Many Ideas of a Gentleman

Naren was an interesting and innovative person. He was full of ideas and would share them dispassionately. His zest for life and quest for new ideas were his driving forces. Buildings, bikes, cars, food, PSG, Cosmopolitan Club, photography, new ventures, visits to temples and exploration of the past were among his interests. While his coffee maker brewed coffee, his mind would be brewing ideas. Naren would be ensconced in his open office at Deja Vu on Avinashi Road. He used to be surrounded by books and gadgets. A tiny room nearby would contain his stuff connected with his motorcycles. This member of the Iron Butt Association (An association of bikers who rode 1000 miles in 24 hours) was also an avid reader. His bucket list included a lot of things and much of it was left undone.

The great grandson of P. S. Govindaswamy Naidu wanted to devote 10,000 days of his life for the betterment of the PSG Institutions, but he was taken away by destiny. Yes, Naren calculated his life up to 30,000 days and he had wanted to spend 10,000 days on social causes through the PSG & Sons Charities. He would often talk about Dara Shukoh, the Crown Prince of the Mughal Empire and the first son of Shah Jahan. Naren felt that Dara would have been a far better emperor than his younger brother Aurangazeb. History interested him enormously and he would often say that it is the accumulated karma. Friends would remember ‘Coffee with Naren’ very well. He was a sweet tooth all his life and had developed a special liking to the cupcakes from Bakeroe in Racecourse.

Naren was keenly devoted to Lord Narayana and would visit Guruvayoor, Tirupati and Srirangam often. This temple goer believed in spending time in the temples and would never rush through. His mother Padmini Rajan happens to be the granddaughter of Adusumilli Gopalakrishnaiah, an aristocrat from Andhra Pradesh. Naren was ever happy to talk about his own grandfather Adusumilli Subramanyam and uncle Suryanarayana. He would invite friends to his home (Cutie) and would share with us the food prepared by his mother. Naren used to often talk about his grandmother PSGN. Janaki Ammal and his visits to Srirangam along with her. His experiences at Srirangam at the residence of Rangaraja Bhattar had enriched him.

The innovator would be at ease with ideas. He would often take a piece of paper, draw, or write down points to his friends who would be stepping into new ventures. His wife Uma would jocularly call him a paper tiger. He would often talk about the good networking abilities of his wife Uma. While the daughter Rashmi was the apple in his eye, Naren was particular to ensure that she was a self-taught person. He was very happy to receive Gaurav as his son-in-law. Naren was quite attached to his sister Seshu and would always state that she would outlive him. He was appreciative of his brother-in-law Greg. The son Naren was always appreciative of the integrity and reading habits of his father V. Rajan, who had served as the Managing Trustee of the PSG Institutions.

Naren would often talk about the cost of education. He was particular to ensure that the poor got educated. The scion of the great PSG family was never in favor of capitation. He was keen to raise resources in a different manner. Naren felt that the alumni, the society, and the participation in startups would get him the required money. He wanted to build educational institutions in other parts of the country as well. Naren wanted every educationist to follow the footsteps of his uncle G. R. Damodaran (GRD). He had cherished the sixtieth birthday memorabilia of GRD throughout his life. It contained the holy namam with a conch and a discus made of silver. A note was found attached and Naren would fondly show it to everyone. He asked me to make a replica of it for Rashmi's wedding and it was distributed among the near and dear.

The Peelamedu Karivaradaraja Perumal was dear to him, and he would visit the temple regularly. Come Vaikunta Ekadashi and he would be among the first to arrive at the temple. He was particular to follow the footsteps of his uncle G. V. Doraiswamy at the temple. The entrepreneur was a Bhagavata, and he had been following the footsteps of his mother in this regard. He was also attached to the Singanallur Ulagalandha Perumal temple. His staff, Navaneetham, belonged to the family which managed the temple. Naren would apply the prasadam of this temple on his forehead every day. He would often talk about the manner in which Lord Trivikrama had resolved a major problem in a peaceful manner. Naren would always give all the books connected with Lord Narayana to me and would want me to read and tell him the contents. He had come out with a booklet for the Kothandaramaswamy temple at the time of its Mahasamprokshanam. The Bhagavata was keen to do a lot of work with the Ukkadam Lakshmi Narasimha temple. He was an architect of a plan which raised funds through the sale of calendars.

Naren would visit the Palani Murugan temple every year along with his mother. He would lift the kavadi and swirl around with the people from the PSG Institutions. The Coimbatore Thiruppavai Committee was dear to him, and he was always appreciative of Advocate N. Parthasarathy in that regard. Naren would regularly contribute towards the propagation of 'Thiruppavai' through this organization. The contributions were made in the name of his sister, Seshu. Naren had also contributed towards the construction of the Rajagopuram at the Koniamman temple. Padmini Ammal and Naren would take me to the Gopurapatti Perumal temple. This temple is near Srirangam and they had contributed a lot for the restoration of this ancient temple. Long ago, Malik Kafur and Ulugh Khan had put to death thousands of innocent people on the streets of Srirangam and the obsequies for the departed had been done here those days.

The builder loved to drive all the time. He would drive by car to Srirangam regularly. We would stop at Karur for some fine filter coffee. The outlet was identified by his mother. Both the mother and son would enjoy the coffee and the Navadanyam mixture on the outskirts of Vellore. Naren would speak his heart out during travels and old movie songs would be his accompaniments. His visits to Chennai would be complete only after a visit to the Tiruvallikeni Parthasarathy temple. The Divya Desam-s at Kanchipuram was among his favorite destinations. Naren would also take us to the Vazhakarutheeshwarar temple in Kanchipuram. The seventy fifth birthday of his mother Padmini Ammal was celebrated with a visit to the Rameswaram temple. We had a nice theertha snanam during that visit. We had visited Tranquebar and stayed in a bungalow on the shores of a beach during our visit to the Thanjavur Big Temple and Darasuram. He would get up by 4 am in order to photograph the sunrise on the east coast.

Naren took us to the temples at Belur and Halebed. The shutter bug in him kept him occupied during the visit. He would keenly read about the places in the travel plan and discuss threadbare about the same while travelling. The thinker used to attend the lectures of Vellukudi Krishnan. He was an ardent Hindu all his life. The ‘Vishnu Sahasranamam’ rendered by Malola Kannan was another constant companion in his car. He would attend the annual pooja at a Muniappan shrine in Coimbatore Club.

The scion of the PSG family was keen to promote Coimbatore Day lectures. He used to sponsor events in connection with the program year on year. Naren was keen to honor the taxpayers. He wanted to give the citation, ‘Deshabandhu,’ to the ones who paid income tax in excess of Rs.1 crore. The developer was particular about the environment. He was keen to support and work with organizations like Siruthuli and he wanted the organization to use ecofriendly/recycled paper for its in-house journal. Naren would always state that only the wise would make use of the inputs from the intelligent. A country/society was at fault if it did not know how to harvest intelligence and wisdom.

Naren wanted to train all the youngsters. He was keen to engage with all the descendants of the PSG family. The thinker wanted everyone to be given an opportunity to serve the society. He opted for positions to be dynamic and not static. Naren was known for his sense of humor. On learning about an upcoming social occasion, he would want to know which one of the known prospects would give the presidential address. He would do so in a humorous way and did not entertain malice towards anyone. Naren wanted to see a society which was free from hatred, jealousy, and comparison. He wanted people to accept and resolve one another's shortcomings. Naren stated that feeling and saying sorry was the way to move forward.

Art and craft interested him and were in fact his favorites. He would encourage artists by acquiring their pieces of art. He had acquired a picture of Pandavadoota Perumal for his residence. This grandson of PSG Narayanaswamy Naidu was a keen farmer at Vedapatti and also at Mallegoundenpalayam. His paternal grandmother Janaki Ammal hailed from Mallegoundenpalayam. A picture of his grandmothers, Perumal Ammal and Janaki Ammal were permanent in his office. The pictures taken by him during the visits to Srirangam decorated the walls of his house. He was proud to display PSG family tree in his office.

Naren and his mother would print calendars with deities on them and distribute them in Perumal (Vishnu) temples year on year. Each of them would be based on a concept. These calendars would be distributed to the Bhagavata-s (devotees of Lord Vishnu) during the Vaikunta Ekadashi regularly. He had wanted to visit the temples at Hampi and take pictures. Naren also experimented with a lot of products, and he encouraged youngsters all his life.

The entrepreneur in him wanted to start several ventures. He would often talk about startups with his wife Uma. Naren wanted to devote his life for the cause of charity. He took the trusteeship at the historic PSG & Sons Charities seriously. The strategist had worked on numerous ideas while moving in life. He can be compared to Raja Hemchandra Vikramaditya (1501 - 1556), fondly addressed as King Hemu. The king was just 55 years old when he passed away. Hemu might have ruled over India from Delhi, but a chance arrow wounded him at the second battle of Panipat when he led the army, atop his elephant Hawai. It was an opportunity which India missed.

The interactions with Naren Rajan were always interesting. He was a motivated gentleman who continuously inspired many. His dreams for the PSG Institutions were colossal. He had wanted it to be the best of its class. Naren Rajan was keen to understand the ITIHASA of his forbearers and adhere to it in the latter part of his life. 

Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of the Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, entrepreneur, and a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.

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