programmes for visitors and expand digitisation. This will help in preserving one of our valuable cultural and natural heritage collections in India.

P. Jeganathan


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