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

Vol. XXIX No. 2, May 1-15, 2019

The great encourager

– S. Janaki, Editor-in-Chief, Sruti

In the passing away of S. Muthiah, veteran journalist, historian and conservationist, we have lost the man who kindled the spark in every Chennaiite to know more about “Our Town Madras”. When I moved to this metropolis in 1989 after spending the early years in north India, I got to know several aspects about this city on reading two very interesting books – Tales of Old and New Madras and Madras Discovered – written by S. Muthiah. Am glad I have a copy of both.

I got a chance to meet the soft spoken, ever smiling “Mr. Muthiah” soon after I became a member of Sruti’s editorial team. He was a well-wisher of Sruti magazine and a good friend of its founder-editor N. Pattabhi Raman, and would occasionally drop in for a chat. In fact, Muthiah was involved in its initial printing process and he recalled the association in The Hindu’s Madras Miscellany column after attending the launch of the 400th issue of Sruti magazine in January 2018. Here are a few lines in his inimitable style:

“I was there at the recent release of the 400th edition of, the premier music, dance and theatre magazine. I was there when the very first copy of the first issue came out of the trimming machine 34 years ago and flipped through it to make sure we at TT MAPS had not made an error while printing… In black and white, it looked a sophisticated magazine. Its well-written content offered good reading, only a couple of pieces having a technical slant. I have no interest in music or dance, but I knew what contained; being a conscientious printer then, I’d read every word a client brought in for printing to make sure I wouldn’t get into trouble. The funny thing is that I still read, except when it gets technical. That’s saying something about the magazine… It was the Bossu (T.T. Vasu) who got me printing when it started. After asking for a quote for a monthly magazine, he suggested I print it at half the price. Helping a cause, he’d said at a time when CSR had not even entered the vocabulary. When the internal auditors asked questions, it was my baby not his, so I met Pattabhi Raman for the first time a couple of years later, asking for a small price hike. Sathyamoorthy, the Bossu’s Man Friday, found him a new printer. But the former UN civil servant (Pattabhi Raman) and I kept in touch.”

Muthiah described the passing away of his friend Pattabhi Raman in Madras Musings as “A loss to the world of small, serious journals in India”. He also reproduced several cartoons about the “Mad Madras Season” as a tribute to his memory.

Muthiah would often reproduce articles from Sruti in MM. Meticulous and principled that he was, he never failed to give credit and would send us a cheque for the same though we never asked him to do so. We cherish his interaction with all of us.

Deeply passionate as he was about the heritage of Madras, Muthiah enjoyed the articles, the cartoons and the statistics published about the music and dance season in Sruti. Come December, he would ask me to write an article about the Madras Season for Madras Musings — which I did for many years. Although he knew my name is Janaki, for some reason he would refer to me as ‘Jayamalini of Suruthi’! It was a good joke that we shared.

He, who was passionate about Madras that is Chennai, was responsible in a major way for all of us to celebrate Madras Day, and continued to raise his voice for conservation, is no more. The best homage we can offer him is to uphold the causes he held dear.

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