SEARCH

Chennai » Columns

Updated: October 26, 2012 17:35 IST
MADRAS MISCELLANY

Love this historian

S. Muthiah
Comment   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Victor Paranjoti
Victor Paranjoti

I wonder how many of us who are passionate about the history of Madras and who have depended considerably on the work of Lt. Col. Henry Davison Love for the first 150 years of that history, realise that this is the 100th year of the publication of his monumental record that we refer to constantly, Vestiges of Old Madras? Love, whom we Madras history buffs swear by, documented the history of the city from the 1640 founding of Fort St. George till 1800.

Love was commissioned by the Government of Madras in the early 1900s to supplement “known facts by the collation of the topographical references which are scattered over the ancient records.” What he did find was a singular absence of maps of old Madras in the Madras Records Office as well as in London. What he instead found in the Fort St. George archives was “a mass of interesting and hitherto unpublished matter, illustrating the origin of Madras institutions and the social life of the city’s inhabitants.” With examples of this material, he was able to persuade the Governments of Madras and India to publish a 1640-1800 history of Madras in one or more volumes in the India Records Series. When the work was completed, it was published in 1913 in three volumes of about 600 pages each with a fourth volume containing an awesomely comprehensive index.

Besides the records in Madras and London, Love acknowledges benefitting considerably from Madras in the Olden Times by J. Talboys Wheeler (a history of the Presidency from 1639 to 1746 published in 1882 in three volumes by Higginbotham’s), The Founding of Fort St. George by William Foster, and The Church in Madras by the Rev. Frank Penny. Wheeler’s book was a compilation of the weekly columns he had written for The Indian Statesman in 1861-62.

Love, in addition to mentioning his sources and scores of the British who helped him, acknowledges the help of a few Indians: Rai Bahadur V. Venkayya for “conversion of native dates”; Dewan Bahadur V. Krishnamachari for “particulars regarding Madras temples”; Rao Sahib V. A. Parthasarathi Mudaliar for tracing temple documents; K. Rangachari for “help in regard to the etymology and spelling of Indian proper names, for numerous local inquiries, and for verifying sundry references in the Fort St. George records”; and S. Subrahmanya Aiyar for “drawing maps and plans.” I wonder whether any descendants can provide any information about any of them.

Besides being recognised for writing Vestiges, Love, an officer in the Royal Engineers, is remembered in engineering circles in Madras for his 27-year Principal-ship of the College of Engineering (later moved to Guindy). He was appointed for the first time to the College, where he taught from time to time, as Acting Principal in 1879. Thereafter, he served it as Principal in 1880-87, 1889-91, 1892-94, 1895-98, 1899-1904 and from 1905 till his retirement. He returned to England in 1907. During his 27-year stint at the College, he contributed significantly to it by revising its syllabus constantly and regularly adding facilities. In retirement, his total focus was on research for Vestiges. Today, Madras benefits from both.

*****

Table manners

Skimming through J. Talboys Wheeler's Madras in the Olden Time to get a flavour of the material he offered that Love (above) felt added substantially to his later and even more definitive history, I came across this entry just right for today’s column. The entry from the Consultation Books of the Council of Fort St. George dated Monday, June 30, 1712, reads:

“Several disorders having been committed at the General table, which we find to be partly occasioned by the absence of those persons in the Service, that are of a superior standing and might awe the young ones into better behaviour; - we have thought it fit to appoint Joseph Smart, Head Searcher, and five others, to take their turns, either weekly, or monthly, or as they shall agree among themselves, to be present at the Table, and to take care there are no indecencies or disorders committed.”

At that time, the practice was for all civilian employees of the Company and officers of the militia to dine together at the ‘General Table.’ Also at that time, most of the young Writers and other young employees of the Company were usually in their teens. And we all know that boys will be boys if they eat at a common table.

*****

Charming with PR and music

I had known of Victor Paranjoti as founder and Conductor of the Bombay-based Paranjoti Choir and a person passionately involved with Western Classical music in India. What I didn't know was that he started his career in Madras with All India Radio and moved to Bombay where he became a pioneer in the production of house journals, something I was into many years later. It was while searching for some information on All India Radio, Madras (AIR-M) that I caught up with these other facets of Paranjoti.

In Madras, he joined All India Radio in its fledgling days when it operated from a house on Marshall’s Road (opposite the Rajaratnam Stadium). It was Paranjoti who was All India Radio’s first Station Director, Madras, when it began broadcasting on June 16, 1938. Deeply committed to music, he introduced a substantial musical content in the programming, including Western Classical. To improve AIR-M’s programmes, he constantly sought feedback. And for this, he not only visited many a listener’s home but he would also anonymously mingle with the crowds on the Marina, in Panagal Park (T.Nagar) and Mylapore Beach adjoining what is now the Fishermen's and Foreshore Estates - where, from little booths equipped with loudspeakers, AIR-M programmes were broadcast every evening - to get the views of man-in-the-street listeners. In the process, he no doubt honed the skills he was to use in the world he was to move into after 15 years with All India Radio, Madras - the world of Public Relations. But even while working in this world he never lost contact with radio; he did a lot of music programming for AIR-Bombay.

From Madras, Paranjoti moved to Bombay in the 1950s to head the Public Relations Department of ACC Cement, where he introduced one of the first house journals in India. While there, he became the founder president of the Association of Business Communicators of India and played a major role in getting business houses to publish house journals as an essential public relations measure. On retirement, he joined The Times of India as its first national Business Editor and, once again, became a founder president, this time of the Indian Association of Industrial Editors. Moving on from newspapers, he founded his own company to edit house journals for others and produced them for many a leading Bombay company.

It was in 1960 that Paranjoti transformed the Bombay Amateur Light Opera Sabha into the Paranjoti Academy Chorus, whose conductor he was for the rest of his life. It was the first Indian choir to perform in Europe and, in the years that followed, it visited, during Paranjoti's lifetime and his leadership, two dozen countries. Today, it performs abroad at least once a year.

The Paranjoti Choir has sung in 22 languages, including most of the Indian languages, and offers, apart from Western Classical music, spiritual, folk, traditional and modern music. Several of its songs are compositions of Paranjoti. And these too live up to the Choir’s motto: ‘International harmony through international music.’

RELATED NEWS

At WorkSeptember 24, 2010

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
‘A birthday gift for Chennai’s 375th’
The Hindu’s ‘Friends of Chennai’ will mobilise readers to transform the city.
More...

O
P
E
N

close

Recent Article in Columns

Up and About: Doctors on the run

In his 50s, Ram Rajagopal, a doctor by profession, runs a distance of around 16 km, three days a week. With increased awareness of the be... »