This article appeared in The Hindu today at http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/article3321575.ece
At the intersection of Langs Garden and Harris (now Adithanar) Roads, stands a small green pillar. In the middle of the structure is a medallion featuring a man of 19th century appearance. This is a memorial to Dr Woodayagiri Singadivakkam Samy Nayak or WS Swamy Naick, the latter being the name that appears in Government records.
Born in the 1760s into a family that lived in Madras in the then fashionable district of Komaleeswaranpet along the river Cooum, Swami Naick entered the military service of the East India Company. He was employed as a native dresser, which meant a medical attendant.
In that capacity he made a name for himself, especially in the Deccan operations in which he was wounded at a place called Magaralapollium.
Edward, Second Lord Clive appointed Swami Naick the Native Superintendent of Vaccination in 1803 at a salary of 25 pagodas. Inoculation was then a relatively new practice the world over, and the zeal with which Swami Naick set about vaccinating the local population generated great suspicion. This was to culminate in a group of Armenians waylaying and assaulting him in George Town, where he had gone to vaccinate people. But Swami Naick was not to be deterred. He retired as Chief Medical Practitioner in the Department of Vaccination in 1829.
He became the Shrotriemdar of Uttukadu village in Chingleput District. In the city, he acquired considerable property along the Cooum. He lived at 25 Pagoda Street (later Harris Road). His neighbour, at No. 26, was Pacchaiyappa Mudaliar, the wealthy dubash whose legacy was to transform education in Madras Presidency. Swami Naick died in 1841. Swami Naick Street off Harris Road commemorates him.
His grandson, WS Venkataramanjulu Naidu was a commissioner of the Corporation. He was also a pillar of the Justice Party and the Cosmopolitan Club. Venkataramanjulu Naidu’s grandson, WS Krishnaswami Naidu had a successful career in the Madras Bar and served as Judge of the High Court of Madras from 1949 to 1956. Krishnaswami Naidu loved the heritage of this city. He gave radio talks on Madras history and finally compiled them into a slim book titled Old Madras. His autobiography, My Memoirs (1977), is not a great literary work but is full of facts about the city and a way of life gone by.
WS Venkataramanjulu Naidu had donated part of the family land on Langs Garden Road to the Corporation and on this, came up Dr Swami Naick Park with a fountain, which for several years was the only source of fresh water to the slums that came up along the Cooum.
With the tap going dry, the park began to be misused. In 1963, Justice WS Krishnaswami Naidu put up the pillar to Swami Naick and this was unveiled by the then Vice President of India, VV Giri.
It is noteworthy that over eight generations of the Naidu family continue to live on the land that Swami Naick bought. It must be a record of sorts.