One of the great joys in writing this column is the volume of replies, rejoinders and recriminations that come about. Of greater happiness are the reunions that take place between long lost cousins or the discovery of ancestral greatness by younger generations. But first let me get on with the correction concerning Dr Chowry Muthu and the Tambaram Sanatorium.
This comes from Ramineni Bhaskarendra Rao who has a treasure trove of Telugu publications and delves into them to come up with nuggets. According to his account, Dr Chowry-Muthu before embarking on the Tambaram Sanatorium made an extensive study of existing facilities all across the country, visiting Madanapalle, Coonoor and Mysore. In 1923, he attended the Tuberculosis Conference in Lucknow and then submitted a memorandum to the Madras Government on the necessity of establishing a sanatorium in the city. Presumably, the Government encouraged him thereafter to set up the Tambaram facility.
Bhaskar also writes that Sir CP Ramaswami Aiyar did not inaugurate the sanatorium but laid the foundation stone. Other dignitaries present on the occasion were Sir M Ct Muthiah Chettiar the business baron and philanthropist, Sir Aneppu Parsuramdas Patro, formerly Minister, Government of Madras and later Speaker of the Orissa Legislative Assembly, Justices Sir M David Devadoss and Tiruvenkatachariar of the High Court, and A Rangaswami Iyengar, Editor, The Hindu. The inauguration of the sanatorium, with four patients staying in isolated rooms was on 31st March 1929 with the Rt. Hon. VS Srinivasa Sastri presiding. Others who attended the function were Dewan Bahadur RN Arogyaswami Mudaliar, Minister for Development in the Dr P Subbaroyan Government and O Kandaswami Chetty of the Justice Party.
Another honoured attendee was Dr A Lakshmipathy, well-known physician and husband of Rukmini, Congress activist, later deputy-speaker of the Madras Legislative Assembly and Minister for Public Health in the 1940s. His presence at the inauguration was significant. Four years before Dr Chowry-Muthu, he had established a ‘health village’ for curing patients through Ayurveda at Avadi. The Arogya Ashrama as it was called flourished till the area was requisitioned by the Government during the Second World War.
The most surprising and delightful response was through a phone call. This was from S Damayanthi, grand-niece of Dr Chowry-Muthu. Her grandmother was the doctor’s sister. She added that Dr Chowry-Muthu’s son Bernard visited India regularly in the 1940s and 50s and would stay with her family at Tana Street, Puraswalkam. Conversing with him was great fun she remembers, for he knew no Tamil and she and her siblings very little English. Dining with him was even more entertaining as he used a knife and fork. The families have since lost touch and she would love to re-establish contact with the UK-based descendants of Dr Chowry-Muthu, if any.
This article appeared in The Hidden Histories column of The Hindu