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

Vol. XXVII No. 1, April 16-30, 2017

Our Readers Write

H1N1 anyone?

The ostrich-like behaviour of the Corporation of Chennai is once more in evidence.

The city is rampant with Swine Flu (more respectably known as H1N1 influenza) and the Corporation hasn’t bothered to directly warn residents about protecting themselves either with flu shots or taking the herbal Nilavembu Kashayam as a preventive.

A month ago I came down with Swine Flu. The symptoms were fever (102 degrees or more), extreme nausea and a very sore throat. I went to my GP who prescribed antibiotics and paracetamol. Three days later, my fever was a little better but I developed a wracking cough and obvious phlegm in my lungs. When I went back to my GP, he listened to my lungs and looked a mite worried. “All right, I am sending you to a chest specialist,” he said.

It took another day to get the appointment with the chest specialist. His clinic was crowded and the doctor was a patient and thorough man. So after a tortuous hour when all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and die (God knows how many people I ignorantly infected that day), the specialist saw me. After the usual examination he asked, “Have you been in a crowded place or travelled recently?”

“I went to Bengaluru by train for a day and, yes, I did see a movie before that.”

“Get tested for Swine Flu without delay,” was the doctor’s advice.

This surprised me, as I didn’t expect to catch Swine Flu (other people get it, right?).

The testing was interesting. The lab technician who came home, proceeded to outfit himself in what looked like a space suit before he took a throat and nose swab and told me, “You’ll get the result after 24 hours.”

24 hours later, the lab phoned in the result urgently. “You’ve tested positive. See your doctor at once,” they said. It had already been six days since I contracted the virus. The thing about H1N1 is that the earlier you treat it, the better the chance of a cure. If many days have passed before treatment is started, it could easily turn into pneumonia and turn fatal. Perhaps if I had known the disease was in epidemic proportions, I would have got tested earlier.

Things moved pretty fast after that. I was at once started on Tamiflu, the proven drug for treating Swine Flu. On the same day, a health officer from the local Corporation division visited me (he had been tipped off by the lab) and handed me a sufficient stock of Tamiflu. He also instructed me to confine myself to my home, take lots of fluids and rub down every surface in my home with disinfectant. Then he smiled pleasantly and said, “You’ll be fine soon!”
At that point I interrupted him to ask, “Why didn’t the Corporation warn us, through TV or radio, that Swine Flu is so rampant in Chennai? I would have avoided travelling by train or going to a movie theatre, taken a flu shot or something.”

The Corporation official looked a little sheepish. “The Government didn’t want to panic the public, Madam. That’s why we haven’t made big announcements in the media about Swine Flu.”

Now, is that stick-your-head-in-the-sand behaviour or not?

Janaki Venkataraman

Greater care needed

Radha Padmanabhan’s letter (MM, March 16th) was interesting, informative, directional and deeply touching. The world-famous Marina is more mis-used than used.

The Marina is Madras’s jewel and needs to be treated with love and care by both the Corporation and public.

The many parks in Chennai, too, are not being adequately cared for and maintained by the Corporation and users. The parks are unclean, plants are drying and dying, with no care and no water, and lighting is poor, making it difficult for evening walkers, particularly senior citizens who need the parks most.

It is hoped that the Corporation and the public will get the right message from Radha Padmanabhan’s thought-provoking letter.

Dr. H.K. Lakshman Rao
Krishnapuri, Chennai

Pallavaram church

The nostalgic account of Veteran Lines (MM, March 16) mentions the St. Andrew’s church, Pallavaram. A well-known hub of Anglo-Indian settlement, its history goes back to 1823. Since that time it has been a part of the St. Thomas’ Mount Chaplaincy. The Chaplain from the Mount was granted a palanquin allowance of Rs. 70/- per month to visit Pallavaram regularly. The original church was on the site of the Main Guard of the Presidency Cantonment of Pallavaram, where the troops of the Horse Artillery were quartered.

In 1847, at the initiative of Rev. Walter Powell (now resting in St. Mary’s churchyard, Fort St. George, 1853), “the question of providing the pensioners, veterans and troops at Pallavaram” permanent facilities for worship came to the front. A two storeyed building in the vicinity was made ready. The large room above was furnished as a church and the rooms below as a school. In subsequent years Mrs. Margaret Parker, the Army school mistress who was also the organist and Sunday School teacher, was the main mover and organiser of all social and religious activities in the Cantonment. Col. Henry Smalley, along with a later Chaplain, Rev. W. Leeming, was instrumental in undertaking extensive alterations and improvements to this little sanctuary.

In 1901, “the Main Guard building was demolished because a certain garrison engineer declared the building to be unsafe.” The church then moved into Barracks No.4. When the bomb-proof barrack building housing the church started developing “a crack all the way down the centre”, plans for a new church surfaced in 1933, with a lot of contributions from various sources, including those of the initiatives of the four Anglo-Indian ladies mentioned by reader Peppin. The new church on the present site was consecrated in 1935. Many gifts to the newly built church included pews from St. Mary Magdalene’s Church in Poonamalle and the pulpit from St. Stephen’s Church, Ooty.

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


PS. Frank Penny in his authoritative work on The Church in Madras (1912) furnishes this photograph, probably of the second sanctuary (Barrack House Church) of the Pallavaram establishment.

The Watch Man

On reading the tribute to that great retailer, management expert and man of several parts, the redoubtable Pradipta Mohapatra, I was reminded of the many years that I was associated with him during my tenure at The Hindu. The first phase was devoted to Advertising and Marketing.

The reference to Mohaptra’s interest in scripophily came as a pleasant surprise to me for I had always assumed that apart from his expertise in the world of retail management, Mohapatra’s passion was for watches – ancient, rare, luxury and contemporary. I resumed my contact with him when we were planning to have regular features and supplements in The Hindu and Business Line to bring the heady world of Swiss Horology to the southern part of the country. (The Times of India had already done some pioneering work in Bombay and it was a challenge for us to expose the cloistered Swiss players to the potential that lay in this part of the world.)

Mohapatra’s ready compliance to cast his lot with us was a blessing. Despite his heavy schedule he visited our office several times and gave us a whole roster of duties to work on. He also agreed to write for us and shared some of his rare interviews with top Swiss -pioneers during his annual visits to the Basel Watch Fair in Switzerland. It is the largest of its kind in the world and Mohapatra insisted that we would have to visit Basel, drink in the atmosphere and build up our contacts as a long-term measure. This was a Herculean task considering the problems that we would be encountering in persuading the Management to let us make a ‘business trip’ to Switzerland. (It did materialize a couple of years later – the results speak for themselves).

Thanks to Mohapatra our project became a success and the features that continue to come out now on much superior paper (to introduce which we had to run into yet another marathon struggle with the Management to switch from ordinary newsprint to paper befitting a premium product!) have their origins in the inspiration and encouragement that we drew from him.

Whenever, in the midst of our discussions, Mohapatra meandered into the world of Patek Philippe, Chopard, Breitling, Breguet, Hublot, Rolex, Omega, Longines, Tag Heuer – to name a few – his body language exuded the enthusiasm of a youngster and he virtually drew us into the world of Basel. During one of those discussions he happened to glance at my wrist and exclaimed: ‘Hey, that is a very old Seiko watch.’ I nodded and added that it was a favourite of mine, a memento given to me at an Asian Advertising Congress in Tokyo in the early 1990s! (I had deliberately worn it that day in anticipation of a meeting with him in our office!) He quickly asked me to have it checked at a particular workshop since, according to him, the second hand was running slightly slower than normal. My colleagues and I were stunned by this remark and his perspicacity! (The servicing, done later proved him right.)

Such flamboyant personalities are a rarity these days!

V. Kalidas

Still around?

The Educational Review (ER) was a landmark journal published from Sunkuwar Chetty Street, Triplicane, for more than 100 years. I was indirectly associated with this journal, when it was voluntarily edited by the late N.S. Gnana-pragasam, a brilliant chemist who taught at Loyola College, Madras, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Education Review is one professional journal of India, which silently and discreetly served the cause of Indian education in absolute total earnestnes and sincerity. I would be glad to know this journal survives and performs today. I am not sure, though. Pity that Madras has failed to recognise this journal and the efforts made by its publishers.

Dr. A. Raman
Charles Sturt University
Orange, NSW 2800


  1. says:

    Charles H. Alexandrowicz for publication by Oxford University and they seek “any reminiscences of his time in Madras or any letter or any other writings of his that anyone may possess.

  2. zz day says:

    From the time I started writing in the 19 on Madras, there has been an immense growth in interest in heritage issues, but immense is purely a comparative word,” says Muthiah.

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