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Vol. XXIX No. 12, October 1-15, 2019

Our Readers Write

Modi-Xi in Mamallapuram

I was pleasantly surprised as well as pleased to read in a recent newspaper that a meeting between Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinpeng will occur sometime soon.

Pleased because a dialogue between the two emerging powers is most timely and a welcome element.

Pleasantly surprised because the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Government of India has finally chosen a section of Madras, viz., Mahabalipuram, as the venue for this meeting.

The choice of Mahabalipuram is indeed most appropriate because the Pallava King Mahendra Varman (c. 7th Century AD) received Xuanzang a.k.a Yuan Chwang, a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar and traveller. We know too well that Xuanzang’s entourage and travels brought several Chinese cultural elements into Southern India, e.g., playing string-driven tops (pambaram) and vallam kali (dragon boat racing of China). In turn, these visits encouraged many southern Indians, especially Tamils, to travel to ancient China (e.g., Bodidharma).

We should also recall that many Malay Chinese (prisoners) from the overflowing jails of the Straits Settlements were moved and settled in Naduvattam (The Nilgiris), when the quinine yielding plants were established. These relocated prisoners were used as ‘labour’ in these fledgling plantations. I am not referring to the so-called ‘dentists’ in the China Bazaar area in Madras CBD presently, because such practitioners abounded in Calcutta and Bombay at this time.

I hope both the governments of India and Tamil Nadu will utilize the knowledge of Joe T. Karackattu, who knows southern India-China cultural links too well. Joe Karackattu lectures in IIT (Madras) in the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences. He can be reached at (044) 2257 4541 and via email: joe@iitm.ac.in.

Dr. A. Raman
anant@raman.id.au

Memories of First Drama Conference and Refugees

I am a regular reader of Madras Musings since many years. I am in my 90th year and was taken on a pleasant journey of nostalgia by the article Behind the Scenes at Tamil Nadu’s First Drama Conference (MM. Vol.XXIX, 11/2019). I was in Erode during 1940-44, a student at the Mahajana High School. I remember the dramas of ‘TKS Brothers’ such as Sampoorna Ramayanam, Manithan, Krishna Leela and, of course, Avvaiyar. We lived in ‘Cutcherry Street’, next to Maniyakarar’s house and Dr. M. Krishnaswami. He was a friend of the TKS Bros. and they visited him sometimes. Dr. Krishnaswami’s family were our good friends too. We learnt that Muthuswami, one of the four TKS Bros., played the ‘Sthree Part’ in their dramas. A few days back a friend told me that Sri Muthuswami’s grand-daughter was the one who has translated the now bestselling book Sapiens (by Tuval Noah Haran). The subject of Sapiens is not easy to be translated – it is a scientific one – and surely the intellectual genes have been passed on.

It is of no purpose to recall that the Periyar disciples threatened boys like me being pappara pasanga and we were somewhat living in fear on our way to school. Those were turbulent times. Several families were uprooted from Burma (1941-44), Malaya – it was a time of war – and several ‘refugees’ and relatives of Indians in these countries came by foot from Burma all the way along the Coast; many narrated their sufferings and several died in the course of this travel. They were paupers when they reached India (Madras).

As a young boy then I heard their sufferings and so when now I hear of refugees and uprooting of persons in Assam, the Rohingyas migrations, etc., I feel sad; are we right to turn back people who come seeking succour? My own uncle and family fled from Karachi (where they were living, for years happily) during the ‘early days’ of partition. These sorrowful events are before my eyes even now. Has man learnt anything from the past? Much is spoken of ‘sons of the soil’; there are hundreds and hundreds of ‘Madrasis’ who have made their fortunes in Bombay, Calcutta, Nagpur, Delhi. Would we like all of them to be returned?

K.S. Srinivasan
1253, 66th St., Korattur
Chennai 600 080

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