Any publication of the niche variety needs content and support to survive. Madras Musings was fortunate in this respect. When it came to content it had Mr. S. Muthiah, our founder, who made sure that the magazine was a cut above others of its kind. But would Madras Musings have been able to survive on content alone? Certainly not. The magazine managed from 1991 to 1996 and then found the going tough. It would have certainly folded up then had not N. Sankar stepped in.
In his preface to our Silver Jubilee issue (ref page 4), Sankar has written in his customary self-effacing manner about what he did just then. But to give it is proper perspective, he used his personal clout with eleven other corporate houses of the city to commit themselves to an annual contribution to Madras Musings. When that was done and the paper’s future was assured, he did not stop – he kept contacting other corporates who he felt ought to also support the publication and the number ended at around 20, give or take one or two.
To him, governance was a creed and he felt that “it should never be said that Madras Musings was a paper that Sankar ran” (to quote his exact words). A not-for-profit company called Chennai Heritage was formed, with other directors on board and that began to run the paper. He restricted himself to making sure that the financials and other statutory aspects were complied, just as he would have with the numerous business entities he ran. What was amazing was that he brought the same attention to detail that he would have to his large companies to the running of Musings as well. The quarterly board meetings were actual events – not mere paper reports. Statements were produced on the financial health of the magazine, and he deliberated on them with Muthiah and other board members.
At his beautiful eighth floor office in the Sanmar Building on Cathedral Road, Sankar made sure that Madras Musings was prominently displayed. It would share space in the visitors’ area outside his office with prestigious business journals and other publications. He eagerly awaited each issue of the paper and read it within a day. If he liked something in particular there would be a call and word of praise. Sankar in particular liked the humorous articles. He never ever suggested topics for coverage or tried to push a personal agenda. The only aspect that he was keen on was that a page be dedicated to sports – after all that was one of his passions. Even within that topic if we ever featured some Sanmar-related news he would be hugely embarrassed and call to say that people would comment that he was using the paper as a publicity vehicle. We had to convince him that good developments deserved highlighting no matter who was behind it.
It was sometime in 2015 that Sankar made an important suggestion to the board – MV Subbiah and Tara Murali had left by then and S. Muthiah was getting on in years. In such a scenario Sankar felt that the continuity of Madras Musings in the future needed to be made more secure. He therefore suggested that Chennai Heritage be made a part of the Chennai Willingdon Corporate Foundation of which he was then the Chairman. This was duly approved and with that Madras Musings’ continuity was assured for the foreseeable future. Most befittingly, he made sure that the Silver Jubilee of Madras Musings was celebrated in a grand manner in 2016. A compilation of selected articles was put together and there was a gala event where in typical Sankar fashion, all the corporate sponsors of Madras Musings were recognised for what they had done.
There was none like him when it came to institution building, and he did it all quietly. We salute this patron of ours. The good work he did will live on.
Very nice article Sriram.
Extremely sad that Mr N. Sankar passed away. Madras Musings is surely poorer. All its users, even those who did not know of his involvement & support have lost heavily.
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