When the postman knocked…

*Mambalam continues to intrigue readers. S. Chandrasekar says that Mambalam was till comparatively recently populated more with Vilva trees ( Aegle mermelos ) than with people and, so, was called Maha-v/bilvam which became Mav/bilam and finally Mambalam. I have toured the whole area, he says, and found numerous Vilva trees still surviving in house compounds for religious reasons. He adds, “Usually the appearance of Vilva trees in a city is a rare occurrence and to have so many in one area would have been reason enough for the area's name to evolve from it.” Chandrasekar goes on to add that in the Thevaram there's mention of Mylapore and ‘Theyn-amar-solai' (a garden with nectar-filled flowers). The latter is likely to have got transformed as Teynampet, just as ‘Nandavanam' became Nandanam, he posits. No doubt there could be many similar explanations for different localities in Madras, but this column generally prefers more solid evidence before accepting such theories.

* S.V. Sundar wants to know whether the name Mickey Smith means anything to me. The only Mickey Smith I have heard of is C. Michie Smith, usually called ‘Mickey' by his friends, the Astronomer in charge of the Madras Observatory. In 1892 he made the final longitudinal determination of Madras there. Then, seven years later, he was in charge of moving the Observatory to Kodaikanal where in 1910 he recorded the passage of Halley's Comet. He was quite a personality in Kodaikanal, managing with a martinet's fist the Kodaikanal (English) Club and the Kodaikanal Boat Club in his spare time. I would be glad to hear from readers if they know more about him.

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