A week from tomorrow, the U.S. goes to the polls to decide on its next President. But, on Wednesday, October 30, a poll in Madras will indicate its choice and may well be a harbinger of things to come. Conducting the poll will be the revitalised Indo-American Association whose speakers for the evening, Americans and Indians, will tell the audience why they like Barack Obama and why they like John McCain, listen to the audience, and then get together with all present to choose between the two candidates.
I don’t know who is going to win this election or the real one on November 4 (though my money has been on Obama from the time he won the Iowa primary yet was still given little chance of beating Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party’s race for the candidacy), but whoever it is, I hope Michelle Obama or Cindy McCain won’t get around to changing a little bit of the White House, which has a South Indian connection that I chanced on quite serendipitously last week.
Flipping through a house journal of the Murugappa Group, I was not paying much attention to the contents till the last page stopped me with the picture I offer alongside. The caption read ‘The Blue Room in the White House upholstered with fabrics from Ambadi sold through Parry Murray’. I quickly got down to paying a little more attention to the text inside, which confirmed that the White House mentioned in the caption was indeed where the Bush’s have only a week or so more to stay after calling it home for eight years.
But that flip back also gave me the opportunity to go back a bit in Madras commercial history. Parry Murray, a unit EID Parry India established with a strong London base in 1909, was a trading firm that had teamed Parry and Company, London, with John Robert Murray with whom Parry’s had been associated from 1897. In 1962, Parry Murray, which had long been in the piece-goods business, got into supplying Indian textiles, particularly furnishings and household linen, to the European market. Most of its supplies came from Calicut, where the Commonwealth Trust was running factory operations as well as local sourcing that had been established by the Basel Mission as far back as the 1840s, much of it on cooperative lines. These were taken over in 1888 by the Commonwealth Trust and continued to produce furnishings, towelling and linen of international standards. When the Murugappa Group (then the TI Group) took over Parrys in 1981, Parry Murray came with it. Meanwhile, the TI Group already had Ambadi Enterprises functioning as an export house focussing on textiles.
Today, the two units work hand in hand, as in the case of the White House order, Ambadi having a strong design team, Parry Murray a modern manufacturing unit besides still sourcing from the Calicut and Kannur (Cannanore) areas where the Basel Mission had set up a tradition of quality. The two units continue the Parry tradition of trading in textiles that had been established by Thomas Parry from the founding in 1789.