This editorial was penned by me for the special issue Madras Musings brought on May 1, dedicated to S Muthiah, its founder.
He would not have entirely approved of this issue.

S Muthiah

We can see him, holding it in his hand, a slight frown appearing on his face even as a twinkle lights up the eye. “The problem with you young people is,” he appears to be saying and yes, to him there were no middle-aged people, everyone was young, “you have no sense of proportion. Where was the need for a full issue on me? And with my photo on the cover?” He would also have added a favourite comment of his – that we had thrown in everything including the kitchen sink into the issue.

But for once we beg to differ. We will be firm. We will argue in favour of our stance. For this is the least we can do for someone who gave us so much. Consider the facts – has any other tabloid espousing the heritage and culture of a city survived this long? True, its financial future was made secure a few years after its birth thanks to an industrialist stepping in at the right moment and roping in others as well, but what about content? Did that not bring in the readership, which once having come in, stayed on and expressed its appreciation by way of donations, letters and articles? For the quality of what Madras Musings carried, all credit has to go to S. Muthiah, its Founder.

Today, practically every newspaper in the city has space for heritage. Social media too focuses on such issues. But back in 1991 this was practically unheard of. It was Muthiah who had the vision to identify the need for a magazine that would espouse causes nobody else touched. The fortnightly devoted itself to the city’s heritage, both built and natural, apart of chronicling plenty of sport, some current affairs and above all, the lives of various citizens who contributed to Madras and the world. In the process, Muthiah made citizens of Chennai realise that they lived in a metropolis with plenty of firsts to its credit. This was not Kipling’s ‘withered beldame’ but a city to be cherished and be proud of.

All of this did not exactly endear the publication or its editor to the establishment. Bureaucrats were wary of its continued (and entirely justified) criticism of the way the city was managed – be it water supply and sewerage, heritage preservation, pollution, congestion or defacement of public properties. The real estate lobby too was not amused when Madras Musings gave space to residents of T Nagar who complained bitterly in its columns about illegal buildings that had fast converted their well-planned neighbourhood into a civic horror.

Madras Musings under Muthiah championed the underdog – the law-abiding citizen who always received a rough deal from just about any agency of the Government. While reading it, people felt they could relate to every issue it highlighted. In this the voice of the editor came through loud and clear.

It was a matter of great regret to his many admirers that Muthiah was not once considered for a national or even state-level award. In reality it would have been a great surprise had they been conferred on him, for those in power rarely took kindly to his brand of activism – consistent and focused criticism on causes close to his heart. He was personally never interested in recognition of that kind. To him it was enough that his voice had been heard and at least some of the city’s heritage had been restored. Certainly, credit was due to him in large measure for the saving of the DGP Building on the Marina, the restoration of Senate House and the prevention of takeover of the Queen Mary’s College campus. His was also the lion’s share of work in the Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee Report that formed the first and only listing of heritage buildings in Chennai City. In all of these, Madras Musings was his vehicle, his medium for communication.

It was his dearest wish that Madras Musings continues after his time. We at the paper commit ourselves to live up to that expectation. We are sure his guidance will always be with us in whatever we do. This issue is dedicated in full to his memory and carries tributes from close associates, colleagues and friends. Our regular features will resume in the issue dated May 16, 2019.