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

Vol. XXVIII No. 13, October 16-31, 2018

Our Readers write

Greens of Madras

The natural history cameo in Geeta Doctor’s ‘Memories of Chetpet’ was excellent. It ties in neatly with my experience when I was out on a morning walk – not in Chetpet but T. Nagar – and saw a woman picking some pavement greens. What she was gathering was the leaf of the “musumusukai” plant. Great to beat phlegm in kids, I was told. She also asked me to feel the leaf – its was burry, not smooth like spinach. The berry of this plant is also supposed to have some medicinal use.

I googled the plant up. Its botanical name is Mukia/cucumis maderaspatana. The “maderaspatana” simply refers to the fact that that is where they were first described. Madras being one of the earliest East India Company bases in India, so much early plant collecting was done there from the 1690s onward, Henry Noltie of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh tells me. They are not endemics, as I was hoping. Even so, I was thrilled by the name.

So yes, what do we lose when we lose the commons to concrete structures other than interesting roadside greens?

This is something to think about, as the writer points out.

Vijaysree Venkatraman

The reasons why

The State govt.,meaning ADMK, does not want to hold local body elections because of the vertical split in the party. The local leaders at the Ward level have changed their loyalties. Hence those now in power do not know who will canvass for whom and they have no idea how the people will vote. It is a risk. Because it is the same local councillors who have to get them their MP & MLA votes! Point number 2: Even though there are no elected representatives in the local bodies, low level bureaucrats like Executive Officers are being advised and aided actively by the erstwhile councillors & chairmen of the defunct local govts to make the usual amounts of money from contracts and illegal businesses NOT TO WORRY! 

Usha Sundar

Plot No. 43, 24th Cross Street

Padmavathi Nagar


Chennai 600 126

Nilgris reps

An interrestingly different kind of a role played by Kasturiranga Iyengar (MM, October 1) in the social annals of the Nilgiris is not known to many. While regularly holidaying during summer in the hills, his close friend happend to be R.K.Shanmugam Chetty of Coimbatore. In the wake of the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of the Indian Government, the Nilgiris was created as a seperate legislative constituency in 1921. Iyengar made use of the opportunity and his influence to project R.K. Shanmugam Chetty “as the only suitable candidate” to contest from the Nilgiris and lobbied for him. The native candidate happend to be H.J.Bellie Gowder, an efficient public works contractor who also successfully completed the construction upto Coonoor (1899 ) of the now famous UNESCO heritage-branded Nilgiri Mountain Railway. He was a tireless champion of all the indigenous folk and a Badaga headman. A largely self -taught man, Bellie Gowder put up a tough, spirited fight against Iyengar’s protege Shanmugam Chetty but lost the election nontheless by a slender margin.

As well known, Shanmugam Chetty’s entrance into the Madras legislature from the Nilgiris gradually led him to greater heights. Bellie Gowder, undeterred by his defeat continued to play a distinguished role in the subaltern history of the Nilgiris (was made Rao Bahadur, 1930). His son H.B.Ari Gowder(a long-time legislator in later times) rose to be a notable votary of the Justice Party and has a road named after him in Madras(albeit incorrecrly as Arya Gowda Road).  

Rev.Philip K.Mulley

Anaihatti Road,

Kotagiri 643217

The Nilgiris

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