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

Vol. XXXI No. 18, January 1-15, 2022

Adyar’s short-lived Cultural Association

by Jayaraman Raghunathan

Adyar has been my second love – silly, when you are married, you don’t mention anything else as your first love! Since that rainy day in November 1962 when our small family walked into a new house still smelling of wet cement, built brick by brick by my father, I have loved almost everything about Adyar. So much was my affinity for Adyar that once when someone in a not-so-important lunch meeting remarked “ oh Adyar, who can go and live there?” I made sure that a cup of hot sambhar was dropped on his terry wool clad thigh to register my protest!

But then, I have a grouse too against this charming neighbourhood that I have treaded on and trundled over for over fifty long years!

Since the early sixties, vegetarian restaurants have found it tough to thrive here, perhaps the then thin populace preferred home food when compared with the aromatic sambar and idly delivered on semi-crushed plates and moon-surfaced cups. Besant Hotel, Vani Vilas, Adyar Woodlands, Karpaga Coffee hotel, Dosa Corner – all started with great fervour but within a few months, lost their sheen, spent some days with chairs placed upside down on the tables and then folded up. Non-vegetarian restaurants were in favour at Adyar as was proven by The Coronet Hotel that was a landmark for over three decades. The Runs Hotel, where the passers-by would unfailingly get the petrol smell and boiling eggs combo as they crossed its entrance, till a couple of months back, ran to packed clientele.

The Adyar Cultural Association, like these short-lived vegetarian eateries, had a brief existence.

When you travel from Madhya Kailash on the Sardar Patel road, at the Ambika Appalam signal, you stay alert waiting for the milli-second green light. When you do take a turn, you still have to negotiate a couple of past-sixty uncles nonchalantly crossing the road, oblivious to vehicle, to enter Sundaram Finance to check for the third time on the same day if the interest on their Fixed Deposit has been credited! And even thereafter you cannot not zip straight on the Third Cross Street of Kasturba Nagar, for you need to pause at the Nilgiris Departmental store, to your left. This is in order to see an open hall in which Rajasthani blankets would be swaying in the air, beckoning you to buy. And that open hall used to be the Adyar Cultural Association!

“Two Kutcheris every month, Jayaraman! You must become a member and support the growth of this cultural association!”

Dr Krishnamurthy coerced my father and a group of our neighbours, who obviously were his regular patients, to shell out the then princely eighty-four rupees as the annual subscription.

I must tell you about Dr. Krishnamurthy!

A gregarious man of wit and humour with a metallic voice that could rarely be disagreed with on any opinion. He was a six-footer and had a very fair complexion with coal black hair neatly Cantharidin-oiled and combed to perfection. He would be attired in faint perfume-smelling Terylene shirt and neatly pressed trousers. He would carry a brown leather medical kit and always had amusing anecdotes to share that would end invariably in his guffaw. In reciprocation, you may have to deliver at least a faint smile to avoid his ire. He had a wonderful gift of the gab and most of your ailments would go or be forgotten in the face of his wit and jovial personality. He never hesitated to treat the poor and needy free with the same banter and enthusiasm.

It was his tireless effort that brought Adyar Cultural Association to take off with great fanfare and run with gusto and success.

I distinctly recall the inaugural concert – it was by the Bombay Sisters and more than the Pantuvarali or Manji ragas that the duo sang, as a schoolboy, I remember the pleasant-smelling sandal “panneer” sprinkle and the three-paise Parry chocolates given on that day. There was even a concert by Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna when the Kasturba Nagar Third Cross Road was filled with people listening to his heavenly ‘Nagumomu’!

During one Margazhi month, there was a concert planned by A.K.C. Natarajan. It rained in the morning, and I had gone along with my mother to attend the performance. Adjacent to the concert hall, there was an old peepal tree under which was a well-flattened surface that served as an ideal location for playing marbles. In the bright glow of tube lights, it used to be great fun playing! On that day however, within a few minutes, my mother called me to go home. I was to learn later that there were hardly eight to ten people who had turned up and AKC Natarajan was miffed. He refunded the advance to Dr. Krishnamurthy saying, “Please do not insult artists like this! Don’t hold music concerts here!”

After this incident, very few Carnatic concerts were held. I remember Major Sundararajan in his play Theerpu, Delhi Kumar arguing a la Sivaji Ganesan in Theernthathu Kanakku which was an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution and a play for children enacted by a troupe called Lalithanjali consisting of Sundar, Surender , Shobha and Sheela – Shoba being the mother of Actor Vijay!

After a few months, if memory serves me right, Adyar Cultural Association folded up and subsequently, returning from his clinic one day, Dr. Krishnamurthy died of a massive heart attack.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *