When the postman knocked…


* Reader M. Gobalkichenane who lives in France reminds me that I’d forgotten the Francophone PIOs (Miscellany, January 19) who live in France. There are about 80,000 of them, from the five former French settlements in India, but mainly from Pondicherry and Karaikal. They constitute half the Tamil-speaking population in France, the other half being Sri Lankan Tamils.

* Film historian Theodore Baskaran points out that the story of K.B. Sundarambal (Miscellany, January 12) begging in trains is “myth”. He says her maternal uncle, Marikozhundhu Gavundar, a land owner in Kodumudi, took care of her family; “my grandfather Thillaikan knew them well,” Baskaran adds. What surprises me is that this ‘myth’ has been mentioned by several other film historians in numerous articles over the years, and has not been corrected; perhaps the ‘looking after’ took place after the years of poverty. Baskaran also tells me that there was some remembrance of her birth centenary in the publication of two “well-researched” biographies of her by Thirunavukarasu and Baskaradas, to mark the occasion. Incidentally, due for release shortly is a new edition of Theodore Baskaran’s own book, The Message Bearers, which I have always considered the best record and analysis of the close links that Tamil theatre and cinema had with politics. Sundarambal figures prominently in it — and Baskaran, knowing my admiration for the book, wonders how I could have forgotten to mention that she was the first woman to enter the Madras Legislature; when she did in 1958, as a Congress representative, she was also the first star-politician and film artiste to enter a legislature in India. Baskaran might like to know that when I recently addressed an international seminar in Madras on the influence European countries had on India and vice versa, I totally forgot to mention printing, the field I’ve been closest to for several decades now. And was most embarrassed when a friend wondered, over tea, what had happened to me. These things happen.

* Reader Pradeep Chakravarthy tells me that apart from the Triplicane Literary Society (Miscellany, January 12) there was in Triplicane at the time an active organisation called the Crescent Society, whose regular meetings were organised by an S.M. Fassil. Pradeep — and now I — are on the track of what seems to be a forgotten organisation. I wonder whether there’s a reader who has something to narrate about the Society’s history.

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