Hidden Histories Society

The keeper of accounts

A stickler for keeping accounts, Govindarajulu was also one of the earliest bikers in Coimbatore. Photo: Special Arrangement  

The boy who hated maths while pursuing his education at the ancient Veeraswamy School ended up as a meticulous chronicler of financial transactions! And this made M.A.Govindarajulu (1917 - 2009) an important part of the iconic Asoka Betelnut Company for over seven decades. Born to M.K.Ananthapadmanabhan and Rajalakshmi during the end of the Great War, Govindarajulu lost his parents as a toddler. He was brought up by his grand aunt Seethalakshmi Ammal, who brought up a number of her near and dear with enormous love. Even today, the Seethalakshmi Maternity home on Krishnaswamy Road administered by the Coimbatore Corporation continues to serve society.

Coimbatore was one of cities to take advantage of the fall out of the great depression of 1929 and a number of entrepreneurs such as Asoka M.K.Krishna Chetty came up at a meteoric pace. Govindarajulu joined his uncle Krishna Chetty as his Man Friday for accounts and cash management at his betelnut company and performed his job with aplomb for nearly 74 years. He was a workaholic and began work by 6 a.m. Thereafter he would go home for a quick breakfast at 8 a.m. only to return to the office by 8.30 a.m. Except for a brief lunch break for an hour, Govindarajulu worked until 8 p.m. He did not travel much and was wedded to his job.

Those days, Asoka Betelnut Company had nearly 100 sales depots and Govindarajulu would prepare and present a perfect statement of accounts of each one of them by 8.30 a.m. every day to his uncle.

Govindarajulu kept track and account of every rupee, anna and paisa along with accompanying invoices or vouchers. And this was not just at work. He was like this even at home and his wife Saraswathi whom he married in 1937, got used to this.

He maintained separate day books and ledgers for home expenses and investments. He preserved each one of the books until he passed away in 2009.

It is astonishing and inspiring to notice his last journal entry on the 5th of December 2009, barely three days before his demise. Even in the last month of his life, Govindarajulu filed the sales tax returns by the first week itself.

Govindarajulu also maintained the bank pass books and day books of son M.G.Ramkumar, daughter-in-law Jayamma, grand son Gopalakrishna, grand daughter-in-law Vidya and of his great grand children Adarsh and Smriti.

His book entries tell an interesting story of the evolving times. Plus, they have some interesting entries. Such as the one that records the expenses incurred while hosting Kalki Sadasivam and Bharat Ratna M.S.Subbulakshmi; or the one about an expenditure of Rs. 18 towards purchase of grocery for his own wedding! As the rupee, anna and paisa evolve into rupees and paisa in his books, one notices the slow and sure advent of inflation.

Govindarajulu also preserved coins, stamps, letters, invitations and news paper cuttings. He would surprise people by giving them old invitations of weddings of their family members. When the famous hardware store M.S.Manickam and Company, as part of its jubilee celebrations, announced a reward to the customers who produced their old sales invoices, Govindarajulu participated in the same and won gold coins for all the first three prizes. Later he gave the coins away to the church patronised by the family of M.S.Manickam and Company.

Incidentally, Govindarajulu was also one of the earliest bikers in Coimbatore.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 12:44:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/magovindarajulu-was-one-of-the-first-bikers-in-coimbatore/article6362946.ece

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