Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXII No. 20, February 1-15, 2023
The letter of Sri Ramamurthy Ravichandran (MM, November 16th, 2022) reminded me that the Vellala Street in Purasawalkam is another equally landmark street of Madras, although Kalki Ra. Krishnamurthy did not reside here.
The door numbers (whatever I can remember) may have changed presently. Forgive me for such omissions.
The correct name of the popularly known as ‘Vellala Street’ and occasionally referred as ‘Vellalar Street’ is ‘Vinaitheertha Vinayakar Koil Street’, which I have noticed in the annual statements my father used to receive from the fund office (The Purasawalkam Permanent Fund Limited; https://www.ppfnidhi.com/AboutUs.html), founded by Sri M. Appadurai Pillai, which is running towards its centenary in the next few years. This fund office was a great attraction to me as a school goer, because it displayed a life-size Geetopadesa Krishna statue with a life-size Arjuna sitting in its front, slightly at a lower position listening to the upadesa. I am not sure whether these beautiful statues exist presently!
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayanaswami (better known as ‘R.K. Narayan’) was born in then No. 1 house of this street. Door numbers started from the southern end and progressed towards the northern end. His first cousin T.S. Sridhar (sobriquets: Marina, Bharanidaran) of Ananda-Vikatan fame was also born in this house. Narayan’s younger brother Rasipuram K. Lakshmanan (‘R.K. Laxman’ of the Times of India group, Bombay) was also born in 1, Vellala Street. Boyhood days of these eminent writers were here. Both Narayanaswami and Sridhar studied some of their early classes in the not-far-away E(vangelical) L(utheran) M(ission) Fabricius School, located on Puraswalkam High Road, located opposite to the Sundaram Pillai Street. I cannot say for certain whether Laxman studied in ELM school. Almost one or two doors away lived the then popular writer Makaram (I do not know his original name), who was a regular writer in Kalki and Kalaimagal. Towards the western end of this street, another popular, humorous writer in Tamil [Gomathi] Swaminathan lived. Swaminathan worked as the Deputy Post Master at the Mount-Road Central Post Office.
Another key landmark was the Tondai-mandala Tuluva Vellalar Sangam, highly likely giving the street’s popular name: Vellala[r] Street. The last time I went past this street, I could not see the signage for this Sangam, probably it has moved to Royapettah, with a slightly amended name as the Tuluva Vellalar Association. A few houses westward was the Triplicane Urban Co-operative Society (TUCS) outlet. The first TUCS outlet was naturally in Triplicane; the second was in Vellala Street.
Kalyanasundaram Ramachandran (who later metamorphosed as K. Anbazhagan), a minister in C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi ministries, lived somewhere in mid-Vellala Street.
This refers to the Madras High Court judgement passed on December 23, 2022 on the property tax revision made by the Greater Chennai Corporation [GCC] for the period from the first half of April 2022. The Court was hearing a bunch of 150 petitions challenging the Government Order on revising the property tax and the GCC’s Resolutions giving effect to the same.
While upholding the revision in the property tax, the Court set aside the property tax general revision notices 2022-23 mandating the hike to be made effective from the first half of April 2022. The Court ruled that the above notices were “erroneous and absurd” and that the civic authorities’ insistence on payment of revised tax from the first half of the financial year 2022-23 beginning on April 15 was illegal.
The Court said it was absurd to demand revised tax from April 15 on the basis of council resolutions passed much later on May 30 and 26 and that it had been settled by courts over the years that any increase in tax cannot be retrospective since it will adversely affect substantial civil rights.
While it is clarified that the ‘relief’ arising out of the said order is applicable only to those petitioners who challenged the revision, in view of the fact that the other resident-taxpayers have the same contention to articulate and just because they have not filed the petitions, it does not mean that they have accepted the increase. It, therefore, makes sense that the same relief is given to others as well. Taking into account the tone and tenor of the judgement, which is general in nature, the Government should direct the GCC to enforce the revision only from the first half of April 2023 for all property tax payers.
31, Motilal Street, Chennai 17
I am riding on a red Chennai Metro bus, route 29C (Perambur to Tiruvanmiyur). It lumbers towards the Tank bus-stop on Ramakrishna Mutt (monastery) Road. From inside the bus I spy a large body of water not so ceremoniously called tank (Tamil theppakulam) nevertheless dedicated to Kapaleeshwarar, the presiding deity of Mylai or Mylapore. Though I know it is said Kailaye Mayilai and Mayilaye Kayilai, I learn its meaning only now – Kailash is Mylai and Mylai is Kailash. The temple gopurams (towers) beckon from afar. I join the commuters stepping out one after the other. The geometrically perfect tank and its stairs on all four sides girdling the waters is quite the sight. The tank, abutting the bus-stop, I estimate, is larger than the temple itself.
Bearing a mental picture of an extraordinary creation of the city’s heritage, I walk forward in the direction of the departing bus. Traffic-prone as the road may be I am not in the least deterred. There is something in the air. Near the bus-stop is the main entrance to the temple tank. Here on special days priests lead people performing rituals to their dear departed. I carefully advance on the road, pass by TANTEA where I have dropped in many times for a hot glass of tea or steaming hot coffee in tumbler and dabara. A two-wheeler mechanic on the pavement, a small eatery where customers stand and eat, an optician and a fruit vendor in a pushcart are at my service.
Less than five minutes ahead is my favoured destination in Mylapore, the Sri Ramakrishna Math, an unfailing answer to people’s spiritual and some secular needs since 1907, thanks in no small measure to its founder Swami Ramakrishnananda, a devotee-dynamo and God-realised saint. He is worshipped as the moving force of the Math to this day. The Math’s history in Chennai traces back to 1897. Sri Sarada Devi, Sri Ramakrishna’s consort, visited here in 1911. The old temple here was inaugurated in 1917, the charitable dispensary in 1925, the library in 1936 and the Universal Temple in 2000.
At the Math I take in as much of the nourishing prana as I possibly can. My explorations within and without take me around the vast clean and green campus and at one point to the main bookstore. The hundreds of inspiring and inspired read-and-keep titles published by the Math and Mission, in Sanskrit, Tamil and English,are a window to the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda movement, Hindu religion, culture, tradition, philosophy and self-development. The Vedanta Kesari, English monthly, published from here is into its 109 th year and the Tamil monthly Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, started in 1921, has a circulation of 1,60,000.
While the store can be accessed from inside the Math, the entrance on South Mada street is the one that draws the public. Life inside the store and life on the Mada veedhis (streets) are a study in contrast. Mada veedhis are so called because the temple deities are carried in a festive procession on these streets. My anti-clockwise (wrt the temple) foray through South Mada veedhi never fails to perk me up. I chart my own path through the bustling street bazar. The flower and veggie vendors on the roadsides, other pedestrians, the not-so-fast up and down streaming vehicles and the Nandi-like vehicles parked on the road only heighten my liking to the place. What I like, eh? Some simple pleasures. A peek in no particular order: ice-cream slithering into cones from the softy vending machine outside a popular restaurant, small vendors who recognise and call out to me, first and last darshan of Sri Ramakrishna, stationery and bookshops, Velliswarar temple from where emanate the sound of loud bells, music concerts at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan on East Mada veedhi, the sight of garland makers standing around a table working and chit-chatting at the same time, dabba chetti kadais, the multi-storeyed Giri with its wild assortment of things, seeing hungry customers relish bajjis standing outside the jannal kadai, different views of the main gopuram of the Kapali temple, witnessing with the jam-packed crowd the procession of the 63 Nayanmars during the Aruvathimoovar festival, a devotee putting kolam just outside the main door of the temple, trying to count jewellery shops on North Mada street, the faces of familiar beggars and what have you. I look forward to my next outing to what I believe is the heart and soul of Mylapore and it yielding more of its self to me.
T.K. Srinivas Chari