Sunday, December 5, 2021

Shahvir Tarapore Umpire

A Great Second Innings in Cricket
The man who struggled as a Ranji Cricketer in the 1980s scored a Century in Umpiring officiating in 100 first class matches

In the 1980s, a Karnataka cricketer in his 20s went through a torrid time. In a strong state team comprising of his first captain Brijesh Patel, he failed to make a mark. For seven years, he was in the Ranji Squad but managed to score only over a hundred runs in that phase. A man who had failed so miserably as a player scored a remarkable century in his second innings in cricket. Taking to Umpiring in 1987 after coming to terms with himself that he was not good enough as a player, the then thirty year old took to Umpiring. Over the next three decades he reached the top of the Umpiring Ladder clocking a 100 first class matches and as he proudly recalls in this story was there to watch three of Sachin Tendulkar’s record breaking knocks in one day cricket. In recent years, he has turned a mentor to upcoming umpires and also currently dons the role of the Hony Joint Secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association. Here’s the story.

Developing Early Communication Skills
Shahvir Tarapore (most have got his name wrong!!!) began his association with tennis ball cricket on the gully of Shivajinagar in the Cantonment area in Bangalore. His father Keki Tarapore had played a couple of matches for the state and later went on to become a renowned coach. His Uncle too was a cricketer and it was no wonder that this young boy too took to cricket. Alongside his cricket, his English language and communication skills were harnessed at school - first at Sophia and later at St. Josephs European High School, qualities that were to hold him in great stead later on in life in his second innings in cricket.

In 1969, his parents moved to the Parsi flats (one of the earliest apartment complexes in that area) and the young 12 year old Shahvir honed his cricket skills playing cricket within the complex.  He recalls coming to the nearby KSCA for some nets sessions in that phase “Our new residence was very close to the KSCA, which was an open ground at that time (the stadium that we see today had not come up then). It was exciting for me to walk down to the ground and play cricket here.”

Now well past 60, Shahvir still goes there once in a while to the over 50 year apartment and plays a bit of cricket with the younger gen evoking memories of his own cricketing days from the late 60s and early 70s.

University Cricket leads to State Selection
Before he had turned 15, he played for the state schools and went on to play Rohinton Baria and Vizzy Trophy (under L Vasan). Strong performances in the league for the now over 100 year old BUCC earned him a place in the Karnataka Ranji team in 1979 and he made his debut a year later “I took to cricket more out of passion and also we were a family of sportspeople. Making my debut under Brijesh was one of the biggest moments of my life. Karnataka was a very strong team at that time and had a great top order and a spin attack. To just be part of that squad was a great blessing.”

He joined Syndicate Bank in 1980 and was an integral part of their team for close to two decades.

Shahvir was in the Ranji squad for seven years though he played only six matches in that time.  Four decades after his debut, he says he is not embarrassed to accept that he was a failure as a player “I did nothing of note as a cricketer. It was a team full of luminaries and just being around them in the dressing room was a great feeling at that time, though I would have liked to have contributed better for the state.”

Second Innings in Cricket
By 1987, he had resigned himself to the fact that he was not good enough as a cricketer. Following in his father’s footsteps he tried his hand at Coaching for a brief period but soon found out that he was not suited for that role. Cricket had been his life for two decades and he wanted to continue his association with the game “I found the best way to stay connected was to be right in the middle and Umpiring offered that opportunity.”

He cleared the KSCA examination in 1987 and three years of umpiring in the Bangalore league and mentoring under Satyaji Rao gave him his early experience. In 1990-91, he got through the BCCI examination “While it was a very challenging phase as a cricketer, I did want to make it big in Umpiring. I learned a lot from my seniors. I had been notorious as a player but mellowed down once he took to umpiring.”

His second innings in cricket took off after 1996. He became a regular in the Duleep Trophy and other national level tournaments. In 1999, he made his international debut in an Indian team comprising of Sachin, Sourav and Rahul “It was a start studded team and I did have butterflies in my stomach that day. I went on to enjoy my international stint officiating with the best in the umpiring world.”

Into the ICC Panel 
He was inducted into the ICC Panel in 2008 and went on to officiate in four tests and 24 ODIs. His big moments in umpiring was when he officiated in both the ODI and T20 World Cup but he considers the biggest of them of all as being involved in Sachin’s greatest moments ‘Sachin scored 185 in my debut ODI match, I also umpired when he scored 175 against Australia and when he created the World Record with the one day double hundred against South Africa. I also officiated in Sachin’s last first class match.”
He says that travelling across the world gave him great insights into the different cultures and the mindset of people in different countries. “It helped me understand both the international players and my overseas umpiring colleagues better on the field.’

Controversial Moments
He did have his controversial moments as well. In the IPL, his decision against Ashwin did not go down well with Captain Dhoni. He was also the umpire when the match referree handed a two match suspension for slow over rate. There was another when he gave his father’s mentee Rahul Dravid out, controversially. But by and large he had a fairly successful three decades career as an umpire that had begun in 1987 at the KSCA.

In 2017, aged 60 he retired from all forms of the game having officiated in 100 first class matches. It had been a significant achievement for a man who managed to score only over a 100 runs in his Ranji career. Once he became a BCCI umpire, he began to consider this as a ‘full day’ in office “Even though I was employed with Syndicate Bank and they supported me right till the very end, I considered every match that I officiated in as my full day in office. Like elsewhere in cricket, every match is a new innings. In fact, for an umpire, every ball is important. Throughout my umpiring career, I would tell myself before every ball that this is the ball that really counts."

Following his retirement, he was appointed as the Head of Faculty for umpires and anchored the Level 1 and II education programmes for Umpires in India. 

Active Cricket Engagement Past 60
Shahvir, who will turn 64 later this month, is still very active off the field having expanded his engagement with cricket after taking up the role of Honorary Joint Secretary of the KSCA where he works closely with his Ranji Teammates from the 1980s – Roger Binny and J Abhiram. He did not have anything to write home about as a player in the 1980s but he had the resolve and the mental strength to come back strong in his second innings in cricket. Three decades is a long time for someone to be officiating as an umpire for it is a hard grind both to be standing in the hot sun day in day out as well as the amount of travelling that is required. But Shahvir had the two Ps in him – Passion and Patience as well as the Communication skill that are such important qualities for an umpire. 

It has been a very satisfying, fruitful and enjoyable second innings in cricket for Shahvir.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Prathik Desai Deccan Herald CA turned Journalist

Passionate about writing and seeking to create Rural Transformation, this 26 year old Chartered Accountant has taken to Journalism
His long term vision is to transform the Educational Space in Rural India by inspiring the illiterate to take to academics
Last year, this section had featured a story on a Chartered Accountant turned one of a kind Journalist D Murali of Business Line (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/05/d-murali-journalist.html). In 2020, this section also featured story on two other CAs who accomplished themselves in the sporting arena. This story is about a young 26 year old who has taken a very different view of life and chosen a path, right at the start of his career that very few would. Prathik M Desai is a Chartered Accountant, who within months of his professional degree, was handed out an offer letter by Morgan Stanley in Bombay but much to everyone’s shock rejected the lucrative offer of close to a six digit monthly package, instead taking the passionate route to writing ‘stories’. It did not go down well with the near and dear ones for he was the first CA in the big joint family that moved to Vijayawada from their home state of Gujarat for they were all hopeful that he would make it big in auditing. They would have hoped for him to take to the family business but like they have found in recent times, he is turning out to be one with a different vision. Here is the story of the Chartered Accountant who earlier this year joined the Business Desk at Deccan Herald, in Bangalore and now writes at least three stories a week on life in the Corporate World, and one who has different things up his sleeve and is looking to make a difference in Rural India.

Govt School in Vijayawada
Prathik was academically brilliant right from his school days though surprisingly he had his entire education in a Government aided school in Vijayawada at an annual fee of Rs. 120!!! His forefathers hailed from Gujarat but moved under a century ago to Madras. Later they shifted to Vijayawada from where for the last several decades they have been running a successful business. Almost right through his schooling, he was in the top three but into his early teens he began to have a dislike for Science. He was strong with numbers and given his aversion to Chemistry and Biology, accounts was a natural,, and at the time the only, option when he entered Intermediate College (equivalent of Class XI and XII).
 
Districts Cricketer at the U13 Level
By this time, like all boys his age, he had developed an extreme interest in cricket and had featured in the districts team at the U13 level as a spinner. But it was a time that he had to wear specs and a couple of knocks on the head made his father worried and he got out of cricket. He took to an indoor game and played intense Chess for two years and climbed to fifth in the state rankings but House Leader role at school meant he got out of serious chess as well. 

In the first 15years of his life, he had always allowed himself the luxury of enjoying life alongside his academic proficiency. “I had been into Math Talent Test, debates and quizzes”, Prathik told this writer at Cubbon Park looking back at his early glory days at school.

Mid Teens, he wanted to get back into cricket in all seriousness as he felt there was a certain charm about being a sportsman but his father opposed this call instead asking him to focus on academics in the teenaged phase “he told me that we are a family known for proficiency in academics and that a good academic record will be of value.”

Strong on Numbers - Takes the CA route
He had topped 90% all through his schooling days and took to the Commerce Group. At that age, he developed a natural interest in CA. And soon enough took to the CPT course. Prathik remembers that day when he announced to his father his decision to do CA “It was after I told him that I wanted to do CA, that he broke the news to me that he too had wanted to do CA but because of the challenges of that time, he could not pursue and took to business. It was the happiest I had seen him after my decision to do CA for no one else even in the extended family had explored CA.”

Being in the 95+% category, the Class XII syllabus was completed (for him and a few other boys in his class) in a couple of months and the attention turned to preparation for CPT and he was put into ‘Intensive CA Care”, an exercise that he found too grueling for his liking. “It was at an institute that had year on year churned out the top CA rank holders in the country but I did not want myself to be exhausted. I would have given over 60 mock tests in that phase and prepared each day from 7am to 7pm."

This resulted in him securing 90% in CPT.

His 2nd Home - Madras
But he did not want to continue this maddening 'going after rank' like of coaching model in Vijayawada and for the first time in over 17years, he moved away from his family to Madras, a city he loved so much that he now considers it his 2nd home. He was there for six months from August 2013 “I stayed in a hostel in Thiruvallikeni enjoying the Sambar Idly at Rathna Café. It was one of the most enjoyable periods in my life. I explored the entire city in my broken Tamizh.”

Lets go a likely KPMG offer in Madras, moves to Bombay
The six months at the coaching institute in Madras helped him clear both the groups in Inter in his first attempt in May 2014. After the enjoyable stint in Madras, he was to keen to return to his 2nd home for the 3 year articleship and he was to have his interview at KPMG in two days but life gave a new twist, the first of a few that he has already had in his young life “At the family function in Vijayawada, a friend suggested Bombay as an option and as per my father’s direction, I cancelled the Madras ticket and boarded the train to the financial capital.”  

He knew nothing about Bombay, except having heard of the fast paced life, one that he dreaded. His friend from Class XII and the Madras Coaching Institute provided him a contact at a mid sized audit firm. With all of the article wards being residents of  Bombay, he turned out to be the only outstation staffer at the firm and this in a way provided him with opportunities that may not have come his way otherwise. “I went on most of the Tier 2 audits in places such as Nasik, Aurangabad and other towns in Maharashtra. I got to know a new culture and made a big number of friends. It gave me great exposure and opened my eyes to new things in life.”

As a 15year old, he had begun writing short poems. With the huge amount of travel that he was exposed to, he moved into wordpress and began writing short stories “The travel led me into a new writing experience. Till then I had only read the sports pages of newspapers but the Tier 2 travel inspired me to write about culture and people.”

Industrial Training at Morgan Stanley
Into the third year of apprenticeship, he had an option to do industrial training and joined MNC firm Morgan Stanley as an intern who did product analysis. Just ahead of his CA final exams in November 2017, his brother fell ill and went into intensive care “it was a month that I spent in hospital and it hurt my preparation. For the first time in my life, I failed in an exam.”

The North East Trip transforms him
It was in late 2017, as part of his  travel adventure, he went on a long 2 month trip to the North East to explore the unknown parts of India. It turned out to be a life altering vacation, for the solo trip gave him lot of insights into the lives of Indians in remote locations “It was during that trip that I understood the ‘value of privilege’ and how blessed I was to have such a supportive family. I made 50 random friends all from different walks of life on that single trip. The trip was an eye opener and took me away from the thoughts of a career as an auditor.”

Another family event – his sister’s wedding this time - a few months ahead of his next CA Final attempt hampered his preparations once again. But he slogged for two months following her wedding “But by now, I had clarity on my life and announced my decision to explore a career outside of auditing. My father thought I was depressed after my first failure and tried to motivate me. In all my alarm messages, I had “Goal as CA” typed out. I studied with single minded focus to get through CA even though I was clear I was not getting into auditing.”

No Auditing Career for this CA- shocks his family
In May 2018, he wrote the CA Final exam but within a few days of the exam, he applied for Masters in Journalism at Christ University, an action that shocked his father. He had also planned a trip to Himachal where he was to do a teaching programme for 20 days. However with Christ University clearing his application and with the Masters programme starting in the first week of June (even before the CA results were to be out), he cancelled his trip and joined the college, much to his father’s displeasure “My father wondered as to what I was doing after giving my CA final exams. He simply was at wits end with my conduct.”

And thus in June 2018, he moved into a third new city in his life - Bangalore. He was kind of the odd man out at the University, one who had completed CA and joined a journalism course. “Almost everyone felt that CA to Journalism was odd but I went with my passion.”

In August 2018, the news came out in the middle of an event at the University that he had cleared CA final. His father was delighted but continued to wonder at this decision to pursue journalism.  “It was a dream come true for my father. I had achieved what he had wanted to do in his life.”

Rejects Morgan Stanley's Offer!!!!
Soon after, Morgan Stanley offered him a job at a monthly package that was close to six digits, but to the shock of everyone in his extended family, he rejected the offer from the MNC “Everyone thought that I was out of my mind to reject such a lucrative offer within days of completing my CA and one that held great prospects for my career. Right from my childhood I led a simplistic life and money had never been the driving force.”

He was the first CA in the family and his decision not to take up this offer or pursue auditing did not go down well with his family including his father, who was surprised at the call he had taken. 

The Pandemic was a dampener and came soon after he completed his Masters. For close to a year, he taught Journalism at the National School of Journalism (NSOJ) playing what he calls as the role of a facilitator. While he enjoyed the role and the students were delighted with his ‘facilitator’ model of teaching', he was waiting to get into the Newsroom. 

At the Newsroom at Deccan Herald
Earlier this year, when he got the call from Deccan Herald to be part of their Business Desk, he grabbed it with both hands. This Chartered Accountant now writes at least three stories in his six day work week and much like D Murali is passionate about meeting people and writing stories. He is happy where he is now though his family is likely to remind him every now and then of his professional degree. But all his life he has been clear that one has to do things that he is passionate about and writing is what he likes to do. He is also high on ethics and is clear that he would state the facts as is to the readers. 
A happy development in the last couple of months has been the appreciation from his father of his exclusive by-lined stories “Finally he has accepted writing and teaching (facilitating) as my way of life and while there will always be the disappointment that his son has not pursued auditing, he is happy for now that I am enjoying what I am doing.”

A Cyclist and a Chess Addict
In his teenaged phased, he cycled 25kms a day in Vijayawada, all for fun. A decade later, he is back into cycling riding around the Cubbon Park on the Weekend Mornings. He has also renewed his association with Chess and has played close to 2300 games in the last 12 months.

This CA turned journalist, who is also a dog lover, is keen to transform the educational space in the remote tier 3 villages of India and is hoping that one day he would move into and settle down in one such remote locate to try and create that educational transformation in Rural India by driving the educational interest among the unread and illiterate. 

It is indeed incredible for a youngster to have such a vision and to pursue his passion unmindful of the Societal pressures.
****

The Only CA and Cost Accountant TN Ranji Cricketer: 


CA National TT Player 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Tiruvarur Thyagaraja Somaskanda Gurukal

While many around him went away from temple service, this Next Gen Priest has committed to performing Chandana Kaappu Abhisekam and Alankaram for Lord Thyagesan through his entire lifetime
Rejecting Overseas Offers from his Patshala classmates, Somaskanda Gurukal, now in his 30s, decided long ago as a teenager that he would stay away from any financial temptation and spend all his life at this Saint Poets praised temple
The Thyagaraja Temple in Tiruvarur is the foremost among the Paadal Petra Sthalams praised by the four Saivite Saint Poets. The temple has 9 huge Gopurams, 5 Prakaras, 108 Lingams and 54 Vimanas.  The temple tank and the temple chariot are both huge and special features at the temple. It was here at this temple that the famous Saint Poet Sundarar got his right eye (He got his left eye at Kanchipuram). There were 56 festivals celebrated every year in a grand manner during the rule of the Chozhas.  There was a long agraharam on the North and South Mada Vilagams with several hundreds of traditionalists residing here. 

During the rule of Parakesari (Vikrama) Chozha, a mandapa was created at the temple where in food was distributed to the needy and to the travelling devotees. It was during his rule that dance arangetram was initiated in the month of Chitrai every year for young talented dancers at the Devasiriyin Mandapa and he awarded them a certificate as proof of the event. Also, during this period, the respected and senior residents of Thiruvarur congregated and made donations for ghee that was to be used to light the lamp for the Lord every day. He also granted lands for construction of lakes for cultivation purposes ahead of the harvest season.

That was a 1000years ago. 

Fast forward into the 1960s and 70s - The priests and the service personnel at this temple did not find the going easy. The financial challenges led many of the service personnel including the priests to explore other lucrative opportunities elsewhere including in overseas temples. 

A Nayanar Family stays back at Tiruvarur
70 year old Ganesan Gurukal and his son have been exceptions. Ganesan Gurukal has been serving the Lord for the last six decades having started out here when he was 10 years old. His family belongs to the Nayanar clan of the Temple (the other clan is Paramarayar) that has the exclusive rights to perform abhishekam and alankaram for Thyagaraja Swamy. His is one of the only two families left to perform in the Nayanar clan. His father, Chandrasekaran Nayanar Gurukal, had performed service for five decades at the temple. 
He remembers 18 musical instruments having been here and played at different pooja times in praise of Lord Thyagaraja.  There were Poo Malai, Nagaswaram and Mathalam Groups performing service in those decades. Once upon a time, there were 300 service personnel at the temple. “The agraharam was vibrant. The Neivedyam of 1 Kalam would give you an indication of the kind of vibrancy in those days. Several hundreds of devotees would visit the temple for each of the six Kaalam pooja and multiple varieties of rice would be presented to the Lord and then distributed to the devotees. The service personnel too were in large numbers at the temple and the festivals used to have certain grandeur to it with local residents thronging the temple in the morning and evening for the street processions. Unfortunately, even as I was growing up into my teens, the original inhabitants and the Kainkaryapakas began leaving the town with lack of income and the resultant financial challenges leading them to bigger cities in search of opportunities elsewhere.”
For  many years, the Rathotsavam had come to a halt and was revived only in recent decades.

A nearby Sugar Factory provided employment opportunities to some of the service personnel so they double up at the temple in the morning and evening and worked at the factory during the day. 

No Monthly Salary, Only Thattu Kaasu
While Ganesan has performed service for six decades, just over 50 years ago at least four archaka families quit service and went away from Tiruvarur including into overseas temples. He ensured that his son Somaskandan stuck to Temple Kainkaryam “We are hereditary priests and do not take salary from the temple. We used to be given paddy for our service. In those decades even though the income was minimal we lived a contented life and we were at peace with ourselves. My son was attached to Lord Thyagaraja from a very early age and he learned the agamas and began supporting me even when he was in his teens.”

The Next Gen Priest rejects lucrative offers
Somaskanda Gurukal was born in the 1980s, a decade when the final batch of original inhabitants and service personnel were leaving the temple town. It also marked a phase when the priests moved elsewhere. The agraharam on South and North Mada Vilagam became a thing of the past as shops and multi storied complexes replaced the traditional homes. "During my teenage phase, there was severe shortage of service personnel. My appa initiated me as a young school boy into devotional service and created the interest in temples that has stayed with me through my three decades. Opportunities came my way from Singapore and Australia among other countries  but I did not take any of the offers. Most of my Patshala classmates continue to call me offering big money in overseas locations."
Even as a teenager, Somaskanda Gurukal was assigned, by his appa, the task of performing abhishekam at the Sannidhis other than those of Thyagaraja Swami and Ambal. After finishing his schooling, he moved to Mayiladuthurai where he learned the Agamas at the Patshala for five years. 20 years ago, he came back to Tiruvarur and joined full time service as Nayanar clan archaka. 

Devotionally Exciting Panguni Uthiram 36 day Utsavam
He recalls that in his growing up years he found many of his relatives leaving the temple in search of better financial prospects elsewhere including in the corporate world. Other relatives went away from daily archaka service into more lucrative Kumbabhisekams and Homams "We stayed back in Tiruvarur. There is definitely great happiness from performing abhisekam for Thyagesan and my mind has always been on performing service here at this temple. the 36 day Panguni Uthiram utsavam is the most devotionally exciting festival. On many nights during this festial I go back home well after 1am and return back to the temple soon after."

On Panguni Uthiram is one of the two days i the year when the Lord's right foot can be seen, the other being Margazhi Thiruvathirai. On these days, Uma Devi’s left foot can be seen. 

With most of the hereditary archaka families having left in the 1960s and 70s,  there are currently just two lead Nayanar archaka families performing service at the temple. Despite being the foremost among the Paadal Petra Sthalams, the Thyagaraja temple in Tiruvarur does not attract huge crowds like those in Chidambaram and Madurai. On weekdays, the crowd is no where near what one would expect for such a historical Saint Poets praised temple. There is no salary for the priest and he is dependent on Thattu Kaasu for financial survival. They do have a share in the archanai ticket but that has been off in the last 18 months. 

While the world around was undergoing a change, Somaskanda Gurukal stuck to the traditional attire - tuft in the way it was sported till a few decades ago. His particular favourites are Chandana Kaappu anointment and Alankaram of Lord Thyagesan and his only wish is to be able to do these through his entire lifetime.

It is great commiment to stick to hereditary service when most other original inhabitants have left the town long ago seeking greener pastures. But Somaskanda Gurukal is devotionally inclined and financial temptations don't move him as much as performing the alankaram during the Brahmotsavam. 

The temple and the Lord are in safe hands with this Next Gen Priest.

Somaskanda Gurukal can be reached on 9965957725.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Bharadwaj K Jolly Rovers India Cements Cricketer passes away

He was one of KR Rajagopal's best friends and cherished the cricket memories from the 1960s and 70s and his time with Jolly Rovers
There was a certain style about Bharadwaj and he carried himself well. His pant was always clean and unwrinkled - N Sankar, Jolly Rovers

Since March this year, from the time the story on KR Rajagopal was written on this blog, K Bharadwaj, former Jolly Rovers' middle order batsman and one of KR Rajagopal's best friends, had been calling this writer every week from his home in Koramangala to enquire about Raja's health. He was genuinely concerned about the deteriorating condition of Raja. When he came to know about N Sankar's call to Raja offering all help the morning after the blog story (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/03/kr-rajagopal-dashing-opener-brilliant.html) featured, Bharadwaj called this writer to express delight at Sankar's great gesture. "Only Sankar could do this", he told this writer. 

Ever since, he had also been calling Rajagopal quite regularly over the last 8 months to enquire about his well being. Covid and restrictions in Bangalore meant that the two could not meet each other this year. When the TNCA and CSK/India Cements felicitated Rajagopal (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/08/kr-rajagopal-tn-batting-legend.html), he called this writer that same evening (Aug 10) conveying his happiness for Raja and told this writer that N Srinivasan's financial contribution would go a long way towards meeting the dialysis expenses of Rajagopal.

A bold call to Raja's daughters
In October, when this writer requested Bharadwaj, as a long time friend of Rajagopal, to talk to the two daughters when they made the trip to Bangalore, he had no second thoughts and went out of his way and made a bold statement to them "I asked them to extend their stay in Bangalore by a week to a fortnight to take care of their father. I told them that at least one of the two could stay back."

It showed how much he cared for Rajagopal.

Played for Viveka and Junior State
Bharadwaj began his league cricket stint at Milky Way and BRC and went on to play for Jolly Rovers in the 1970s including under the captaincy of Rajagopal. He played for Vivekananda College and Junior State in the late 1950s and early 60s. He joined India Cements in their accounts section in 1966 and later on moved into the admininstration department from where he retired in December 2003.

Memorable days with KR Rajagopal
During Rajagopal's hey days in the late 1960s, Bharadwaj played host ahead of league matches in the city. In those years, Barathwaj stayed on Mowbrays ( TTK) Road and used to accompany Rajagopal for many of the matches both in Madras as well as outside. He told this writer in March this year on his Mylapore memories from the 1960s “Rajagopal was staying far off in Nandambakkam closer to the India Cements foundry. On many occasions, he would come home to Mowbrays road on the night before the match, have a quick wash and breakfast in the morning before leaving for the ground. Chepauk, Marina and Vivekananda were a lot closer to my place and he found it comfortable to leave for the match from here.”
A shocked Rajagopal told this writer from his home in Bangalore that  Bharadwaj was such a kind hearted person and a genuine cricket lover "We were very close friends right from the 1960s. He made several calls to me this year to check on my health. When I was felicitated by the TNCA, he was so happy for me and told me as to how the contribution from N Srinivasan (CSK/ India Cements) would prove useful for my dialysis.”

Go Pick an auto to bring back the ball
Earlier this year, Bharadwaj recalled the greatness of Rajagopal from cricket matches 60 years ago “Playing at one of the High School grounds (there were three of them next to each other) in Bangalore which were rectangular in size, Rajagopal would belt the ball so hard that it would often go into the other grounds. Once Raja Raghavan fielding at Mid Off was so tired chasing and bringing back the ball that he ordered his captain to organise an auto when Rajagopal was batting so he could take the auto to bring back the ball."

A competent middle order batsman, Bharadwaj also recalled the dangers of batting in the 1960s and 70s “Protective equipments were of poor quality A strike on your fingers would result in a fracture. The pads were heavy and would turn direction as you ran a quick single or two. The buckle in the strap would often poke your ankle as you ran. The bats were oiled and ‘seasoned’ but it had no power. When one played the drive, one often felt a shock in the hand.”  
Shocking revelation 
He often travelled with Rajagopal for cricket matches across the country and remembered vividly the moments of shock in 1967 when Rajagopal was on the verge of being selected for India for the tour of Australia “In the pre selection camp, Raja hooked Umesh Kulkarni for a six off the first ball and he literally took the leather off the ball. After they watched him bat in the camp, they were very impressed with what they saw. Everyone knew he was a certainty for the tour. But shockingly he was not selected. In those days, every effort was made to keep the Madrasis away at the national level. Raja was never the same again.” 
A Great Team Man
KS Viswanathan, CEO of CSK, worked with Bharadwaj at India Cements from the 1970s for many decades. He remembers him as a great team man “Bharadwaj was a very organised and disciplined individual. He was committed to the team and everything he did was with meticulous planning. He was a stylish batsmen, always immaculately dressed and a great team man.”

His Pant was Clean and Unwrinkled
Bharadwaj was almost the same age as Sanmar Group's N Sankar (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/11/jolly-rovers-n-sankar-75.html) and both had watched many matches together in the late 1960s, especially of Rajagopal batting at his best. Sankar remembers Bharadwaj from that phase "He was always well dressed.  There was a certain style about him and he carried himself well. His pant was always clean and unwrinkled."
Sudden Demise
His wife, Bhavani, told this writer that he had been enjoying good health and had been taking care of himself quite well through the Pandemic and that his sudden demise has come as a huge shock "He was always talking of Rajagopal this year and would often make calls to him to enquire about his health. He had been doing his walks around the apartment and was cheerful with the unlocking of the restrictions. It was on the evening of November 14 that he developed some health issues and was admitted to the hospital. He came back home a few days later but suffered a massive heart attack and passed away on Nov 19."

Bharadwaj was 77. He had been a resident of Abiramapuram 3rd street for 8years and then lived on Balakrishna Road (near Sanskrit College) for three decades. It was just under two years ago that he moved to Koramangala, Bangalore to stay with his son. 

His wife can be reached on 99802 90555.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

TT Rangaswamy TVS Group - A Man with a Kind Heart

'TTR was an institution by himself at Brakes India '- S Viji, Chairman, Sundaram Finance Ltd.,

In the late 1950s, former MD of Sundaram Finance TT Srinivasaraghavan (TTS)  was not yet five and enjoying his early childhood in the Hindi belt – initially for a few years in Delhi and then for a year or so in Bombay. His father TT Rangaswamy (TTR) was working with the Standard Vaccum Oil Company (later ESSO) and had made the trip up North after a transfer from Madras. It was a fairly settled job and at that time TTR was more likely to have continued his stint North of the Vindyas but for a surprise call that came his way in 1960. 

Integral Member of the Padi Expansion
It was from the legendary automan TS Santhanam, who having founded Sundaram Finance Ltd., in 1954, was anchoring the setting up of manufacturing plants in Padi. While TTR was happy and contented  at ESSO, he just could not say NO when Santhanam wanted him back in Madras to be an integral part of the Padi expansion. And thus quite as a surprise at that time, he quit the job in Bombay and returned to Madras to join Lucas TVS in 1961, that was to be the start of  an over five decades long association with the TVS Group.

Having worked at Lucas TVS and Sundaram Clayton through the 1960s, he moved to Brakes India in 1971 and was a key member of the Senior Management team that took the company to the top as India's leading brake system supplier.  He officially retired from Brakes India in 1998 as ED – Finance (modern day CFO) and Company Secretary but continued to play an active role over the next decade and a half  at Turbo Energy, a company where he was the Founder Promoter. Well into his 80s, he also continued to be engaged in the strategic decision making process at Brakes India. 

That's a beautiful kolam
He was so culturally inclined that even into his 90s, just a few years ago, he would walk through the North Mada Street to watch the White Pulli Kolam on a Saturday evening in Margazhi, an event that was a top draw at the Mylapore Festival organised by Sundaram Finance. He would exclaim with delight 'That's a beautiful kolam.'

A few years ago, he had a fall at home and fractured his femur but that did not dampen his spirit and he continued to be engaged with both Turbo Energy as well as Brakes India. Despite the physical injury, that had made him a bit immobile, TTS  found his memory to be razor sharp right till the end.

TTR - Never Compromised his values 
S Viji, MD, Brakes India and Chairman of Sundaram Finance, who has seen him from close quarters for over five decades says that TTR was a person of the highest integrity “He was an Institution by himself at Brakes India.  He was a very religious person in the best sense of the word.  In financial and accounting matters, he was very innovative and found solutions and a way forward, always strictly within the law and without compromising his values.”
“He was a person with compassion and an innate sense of justice and fair play.  He never spoke ill of anybody.”

A Life message for his son in 1982
It was that sense of fair play with the employees that he initiated into his son TTS (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/08/tt-srinivasaraghavan-tts-sundaram.html) when he started out on a career at Sundaram Finance in the early 1980s. Four decades later, TTS vividly recalls that life message and told this writer in August that his appa always insisted on leading a simple life and wanted me to be approachable to everyone. People Management is the most important skill, TTS remembers his appa telling him at a young age “Even though my appa was in finance, he saw the people connect as important. It was from him that I learnt to put people first.” It was a lesson that stayed with TTS right through his corporate life.

A Patient Hearing to every employee 
Viji says that all the employees of Brakes India including the union office bearers had immense respect for him and his words not because of his position, but because of how they perceived him "TTR's qualities as a human being endeared him to all who came in contact with him. On any given day of the year, long after office hours, you would find employees of the company waiting in front of his house and seeking an audience with him, to explain their grievances.  He never turned them away; but gave them a patient hearing and tried to find a solution to their problems as best he could.  He was a mentor to them.”

Viji recalls that though TTR was a very serious worker, there was a lighter side to him as well “He also had a tremendous sense of humour and was capable of a hearty laugh.”
  
A Father Figure to all of us - Srinivas Acharya
Former Managing Director of Sundaram Home Finance Srinivas Acharya knew two Rangaswamy’s very closely in his life. One was A Rangaswamy of LGF (who passed away recently during the Pandemic) and TT Rangaswamy. He too remembers the love and affection showered by TTR on his colleagues  "TTR connected individually with everyone. I enjoyed his love and affection ever since I got to know him several decades ago. He was a very thorough professional, very kind and encouraging. He had a sharp memory and would quote events from several years gone by. He was a father figure to all of us that knew him."

Navalpakkam S Ranganathan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2015/02/navalpakkam-ranganathan.html) is a renowned Prabhandham scholar and has released CDs on Nalayira Divya Prabhandham and Desikar Prabhandham. His father was the priest at the Vedantha Desikar Srinivasa Perumal temple in Mylapore (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/01/vedantha-desikar-srinivasa-perumal.html) for several decades.

Made for Each Other Couple 
Rangappa as he is called in the temple circles has known TT Rangaswamy for five decades and says that he was a regular at the temple at all the utsavams. “My appa always used to receive him at the temple during the annual utsavams. He would not miss the big utsavams at the temple and both he and his wife, a made for each other couple, were ardent devotees of Srinivasa Perumal.”

A Guiding Force for over three decades
Ranganathan recalls the days soon after he graduated in commerce "It was TTR who showed me the way in my career and directed me to Turbo Energy where I joined as a steno in 1989. Over the last three decades, he was my guiding force both at work and in my personal life. Though he was a Board level Director, he was always approachable to even those at the mid and junior levels. He had a big heart and was one with a special human touch. He was always sensitive to human issues. I could share any grievance with him and he would always come up with the perfect solution.”

Ranganathan says that the set of human values and friendly engagement with people at all levels has successfully passed on to his sons as well for he can see the same kind heartedness and simplicity in his children as well.  

While Rangappa has now grown to become the leader of the Secretarial Department at Turbo Energy, he has a big regret “He always wanted me to do ACS and pushed me a lot over a number of years. Every time I met him he would remind of the need to equip myself with a degree in CS but somehow I could not get down to doing that. That is one wish of his I could not fulfill.”

TTR spent the last 36hours of his life at his home in Kasturi Estates from where he had begun his six decades association with the TVS Group. His life’s journey had a quiet and peaceful end on Wednesday morning at 5.45am at the age of 97, just the way he would have wanted without troubling anyone. 

While his contribution as a Financial Controller and a Company Secretary at the various TVS Group companies was commendable over a long period of time, it was his large heartedness, compassion, the innate sense of justice and fair play and the personalized human touch that were standout features of his life. 

It was truly a life well lived.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Thiru Kannapuram Sowri Rajan Bhattar

The 72 year old Bhattar has now performed archaka service at this historical Divya Desam for over five decades - He began at Rs. 40 per month, moved up to Rs. 750 per month and now in 2021 performs Kainkaryam without any Salary from the HR & CE!!!
The two centuries old Sthaneegam Rights have been taken away from him by the HR & CE. His one remaining wish is to secure back in his lifetime the rights that had been recorded and handed to his forefathers in 1827 
The Previous Samprokshanam had taken place in 2005 and the Temple wears a forelorn look

Thiru Kannapuram Sowri Rajan Perumal Divya Desam is one of the only two Divya Desams to be praised with a 100 verses by Thiru Mangai Azhvaar, the other being Nachiyar Koil praised at Thiru Naraiyur Mani Maada Koil. Azhvaars called it ‘Wealthy Kannapuram’ and ‘Gold Walled’ City. The roar of the Sea could be heard at the temple. Kulasekara Azhvaar says that Thiru Kannapuram was Home to ‘Master Craftsmen’. 

"கரை எடுத்த சுரி சங்கும் கணபுரத்து எழு கொடியும்"

"நன் போன் ஏய்ந்த மதில் சூழ் திரு கண்ணபுரத்து அன்பன்"

"காலின்மணி கரை அலைக்கும் கணபுரத்து கருமணியே"

The once popular Veda Patshala that functioned from the North Mada Vilagam was demolished last decade. Several Vedic Scholars had graduated from here with a couple of the renowned Hindu school (Thiruvallikeni) teachers hailing from here. The South Street behind the South Mada Vilagam too resonated with Prabhandham recital. Close to Sirpathingals served at the temple just over half a century ago and this has come down to single digits now. 

The greenery referred to in the praise of the Azhvaars is still intact. As one walks through the newly laid tar road from Thiru Pugalur (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/11/thiru-pugalur-agneeswarar-temple.html) to Thiru Kannapuram, one finds huge fertile fields on either side. However, there is no hint of any of the temple’s glorious past. The original inhabitants have long left the city selling their lands at dead cheap rates. At the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore, the Melam artiste who presents every day during the pooja occasions hails from Thiru Kannapuram but he too like several hundreds of residents had moved into larger cities several decades ago and has almost never gone back to his native town. The devotee crowd is sorely missing with the Maasi and Vaikasi festivals being the only two where some of these traditionalists visit their home town. In recent times, even the conduct of these festivals has hung in the balance with the lack of people to carry the Lord on street processions and issues surrounding that. It is now 16years since the last Samprokshanam. The towering Raja Gopuram wears a forelorn look, the walls inside the temple have faded but a renovation exercise does not seem to be starting anytime soon. The Brahmotsavam itself that had come to a halt was only recently revived but with the Pandemic that too has not taken place in the last couple of years.

An Exception at 72!!!
72 year old Sowri Rajan Bhattar is an exception at this historical temple town for he has spent almost his entire seven decades at Thiru Kannapuram. He has been serving Sowri Rajan Perumal for the last 52 years having joined the temple at a monthly salary of Rs. 40 in 1969. For the first sixty years of his life, he lived in a thatched hut on the North side of the huge Temple Tank that one finds right in front of the temple.

Sthaneegam cum Archaka service for 200 years
His forefathers had performed Kainkaryam at the Divya Desam since the early 19th century with a record of 1827 in Olai Chuvadi handing them the rights of Sthaneegam at the temple. In the first half of the 19th Century, his Great Great Grand Father, Venkatapathi Iyengar, had managed the entire activities at the Divya Desam. For over 100 years this family performed service as the exclusive archaka at the temple taking care of both the Perumal and Thayar Sannidhi as well as all the utsavams. When the temple came under the ‘Scheme of Arrangement’ in 1863, his Great Grand Father, Sowri Perumal Iyengar became a trustee of the temple. It was during the period of his Grand Father, Raju Bhattar, who died very early at the age of 35, that the family also took the support of another archaka family to split the kainkaryam between Perumal and Thayar sannidhis.

Sowri Rajan Bhattar’s appa, Srinivasa Bhattar, performed kainkaryam as an archaka for 60years having joined the temple service at the age of 13. 

Dedicating a Lifetime to Sowri Raja Perumal
Sowri Rajan Bhattar did his SSLC in Thiru Kannapuram following which he learned the agamas from Vanathirajapuram Srinivasa Bhattar. He was not interested in higher education and did not purse college. He was initiated into Veda Parayanam at a young age by TS Rajagopalachariar Ganapadigal. Despite the financially challenging times of the 1960s with all the Divya Desams in Tamil Nadu going through a torrid phase, Sowri Rajan Bhattar was clear that he would dedicate his entire life to serving Sowri Rajan Perumal. 

How did he manage to lead a happy life at a monthly salary of Rs. 40 “We led a contended life with our requirements being minimal. I spent almost each day of the year at the temple with my mind focused on serving the Lord and not on the financial returns. Not once did the miniscule salary bother me and never did I think of leaving the temple kainkaryam to join work elsewhere” says Sowri Rajan Bhattar looking back at his early days at the temple.

No Oil to light lamp at the temple
He recounts the first decade of his service at Thiru Kannapuram Divya Desam “As a teenager, I found that there was no oil to even light the lamp. I would light the lamp, but when the oil dried up, there would not be another packet to refill. Such was the state of the temple  50years ago." 

His appa had passed away in 1983 leaving Sowri Rajan Bhattar all on his own at the temple. 25years after he joined the temple service, by when he had had three children, his monthly salary had increased to Rs. 750!!! By this period, the once vibrant Divya Desam that was once home to 100s of Vaishnavite families had seen most of the original inhabitants leave the town seeking greener pastures in the city. This meant that the Thattu Kaasu that an archaka could have hoped for on a daily basis too dwindled. The temple struck a new low in the 1970s and 80s with minimal devotees visiting the temple and it became increasingly challenging for the archaka to manage the big utsavams. Unmindful of the financial challenges, he kept his service going for Kainkaryam to Sowri Raja Perumal surpassed everything else in life.

Rejects Lucrative Temple Offers
Sowri Rajan Bhattar is considered an agama expert and has been receiving calls from several popular non Divya Desam temples including Nanganallur and Panchavati Anjaneya Temples over the last couple of decades but right from his childhood when he had begun to watch his appa in Kainkaryam, he felt blessed to be part of Divya Desam Kainkaryam and rejected these lucrative offers “As seen in Thiru Mangai Azhvaar’s praise, I had seen the Lord as my own child, I have touched and bathed him over the last five decades and hence my mind has always been attached to this Lord” says  Sowri Rajan Bhattar on having no second thoughts of accepting financially lucrative offers in his lifetime.

கள்ளவிழ் சோலை கணபுரம் 
கை தொழும் பிள்ளையை 
பிள்ளை என்று என்னை பெருவரே

As the Sthaneegam, his family also had the rights to recite Purana Paadams on specific occasions in the year. They also had special rights during certain festivals at the temple. However, with the entry of the HR & CE, the Sthaneegam rights has been taken away from Sowri Rajan Bhattar and for the last many years, he has been fighting an uphill battle to secure back the rights, that has clearly been recorded in an Olai Chuvadi 2 centuries ago.

No Salary @ 72 after 50 years of Kainkaryam!!!
Well past 70, he does not get even the three digit salary anymore and is solely dependent on the Thattu Kaasu of devotees. His second son Murali Bhattar has joined him in daily service at this Divya Desam and he too does not get even a rupee as salary from the HR &CE. But when it comes to conducting the utsavams, the HR&CE reaches out to Sowri Rajan Bhattar and his five decades experience at the temple to secure the devotee support for the temple. 

A Big New Bell finds its way into the temple
A recent indication of this was when the big bell of Thiru Kannapuram that is used on various pooja occasions was damaged, it was Sowri Rajan Bhattar who immediately secured a replacement bell of the same huge size through a devotee. But he remains grounded even in these big happy moments “I perform my kainkaryam with sincerity. Hence when there is a requirement for the Lord, the devotee comes on his own with his offering. This securing of the big bell for the Lord is one such example when the devotee of his own accord offered to do the replacement bell.”
The new big bell will be installed soon at the temple. There are many other such requirements at the temple such as organizing the Six Kaalam Thaligai every day for the Lord, Adyayana Utsavam Kainkaryam in Margazhi, organizing flower garland, Thirumanjanam and Thaligai during the 10 day Utsavams in Maasi and Vaikasi. While he performs Kainkaryam at the Divya Desam without a salary for his service, it is Sowri Rajan Bhattar who shoulders the responsibility for the conduct of the daily pooja and the utsavams and to ensuring that all is well at the temple at least from a Kainkaryam point of view. 

Low Lights
No Salary to the long serving Priest
Brahmotsavam had come to a halt at this Divya Desam
No Consecration since 2005
Sthaneegam Rights taken away 
HR & CE has washed their hands away from the daily expenses

He says that the Lord has seen him through at the temple for half a century and has the fullest faith that Sowri Rajan Perumal will take care of him for the rest of his life in helping him perform Kainkaryam with sincerity and devotion at this five Azhvaars praised Divya Desam. In his daily life, he often remembers the praise of Kulasekara Azhvaar’s Perumal Thirumozhi and the verses on the Lord of Kannapuram where the strength of Lord Rama is extolled. Sowri Rajan Bhattar has gathered such strength in his mind to overcome all the challenges in his life and continues to perform archaka service at the temple with the same devotion that he began with over 50 years ago. 

The one unfulfilled wish in his life has been to get back the Sthaneegam rights that had been bestowed on his forefathers two centuries ago. Given that he has all the records in writing, he is hoping there will be like minded devotees who will fight for him and secure these rights from the HR & CE. He is also hoping that devotees will participate in temple utsavam in large numbers and bring back the vibrancy that he had seen in his childhood at this Divya Desam.

Sowri Rajan Bhattar can be reached on 95971 14670.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

M Vijay Abhinav Mukund TN Cricket

The Two Former India Openers seem to have made a quiet exit from the TN cricket scene- The two have not played even the league matches this year
Vijay played over 60 Tests for India, while Abhinav Mukund played over a 100 Ranji matches for TN
Abhinav has made a bright start to his commentary career this year just as he had with his playing career 
M Vijay and M Abhinav (Abhinav Mukund) made contrasting entries into international cricket. While Abhinav began playing cricket at the age of five, coached by his father, Vijay was a late bloomer making his mark in cricket well after he was 20. Abhinav made his Ranji Debut as a teenager and within the next few years, he also made his Test Debut. Though Vijay started out late, he went on to make a big impact playing over 60 Tests and was a regular in the India squad for a long time over the last decade.

Abhinav did not enjoy the same success at the international level. After a debut in the West Indies, he opened and performed well against an English pace attack at its best in home conditions.  But was out once again for another three years. In his last test match, he made 80 getting out in the last over of the day against Sri Lanka.

Vijay made an impact in T20 cricket as well making important contributions at the top of the order along with Mathew Hayden early on for CSK. Abhinav remained a non starter in T20 but he did have a remarkable run in domestic cricket amassing runs especially in the first half of his career. He went on to play over a 100 matches for TN.

Vijay into a 'Silent' period
After Vijay was dropped from the India team after the tours of England and Australia and then subsequently from the CSK team as well, he made himself unavailable for the domestic season last year citing personal reasons which the selectors have held have not yet been elaborated. Since then, over the last 12 months he has not played much cricket including in the local first division league and has also not been considered for TN for the T20 tournament. In his case, the fact that he has not been vaccinated has made him ineligible for Selection.
With the focus of the new Selection committee led by former Ranji Trophy winning captain S Vasudevan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/06/vasudevan-tn-ranji-trophy-retirement.html )being on identifying and grooming youngsters, it is unlikely that the 37 year old Vijay will get another look in and the non selection in the TN T20 team could signal the end of the road for him in cricket.

Makes a bright start as a TV Commentator
With the Pandemic leading to just the T20 and One day domestic tournaments last year,  Abhinav has eased into the role of a TV commentator and has made just as bright a start to his commentary career as he had as a player way back in 2007. It is heard that Abhinav (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/01/abhinav-mukund-100-ranji-matches.html) has moved to Bombay and it is likely that he will be focusing on a career in TV commentary where he has already begun impressing the viewers with his expert views like his best friend DK.

Both Vijay and Abhinav did not play the knock outs of the Palayampatti Shield and also have not played in the first part of the new first division league season and the two have not played any matches in the last 18months that by itself should rule them out of contention for TN.

It is interesting that these former India openers, who both opened together for TN and India in the same year, are making a quiet and almost unannounced exit from TN cricket giving way to the next generation of openers. Both of them have not yet formally announced their retirement. 

Over the last decade or so, both M Vijay and Abhinav Mukund have made significant contributions to the TN team but they seem to have realised quickly that it is now time to move on and both have quietly let go of domestic cricket. In Abhinav's case, he seems to have made a clear move into commentary and bigger days await him in this new phase in his career.

It will leave the TN selectors in a fix if Abhinav makes himself available for the Ranji Trophy that is slated for January, especially given that the new crop of youngsters are beginning to do really well and the team spirit is building up.

This section will track the developments.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Villiyambakkam Rangarajan Bhattar

In the close to two decades at the Eri Kaatha Rama Temple, he contributed significantly in the development of the Villages around Madurantakam training the uneducated and reviving the school drop outs
The Priest, who has served in multiple temples over the last 35years, hopes to start a Vedic Patshala in his home town to create the next generation of Vedic Students
Villiyambakkam K Rangarajan Bhattar has for a large part lived an independent and fulfilling life as a temple priest. Once upon a time, he was the all dominating priest at the Eri Kaatha Rama Temple in Madurantakam with his devotional aradhanam capturing the attention of the visiting devotees. Belonging to the Swayam Acharya clan, his forefathers performed Samasrayanam for sishyas. However, into the 2nd half of the 20th century, when things turned for the worse, financially, his appa Krishnamachariar left Madurantakam to perform archaka service in Pushkaram where he performed service for over 15years from 1961.

Rangarajan did his early schooling in the late 1960s in Kanchipuram before completing his Class X exam in Madurantakam. He then went to Srirangam for Shakai Veda Adyayanam at the Thiru Kudanthai Andavan Patshala and later also underwent Sammidhas initiation at the Patshala in Madurantakam. 

Glory Days at Valparai Temple
By the time he was 22, he began his first temple Kainkaryam at the Srinivasa Perumal temple in Valparai. It was 7 glorious years for Rangarajan Bhattar, financially for the emergence of Valparai as a tourist hot spot led to big crowd at the temple.

At HR & CE salary of Rs. 60 per month - Madurantakam
It was likely that his life would continue at Valparai for long but when his appa returned to Madurantakam to take charge of the Eri Kaatha Rama Temple, he asked for his son to return to the temple town to support him in his daily kainkaryam. And thus Rangarajan Bhattar quit a high paying service in Valparai to join the Madurantakam temple at a monthly salary of Rs. 60 as a paricharakar, assisting his appa. 

It was a troublesome phase for him for in the mid 90s there was a theft in the temple and Rangarajan Bhattar was accused of being part of it. He recalls the challenges he went through “I was clear that I had not done anything wrong and I stood my ground through the entire enquiry. There were many devotees who began prayers for me and my well being. I had the fullest faith in the service I had performed and it was Lord Rama who protected me helping me come out clean and unscathed.”

In 2002, when his appa retired from archaka service, Rangarajan Bhattar was elevated as the priest. “The pre condition at the temple was that the priest would not be paid a salary and that I would have to manage my living with the ‘Thattu Kaasu’ that came my way.”

Anchored Revival of Utsavams
The Thai Parivettai Utsavam was revived during his stint as the archaka and the Pancha Samskara Vaibhavam was restored to its glorious past with Bhagavatha Thathiyaarathanai topping 100. He created the interest in the Villagers and got them to make the Parivettai utsavam an integral part of their annual calendar where the Lord visits the villages in Thai.
For close to a decade, he managed the Eri Kaatha Rama temple in quite a dominating way as has been his style everywhere. His knowledge of the agamas and the aradhana krama was so high that he could not be touched. 

Also, during the two decade period from the mid 1990s, he began performing social service in the villages around Madurantakam “When I was a young boy, one of the pre conditions that my amma laid was to listen to Upanyasam every week. On those days, I would be fed only if I listened to the Upanyasam, especially on Ramanuja and his service and narrated the gist of the story. It was a great early initiation that led me to my interest in community service.”

Social Service - Uplifting the Uneducated
In the 1990s, he created Hari Saranam, a service organization to lead people in the path of Ramanuja’s teachings. He joined as a member of the Society for Integrated Village Animation (SIVA) and became its Secretary. Through a Government programme, he helped create 350 women self help groups in the villages. To those that did not have even basic education, he led them to read and write. To the school drop outs he motivated them to return to school and revived their educational life. He himself became a trainer and helped women set up vegetable, fruit and flower stalls in the villages around Madurantakam. 

During the afternoon break at the temple, he would visit the villages and return in time for the evening aradhanam at the Rama temple. For years, this had become his daily process. He had made such a significant contribution in educating them that one of the groups won the best SHG award from the TN Govt in 2007. His social contribution also extended to running the Srihari Nursery school in Madurantakam for over 15years as its correspondent.
From Madurantakam to the Delhi Temple
By the turn of the last decade, his two girls were growing up and the income from the Eri Kaatha Rama Temple was not enough to run his family and to take care of the education expense “That is when I decided to move out of the temple town and took up the offer at the Srinivasa Perumal in RK Puram, Delhi.”

It was a phase when he used the free time to refresh his knowledge of the Prabhandham, Vedas and Agamas. Once again it was a financially rewarding phase for Rangarajan Bhattar and like in Valparai could have continued his life at the Delhi Temple. But he had a vision for the future and was keen to set up a Vedic Patshala to create the next generation of students.

However, when he returned to Madras, both his home town temple in Madurantakam and the Vedantha Desikar Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Mylapore were keen to have his archaka service. With the Mylapore temple taking a quick call, he chose to opt for the city temple. He then took a short break from the temple and spent two years in presenting Upanyasam and writing short books. He is also working on a book on Pancharatra Agamas. He has also been refreshing his knowledge on Sri Bashyam and other literary works.  During the Pandemic, he then rejoined the Vedantha Desikar Temple in Mylapore in 2020 and has been at the temple since. 
Doctorate for Social work
57 year old Rangarajan Bhattar was last month honoured with a Doctorate from the Global Human Peace University in recognition for his social work over two decades in villages around Madurantakam.
In the 1990s, Rangarajan Bhattar began creating Self Help Groups that focused on helping school dropouts get back to academics. He also focused on improving the medical facilities in these villages. Later he helped agri labourers with farming support and secured funding for them from NABARD and nationalized banks. During the Pandemic, he was involved in organizing food as well as rice, dhal and veggies for people in 12 villages.

Rangarajan Bhattar has now served as a temple priest for 35years. It has been largely fulfilling and he looks back with a great deal of satisfaction that he has been able to hold his own in every temple that he has served. If he had his way, he may have continued for long in Valparai and Delhi but he gave up both for a larger cause, first to serve at the historical Eri Kaatha Ramar Temple and then to come back to Tamil Nadu (from Delhi) to see if he could spend the 2nd part of his life in giving back to the society. To this end, his long term vision is to head back to Villiyambakkam and start a Vedic Patshala and initiate the Vedic lessons in young students in the Village. He is hoping that this will happen one day soon.