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.
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.