In the passing of Valli Muthiah, Chennai has lost a feisty personality who was full of life.
Wife of the city’s best-known chronicler — S. Muthiah, she nevertheless had her own identity. Born in 1950 in Kandanur, she graduated with a degree in chemistry from Seethalakshmi Achi College, Pallathur, and worked at Central Electro Chemical Research Institute and later, Central Leather Research Institute.
She married Muthiah in 1969. Later, when daughters Ranjani and Parvathy had grown up, she qualified as a company secretary and took to a career again.
Calling at the Muthiah residence was a double delight for one picked up nuggets of history from him and mouth-watering Chettinad delicacies from her.
Hers was a busy life, but with enough time for the problems of everyone, all of which she made her own and worked hard to find solutions for.
And there was her broad view on religion. Visiting temples in Chettinad and observing rituals were as important as lighting candles at the altar for St. Antony every Tuesday at St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral, Armenian Street. At Christmas, she made the best cakes in town.
She was enormously proud of her husband’s work and was his support, being most importantly his window to the world. At the same time, she was his equal in every way, never in awe of his fame.
Muthiah was to acknowledge her role in his life in Bishwanath Ghosh’s ‘Tamarind City’: ‘Fortunately, I have a young and energetic wife… who manages the home as well as the finances. She makes sure I don’t have to worry about anything other than my work.’
May Muthiah have the strength to rise above his loss and regale us with several more stories of Madras that is Chennai. That would be the best tribute to her and she would expect it of him.