Society

Unstoppable at 80!

P.C.Santhanam. Managing Director, Hotel Fortune Pandiyan. Photo: G. Moorthy   | Photo Credit: G_Moorthy

Dr.Sam C Bose:

At 88, he is the oldest of the octogenarian lot I met. And he is not a creaky geriatric. Rather he is quite a freak. Sporting a small pony tail because his grandchildren find it “cool”, Dr.Sam C Bose says he was “pasted with a rather sticky glue to Madurai in 1960!” Apparently he had to make way for a VIP’s relative in Madras Medical College and therefore packed off to Madurai Medical College by the then Director (Medical Education). “I did not know a soul when I first arrived here. An Anglo-Indian lady in the Officer’s Retiring Room told me to board Bus No.3 and get off at MMC gate.” Dr.Sam C Bose recalls the TVS-run Southern Roadways bus was super clean and well maintained and the uniformed and well-mannered staff politely told him to take a seat in the men’s section and not be seated with his wife in the ladies’ row. This first impression of the people in the city made him fall in love instantly and in the years to come of course, he never thought of leaving Madurai because this was the place which earned him recognition and respect.

The glue never dried up, he jokes and this city gave him everything that a man dreams of. When he came to Madurai 55 years ago, he was the only second M.S doctor in the region and the ninth plastic surgeon of independent India. After retiring as Dean of Government Rajaji Hospital in 1987, he joined as the senior most Consultant at Apollo Speciality Hospitals in Madurai and did 3000 cleft lip and palate surgeries when reconstructive surgery was unheard of. He remains in touch with his discipline and his juniors and the new entrants in the field for consultation. “I am perhaps the only one left from my batch and I keep getting invited to meetings and workshops, alumni functions all over the country,” he says, packing his bag for an upcoming week’s programme in Mumbai. Fiercely independent, he has kept his sense of humour intact and remains a voracious reader. “I eat less but healthy and am always on the move and that is what keeps me going,” he says.

Known for his no-nonsense attitude and straightforwardness, Dr.Sam C Bose says he always remained popular among his students for calling spade a spade. “The only thing I tell everybody is keep your hands clean. Even after 30 years when I walk into GH today, employees make way for me.”

P.C.Santhanam:

He belongs to one of the oldest families of Madurai. His forefathers were big time landlords who migrated to the city from Thanjavur and built the 125 years old Vinayagar Temple on East Masi Street and his family gave the city its first big star hotel in Madurai, what is known as the Fortune Pandiyan today. Though PCM, as he is known as, moved out of Madurai after the demise of his father P.C.Muthu Chettiar in 1940, he says he was perhaps destined to return to the city and help it grow as a tourist centre. For, that is one aspect that PCM’s family focussed on at the behest of erstwhile Chief Minister K. Kamaraj, who came to Madurai looking for people who would build a hotel.

“Till then, the city had only lodges and guest houses and I remember my eldest brother, P.C.M Ganapathy telling the CM that our family is not in the business of selling food, but giving food,” says PCM. In those days, their family owned a guest house and provided free boarding and lodging to many guests from Chennai. After Kamaraj convinced P.C.M.Ganapathy to build a hotel with facilities for foreigners as that would give a boost to the city’s tourism that Hotel Pandiyan came up in 1968. “Initially we did not get much business but when VIPs (including former President Zakir Husain, Maharaja of Nepal, the Dutch Princess, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, former CM of J & K Dr. Farooq Abdullah) came visiting the city and stayed with us, our hotel started getting publicity and over the years we became big and were the only landmark in the city after the Meenakshi Temple,” he says

PCM feels worried about losing Madurai’s historical significance. “We have to protect, develop and maintain the city and help the youngsters connect with the city by reading lot of history and Tamil books,” he adds.

R.Srinivasan:

Reaching 80th birthday marks the transition into old age. But for the Director of TVS Schools, R.Srinivasan, the celebrations last week came with defiance. For, instead of retreating he is grasping life with both hands and continues to actively support every new project of over a dozen educational institutions he heads under the Lakshmi Vidya Sangham.

He is one man synonymous with the TVS group in the city having been one of their most trusted and loyal employees for 58 years. “We know our bodies begin to fail and often my management asks me to take a short break,” he says, “but just being with younger people helps keep me young.”

Srinivasan came to Madurai with his father from Kumbakonam at the age of 10. Influenced by his Deputy Collector periappa and Commercial Tax officer father, he too wrote the State Service Commission exam and got his appointment in the Revenue department at Perambalur. “But I lasted their for two days only as my heart lay in Madurai and especially the TVS company,” he says.

Mightily impressed by the TVS run-bus services and watching the top officials of the company join the public during chithirai festival left an indelible impression in his mind as a growing boy. He joined the TVS Service Station on South Veli Street in 1958 as Office Assistant. The joy of working under Mr.R.Ramachandhran is something “RS” –as he is popularly called – will never forget. “He was the Director of the company that time and would always observe me, identify my skills and talents and involve me in jobs where I could give my best.”

After working in different divisions of the company, when RS was considering retiring, his appeal reached across the generations and came in his new assignment at 65! Today his appointment book is filled with daily meetings and evening events with energetic youngsters.

Madurai has not developed like the other cities in the State, feels RS. For him, opportunities and identity came through TVS and the city needs more industries like that to retain the city’s glory.

Prof.R.Venkatraman:

When R.Venkatraman left the job of a professor in a private college in Tiruchendur for lecturer post in MKU, everybody in his family and friends scolded him for the demotion. “But I wanted to teach post-graduate students and guide Ph.D students in a city that fascinated me no end for its historicity,” he says.

Two factors ensured that he continued in the job that offered less salary. The calm and peace of the city in the 70s and the politeness of the women hawkers he would meet on the pavements for purchasing household items. “I felt I would never find their kind of innocence and honesty anywhere else.”

Later of course, it was his stumbling upon facts about Jainism in Tamil Nadu and the rediscovery of inscriptions on eight Jain caves around the city that made him a permanent resident of Madurai. Obsessed with history, anything that is old and ancient and treasure-worthy excites him and draws him into not only reading and learning more for himself but also imparting the same knowledge to others. Afterall, what man is, only history tells, he says and feels creating awareness has to be a continuing process.

What saddens RV -- admired by all for his resilience and stamina to walk and talk for hours -- is the degeneration of culture, dry water bodies and the short cut to making quick money. “If people stay away from getting spoilt and not be tempted by any kind of greed, life will become much more simple and easier than what it is today,” he says. The competition and rat race for everything is harming everybody and the significance of relationships, simple living and high thinking are lost,” he adds.

M.S.Meenakshi Sundaram:

Sixty five years ago Meenakshi Sundaram or MSM – as he is fondly called – made his father take The Hindu subscription at the cost of Rs.2.50 a month! He wanted to polish his English and improve his knowledge and his father wanted to reward him for his rank in High School exam. The affair with the paper continued for reasons that kept changing in every decade of his life. And now, he says, I get to know about at least a dozen engagements related to god, religion, spirituality everyday and that keeps me busy. This was the reason why he chose never to leave Madurai. “The city is for the bhakts”, he says and that is something what made him stray out of his legal profession too. Apart from cross examining in courtrooms, MSM simultaneously shared his magnetism with students in classrooms, participants in training camps, guests at discourses or audiences at any function wearing multiple hats as an educationist, social worker, human resource trainer, writer and a profound orator.

“I find it easy to do service here. Whatever I do, it gets recognised and the popularity retains me here,” says MSM who loves to chat and refuses to slow down. “There is so much fun in speaking to youngsters, tapping their talents and helping them to develop good habits and behaviour because that is the lasting gift we can ever give to our succeeding generations,” he says.

Wherever he goes, he always advises youngsters to be honest and disciplined. “I tell them not to think ill of others and read as much literature as possible. The downslide in moral values upsets me but he also sees hope in the cross section of children he keeps meeting in Madurai. “Nobody is under-achiever. Everybody is born with skills and just needs focus and guidance,” he says. “I always tell them, don’t blow off a candle on your birthday cakes, instead light a candle in front of God and see how life changes.”

Nan Narayenen:

He is popularly known as “Nan Thatha” among thousands of youngsters who have chiselled their communication skills and leadership qualities under his tutelage. But that is not how Nan started his career or came to Madurai. Hailing from a family near Karaikudi, he was all set to join his father’s business in Malaysia. But his prospective father-in-law from Madurai said if he wished to marry his daughter he should first find a job here. And he was grounded! However, finding a job was not difficult and he got one as a Field Officer with New India Assurance, which took him on frequent travels all over the State and helped him build good contacts.

As he grew in his job, his social life also started building up and Nan took a liking for the Toast Masters Club, the JCI, YMCA, Rotary and soon found his voice in public speaking and inter-personal skills.

Nan Thatha realised what was cakewalk for him, could be tough and daunting for others and gradually developed motivational modules and became a self-trained trainer in soft skills. A passion he will never divorce, he says. Even today he commutes to places he receives invitations. His Develop Yourself workshops spread over 9.5 hours across three days is particularly popular. And his three magical words, “I Know, I Can, I Will” set the tone for success of each of these programmes.

Nan Thatha wants to remain involved and that is why when at the age of 77 he was asked to take value education classes for middle school students by the Mahatma group, he felt so fresh. And today the motivation has rubbed on so strong that he takes regular classes for the entire school.

Youths are the most involved section of the population and can be moulded for the good of the society,” he says. He feels the city has made him understand his strength and who he is and he wants the people to have the same sense of belonging to the place. “There are lots of kind-hearted people doing good work and though many social and civil projects for improving the city’s infrastructure and cleanliness need to start from our leaders, people have realised it no longer works that way.” So what choice you have? Either give it up or take it upon yourself, he says, adding rather than sitting at home and brooding it is better to be out and active no matter how old you are.

Quotes:

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon, Dr.Sam Chandra Bose, 88:

“We have to stem corruption if we really want to make Madurai a smart city.”

Managing Director, Hotel Fortune Pandiyan, P.C.Santhanam, 84:

“As I child, I enjoyed celebrating all the festivals in Madurai, particularly the chithirai festival. Today, it pains me to see a dry Vaigai.”

Most sough-after historian, Prof.Ramaswamy Venkatraman, 83:

“I believe students need to be taken out of classrooms and to places where history happened. Only then they can be made truly aware of their past and the importance of preserving heritage”

One of the best trainers in soft skills, Nan Narayenen, 81:

“Today’s kids want to move fast and independently. The youth should be trained to feel ‘I know, I Can, I Will’, then nothing is impossible.”

Advocate M.S.Meenakshi Sundaram, 81:

“We have to teach our youngsters to be self-motivated, action-oriented and respect the elders.”

Director TVS Schools, R.Srinivasan, 80:

“Madurai needs more industries and many more good educational institutions to retain the youngsters in the city.”


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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 1:54:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/Unstoppable-at-80/article14410341.ece

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