Posts Tagged ‘Madras’

“Supplemurthy” and an engineer among historians

June 3, 2008

Here is a short piece by S Muthiah in the Madras edition of Metro Plus on T S Satyamurti:

His rapid fire supplementaries once led Finance Member Sir James Grigg to dub him “Supplemurthy”!

Another European Member said, “Like the Niagra, he was torrential, deafening and unceasing, but unlike the Niagra, he had never been known to freeze into silence.”

He himself, referring to his penchant for supplementaries, said, “I should like to say as a notorious culprit in that respect that the attempt of the opposition in putting questions, and especially, supplementary questions is not only to elicit information, but to put the Government in the wrong and to raise a laugh in the House, if possible, and in the country, certainly.”

There was no one better in achieving that end than Satyamurti.

And, another by him on Henry Davison Love, an engineer historian:

One who had done it best in this part of the world produced the definitive history of Madras between 1600 and 1800. This column owes much to Col. Henry Davison Love of the Royal Engineers who is the authority on Madras-before-1800.

Love, was in 1879, appointed Acting Principal of what was then known as the Engineering College, which became better known from 1896 as the College of Engineering.

He was made Principal in 1880 and served in that capacity till he retired in 1907, the 27 years of service broken only by five periods of home leave, of a year each.

He was the best of the principals from the Corps of Engineers, civilians succeeding to the post thereafter.

During his period of service, much was done to reorganise the College. The College moved in 1888 into a new building built by Chisholm adjacent to Chepauk Palace’s Khalsa Mahal, which it had occupied from 1859.

The Chisholm building was to develop as the Public Works Department’s headquarters. Two years of practical training were made compulsory and the degree course in Mechanical Engineering was introduced in 1895; till then, only Civil Engineering had been offered.

The Mechanical Engineering course was another first in India for the College.

Once Love retired to England, he got down to collating a lifetime’s research in the Madras Records Office, the British Museum Library and elsewhere, and out of it emerged a masterpiece, Vestiges of Old Madras, in 1913.

The classic comprises three volumes and an index in a fourth volume. While in Madras, Love had also written several shorter histories of institutions etc., and numerous history-based articles for the Press.

By doing all this, what he demonstrated was that an engineer need not live by well-construction, masonry and carpentry (all subjects he introduced for practical training, in addition to the traditional surveying) alone.

By the way, it is short, interesting pieces of this sort that one misses when one browses through the newspaper online, as I used to do for the past couple of years. It is amazing how fast one can browse through the print edition and judge pieces. Of course, having a more streamlined online edition might mitigate problems of this sort a bit — for example, Hindu can have a page for its columnists, where, with one click, one can access all the published pieces by her/him in the newspaper over the years. But, such professionally made online edition is yet to appear in the Hindu.

Some travel stories!

May 14, 2008

I do not know if you ever tried packing and re-packing your bags at the airport. During my journey a couple of days ago from Chicago to India, I had to; however, the experience was made pleasanter by the very helpful and courteous Lufthansa employee Jamilah Bahrami (I hope I got the spelling right). We did have a small mishap with the flight though; during the Chicago-Frankfurt flight, our stroller got broken; so, we had to navigate Frankfurt without the help of a stroller — it was not very comfortable — but it wasn’t unmanageable given we had nearly four hours of time for transit. But, guess what — our broken stroller, which I did not pick up at Frankfurt showed up in Chennai, anyway — and, if you have a baby in stroller, the emigration is pretty fast and comfortable too. By the way, the bassinets that Lufthansa gives for babies is great — it really helps in taking the baby of your lap once in a while.

The couple of hours that we had to spend at Frankfurt waiting to board the Madras flight was made interesting by the discussions that were happening all around. Of all the things I overheard, I liked the observation of a business man (a textile merchant from Tiruppur?), who was amazed at the fact that you can run a real big company involved in producing the goods XXX in Switzerland without having even heard of the name of the minister of XXX; thus, according to him, the level of political corruption in a country can be measured in how big a company or industry you can run without having to meet the political administration and the concerned ministry. Makes sense!

After the deep quench and maintenance at low termperatures for so long in Chiacgo, 30 degree celsius temperature that we were exposed to (at midnight in Madras), in metallurgy speak, is like solutionising-close-to-solvus kind of heat treatment; but we are holding up, and my daughter, admirably.

A quick observation about a trip in the streets of Madras that I took yesterday: the India’s national newspaper since 1878 (?) is reduced to identifying itself with Madras and the trust that Madrasis place on it for its marketing!

So, more Madras-India stories soon here — as and when I get time. So long!

Earliest photography course in Asia

December 9, 2007

Apparently was offered in Madras in 1855! Malavika Karlekar has more details:

The army officer, Linnaeus Tripe, gives an interesting and well-documented account of bullock-cart travel during his extended photographic trip in south India. Photography had arrived in Madras soon after the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839. As in the other two presidencies, the colonial middle-classes took to it with much alacrity — to be soon followed by Indians. Bourne and Shepherd did not travel so far south, and the initiative was left to H.R. Wiele and his partner, a Theodor Klein, who was born of German parents in Madras, to set up one of the best-known studios in the region. This was around the 1880s. Earlier, in 1855, photography had been introduced as a subject in the Madras School of Industrial Art (the present College of Arts and Crafts). One of the earliest institutions in Asia to offer the subject, the principal, A. Hunter, encouraged students to record agricultural practices and indigenous implements. The following year, the Photographic Society of Madras was started by Walter Elliot. Elliot belonged to that select group of civil servants who combined an exacting full-time occupation with other interests, in this case natural history and photography.

Apparently, as early as 1857, there was a photographic expedition:

Prior to his trip, Tripe located informants who were asked to supply information about local antiquities, natural phenomena and of course, ‘native races’. He set out from Bangalore on December 12, 1857 and reached Madras almost five months later via Salem, Srirangam, Trichy, Madurai, Pudukkottai and Tanjore. He used four bullock carts built at the Bangalore arsenal to transport equipment and his staff. Despite the discomfort of hot weather and an exhausting tour, he produced 275 large 14 inches by 12 inches paper negatives, sixteen 14 inches by 11inches dry collodion negatives on glass plates and 160 stereographs, also on glass plates.

I would love to see the photographs from Salem district, since (a) my district was part of Salem district during the British rule, and (b) according to the piece

Tripe had photographed all the major temples and architectural buildings in the region and had made interesting landscapes of Salem district and documented life within the palace of the ruler of Pudukkottai as well.

What is more, Karlekar also tells us that the photographs were published as albums with annotations by scholars such as G U Pope. Karlekar’s piece is full of nuggets like this; a must-read piece; don’t miss it.