Chennai

The bungalow at Old Number 83

Late Rao Bahadur P. K. Gnanasundara Mudaliar — popularly known as PKG — is among the early residents of Gandhi Nagar.

PKG moved to Gandhi Nagar in 1949, living in the bungalow bearing Old No. 83 — presently, Rams Apartments, behind Anantha Padmanabha Swami Temple.

It was a landmark building that was attached to a beautiful corner plot at the junction of II Main Road and I Cross Road. The rear part of the plot — New No 88 — is easily identifiable now as PKG’s son runs his clinic Peekay Gee Heart Care, named after his father.

Three generations of the family lived at the bungalow, which was named Mowna Mandiram, after P. S. Mownambal, PKG’s wife.

P. K. Gnanasundara Mudaliar and his wife P. S. Mownambal in front of the mango tree at their house. Photo: Special Arrangement

P. K. Gnanasundara Mudaliar and his wife P. S. Mownambal in front of the mango tree at their house. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Distinguished service

PKG started his career as a clerk in the Revenue Board Office in Madura and served as Revenue Inspector at the Madura Collectorate.

A taskmaster, Madura District Collector Sir John Hall would duly reward commitment where he found it. Hall was appreciative of PKG’s professionalism as it enabled him to handle the challenging job as Collector with ease.

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To illustrate, the Collectorate once set about the job of measuring certain plots with Hall entrusting the job to a group of Revenue Inspectors. He also asked PKG to independently carry out the measurement. The Collector was in a flap when the two parties came up with different measurements of the same pieces of land, and he particularly pulled up PKG for arriving at a different measurement.

PKG had a strong conviction that he carried out the measurement impeccably well, and mustered the courage to request the Collector to accompany him to the sites. The Collector agreed, and the plots were measured again. As it turned out, PKG had got the measurements right and the Collector was impressed. He praised PKG for his excellent and honest work. From there, Hall relied heavily on PKG to carry out challenging assignments.

Hall trusted PKG so much that when he was offered the post of the Chairman of the Madras Public Service Commission (MPSC), he told the Government that he would accept the position only if PKG was appointed Secretary of the Commission. From the position of Assistant Secretary at the Secretariat, he was elevated to that of Secretary of the Commission.

MPSC honour

Madras Presidency formed the first Public Service Commission in 1929. Sir John Hall was the Chairman from 1940 to 1946. Later PKG had the honour of serving as the second Indian-Chairman, from 1953 to 58. Madras was a composite state consisting of Madras, Andhra, Kerala and Mysore. The Commission had the Chairman and just two other members.

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The title ‘Rao Bahadur’ was bestowed upon PKG with a Honorific Titular Medal called the Indian Title Badge.

Stringent processes

As MPSC Chairman PKG would be extremely strict in ensuring the rules were adhered to, in the selection process for any post up to the level of the Deputy Collector by direct recruitment.

He laid down stringent job interview procedures, and would ensure preparations were afoot a few weeks ahead of the interview. The interview questions were written down in small postcard-sized slips in his own handwriting. The Chairman asked the candidates to pick a question of their choice from the bunch placed on the table before them and answer it.

There was the practice of having a technical member on the interview panel — to give an example, the Director of Medical Services for Medical interviews. An instance narrated by PKG’s sons is about how the post of a pathologist for the Women and Children’s Hospital in Egmore had to be filled. There was just one applicant. The expert member on the interview panel was Lt. Col.Shangam Lal, D.M.S. As usual, PKG prepared the set of questions.

The candidate could not answer the selected questions on ‘Extra Abdominal Pregnancy’. The Chairman announced: “One Post - one candidate - not selected!”

Dr. Shangam Lal exclaimed “Mr. Mudaliar ! You know as much medicine as I know.”

In one recruitment exercise, a candidate tried to influence the Chairman. At the interview, he asked the candidate whether he had seen the notice board at the entrance of Commission’s Office. The candidate replied in the affirmative. The candidate said: “No candidate is expected to influence the Chairman or any member of the Commission through any source for selection. Such acts will be viewed seriously”. The candidate was not asked any other question and had to leave.

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After the candidate’s departure, PKG told the other members of the Commission as to what had happened and announced that the candidate was debarred from appearing for any written or oral tests conducted by the Commission for a period of three years and that he was very strict about it.

The family

PKG’s children have achieved eminence in their chosen fields — Late Dr. G. Subramanian, professor of medicine; Dr. G. Ananthasubramaniam, senior consultant in medicine; G. Dhandapani, Additional Director Municipal Admn (retd); Late. G. Krishnamurthy, former Chairman, L.I.C. of India and Prof.G. Chandramohan, Professor of English (retd). His daughter was the Late Maragadham Venugopalan, married to Late. Dr. P. Venugopalan, Assistant Director of Medical Education (retd).

Temple work

PKG was among those residents who took the initiative to construct and consecrate Sri Anantha Padmanabha Swami Temple. His sons narrate that he along with other residents went from door-to-door in Gandhi Nagar and sought donations for the construction of the temple. He himself made a handsome donation and his name appears third in the list of donors installed just behind Garudar Sannidhi. He was the Vice President of the Temple Committee and assumed the responsibility of counting the hundi collection every day in the forenoon. He devoted himself to temple work from the beginning.

On 12 January, 1963, while attending to temple work he collapsed in the holy precinct, breathed his last and attained the lotus feet of Sri Anantha Padmanabha Swamy.

(V.S.Sukumar with inputs from Dr. G. Ananthasubramaniam and Prof. G. Chandramohan)

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 9:41:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/the-bungalow-at-old-number-83/article33590078.ece

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