As I had expected, there were several readers who were surprised by the fact that the University of Madras had been founded (in 1857) as only an examining — and degree-bestowing university and not as a teaching university as had been originally envisaged by Governor Lord Napier (Miscellany, July 25). When did it become a teaching university, many of them asked.

It was the Act of 1904 that insisted that the university should undertake teaching and research. The university then decided to start the Departments of History, Archaeology, Economics and Philology. But a shortage of funds as much as of persons qualified for professorships prevented it from opening the departments right away. Eventually, the Department of Economics was set up after the Government of India gave a special grant in 1912 to establish it. However, it was 1915 before it got a professor to chair it, Dr. Gilbert Slater, Principal of Ruskin College, Oxford, being appointed. The Department of Indian History and Archaeology followed, being set up in 1914, with Dr. S. Krishnaswami Ayyangar heading it. The Department of Comparative Philology was also set up in 1914 with the appointment of two lecturers. The Department started with courses in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, nurtured by Dr. Mark Collins of the University of Dublin. Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada were added in 1927.

It was only after the late 1920s that other teaching disciplines were introduced in the university. With the addition of several new departments, more space became essential. Marine Villa, Thambu Villa, Limbdi Gardens, Moore's Garden and other buildings were taken on lease to meet the demand for space. Eventually, the Department Block, also called the Teaching Block and the Clock Tower Block, was built on the site of Marine Villa in Indo-Saracenic style — the handsome but ill-kept building nearest the Cooum — and was opened in 1935. The University of Madras could at last call itself a fully-equipped teaching university.

The raising of this and other buildings had been much delayed. On November 25, 1913, the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, had laid the foundation stone for the additional buildings the university required. The Great War, and the years of recovery after it, pushed back these plans and it was only around a dozen years later that they were revived and the University of Madras got the buildings it needed.


An Indian celebration

My walking companion, just back from London, hasn't stopped talking about the Indian celebration he enjoyed in, arguably, the oldest Inns of Court where his grand-daughter got married recently. The bride wore a saree, the bridegroom was all booted and suited when they exchanged vows in the 17th Century Chapel of Lincoln's Inn, Later that evening, the reception was in Lincoln's Inn Hall — which is where my story today begins.

Waiting for the two young lawyers to arrive for the first dance — which they promised would be a surprise — my friend had time to gaze at the portraits of eminent lawyers and judges, alumni all, who graced the walls of the Hall. But then he was brought up short by a portrait of a person he'd known of in his Calcutta days and from his father's days as a cleric and an academic at Serampore College, that major Protestant seminary. It was a portrait of Bishop Heber, the Bishop of Calcutta which in the Bishop's day meant being the Anglican Bishop of India, Burma and Ceylon.

Even as he was wondering what the Bishop was doing on an Inns of Court walls, he was brought down to earth by the crashing notes of a tune he knew but never thought he'd hear in Lincoln's Inn's hallowed hall. And there were his sareed grand-daughter, her booted and suited husband and two other couples in garb the Hall was decidedly more used to all exuberantly flinging themselves about to Jai Ho! and getting the rest to join in the abandon of A.R. Rahman's creation. Lincoln's Inn had never seen anything like this — and “I wondered what M'Lords, Respected Counsels and the Bishop would have thought about this kind of celebration,” recalled my friend.

Back home, the Bishop hanging on the wall continued to bother him. Till we found that he had been Preacher of Lincoln's Inn from 1822 till his appointment as Bishop of Calcutta in 1823. The Preacher of Lincoln's Inn is apparently some kind of office of the Church of England, but why aren't the other Preachers up there, including John Donne who certainly would have appreciated the boisterousness of young love?

Heber, who wrote much poetry from his first days at Oxford and was best known for the hymns he wrote, is curiously remembered best in places with which he had the briefest of acquaintances, like Lincoln's Inn, Bishop Heber College, Trichinopoly, and Bishop Heber Hall, Madras Christian College. What was later named as the Heber Memorial School in Trichinopoly is where he drowned in his bath while passing through on his way back to Calcutta after a journey through India and Ceylon. When the Bishop Heber College that it became was closed, on its merger with Madras Christian College in 1934, Bishop Heber Hall (a hall of residence) and its Bishop Heber Chapel commemorated the merger and remembered a Bishop who had never visited the College. After much campaigning in Trichy, Bishop Heber College — that had been the first college in Trichy — was revived in 1966.

Bishop Heber will also be remembered for his hymn, ‘From Greenland's icy mountains, from India's coral strand…which had two lines which “stung” Gandhiji. The lines were “What though the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle;/ Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?” After all that's happened in the island during the last 25 years, Gandhiji would probably still not agree with that assessment, but I am sure many others will.


When the postman knocked…

*Dr. Celia White states that Newtown (Miscellany, July 4 and July 11) is the Periamet area bounded by Vepery High Road, Naval Hospital Road, Poonamallee High Road and Perianna Maistry Street, with Wuthucatton Street in the middle. The area was a “stronghold of many Anglo-Indian families” and with it being close to General Hospital and St. Andrew's Church, it certainly seems possible that this is the New Town of the Smith-Anderson families.

*The first Indian Flight Deck Chief of the INS Vikrant, K.R.A. Narasiah, tells me that he remembers many of the fliers from 300 Squadron (the Seahawks) and 310 Squadron (the Cobras) (Miscellany, July 25). During his 1960-1963 tenure on the Vikrant — till he left the Navy — he was in charge of the catapult and arresting gear which launched and arrested Gannets as they prepared for the Alizés. He goes on to correct me about Mihir Roy's tenure with the Eastern Naval Command: “He may have been with the Command during the Bangladesh War, but it was Vice Admiral Krishnan who was in command; Mihir Roy succeeded him.”