*Gandhiji’s visits to the Madras Province at least those I didn’t mention in Miscellany August 24 — continue to interest readers. Capt. N.A. Ameer Ali refers to a visit by Gandhiji to Madurai in February 1946 where a huge crowd gathered at the Racecourse ground to hear the Mahatma. It was a boisterous crowd whose non-stop noise made any speech impossible to hear. When the organisers failed to achieve a modicum of silence, Gandhiji appealed to the crowd, asking for calm. But the roar of the crowd continued. Finally, Gandhiji announced that he would not speak, stretched himself on the dais and waited out the crowd. As the crowd dispersed, he too got up and left. In another communication, a retired professor tells me that the 1927 Congress Sessions were not held in Avadi as mentioned in Miscellany, September 14th, but on the lakebed where the University Grounds were later developed. Was this a part of Spur Tank? Be that as it may, it was at these sessions that it was declared for the first time that Independence was to be the goal of the Congress Party. The resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru said, “The Congress declares the goal of the Indian people to be complete national independence with full control over the defence forces of the country, the financial and economic policy, and the relations with foreign countries. The Congress demands that this right of the people of India should forthwith be recognised and given effect to particularly in the complete withdrawal of the alien army of occupation.” For the record, the Avadi sessions were in 1955.
*Dr. Edward Green Balfour’s epidemiological studies which I referred to in Miscellany, September 7, were also climate-related health studies, points out reader A. Raman of Orange, New South Wales. Balfour, he adds, was the third early European in the Madras region to maintain records of weather details and study the vagaries of climate. The first of them was the Rev. Johann Ernst Geister of the Halle Mission in Danish Tranquebar. Geister maintained weather notes in diary form from October 1732 to July 1737. His notes on climate change in 1737 are “recognised today as an El Nino factor”. Later in the 18th Century, Dr. William Roxburgh, better remembered for his botanical work, started gathering temperature and atmospheric pressure data from the time he arrived in Madras in 1770 till around 1785. Using this data he forecast the drought conditions of 1789 and the famines that followed in the Presidency. Among Roxburgh’s publications was A Meteorological Record Kept at Fort St. George in the East Indies which was published in 1778. And then came Balfour whose interests were even wider than those of the other two.