A Journey through Inspiring Lives – Part V

“I completed my plus two in the year, 1985. My marks were insufficient to get into the famous PSG College of Arts and Science in Coimbatore. The only way was to get in through the management quota. My grandfather, R. Krishnan and father, K. Govindarajulu took me to G. V. Muthuswamy Naidu (GVM) of the PSG family to secure my admission. He lived in a nice art deco bungalow at Red Fields. If I remember right, it was known as 'Seethalakshmi'. GVM readily agreed to recommend my case. It was due to his help that I could do my B. Com in the prestigious PSG College. 

GVM typed the recommendation letter all by himself. He was kind enough to tell a few stories connected with my family. I learnt that my great grandfather, P. A. Raju Chettiar had been quite close to his father, P. S. G. Venkataswamy Naidu. A silver frame with my great grandfather's picture had been given to all the important guests who had attended the ‘Sashtiabdhapoorthi’ of my great grandfather in 1955 and P. S. G. Venkataswamy Naidu had given the one received by him to his third son, G. V. Muthuswamy Naidu (1912 - 2003). I was happy to learn about this episode. Later, GVM made to offer my prayers to the picture that he had been preserving over thirty years. I joined the college and completed my course successfully by 1988. It was an opportunity to celebrate and I did so with some nice pine apple pastries from J. M. & Sons., GVM blessed me on my successful completion.

Interestingly, the stories that I got to hear that day is still pleasant in my memory. GVM had visited the Lawley Institute along with his wife in the year 1947. My great grandfather, P. A. Raju Chettiar (PAR) and great grandmother, Rajalakshmi were also staying in the same venue. GVM recalled my great grandfather offering him homemade savouries at Lawley's.

Muthuswamy Naidu was a calm and a religious person who was also an avid reader. He would pray for a few hours everyday and ate a late breakfast. The fine gentleman was never interested in quarrels and he firmly believed in family unity. He would read until midnight and was extremely knowledgeable. The Divya Prabandham was among his favourites. His knowledge of music had been good and he could identify Ragams used to compose songs. 

GVM's father-in-law, V. Palaniswamy Naidu had been an ethical banker. He had given regular dividends to his shareholders and settled them handsomely on a later date. Palaniswamy Naidu had lived in a street named after him. GVM used to read the details found in the balance sheets of all the textile mills of the region. It would be interesting to listen to his analysis. He had once run the Murugan Theatre on lease. Listening to the radio was another of his past times. He was known to enjoy music regularly. This devout gentleman was ever pleasant to the visitors. He would recall the visits to our shop regarding the purchase of jewellery.

His father, P. S. G. Venkataswamy Naidu had been a regular visitor to our shop, P. A. Raju Chettiar & Brother, for years. I got to meet the other members of his family during my visits to the residence of GVM. His son, M. Jayaraj was known for his prodigious memory. He would recall several people and incidents at ease. I gained a lot due to my visits to the residence of G. V. Muthuswamy Naidu. He had been the Chief Guest at our college during a cultural event. The event had been curated by my friend, Santossh (Lambodhara Textiles Limited) and a couple of fellow Rotaractors including myself. 

A. Selvaraj Palsniswamy who lived in Chamundi Nilayam was the the son in law of G. V. Muthuswamy Naidu and he was known for his polite behaviour and social etiquette . He happened to be the son of V. Palaniswamy Naidu.

G. V.  Muthuswamy Naidu believed in unity and peaceful co-existence. He would request people to settle differences of opinion amicably. GVM would advice that one should not take advantage of a situation. He would opine that family disputes should be resolved peacefully. His motto was give and take. He was a quiet, well-read, and peace-loving industrialist, who wished the best for everyone. He was an advocate of peace all his life.

Parvathavardhini Thayar, the wife of Setty S. N. Padmanabha Chetty (1893 - 1973) - Founder of M/S Gopala Padma Vilas of Salem, was the mother of my paternal grandmother, K. Lalitha Bai. She was known for keeping the family residence sparkling clean. Great granny was a practical person and used to love meeting me and my brother, Suresh, during our visits to Salem. Those were times when the telephone was a rarity. Therefore her brother, Ramachandran would act as her messenger. He would tell us that great granny wanted to have my mother, Aravindakumari and us over for lunch. The lunch would be an elaborate affair. One, Padmavathi Akka, would make us fabulous lunch. They would serve us on plantain leaves. Great granny was asthmatic and we would hear her heavy breathing once in a way. 

Palakkad Thayar was my great grandmother and she had moved over to Karur post marriage. She was a tall, and fair complexioned lady. Palakkad Thayar lived long enough to meet many generations. 

My great grandmother would give me books belonging to my great grandfather, during my visits to Salem. One of the precious rare books, ‘Sethu and Rameswaram’ by Vanamamalai Pillai is a treasure even today. Dr. Nanditha Krishna of CPR Foundation reprinted the book along with a Foreword from me. Great grandmother hailed from a noble family based out of Karur. Her father, Lakshminarayana Chetty was a big shot during his times and mother Thayarammal was tall and fair-complexioned. Lord Narasimha was their family deity. Therefore, every generation had a kid named as either ‘Narasimhan’ or ‘Thayar’ (after Namagiri Thayar).

Great grandfather, Padmanabha Chetty (SNP) had taken ill during his final years. Great granny had nursed him well. J. Loganathan, the partner at Gopala Padma Vilas used to attend to his needs. SNP would attend literary society meetings despite being wheelchair bound. My uncle, R. Srinivasan had kept company with him those days. Well, my great granny wanted to live long enough so that she could attend to the medical needs of her husband. In short, she wanted to outlive him to do so. She was very affectionate and practical. We would listen to her stories while enjoying the cold rose milk served by her. She would mostly be alone in the large house and would tell me about her regimen before going to sleep. Great granny used to call out aloud to all the Gods and ask them to care of her wellbeing. Her younger brother, Ramachandran would keep her company. The other brother M. L. Krishnamurthy had been a resident of Coimbatore. 

Those were times, when people had to follow too many strictures. Great granny would clear her doubts with the family priest. She wanted to know if it was all right to recite, ‘Sri Lalitha Sahasranamam’ after the demise of great grandfather. The priest had replied in an affirmative tone. She would enjoy our visits to her home and would out of the way serve us nice chutney-filled ghee dosas. I am yet to taste anything like that. Parvathavardhini Thayar was a unique lady. 

My mother's paternal grandmother, Swarnambal was an ardent Vaishnavaite. She hailed from Edappadi near Salem. She would look forward towards our summer visits. Swarnambal was a bold person. She was deeply devoted to Lord Vishnu and would sport a Namam everyday. I used to admire her Namam kit and it was made by crafts people from Thirupullani near Rameswaram. She had learnt a bit of English through the radio. Learning Telugu was made easy because of her co-sister, Ranganayaki who hailed from Bangarpet. Both used to write letters to each other. My great granny would write in Telugu and her co-sister would write in Tamil. They used to ensure that their language skills stayed undiminished through the letters. 

My great grandfather, K. L. Chinnikrishna Chetty had been the owner of a shop that vended foreign liquor. Hence, they were known as the Brandy Shop family. He had been an Honorary Magistrate and was famous for his sparkling clean clothes. He would only wear Glasgow Mull and was known to wash his clothes all by himself. Great grandfather was known to cure people who had been stung by scorpions. A special oil prepared by soaking parts of scorpion along with a mixture of herbs would be dispensed as a remedy for scorpion stings. People used to visit him often to seek relief. Great grandfather was not scared of scorpions, and he would effortlessly handle them.

My mother, grandmother (Chandra Bai Sampath Kumar), and great grandmother, used to share stories of his medical skills. He hailed from the Kota family and his elders had been important citizens. The wealthy family had been influential. Great granny, Swarnambal was an ardent Vaishnavaite. I came to know about her initiation by a Guru. A Mudra (Vaishnavaite Mark) would be marked on the shoulders. She would never pray to any other God for she was fully devoted to Lord Narayana. She would often visit the Kuladeivam, Kottai Perumal, temple at Salem. I still remember the big diamonds on her nose pin and the seven-stoned ear stead. She would wear solid chains on her person. Swarnambal was very affectionate to her brothers and their kids. She would host them in her residence often.  The huge residence had hosted many people. 

Swarnambal had mastered special chants which cured people from snake bites, scorpion bites, and sprains. She had taught them to others at home. The eldest child was taught first she would say. There was a belief that the eldest one’s usage would make the chant most potent. The eldest child came to be known as ‘Tholchoor’ and the second or others were known as ‘Malchoor.’ She told the ones who had mastered the chants to recite them repeatedly during eclipses in order to make them most effective. These chants were not the be pronounced aloud. They would use a metal rod and rub it on the affected spot. The rod would be stroked mildly and be made to touch the ground. I remember many people rushing in to seek relief. She would also state that one first born should not marry another first born. We were told to stay from lightening and particularly the first born had to be careful. She would ask us to recite the word ‘Arjuna’ at times when the sound of thunder was extraordinarily high. It was meant to please Indra for Arjuna was his son. The impact would be reduced due to the utterance of Arjuna’s name. We came to know about all this and more. Of course, she was also an expert in making ‘legiyams.’ She would make ‘legiyams’ for young mothers which was much sought after. It would help them stay healthy while providing feed for their babies. Great grandmother was, thus, an expert in several things connected with medicine.  

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