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Vol. XXX No. No. 14, November 16-30, 2020

Our Readers Write

The Beach House

I am always fascinated and even now by this building – what a location.When I came down to Chennai after retirement in 1999, I saw this in a dilapidated condition. I brought this to the notice of Mr. Muthiah. He perhaps spoke to someone and it was slightly repaired and whitewashed. Later I spoke to the then Principal and told her to convert it into her official residence – a fantastic location on the beach. She told me she might use it as a classroom. I also felt that the DGP who was opposite could use it as a Police Club. I was feeling sadly that it might disappear one night.

Leading advocate N.L. Rajah tells me that he has filed a PIL in the Madras High Court for its conservation.

Dr. G. Sundaram, ias (r)
A-601, “DUGAR Apartments”
Keshav Perumal Puram
Greenways Road
Chennai 600 028

Remembering Ms. Savithri Vaithi

This refers to the article by Smt Kamala Rangachari, Managing Trustee of the Vishranti Charitable Trust offering tributes to late Ms. Savithri Vaithi, the founder of the renowned old age home for women Vishranti in Chennai (“Savithri Vaithi attains Vishranthi,” MM, November 1st). This article has detailed the various hardships faced by Savithri Vaithi apart from the efforts taken for establishing this Home for the aged women as early as in the year 1978. It was revealed that this home had its beginning with the blessings of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Shri Maha Periava Shri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Sankaracharya Swmigal.

I had known Savithri Vaithi and visited Vishranthi. I was able to see the good arrangements made with the needs and necessities of life provided to the inmates being attended to with dedication and care. Savithri Vaithi had rendered yeoman services for the cause of the elderly people and leading a selfless life devoting herself to this noble cause.

I had known the incidents about Savithri Vaithi arranging for the performance of the funeral rites herself when the relatives of the dead woman members failed to come to the Home to take the body to their home. It was a highly remarkable service rendered by her.

It is a matter of surprise besides a great regret that Savithri Vaithi during her life time was not conferred one of Padma awards in recognition of her unique services rendered to society.

P.S. Subrahmanian
No. 87 (old number 50)
Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai
Mylapore, Chennai 600 004


Mr T.P. Vivevakanand, son of T.D. Parthasarathy (MM Oct 16th and Nov. 1st) points out that his father was not the first journalist sent abroad by The Hindu to cover sports events but was the first to be sent to cover the Olympics. The error is regretted.

– The Editor

When Jesse Owens visited Madras

Jesse Owens. Courtesy: The Hindu.

The reference to Jesse Owens in Deeptha Vivekanand’s excellent article on T.D. Parthasarathy (Madras Musings, Nov. 1-15, 2020) took my mind back by some 65 years to the time when Jesse Owens was on a visit to India as a goodwill ambassador of the Government of United States. He toured many places in the country, and visited Madras among other cities. Nowadays any VVIP visitor from overseas on a visit to India just touches New Delhi (and Agra in some cases) and vanishes. In those days that was not the practice. The visitor’s itinerary would include a few other places besides, and be spread all over the country. It was the time when ‘South India’ meant only ‘Madras’ to the powers that be in Delhi. And so, if any city in the south was to be visited it would be Madras. Within the city, the visitor would be staying at the Raj Bhawan in Guindy and would be driven in an open car from there to wherever he or she would be going. It was the era before the arrival of the sharp-shooter and the suicide bomber on the scene; and with the VVIP visitor seated in it, the open car would be driven at a slow speed. The only concession made would be that all other traffic on the road would be stopped till the car passed. The VVIP would wave to the cheering crowds that would have collected on either side of the road. As a student at the College of Engineering Guindy, I had such darshan of many great leaders of that time such as Gamel Abdul Nasser, Khrushchev, Bulganin, Queen Elizabeth, Chou-en-lai and Marshall Tito among others. And of Jesse Owens I had more than just a darshan.

Jesse Owens stayed for a couple of days, and visited and addressed meetings in some sports clubs and colleges here. At that time the people of Madras still had lingering memories of his historic performance at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 when he won a record four gold medals and blasted Hitler’s theory of superiority of ‘Aryan race’ in the sports field. He was a hero everyone admired.

Jesse Owens addressed the students in two colleges. The first was at Stanley Medical College which meeting I attended as a guest of my brother Dr. Lakshmipathi who was then a student there. After the chief guest ascended the stage and took his seat, a girl student came on the stage to garland him. Jesse quickly walked to the mike and spoke to the audience.

“In India” he said, “You send beautiful girls to garland me. But you don’t let me kiss them. I am not going to miss my chance today”. With that he bowed down, planted a kiss on the cheek of the girl who shyly garlanded him. We the audience broke into thunderous applause.

The next day Jesse addressed the students in our College. This is how he began his address:

“I am happy to be addressing students at an engineering college. It is the medical professionals that I am afraid of addressing after what happened to me years ago in my home town.”

He continued. “Once I was asked to speak at a function honouring a doctor who, I was told, had served our community for many years.” I decided to be effusive in my praise. “I, personally, owe a lot to the doctor, I said.” “He was the one who attended on my mother at her delivery and he was the one who brought me into this world.”

“The person presiding over the function rushed to me.
“Cool it, Jesse” he hissed in my year, “He is a veterinary doctor.”

G. Ram Mohan

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