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

Vol. XXVI No. 07, July 16-31, 2016

Our Readers Write

Heeded the Districts too

I knew S. Sriraman (MM, July 1st) ever since 1963. I, as the convener of the North Arcot District Cricket Association (now the Vellore District Cricket Association) requested him to guide us in the formation of the Association and also to participate in the inaugural meeting. He came to Vellore along with Ramanujam of Nethaji Cricket Club, Chennai on July 2, 1964 and spoke on the ways to improve the standard of the game in the district. Later, as the founder Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1964 to 1971 and 1986, I attended the Annual General Body meetings of the TNCA and met him.

As pointed out in the article, Sriraman was shrewd without being manipulative and permitted the members, whether from the city or the districts to express their views and listened carefully even criticisms and always tried to solve them with the follow up action after the conclusion of the meetings. He did not distinguish action to be taken on the activities of the game between Madras city and all districts.

During his tenure good coaches were also sent to the districts to train the schoolboys and seniors.

P.S. Subrahmanian

Long live ISO 9002 !!

The travails of MMM at the Madras domestic airport prompted me to write this.

Rain inside the airport is common for both domestic and international passengers.

While MMM experienced a long queue for check-in at the domestic, similar is the story for international travellers – but with a difference!

International travellers after flying 15/20 hours land at MAA airport. All they would like is to reach their places as early as possible. But alas! They have to wait for 30/45 minutes for clearance at the immigration counters. It is a pitiable sight to see travellers standing with young restless kids. While passengers with children get priority in boarding, the same courtesy is not extended at the immigration counters.

For departing passengers, the immigration wait is 30 minutes!

On top of it all, we (shamelessly?) exhibit a huge board at MAA airport proudly displaying ISO approval!! (Wonder whether the ISO approval still holds good?)

N P Andavan

It’s Purasu

The quiz item no.19 (MM, July 1) states that Butea monosperma is known as Purasai. Actually it is Purasu. The first Tamil-English Lexicon (1779 and subsequently revised in 1809) published by early Lutheran missionaries identifies Purasu correctly with Palasu.

Purasai, as usually used, means a cord round the neck of the elephant and has nothing to do with the Flame of the Forest tree. In Sanskrit it is simply Agnishika, denoting the colour of the flowers of the tree. In Kannada, it isMuttaga. The doyen of Kannada linguistics, Rev.Kittel (1894) brilliantly derives it to mean “an environing tree”.

The linguistic experts should try and find out whether there is anything common between the cognates Purasu and Palasu.

Rev.Philip K.Mulley
Anaihatti Road,
Kotagiri 643217

Boys still later

In the item on Old Rosarians (MM, July1st) issue, it was stated that 1955-56 was the year which had the last batch of boys in Rosary Matriculation School. This is wrong. I studied in the school up to Class V from 1963-64 to 1967-68. I also remember that it took a couple of more years before the school ceased to be a co-ed institution. The Principal in my time was the tall Irish nun, Mother Teresa Xavier and though she looked imposing she was very kind to all of us.I am not aware of the reason for the school asking boys to leave in the middle of the academic year in 1955-56.

Incidentally, when my mother sought my admission in Vidya Mandir in Class VI, the then Principal of the school who was her schoolmate in R.K.M. Sarada Vidyalaya, T’Nagar, told her that as a school-mate she could offer her a glass of lemon juice, but was unable to admit me. This was in spite of my excellent academic record at Rosary Matric. Obviously, the sending-off in 1955-56, still rankled!

G. Srinivasan
LHS 14-B, Spring Haven,
Chennai Port Trust,
Chennai 600 001

It was Mu.Ka.

In Zoo Story Part III (MM July 1st, it is stated MGR inaugurated the Zoo in 1989. But he had died on December 24, 1987.

Shobha Menon replies: Sorry. My source had said “then Chief Minister” and I had not looked further. The “then Chief

Minister” (in 1989) was Mu. Karunanidhi.
T. Viswanath

The problems with the dadaps

The Flame of the Forest, Butia monosperma as it is known to botanists (MM, June 16th). It is popularly known in South India by its synonymous name, Erythrina species. There are over 130 species, in the tropics and sub-tropics, worldwide. Its flowers range from red to even yellow in some of the species.

In South India, there are two species which are economically used. One is the thorny Dadap, as it is called. It is known as Mullumurenga in Tamil and Malayalam. These are used as live standards for growing pepper vines on them. Within a few years of planting, both of them would have got fully established till they grow to 15 to 20 feet, trained as a single strait tree. These Dadaps are annually lopped before the S W Monsoon, so no flowering of these Dadaps take place. These standards live for more than 20 to 30 years. In the last 10 to 15 years, wasps have invaded the plantations and they damaged their livelihood. New cuttings of Dadaps fail and older ones do not thrive as before. India produces 55-60,000 tons of Pepper, each kilo selling at Rs 600 to 700.The Indian Spice Research Station, Kozhikode, has found an alternate variety known as Erythrina sumbrans as a standard for Pepper and is distributing it to the farmers. There is, however, no guarantee that a new breed of wasps may not invade them too.

In tea plantations, thornless varieties of Dadaps were used as low shade for the tea. It is convenient to regulate them by lopping the trees, just as monsoon sets in. However, since the 1960s, they have been totally eradicated as they depressed tea production. Most of the roots of Dadaps are on the surface up to 6 to 12 inches, competing with tea.

Unusually, these trees grow very rapidly in the cardamom growing tracts, due to higher level of moisture in the soil. If these trees are not removed, when overgrown, no cardamom bushes will grow near them as they are gross feeders on nutrients and moisture.

There was one of these trees at the gate of my apartment in T’Nagar. About the time I moved into the flat, old cherry trees were removed, as they were attracting mosquitoes, and other species of well grown nursery trees were planted in the 1990s. An Erythrina was planted near the gate, very close to the well of the apartment block and a little beyond was the drinking water sump. In about seven years, this Erythrina has grown to 4 feet girth and started flowering quite profusely. When the drinking water was getting choked and water from the Corporation was blocked, the Secretary of the Association opened the tank to clean it and saw that a lot of roots of this Erythrina tree had invaded the tank by lifting the concrete cover. The concrete cover was – replaced. However, after another 4 or 5 years, the girth of the tree was more than 8 feet and its roots had again invaded the drinking water tank. When the new concrete slab too was totally damaged with some 100kg of roots in the concrete tank, the entire tree was uprooted. Erythrina roots can also damage sewage pipe lines and water pipe lines as they are greedy for water, unlike most other garden trees.

One reason I have given these particulars in depth is that these trees could be established by lake and pond sides in Chennai as they can quench their thirst, grow very well and give excellent flowers. However, the trees are very slow in growing in nature. Seeds need to be avoided and 6 to 7 feet long poles need to be secured for them to flourish.

As mentioned earlier, there are some 130 species of Flame of the Forest. Seeds of a third of them are potent Erythrina alkaloids and some are poisonous. For example E.lysistemon of South Africa has a toxic alkaloid, but it also has an anti-blood clotting substance which may be of value for treatment of thrombosis. All seeds are non-edible, they contain toxins for squirrels, rats, mammals, birds etc. The flowers alone are edible and used for dyes during festivals like Holi.

K V S Krishna

Reuben David and his friends


Shobha Menon, while writing about the Vandalur Zoo referred to Reuben (Ruben) David Committee which chose the Vandalur site. Reuben David was a legendary zoo-keeper in Ahmedabad and a self-taught veterinarian. He was born in a Bene Israel Jewish family in Ahmedabad.

He created a zoo and Balavatika on the banks of the Kankaria lake in Ahmedabad, which was a great attraction. We were taken there as a part of our IAS training in 1963. Reuben took us and showed the animals, birds and reptiles with which he was very friendly. He could even pat the tigers! He was conducting many experiments in co‑existence of animals and humans, birds and animals, a dog with a lion, etc. One of them was a chimp which was sharing its room with a broom, smoked a cigarette, and shook hands with us.

Reuben also suggested that he could sit on us like a child. My batchmates were apprehensive but I told the chimp to jump on me which it did with great relish (pictured). He was awarded Padmashri by the Government of India. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, which he had served as the Superintendent of the Zoological Garden, had created a bronze bust there so that the animals and birds did not miss him.

Dr. C. Sundaram, ias (rtd.)
A 601, Dugar Apartments
Keshav Perumal Puram, Greenways Road
Chennai 600 028.

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