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Heritage Watch: Diamond Jubilee of the Music Academy Auditorium

It has been a citadel for the performing arts for sixty years. Yes, the Music Academy’s TT Krishnamachari Auditorium completed sixty years on December 20, 2022, for it was on that day in 1962 that Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, former Maharajah and then Governor of Mysore, formally cut the ribbon


Medicare for women, in old Madras

by Ramya Raman and Anantanarayanan Raman

(Continued from last fortnight)

The Royal Victoria Hospital for Caste and Gosha Women (RVH) serviced the women of Madras coming from varied social backgrounds. At one stage Mary Pailthorpe, an MBBS degree holder from the Newnham College, University of Cambridge, UK, who had trained at the Royal Free Hospital, Camden, England, joined Scharlieb at RVH as Resident Medical Officer in 1885. She was selected in Britain to supervise the Mission Hospital in Banares (Varanasi), but was assigned to work at RVH. For personal reasons, the Scharliebs returned to England permanently in 1887. Soon after Mary Scharlieb qualified for an MD and MS through London Medical School for Women (LMSW), and later became the personal physician to the Queen.

While in Madras, Scharlieb had a busy practice. She argued for a feminine line of communication: flowing from a woman medical professional to the mother and through her to her children. She lectured on midwifery, gynaecology, and children’s illnesses at MMC until her return to London. Scharlieb’s books, written after her return to England, reinforced the importance of personal hygiene for girls and reproductive health in women.

The RVH established under the superintendence of Scharlieb in Moore’s Garden underwent major changes in the following years. Anna Webster, along with K. Bashyam Iyengar, R. Raghunatha Rao, Ananda Gajapati Raju (Raja of Vizianagaram), S. Muthuswamy Iyer, G.K. Yachendra (Raja of Venkatagiri) and Savalai Ramaswamy Mudaliar played a major role in developing the RVH. The Government of Madras donated a block of land and offered Rs 10,000 towards the establishment of this hospital. It relocated to Triplicane (a suburb of Madras along the coast) in 1890. The main building of this new precinct was constructed from a generous grant by Yachendra. The Government of Madras took over the management of this hospital in April 1921. It was renamed the Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women in 1948. The hospital gained reputation through the sustained efforts of many women medical practitioners, notably Mary Beadon, Hilda Mary Lazarus and E. Madhuram in later years. It presently functions as the ‘Institute for Social Obstetrics and Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children’. The General Hospital in Madras (MGH), the oldest Western medical hospital in India, functioned as a military facility within Fort St. George from 1664, which moved to its present location in Périamét (Narimédu, Hog Hill) in 1763. Since the MGH was not accessible to Indians at that time, they received treatment at the Native Hospital (NH) in Purasawalkam both as out- and in-patients. This hospital included modest lying-in facilities to meet maternity needs, further to meeting other medical needs. The NH was managed by a committee of non-Indian residents of Madras. In 1903, the Kanji Thotti Hospital (1799) of Royapuram, morphed into the Auxiliary Medical School (AMS). The Lady Willingdon Medical School for Women was started in Royapuram in 1923 and was merged with the AMS. This complex grew into the Stanley Medical College & Hospital in 1938.

Midwives were trained in this precinct from 1844. A list of names of 80 mid-wives trained in the NH between 1844 and 1864 is available. By 1871, this less formal training gradually transformed into a formal training programme with the establishment of a midwife training school. The maternity ward at the NH was renamed ‘Maternity Hospital’ (MH) in 1881 and relocated to Pantheon Road, close to Egmore train station in 1905–1908, where it presently exists. The new MH precinct was built through public donation. The Government of Madras paid staff salaries and met food expenses towards patients.

The MH during the superintendence of Gerald Giffard (Superintendent, 1905–1917) issued qualifying certificates to midwife trainees after six months of training.

Page_7aA certificate issued to a qualified midwife by the Maternity Hospital, Egmore, Madras, signed by G. Giffard and C.G.F. Hingston, Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent respectively, dated 4 September 1909.

The certificate alongside clarifies that the qualified midwife (Jane Bullock) had conducted 40 labours, assisted in 4 and observed 60, thus providing an idea of the level and quality of training provided. The Government of Madras managed to get a reciprocal registration in the training of nurses between the UK and Madras in 1928.

The frontage of the Pantheon Road MH includes a gable façade and an asymmetrical arcade topped by an ornate balustrade and a ‘Travancore’ style tower. From 1881, the MH became a Government-managed facility. In the next two decades, it expanded to accommodate 150 in patients. By 1882, MMC offered intense training to medical students at the MH precinct through a 9-month-long integrated course in midwifery and diseases of women and children, which was the predecessor of the Diploma in Gynaecology and Obstetrics, formally offered from 1930. By the 1900s, the MH further expanded with scope for 140 additional beds. William Thompson superintended this hospital between 1848 and 1851.

Frontage of the Madras Maternity Hospital (1940s?).

James Shaw, the first professor of midwifery at MMC, superintended the maternity ward of the NH between 1844 and 1864. Arthur Branfoot (Superintendent, 1879–1898) is indicated to have attended to the delivery of the baby of Supalayat (1859–1925), Queen of Burma, who was imprisoned by the British Government and stationed in Madras in 1886. Gerald Giffard constructed a separate teaching block, after whom the Giffard Block remains today.

This Pantheon Road building, when completed, was remarked to be resembling a female pelvis: the labour ward complex representing the sacrum, the lying-in wards representing the inlet, and the main-gate complex representing the inguinal ligaments reaching the pubic symphysis. Fourth-year students from medical colleges of far-off Lucknow, Lahore and Burma came to this hospital for a month-long training involving observation of obstetric procedures and hands-on experience in handling labour.

Arcot Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar, at the inauguration of the First All-India Obstetrics and Gynaecological Congress, presided over by Ida Scudder of Vellore, held in Madras in 1936, said:
‘… But Madras is proud, and justly so, of the place it occupies in the obstetric world of today and it is in no spirit of narrow provincialism that I venture to maintain that no other city in Indian could have claimed this honour with greater confidence and dignity. …’.

(To be continued next fortnight)


A keen follower of sports

– Partab Ramchand

Mr. Muthiah was a walking encyclopedia on various topics. People from many walks of life who came into contact with him were amazed at how he could discuss at length on just about anything. And as a professional sports writer for over half a century now I was absolutely flabbergasted as to how much he knew about my subject, cricket being particularly close to his heart.

After meeting him casually at a couple of literary functions I had my first serious interaction with Mr Muthiah at his house a little more than a decade ago. He wanted to know whether I could contribute a sports column for Madras Musings on a regular basis and of course I was happy to do so. Sometimes I would send in the piece on my own, at other times he would prompt me to write something topical since he followed sports closely and knew what or who was making news. He also encouraged me to write on senior sports journalists and over a period of time I wrote about P.N. Sundaresan, N.S. Ramaswami, J.C. Jacob and T. Govindrajan.

When at the request of prominent sports administrator Mr. N. Ramachandran he agreed to compile a book on sports in Tamil Nadu he asked me how I could contribute. I offered to write on cricket and tennis but he said that V. Ramnarayan was doing the chapter on cricket so it was just tennis for me. I introduced him to journalists who could help him out in writing on other sports. I am glad that my colleagues S.R. Suryanarayan and V. Venkatramana were of immense help in contributing articles on various sports.

During this time I interacted with Mr. Muthiah more often and found him meticulous in his approach. A stickler for discipline and detail he did not like copy that was haphazardly written and was quite blunt in his criticism. Being a historian he was particularly dogmatic about facts and figures and preferred copy with correct and straightforward prose and not padded with needlessly flowery language.

Mr Muthiah had been following cricket closely since his young days and his knowledge grew in abundance after he became a historian. I remember having a long discussion with him at his house some years ago on Madras cricket and why it continued to languish at the Ranji Trophy level despite the players enjoying the best of facilities and financial stability. I recall mentioning the name of C.P. Johnstone who had been a pillar of strength to Madras cricket in its formative years in the 30s and 40s and he told me that he had seen Johnstone in action pulling off a brilliant diving catch in the slips. That he could recall this after more than 60 years took me by surprise but then it was Mr. Muthiah with his razor sharp memory who was talking to me and I should not have been taken aback.


100+ and still going strong

Page 9

Dr. S. Parthasarathy Iyengar.

  • On the occasion of Madras Day, here’s a profile of a remarkable Chennai-ite, 102 years old, written by one who is no less remarkable – B.S. RAGHAVAN, who at 92, is active as a writer, social activist, columnist and public speaker.
  • I know a person who has drunk life to the lees and is still around at 102 defying death: Dr. S. Parthasarathy Iyengar, the father of Indian documentation.

    He is the first director of the newly founded Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre. A member of the Hindu Educational Organisation, he heads the managing committee of one of the schools run by it. He is an active mentor of the Ranganathan Centre for Information Studies.

    He is a disciple and devotee of S.R. Ranganathan, the father of Indian library science, the enunciator of the famous five laws of library science, the founder and first librarian of the Madras University Library and prime mover behind the National Library. (Ranganathan is not celebrated in India, there’s no portrait of him anywhere in India, but the Library of the US Congress, the world’s largest and most famous library, has his statue at its entrance. How will this country go forward with this kind of contempt for greatness?)

    Back to Parthasarathy Iyengar. He is also the chairman of the trust of a Rama temple in Ayodhya and truly religiously attends its urchavams and chariot-pulling festivals. He travels by train for two-and-a half days (I think) each way to Ayodhya, and stays in the room attached to the temple. He tells me that all the garlands, incense etc. for the deity are devotedly provided by the Muslims of the locality who also join in the pulling of the chariot. Incredible, isn’t it?

    Parthasarathy Iyengar is the first to arrive at meetings, participates so vigorously and questioningly that all of us have to be on our toes, and goes about as if he is 18. He does not accept “lifts” in others’ cars and insists on being independent. At 92, I hesitate to accept engagements or travel out, but not Parthasarathy Iyengar. Our HEO secretary passed away at Sriperumbudur, and I as its president sent my condolences from home, but Parthasarathy Iyengar at 102 drove all the way, one-and-a-half hours each way, to convey his condolences personally and stayed until the body was taken out.

    There was a celebration of the 90th birthday of Dr. M. Anandakrishnan at Hyatt Regency, which went on for three hours. Parthasarathy Iyengar came 15 minutes ahead of the meeting, even before Anandakrishnan’s own sons turned up, and sat right until the end, avidly listening to all the speeches.

    I asked Parthasarathy Iyengar the other day what his BP and blood sugar readings were. He guffawed and said he hadn’t taken any readings for decades!!

    He lives right close to the Parthasarathy Temple, Thiruvalikkeni. What a man! When comes such another? Go,
    mark him well, and take his blessings.


    He put India on the world tennis map

    Partab Ramchand remembering Ramanathan Krishnan at 80

    Ramanathan Krishnan, India’s tennis great, turns 80 on April 11th and I hope this article helps us to recall his outstanding feats in the 1950s and ’60s that have still not been matched.
    Indian tennis had a brief moment of glory internationally before the advent of Krishnan, when Ghaus Mohammed entered the men’s singles quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 1939 before losing to the ultimate champion Bobby Riggs of the USA. But it was Krishnan’s arrival that made the tennis world really familiar with India.

    20060909006003101Ramanathan Krishnan.

    The first feat that made him nationally known was winning the Stanley Cup at the Bertram tournaments conducted by Loyola College. It was an event for college boys and Krishnan became the first schoolboy to win it at the age of 13 in 1950. Under the tutelage of his father T.K. Ramanathan, himself a player of national repute, Krishnan made giant strides and the next step towards greatness was becoming the first Asian to win the Junior Wimbledon title in 1954, a feat his son Ramesh repeated in 1979.

    Krishnan’s upset victory over Jaroslov Drobny, the 1954 champion, in the very first round of the 1956 Wimbledon made the tennis world really sit up and take notice of a potentially world class player from India. And for the next decade he carried Indian hopes at both Wimbledon and in the Davis Cup. At Queen’s Club in 1959 he won the title beating Alex Olmedo of the USA in what was a curtain raiser for Wimbledon – in which the American was the top seed. Later that year, Krishnan got the better of Wimbledon runner-up Rod Laver in the Davis Cup inter-zone final against Australia. By then he was ranked among the world’s leading players.

    Indeed, around this time, Jack Kramer offered Krishnan big money to turn pro and join his pro circuit. Krishnan however turned down this offer, for to him, playing Wimbledon and Davis Cup were sacred and joining Kramer’s group would have prevented him from playing in these tournaments. The offer remained open for three years and his refusal surprised Kramer, but Krishnan never regretted his decision.

    A historic moment came about in 1960 when Krishnan became the first Indian to enter the men’s singles semi-finals at Wimbledon. He went down to the ultimate champion, Neale Fraser of Australia. The following year, Krishnan again made it to the last four, only to lose to another ultimate champion Laver. In 1962, Krishnan was seeded No. 4 behind the three Australians, Laver, Fraser and Roy Emerson, but had to concede his third round match to John Fraser, brother of Neale, because of an ankle injury. The following year he made it to the fourth round before losing to Emerson.

    Krishnan was never again a force to reckon with at Wimbledon, but continued to be a feared opponent in the Davis Cup where he regularly made sure that India made it to the inter-zone final and finally, in 1966, most memorably, to the Challenge Round against Australia. It was Krishnan who made this historic moment possible. The inter-zone final against Brazil at Calcutta was tied at 2-2 when Krishnan scored a brilliant comeback win over Brazil’s leading player Tomas Koch to ensure India’s victory. Koch was leading by two sets to one and 5-2 in the fourth only for Krishnan to reel off nine games on his way to taking the last two sets 7-5 and 6-2.

    It was not just the results that made the tennis world sit up and take notice of Krishnan. It was his style of “touch tennis” that attracted considerable attention. Lance Tingay, the well known British tennis writer, described Krishnan’s game as “pure Oriental charm” and “Eastern magic”. More recently, Robert Philip wrote that “each and every Krishnan rally was a thing of rare beauty.” Krishnan’s serve was never a powerful weapon, but measured ground strokes, a backhand that was a joy to watch, and angled volleys made him an opponent to be feared. His game was most eloquently described by Duncan Macaulay who witnessed Krishnan’s defeat of Emerson in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 1961. “Most surprisingly Krishnan beat Emerson with absolute ease. This was one of the best matches that Krishnan ever played at Wimbledon. He turned Emerson’s speed to his own advantage and directed his shots with a magical caress to those points of the court where Emerson wasn’t.”

    A recipient of the Arjuna Award in 1961, the Padma Shri in 1962 and the Padma Bhushan in 1967, Krishnan, after his playing days were over, was non-playing captain of the Davis Cup squad for several years and now with son Ramesh runs the Krishnan Tennis Academy in Kottivakkam. But it is his feats as a pioneering and inspiring tennis great for which he will be most fondly remembered, paving the way for the likes of, first, Premjit Lal and Jaideep Mukherjea and then the Amritraj brothers, Vijay and Anand, son Ramesh and Leander Paes, to keep India’s challenge going at international events.