Saturday, October 23, 2021

KG Ramesh Coimbatore Tennis National Champion

The First Big Tennis Star from Coimbatore

Selection Disappointments in Cricket led his Sporting family to keep him away from his favourite sport in his childhood
Hailing from the un-fancied district, he made a mark for himself in Tennis staying at the top of the national rankings for over five years
He was the BENCHMARK and ROLE MODEL for all of us from that Gen - Nirupama 
The treatment meted out to two Coimbatore cricketers in the 1960s and 70s led them to keeping their next gen away from cricket. KS Ganapathy and KS Vaidyanathan had been hopeful of more opportunities on the cricket field but their experience over a long period of time gave them a feel that in a team game opportunities depend on a number of external factors outside the control of the players, and a lot of runs and wickets may not necessarily hand them a place in the XI. Added to their own experience was the way another Coimbatorean cricketer, PR Ramakrishnan (, who succeeded Vaidy into the TN team, was handled in the first half of the 1970s. As seen in the story earlier this week, despite a run of strong scores, Ramki was never given a chance to figure in the playing XI and sat out for four years in the state squad. Ganapathy, who too had good scores at the University level kept his elder son KG Ramesh away from cricket and initiated him very early on into Tennis, a sport that was not necessarily popular in Coimbatore. While Ramesh’s classmates and neighbours grew up playing cricket, he was handed a tennis racquet and let to the clay courts in Coimbatore. By the late 1980s, Ramesh went to the top of the chart in India staying the top National Player for over 5 years, a commendable achievement for someone coming from Coimbatore. In the last decade, he has launched a tennis academy in the outskirts of Coimbatore to try and create the next generation of Tennis Stars. Here is the story of the man who was a mentor to an entire generation of tennis players in Coimbatore.

Cricketing Family
KG Ramesh was born into a cricketing family. His father KS Ganapathy performed well at the University level. His uncle KS Vaidyanathan played Ranji Trophy matches for TN but his career met with a premature end.  Both were frustrated with cricket in the way they were treated and were of the view that their children should play individual sport where they could chalk out their own success path. But like any school boy of that period, Ramesh was a cricket fanatic. While Tennis Ball with his classmates at Mani High School was a regular feature, playing Tennis was not on his wish list. Also, unlike cricket that was promoted at school, tennis was not a sport that educational institutions promoted at that time in the 1970s and 80s.

At the Forest College Tennis Court but not at the Cricket Ground!!!
Ganapathy was a member at the Coimbatore club and he and Vaidy had moved on to playing tennis after their cricketing days. To keep Ramesh away from cricket, Ganapathy would take his son to the club immediately after the school hours. He was also put under the coaching of Ramdas at the Ladies Club. Ilayas Hussain’s appa, who was the Principal of The Forest College, created the tennis courts there in the 1960s. Interestingly while the first division matches would be played at the Forest College cricket ground, Ramesh was quietly taken by his appa to the tennis court at the North end of the ground without him even getting a glance of the cricket match, such had become his appa's aversion to cricket.

At that early stage in his life, he idolized Bjorn Borg. He once played against Ramanathan Krishnan in Coimbatore as a young boy and cannot forget that experience for life “I have never seen anyone like him. His ball control was simply amazing and his strokes would never go out of court.”

Fitness runs around the GCT
 As a young boy, he played for fun. He recalls the strict fitness regime his appa put him through “Fitness was not a big focus in those days but my appa who knew its importance having played cricket and tennis for many years, would ask me to run rounds around the GCT, every morning, to gain stamina and while I did not particularly like it at that time as a young boy, I realised its value when I had to play many hours to win a clay court match.”

Sweeping all the tournaments
By the time he was 14, he had already won the State Tourney, quite a big achievement for a boy coming from this Tier Two City. He swept most of the local tournaments played within TN (U14/U16) in all age groups. Aged 16, he reached the final of the U18 tournament in Madras. And a year later, he won the U18 tournament. 

Tier Two City - Big Early Challenges
In the 1980s, most of the tennis tournaments happened in the big cities – Madras, Bangalore and Bombay and that was a big disadvantage for those like him. “One did not get to play in big tournaments in Coimbatore and to play in competitive league, I had to constantly travel to the bigger cities. There was not a professional structure here. That was an early challenge coming from Coimbatore” recalls Ramesh of his growing up years in Tennis.

Hailing from the sporting family, he had an advantage. His appa did not force him into academics and gave him the freedom to express himself in Tennis. His uncle, Vaidyanathan was a big source of motivation in Tennis. His appa ran a foundries business and was keen on his son taking to Engineering. While Ramesh did not get an Engineering seat soon after his Class XII exams (he did B.Sc Physics for a year), he did join CIT a year later. Interestingly, to be India Cricketer VB Chandrasekar ( was his classmate at CIT for four years.

His personal coach Ramdas was also the Physical Director at CIT and that helped in terms of his pursuing his Tennis interest for the coach motivated him constantly through his late teens. Like PR Ramakrishnan, Ramesh too travelled a lot during his college days and it was his friends who helped him with his academics when he returned to Coimbatore, closer to the exam. 

Asian Games 1986 - Moves into Top 10
In that college phase from 1982-86, he played a lot of tennis across the country. In the All India circuit, he won the Championship held in Kota (Rajasthan). He came to be ranked in the Top 10 in India in U18. In 1985, in the third year of his college, he won a lot of All India tournaments including beating Enrico Piperno in one of them. He also won the TN and SZ championships. A big moment for him was representing India in the Asian Games in Seoul in 1986. 

KG Ramesh was our Role Model
To those like Nirupama Vaidyanathan ( growing up as a tennis star in the late 1980s and early 90s, KG Ramesh was a role model. “KG Ramesh was a legend to all of us in Coimbatore. He was the first guy out of a mofussil centre like Coimbatore beating everyone from bigger cities including Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. So he showed us the way. His game style was so solid.  He never missed and was quick and he had power. Overall, it was very tough to play against him on clay. He gave us the pathway and the belief. He was the benchmark and the role model for us”, US based Nirupama told this writer. 

He was doing well in Tennis in that phase and credit to his appa that he gave Ramesh the freedom to purse the sport even after his Engineering degree. His amma travelled him with him for the local tournaments in the early phase of his career and played a stellar role in his development as a sportsman. 

Bags the Railways World Championship
In 1987, the Indian Railways were recruiting players ahead of the World Railway Games. He was ranked in the Top four in India at that time and they handed him an offer as a Mechanical Engineer to work at the S & T Workshop in Podanur. For the very first time, he helped the Indian Railways with a World Championship winning both the individual and the team tournament. 
Soon after, he began to travel to Belgium and other European countries to play in the circuit there. His practice mate from Coimbatore, Elango, was in Europe at that time and Ramesh stayed with him in an effort to reduce the expenses “Playing in the clay courts of Europe helped me with my consistency. It was highly competitive from round 1 and each match would last 2-3 hours. Both physical and mental strength were required to come through those tournaments. It was great learning for me in that phase” says Ramesh of what the European circuit meant to him.

Financial Constraints
While the matches were enjoyable, there were big financial challenges.  Expanding into the global circuit required huge financial investment. "There were no sponsors from India. Even racquets were not sponsored and I had to pay for every racquet in that phase. I won a number of matches but soon I would run out of finances. The money I had could sustain me only for three months and I had to return to India to play in tournaments here. I won win a few tournaments and with that prize money headed back to satellites and challengers in overseas locations including in Malaysia.”

Between 1987 and 93, he was ranked Number 1 in India. He beat an upcoming Leander Paes and Vasudevan and lost to Ramesh Krishnan in the Indian Open. 

Ramesh recalls the words of his appa after his semi final victory “Beating Leander is fine but do not sit on your laurels. I want you to beat Ramesh (Krishnan) the next day. Such was my appa's competitive spirit. He always egged me to give my best in everything I did in life.”

During this period, Ramesh served as the mentor to Nirupama when she was growing up in Tennis. It was he who taught her the importance of consistency in rallies. “I would hit a hundred balls and ask her to miss a single rally. She had a killer instinct and never gave up in match situations.”

Tennis wins him his wife’s hand!!!
His to be father in law, a dermatologist in Coimbatore, was a big Tennis fan and very passionate about the game in those decades.He had tracked the growth of KG Ramesh in Tennis. Interestingly, he was keen on a Tennis star for his daughter. "It was my Tennis success that won me my wife", laughs Ramesh. 

The Davis Cup Dream
Ramesh also managed to get into the Top 500 in the ATP rankings.  He was on the wrong side of the 20s when Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan retired. Having been ranked No. 1 here, he was hopeful of gaining a place in the Davis Cup team, something that had remained his dream after he took to serious Tennis but with an eye on the future, youngsters Gaurav Natekar and Ismail were chosen ahead of him. He won the World Railways Championship once again in 1995 (he had also won in 1991) and with the possibility of a Davis Cup inclusion becoming bleak, he called it quits that year. Two decades later, he got back to Tennis playing for India at Helsinki in the Seniors World Championship.

He counts the World Railways Championship wins as the best of his Tennis life along with reaching the Indian Open Final. He also won the mixed doubles title with Nirupama Vaidyanathan at the SAF Games.

Nicest Guy, A Lifetime without Anger
While he was a role model on the Tennis front, Nirupama also found him to be a great human being all through "Personally, I still remember all the stories he told us from the Asian Games, 1986 that were super motivating for someone like me. We all wanted to be like him. Anybody who knows him will agree. He is also the nicest guy you will meet. I have never seen him get angry and is always ‘chill’. He is also so helpful and supportive to anyone who comes to him.  It is hard to come across people like him these days." 
In 1995, he got into weekend tennis coaching and carried on for 5years. In 1998, he quite the Railways and soon joined his Appa in the family’s Foundry business in Coimbatore. He managed that for well over a dozen years. 

His brother KG Suresh too was into Tennis early on but quit early to focus on academics (M Tech - IIT Madras) and later on his business. Ramesh's son too started out with Tennis and made good progress till the U18 level including being in the Top 4 before he too took to academics and went to Swedan for his Masters.
Inspirational Wife
His wife, Lakshmi, a classical singer, was the inspiration for him to get back into Tennis, this time in the form of Coaching. After 14 years of running the foundries business, he launched his own Tennis Academy (KG Ramesh Academy) in 2016 near the Coimbatore airport. 150 kids were part of the academy till Pandemic struck early last year. In the four years leading to 2020, he had organised several AITA ranking tournaments in Coimbatore as well as one annual tournament in the first week of January in memory of his appa (KS Ganapathy Memorial Tournament). 
While there are six coaches at the academy, Ramesh is personally involved practicing in the courts and playing long rallies with the talented kids. He believes that Tennis can be a sport for life “While you can be aggressive in your youth, later on in life, Tennis can provide a lot of fun. It is also a stress reliever and helps a lot in your fitness. Mentally it can relax you.”

Playing Tennis has taught him big lessons for Life. “Its taught me to take  everything -wins and losses - in my stride.” 

His wife endorses the balance that Tennis has brought into his life “In the last three decades, I have not once seen him angry including with the kids at coaching. He is always considerate including in not collecting fees from the under privileged.”

It was not easy for those from the Districts to make it big in sport as KS Vaidyanathan and PR Ramakrishnan found out in Cricket. It was even more of a challenge in Tennis but KG Ramesh proved to be a benchmark for others from the Districts to emulate for he managed to reach the top of the Indian Tennis Circuit in the late 80s and early 90s. At a time when there were not much exposure in Tier Two cities in Tamil Nadu, Ramesh fought against the odds and managed to carve a niche for himself as a clay court specialist to reach the top of the Indian circuit. With his positive attitude, on and off the court, he also served as a Role Model for the Next Generation of Tennis Stars from Coimbatore. With the Pandemic behind us, Ramesh is now looking to reopen the Tennis Academy in an effort to not just create new Tennis Stars from Coimbatore but also to train them on Character Building so they can face every challenge in life with a SMILE, that has been so symbolic of Ramesh as a personality all through his life. 

Kapaleeswarar College Kolathur Anomalies Galore

Many anomalies in the setting up of Kolathur Arts and Science College using Kapali funds
Sections in the HR & CE Act of 1959 have been bypassed, Several unlawful exemptions granted that could pose a serious threat  - TR Ramesh, President, Temple Worshippers Society
On July 31, this section had featured a story on the large scale demolition that was being planned in the Agraharam around the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore ( A fortnight later, this section had also featured the suggestions from long time ASI expert Satyamurthi. Subsequent to that, the plans had been put on hold with the HR & CE re working the plans to see how to keep the historical structures intact (

Last month, this section had featured a story on the dilapidated temple in Ayyur and the plight of the priest who had not received his monthly salary of Rs. 100 for the last four years (

A College in Kolathur funded by Kapali Temple
Now this fortnight the Kapaleeswarar temple and the HR &CE are again in the news and once again for the wrong reasons. The Government has recently announced the setting up of a self financing college with the surplus funds from the Kapaleeswarar Temple. Over the last fortnight or so, the writer found a large sized banner stationed prominently inside the Kapali temple, one that called for applications from students for the various courses.
The HR & CE Act on the use of Surplus Funds
While Section 36 of the HR & CE Act specifies the use of the surplus funds of a temple, Section 66(1) mentions the dharmic purposes for which the funds can be utilized.  As per the Section, the Joint Commissioner may direct the endowments of the temple to be used for the establishment and maintenance of a university or college in which special provision is made for the study of Hindu religion, philosophy or sastras or for imparting instruction in Hindu temple architecture.

The act states that, “before according the sanction under this section, the Commissioner shall publish the particulars relating to the proposal of the trustee, invite objections and suggestions with respect thereto and consider all objections and suggestions received from persons having interest.” 
President of the Temple Worshippers Society TR Ramesh ( says that the surplus temple funds can only be used for educational purposes involving the teaching of Vedas, Thevaram Verses, Divya Prabhandham and the like and not for courses like BCA, B.Com, BBA that do not have any religious content. Even so, only the Trustees of the temple can start an educational institution and not the Government using the temple funds.
Many Anomalies and Violations
There are many anomalies in this process. The Kapali Temple does not have a land in Kolathur, there have been exemptions given in this case like for example Fire Service exemption for structural stability on the premise that this is being built on temple land. 

Ramesh says that the Trustee of the Kapali Temple should have applied to the HR & CE Commissioner regarding the interest/ proposal to start a college, an advertisement in a leading newspaper should have been released asking for objections from the public and only then could they have applied to the University for the affiliation. Even so an application made before October will only be eligible for affiliation for the next academic year “This entire process is being done at break neck speed” Ramesh wonders why.

There are also other educational institutions that the TN Government is in the process of setting up using funds from other HR & CE temples including in Thiruchengode (Namakkal), Thoppampatti (Dindigul) and Vilathikulam ( Tuticorin). 

Ramesh says he is likely to file a case in the Madras High Court on Monday restraining the setting up of the college.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

PR Ramakrishnan Coimbatore Cricketer turned Lawyer

TN Cricket's Perpetual 12th Man
With strong performances in the University and first division matches, he was in the TN Ranji and Gopalan Trophy Squad for three years but ended up not playing a single match, probably the only TN cricketer in history with that record 
Ramki put behind the Cricketing disappointments, returned to Coimbatore aged 23, apprenticed under his appa and has over the last four decades carved a name for himself as one of the most well respected lawyers in the city
Despite never playing a single match for the state, Ramki was never vindictive or cynical and has always remained a wonderful human being, exhibiting all the great attributes of his forefathers - Kalli, TN's Hatrick man
He was and has always been one of the most likeable characters on and off the cricket field. For a decade, this writer was witness to that (RK) Steely determination that had become synonymous with this middle order bat. It was his wicket that the opposition most wanted during those big Super league matches. But he would never give his wicket easily and made the opposition fight hard every time he was on the pitch. He was a long format player and made big hundreds. Between 18 and 23, he was as consistent as any and was in the TN squad for 'double digit' number of matches. Shockingly he did not get to play a single game over a 3-4 year period though every the leading players in the opposition who had been colleagues earlier in the University tournaments felt that he should have been automatic choice. He is probably the only TN cricketer to date to have sat out 10 matches for the state and never to have made his debut subsequently. By 23, he decided he had had enough with TN cricket and packed his bags to Coimbatore to apprentice under his appa. Over the last four decades, he has put behind the cricketing disappointments, slogged just hard as he did on the cricket field and built a long standing and credible clientele of his own in the field of Law. The boy from Suburban High School, who began his career by foxing opposition batsmen with his googlies, has earned the reputation as one of the most well respected lawyers in the city. During this period, he has mentored over forty juniors and graduated them into successful lawyers. The Cricketer turned Lawyer, who has just celebrated his 69th birthday is still in big demand with corporates and individuals alike looking up to him for guidance in Civil matters. Here is the story of Puthugramam Ramachandran (Iyer) Ramakrishnan (PRR).

Brings Good Luck
Immediately after Ramakrishnan (Ramki as he is fondly called) was born, the house, diagonally opposite the famous Ramnagar Ramar Kovil in Coimbatore, where his parents were tenants came up for sale and the house where he has lived for most of the last seven decades was purchased. The house house has seen many renovations during this period but Ramki and his wife have ensured that it retained that old world charm including a sacred pooja room where he performs Shiva Pooja as part of his daily ritual every morning.
First Big Moment in Cricket
He had his schooling at Suburban High School in Ramnagar, one that was not necessarily known for cricket promotion. He spent the evenings at Sastri Maidan playing cork ball cricket. A cricketing surprise awaited him when he was all of 13.  S Kunjithapatham, who was to later be the President of Thanjavur District Cricket Association for two decades, spotted him at that ground very near the Suburban High School picking wickets foxing the batsmen with his googlies. He wondered if the young boy knew what he was doing with the ball - referring to the googlies- and his view was that it may have been happening subconsciously. 
When he picked the young boy’s brains on the kind of balls he was delivering, he was astonished with his answer “I told them I was a leggie and bowled the googly quite proactively every over. He quite liked the fact that I could do this at my age without any coaching and that I was able to fox the batsmen with such deliveries” recalls Ramakrishnan of his first big moment in cricket. 

Great Parental Support
The credit for that early insight into cricket goes to his appa, Ramachandran Iyer a lawyer by profession who hailed from Puthugramam near Palghat “While my appa did not play any serious cricket, he was a regular at the Pongal Tests in those decades and tracked the matches closely during the time he was at Loyola College and the Madras Law College. He also wrote for Sport and Pastime. His favourite was Lala Amarnath. During my growing up years, he provided great insights into the game including talking about the cricketers of his time and their achievements and that’s how I picked up the nuances.”
                    Amma Pankajam and Appa Ramachandran Iyer

While he had to focus on academics, his parents were always encouraging in his cricketing endeavour “My amma was a very good carom player in Thanjavur and she was very supportive of my sporting interests. In later years, she would come to the ground at the start of the match and stay till the very end such was the encouragement to my sporting interests.”

Right from his childhood he was cricket crazy and his class teacher would often remark that with more effort he would do well in academics. “I was rather ‘playful’ and chose cricket over academics in that early phase.”

League Cricket at 13
Kunjithapatham played an important role in early development of Ramakrishnan as a cricketer. So impressed was he after spotting him at the Maidan that he immediately met his appa and described Ramki as one with great cricketing potential. He asked the 13 year old to come to the nets of Tatabad CC, the first division league team. The now 79 year old Kunjithapatham told this writer from Thanjavur that "Ramki had a beautiful googly even as a young teenager and very few were able to spot his other one."

It was the first big moment in Ramki's cricketing life.

Kunjithapatham, Talisman Santhanam, a senior cricketer at the club and PR Ragupathi served as his mentors in cricket and handed him the first opportunities in cricket.

Disciplined boy
80 year old Ragupathi, who worked for 25years at LMW, was the manager at Tatabad Cricket Club. He too played the role of mentor in the early cricketing life of Ramakrishnan and groomed him as a cricketer. Ragupathi, who now lives very near the Srinivasa Perumal temple in Paapanaayakkam Palayam, looks back at Ramki in the mid 1960s “Ramki was well behaved. He was totally committed to the game and a disciplined boy. He would always come to the nets on time and practiced hard. He was a keen listener and grasp the nuances rather quickly."

His first Captain
N Ramanujam was in his mid 20s and the captain of the club. He, along with Santhanam, another senior member of the team, went on a bicycle around the city grounds to scout for talented cricketers. The team that year comprised of many young cricketers. It was Ramanujam who provided a lot of bowling opportunities to Ramki in his early teens and gave him the much needed confidence that he could take wickets in league matches. 
Talking from his home in Idayarpalayam, near Saibaba Colony, the 80 year old, who retired as Area Manager at FCI, ruminates those glory days from 1965 “Ramki had a beautiful leg spinner’s action. I could see that he was a natural cricketer. In his very first match he picked up four wickets. He would bowl long spells. While he started off as a leggie, he also had a natural batting ability. I look back with pride that I was his first captain and played some role in his development. He was a gifted player and his performances in the future did not surprise me at all.”

A Transformational Knock
In the city v districts schools match, one in which V Krishnaswamy scored a century for the city schools, Ramakrishnan made 88. While this innings grabbed the attention of the city boys and the selectors, it was his brilliant knock in the second innings that led everyone to believe that this boy was one for the future. After a declaration by City on the final evening in an effort to force an outright win, the districts slumped to 10/2 at tea. In the 90minutes that followed, Ramakrishnan played a blistering knock reaching to his hundred off the last ball of the match. He recounts that moment from well over five decades ago “I was on 96 when Harjinder came into bowl that last ball. There were several hundred school boys at the Little Flower school who were standing on the boundary edge. The association officials too watched that final session. The umpire gave me that extra few seconds to gauge the field. All the nine fielders were on the boundary line. I decided to strike the ball straight over the bowler’s head and stepped out to the medium pacer and hit him over his turban. Both the long off and long on tried their best but the ball beat them to the boundary.”
It signaled the arrival of PR Ramakrishnan on the TN cricketing scene. It was a transformational innings for him.  

Hailing from Tirunelveli, KS Viswanathan (, now CEO of CSK was part of the districts team. He recalls the magical innings "The hundred he got against city is still fresh in my memory and that knock earned him a place in the state schools team. He has gone on to become a highly respected lawyer. Along with D. Lakshminarayanaswamy, he has also been responsible for producing quality cricketers from Coimbatore."

State Schools Vice Captain!!!
The revered Pattabhiraman was so impressed that he not only picked him in the state schools squad but also appointed him as the Vice Captain (Suresh was the Captain) of the team that went to Thiru Ananthapuram ( Ramki scored runs against Kerala and Hyderabad, a team that included Abdul Jabbar.

However, when he gained a few inches during this phase, he lost the arc in his leg spin and he began to focus on batting and became more of a ‘break through’ leggie in the years that followed.

First Division Club Captaincy at 16
The Tatabad CC after having seen him for a couple of years were so impressed with his growth that they handed him the captaincy at 16. “There were many seniors in the team who had played for the team for several years and here I was asked to lead them. It was a great honour for me at that age” says Ramki.

A quiet year in cricket
Pre University was a challenging phase for him. On the one side, he had to focus on academics and secure admission in the course that he sought (he was keen on B.Com for pursuing CA was one of the two options in his mind at that time- Law was the other). The districts team was dominated by seniors and he at 16/17 was too young to figure. Thus it turned out to be a quiet year for him.
PRR joined B.Com at PSG in 1969. In the collegiate phase, he moved into practice at the RS Puram Cricket Club. Along with P Mukund, he would cycle his way to the nets session and then finish every evening with a cup of coffee at the Annapoorna. It was the year when he batted well in both the innings of the city v districts (colleges) match and was called in for the University team selection trial at University union ground. 

Helps in run chase to win the SZ Varsity Final
He played four years of University cricket from 1970-71 and performed as well as any other batsman in that phase. In the South Zone final in January 71 against Bangalore University comprising  Vijayakrishna, Sudhakar Rao and leggie Raghavachar, he played a knock of 36 that still brings a delight to his eyes five decades later “Chasing 170 to win, we were struggling at 110/4 when I joined captain Ravichandran. I made a stroke filled 36 and we won the match. It was pleasing particularly because it was against a strong bowling attack and we won the trophy for the first time.”
In 1970, he joined YMA and played 1st division cricket in Madras through that decade including in later years with S Venkataraghavan and K Srikkanth. Very early on, he played what he calls an ‘unforgettable knock’ of 68 against MCC on a wet wicket when the team was bowled out for 120.

Alongside University cricket, he was also inducted into the Junior State team for the inter association matches. At that time, he was still undecided between cricket and his future career. Life during the college days had been hectic. His first aim was to complete B.Com. He was travelling crazy in that phase – 10 league matches each in Coimbatore and Madras, Inter District, City v Districts, inter collegiate, University and Junior State Cricket. It was a maddening pace. Despite the schedule, he did well in academics. It was his two close friends – TS Nagarajan (Union Bank) and Dr. Sundararaman (now CEO Krishna Educational Institutions) who were responsible for this, for they helped him make up the missed classes.

Great Grasping Power, Very attentive
Dr K Sundararaman was Ramki’s classmate at Suburban School right from Class 1. Later they were classmates for three years at PSG. Later on in life, Sundararaman became renowned as an expert in accountancy and served as the Professor at PSG for three decades (he was also the HOD) and then the Principal at Krishna Arts and Science College for a dozen years. Over the last decade, he has been the CEO of the Krishna Educational Institutions that has 23000 students. He recalls the days from the 1960s and early 70s “We were very close friends right through our childhood. Into his late teens, he had developed as a terrific batsman and travelled for a large part of the academic year on cricket tours. In those years, the third year exam also comprised of accountancy portion from the first year and there were no ‘Choice’ Questions. One had to answer all the questions. For him it was a case of ‘Thai Poranthaal Vazhi Porakkum’ in education for he returned to Coimbatore after his cricketing engagements only in January/February. We would start at 9pm in the evening at the office room of his appa on the first floor and do accountancy till 2am. While I did teach him, he was very intelligent, attentive and had a great grasping power. It was a great period in our lives and I still cherish every moment of that phase.”
Sundararaman says that while Ramki may have benefitted from the combined studies, it was a great experience for him personally. “It led me into the teaching profession where I went on to become the HOD and later the Principal.”

"We both were cricket crazy. In our school days, we would run to AG Sundararajan’s (a friend) house to listen to radio commentary. Much later during our college years, we went to Madras and watched the Pongal Tests."

Super Intelligent, Agile and Energetic
TS Nagarajan, the other member of the trio, went on to become a banker and served at Union Bank and Dhanlakshmi Bank and is now well settled near Trissur. He vividly remembers the late night combined studies at Ramki’s Ramnagar home when the exams were nearing!!! “Our studies went up to well past 2am and then we would go out at 3am for a tea at the local shop!!! Ramki was super intelligent. He was one of the few guys in our class who was fluent in English. Even though he missed a lot of the classes because of his cricket trips, he was excelled in academics as he easily made up for his absence with his extreme hard work in the final two months of the academic year. He also had a great interest in music and the two of us listened to MSV, Salil Chaudhary and SD Burman and discussed a lot on music. He was Tall, agile, energetic and athletic and was supremely fit.”
Nagarajan also points out that interestingly, Ramki scored more marks than Sundararaman in the final exam in B.Com, a grievance that the latter still holds!!!

Ramki would often remark later on in life to Sundararaman that the two professions were decided in that combined studies phase. “Thanks to his teaching me, he became a professor. And with me listening to his briefing, it turned out that for life I have been listening to clients’ briefings.”

Strong University Performances 
After having playing a crucial hand in helping Madras secure the Rohintan Baria Trophy, his terrific form continued. He began the new season with a double hundred (several decades later WV Raman, who himself played many a big knock for TN, remarked that Ramki was one of the very few batsmen who made big hundreds in that phase - one of the things held against TN batsmen has been that they did not convert hundreds into big ones). He followed this with a 62 against Hyderabad comprising Jyothi Prasad, Shivlal Yadav and Arshad Ayub. He was clearly in rich vein of form and his confidence was high.

S Srinivasan was Ramki’s junior in University cricket and went on to play Ranji cricket for Bombay and TN.  He recalls the impact of Ramki's big scores. “The double hundred in the Rohington Baria Trophy at the IIT grounds had a big positive impact on me. I can proudly say that I followed his footsteps in scoring an unbeaten double hundred in the same tournament for Madras University some years later in the South Zone finals at Mysore. He was a through gentleman cricketer who had a high appetite for runs."

His Best Innings 
His strong performances at the University level continued. In the match against Kerala, he struck 36 with 8fours (he slipped and fell on his wicket to Mohd Ibrahim). Later that evening, Ibrahim told Krishnaswamy (Ibrahim and Kicha were good friends) that Ramki’s knock was the best of the innings. 

He also played the best knock of his career in that phase. Against a very strong Bangalore bowling attack, Madras University had slipped to 110/6. Along with N Barathan, who Ramakrishnan rates as one of the best spinners he had played with or against, he put on close to a triple century stand with Ramki himself scoring 166 (Barathan made 136). “I consider that my best knock in cricket. It was one with our backs to the wall and against a very good bowling attack and it helped us win the match” says Ramki.
Inter Collegiate Knock
Former opening bat from IOB Rocko Sundar saw a lot of Ramakrishnan from the early 70s when he was at his peak. Just back from the US, Sundar recalls Ramki from that phase “PR Ramki was a lovely middle order batsman. He was a prolific run getter for YMA in the first Division and  the Madras University. One of his memorable innings that stands out in my memory was his 97 not out in the Duncan Trophy semifinals against Vivekananda College at the University Union ground. Being part of the Vivekananda team, I was at the receiving end of that glorious innings but nevertheless enjoyed every bit of it. He finally ran out of partners & couldn’t get his hundred, though it was worth more than that. He has always been friendly, affable & a fun loving person. I consider it a great privilege & honour to have rubbed shoulders with him.”

If this young boy does not play Ranji, I will quit my cricketing activities - RT Parthasarathy
In Junior cricket, he scored 92 against Karnataka. The University performances earned him a place in the South Zone team under Brijesh Patel’s captaincy. In the Vizzy Trophy final, he top scored in both innings against Mohinder’s North Zone including a half century in the second innings. Immediately on his return he was packed off to Salem for the Ramadurai Memorial Tourney where once again at his favourite Little Flower School ground he scored another hundred. At the prize distribution ceremony, RT Parthasarathy declared in public after watching Ramki score his second hundred in that ground "Twice he has played brilliant knocks at this ground. If this boy does not get to play for the state, I will stop all my cricket activities." Such was the confidence RTP had on a young Ramki who was blazing away with big scores at that time. S Sriraman too was present on that occasion.

Former India fast bowler and architech of the MRF Pace Academy TA Sekar (, who played under Ramki’s captaincy for the Madras University, made his mark in Salem in the Ramadurai tournament and saw Ramki make the hundred there “He was technically very sound. Despite scoring lots of runs in TNCA 1st division league for YMA he never got a chance to play Ranji, though he was in the team for a long time. That was an era when TN did not provide opportunities to many performing players.”

One wonders why!!!

Traumatic phase for Ramki
While runs flowed freely from his bat, it was quite a tragic cricketing phase for Ramakrishnan for the state debut remained elusive despite his consistent performances in the first half of the 1970s. He was almost guaranteed a place in the XI against Andhra and all set to make his Ranji debut when on the eve of the match one of the selectors shockingly said that ‘he had not seen this young boy and his inclusion in the XI can be decided later after he has had a look.’ That same selector, a few years earlier, had let down KR Rajagopal in the most important moment of his career!!!

The 1973 Ranji Final - Shattering Feeling
It was symbolic of the way cricket was administered in Tamil Nadu. He was picked for the Gopalan Trophy match in Madras but did not find a place in the XI. He sat out the entire season though he was all set to play the Semi Final (Kicha had missed the knock outs due to his exams) and Final, that was played on a rank turner. He recounts the turn of events on the eve of the final that led to his high hopes ‘Selector AG Kripal Singh himself came to the nets at Chepauk, bowled a few sets and batted for about 5-10minutes. In the presence of a few TN players, he remarked that the best batting of the session came from me ‘you dropped the wrists making the ball dead, which is what is required on the square turner.’

“My hopes of playing in the final rose after a selector of that stature made that kind of a statement about a youngster. But once again, it was crushed on the morning of the match” recalls Ramki of that day in April of 1973.

KR Rajagopal (, who Ramakrishnan rates as the best batsman he had seen during his time, looks back with sadness that he did not get the opportunities he deserved “He was an important member of the districts team that played under my captaincy at Trichy and also when we beat City at Neyveli. Later when I was the manager of the districts team, he excelled once again at Vellore batting beautifully against VV. It is unfortunate that players from the districts were not given their due in TN cricket. He was treated just as badly as KS Vaidy was in the 1960s.” 
“In cricket, one has to be given chances when the batsmen are at their peak. Else they would be de-motivated. Anyone in his place would have felt crushed at the way he was treated. He scored a lot of runs by the time he was into his early 20s and deserved a chance in the playing XI. It was odd that he continued to be in the squad every year but was not picked in the XI. Despite the lack of chances, he remained a very nice gentleman. He never allowed the frustration to get to him and always displayed character of the highest kind.  All of us in the team liked Ramki.”

Ranji Debut- Another Miss
He was then to set to make his Ranji debut against Karnataka in Bangalore. But the ego of the Physical Director of the Madras Law College led to Ramakrishnan losing out on his Ranji Debut yet again. It was prestigious for a law college student to captain the University and the PD insisted that his student play the University match and not the State match. 

More Shock for Ramki
If he had not already had enough cricketing disappointments, the one in February 1974 was even more shocking to him. For the Gopalan Trophy match in Colombo (Venkat and Kalli did not play that match), Tamil Nadu picked outstation Venkat Sundaram to play in the middle order when Ramki was in good form (Venkat Sundaram had not played for TN in Ranji but came from nowhere to play this match. In that phase, several outstation players had such positive surprises going for them. Edmonds and R Mishra  were a couple).

During this phase, SPIC took the big call to take charge of YMA and promote cricket. Almost all the players were provided employment including Venkataraghavan and University captain R Ravichandran “With me still at the Law College, Ravi and Venkat got exemption to the rule that only SPIC staffers could play and I continued for YMA (SPIC) as a guest player. Venkat was particularly keen to have me in that middle order.”

Tipped for Ranji Debut 
For a captain who was so keen on having him in the league side, it remained a completely different story at the state level. SPIC YMA won the Palayampatti shield with PRR scoring a lot of runs that season.  At the end of the season, noted cricket writer of the time NS Ramaswami in his review of the league season tipped Ramakrishnan to play for TN in the coming year on the back of his performances. Unfortunately Ramki never made his debut for TN.

Blessed with a strong and clear mind
Ravichandran had captained Madras University in 1970-71 and was instrumental along with Ramakrishnan in the fourth innings chase against Bangalore in the final after the team had collapsed to 110/4 in the chase. It is 50years since that victory and he has happy memories of that partnership that helped Madras win its first Rohintan Baria trophy “We were in a bit of trouble but Ramki came in and played some beautiful strokes. I found him to be someone who was never bogged down by the situation. He had no ghost in his mind and was never intimidated. He was blessed with a strong and clear mind. If there was a ball to be hit, he would regardless of the pressure of the occasion. His strokes were pleasing to the eye and he played some crucial knocks for us.”

"While many lesser mortals played for TN in that period, Ramki, despite his track record, did not get to play for the state. He simply did not get the backing in that phase. As his captain, I truly thought that he deserved to be there for Ramki ‘belonged’ at that level."
(Interestingly, while Ravichandran captained YMA in the first half till Venkat came back from his international and county engagements, at the start of the final match of the season, Venkat, the thorough professional that he was, surprised Ravi by asking him to go for the toss. He was of the view that Ravi had led the team well and that in the moment of triumph credit should not be taken away from the leader. Such was his greatness)

Once in a while he also provided the crucial break through with his leg spin, illustrated best by his wickets in successive balls against Bombay in the University match.

Former TN opener V Sivaramakrishnan played together Ramki for the Madras Varsity and later for YMA in the first division league. He sees in Ramki a great friend and a wonderful human being. “Ramki played a very vital role when we won the Rohintan Baria trophy in 1971. Later, I really enjoyed playing with him for YMA. He was an extremely stylish batsman and his cover drives were a delight to watch. He deserved to play higher level of cricket. Despite the disappointments, his sense of humour did not go down.

(Interestingly, Sivaramakrishnan went away for a year in the middle of that decade to Bihar and came back stronger and became a regular feature in the team!!!)

Scores a lot under Venkat's eyes but still failed to break into the XI
S Kedarnath ( was in a way handed similar treatment in the second half of the 1970s and followed in Ramki’s footsteps of being in the reserves. “Having played for YMA and performed well under Venkat’s Captaincy, it was a surprise that he was never picked in the XI for the State even though he was in the squad. And that was such a pity. I used to admire his back foot punch through point against the fast bowlers."

Chosen to play and then the name pulled out!!!
In November 1974, Ramakrishnan, along with SM Krishna Kumar and P Ramesh went from TN for the selection trials at Indore for the Combined University team that was to play the visiting West Indians. Jagdale Senior came up to the three TN players and asked as to who was Ramakrishnan ‘Are you the guy who scored 166’, he asked me, recalls Ramki of that big moment.

Krishna Kumar and Ramesh were confident that Ramki would be selected along with Bharath Reddy who was to come there from his Rest of India match. The two of them booked their return ticket to Madras. The next day much to everyone’s surprise, Ramesh was selected and Ramki, as was the case with his cricketing life, was left to wonder as to what more he should do on the cricketing field. Ramki remembers the conversation Krishna Kumar had with Umpire MS Shivsankariah (he officiated in two Pongal tests that decade) on the return journey “Shivsankaraiah told him that I was chosen in the squad that had been finalized. However, at the last moment, his name was pulled out and a player from another Zone came in.”

Badly Overlooked
Former South Zone opening bat P Ramesh has been associated with Ramakrishnan since the University and inter association (Junior State) days and was with him through those moments in Indore at the above selection trial. Now settled in Hyderabad after a long stint with SPIC, Ramesh is of the view that Ramki was badly overlooked by the association for unknown reasons.  “He was a very solid middle order batsmen who put a high price on his wicket and always a handy leg spinner. He was very jovial and easy going. He will be the right candidate for the title of 'Unsung Hero' of TN cricket. He should have clearly played higher levels given his performances at that time.”

A bold query from Mohd Ibrahim to Venkat
Not many spoke boldly to Venkataraghavan ( but Kerala’s Mohd Ibrahim (he passed away a decade ago) was known for his blunt remarks. At Trivandrum, after Ramakrishnan was once again dropped for the Ranji match against Kerala, Mohd Ibrahim went up to Venkataraghavan and asked him as to when and if he would (ever) play Ramakrishnan in the XI. When the TN captain asked as to who he could drop to accommodate this middle order bat, pat came the reply from Ibrahim “Anyone could be dropped to play Ramki in the XI. Such has been his performances.” It was possibly the one occasion when someone went up to Venkat and posed a selection query.

Unlucky to miss the cut
The Hindu's K Balaji (, who played for the Madras University under Ramakrishnan, scored a half century in the match where Ramki blasted a double hundred. He has always had high regard for Ramki as a cricketer and a person “Ramki was a stylish attacking batsman, a sharp close-in catcher and a useful leg spinner. I played under his captaincy for Madras University in the Rohinton Baria Trophy tournament in 1973-74. His double century at nearly a run a minute against IIT Madras at the IIT ground was great to watch. He is one of the unlucky ones who missed going on to the higher levels of the game. He has always been a very pleasant and engaging person, and a good friend."

The Salem Gopalan Trophy match - From Cricketer to Lawyer
Soon after was the Gopalan Trophy match in Salem, famous for Michael Dalvi’s blistering centur. Interestingly, Balaji, another middle order bat, made his Gopalan Trophy debut in that match when Ramki was dropped from the XI for the nth time. It was then that he took the big call on his career. It was the final nail in his coffin. He could not take this any longer. Aged 22, he returned from Salem to Coimbatore and told his appa about his decision to pursue law as a career and his permanent return to the textile city to practice Law. 

Former Ranji Off Spinner R Chandrasekaran feels that Ramki was another player who fell prey to the TNCA politics "He  was a fine batsman  with many centuries  to his  credit in the TNCA 1st Division and should have played  for the state  but for the usual  TNCA politics. He was a gentleman  to the core."

After India legend Salim Durrani watched Ramakrishnan bat earlier that decade, he asked if the boy was a regular in the Ranji squad “I find his footwork beautiful and he seemed to be a mature batsman”. Brijesh Patel, Narasimha Rao and Shivlal Yadav too were shocked that Ramakrishnan never played a single Ranji match. The South Zone selectors of the time from Hyderabad, Karnataka and Andhra too were impressed with him but not the TN think tank. A similar fate befell S Kedarnath later that decade.

Legendary leg spinner VV Kumar(, who Ramki rates as the best bowler he has faced, says that Ramki was a compact batsman who followed the coaching manual. "Ramki was perfect in technique, his selection of strokes was beautiful and could play on all types of wickets. He was unassuming and saw the team members as one from his own family. In the opportunities he got, he cut ice with his performances but in those days district cricketers always got a raw deal. In that decade – 1965 to 75 – both the high performing Coimbatore cricketers KS Vaidyanthan and PR Ramakrishnan did not get the chances that they richly deserved."

Curiously though VV himself did not pick Ramakrishnan in the XI when he captained the TN team (in Venkat's absence) in the Gopalan Trophy match in Sri Lanka!!!

Well informed and Well mannered
For all his disappointments, he remained calm and was someone who brought cheer to his teammates throughout that phase. AG Satvindar Singh, who Ramki sees as one of the two best batsmen from that era, found him to be a very cultured person “He was a well informed, well mannered guy, always jovial with a good sense of humour.” 

In 1975, he moved back to Coimbatore to take up law as a career. For five years, he apprenticed under his appa who was a strict disciplinarian and a tough task master. From the early 1980s, after his appa’s health gave way, he began to serve his appa’s clients while at the same time creating one of his own.
For over a decade, he played for Ramakrishna Steel in the first division league in Coimbatore and captained the districts through that entire phase. He scored three successive centuries for Coimbatore in the SS Rajan Trophy in 1975-76 and a half century in each innings in the final against Chengalpet. In March 1976, he scored a century for Districts against a City bowling line up comprising of Kalli, Natarajan, Mukund and S Vasudevan. 

A Generous Personality
Opening bat S Sukumar came from Salem and joined SVPB in 1976, the same period when Ramakrishnan joined Ramakrishna Steel and played with and against Ramki for a decade. Also, Sukumar opened for YMA with Srikkanth while Ramki came in at No. 3 “We travelled together from Coimbatore by Nilagiri Express. Throughout that phase, he would book the onward and return tickets for me as well and I only had to walk into the train, such was his generosity. He was a high profile cricketer in Coimbatore and captained our district team for a decade. There was never a dull moment when Ramki was around. As a captain he was cool, friendly and encouraged the boys even when the chips were down. Coimbatore emerged as a strong team to reckon with under his captaincy.”
A Mentor to Coimbatore's youngsters
Former off spinner from RBI NS Ramesh started his cricket career in Coimbatore just at the time Ramakrishnan returned to the city from Madras. Bowling for LMW, he came up a lot against Ramki. “He was a stylish batsman with a good temperment. His square drives were a treat to watch. One innings that stands out in my memory is the 80 he got against LMW in the league. We had Kali and Purushothaman, a fast bowler from karnataka. Purush was very quick and dangerous on a matting wicket. There were no helmets those days. Inspite of taking a few blows, Ramki played brilliantly that day. As person, he was a fine human being, unassuming,and always encouraged the younger players. It was a great privilige to play with him.”

Earned the respect of all the players
NP Madhavan ( played for Chengalpet  in the late 1970s before moving to Coimbatore in the early 1980s and played under the captaincy of Ramakrishnan. He found Ramki to be gritty “He was always the guy we found most difficult to get out when we played against each other in the league matches (SVPB v RK Steel). His was the prize wicket that our team wanted.  As the captain of Coimbatore, he always commanded respect from all the players. Even when the going was bad, he was in control and understood the players well.”

In 1983, Coimbatore beat Chengalpet (R Madhavan/ S Balaji) to win the Districts title with Ramki’s 88 complimenting VBC’s century.  A year later was the epic match that led to Coimbatore and Salem sharing the Trophy (S Srinivasan's 175 in response to Ravishankar's double hundred). At the end of it, he wanted to retire but the Coimbatore Secretary Prasad was keen for Ramki to retire with an exclusive win and not a shared trophy. He accepted the challenge, played another year and led Coimbatore to yet another victory.

Peter Fernandez ( succeeded Ramakrishnan as the captain of the Coimbatore Districts in the mid 1980s. Last year within 48hours after this writer put out a story on his financial challenges, Ramakrishnan organised Rs. 3Lakhs through the Coimbatore Districts Association players. “He was a prolific scorer for Ramakrishna Steel and the Coimbatore District. He has always been an honest and down to earth person. The way he went out of his way to help me last year is indicative of his kind nature. His contribution lifted my spirits up during the Pandemic.”

Never vindictive or cynical
Former fast bowler B Kalyanasundaram (, famous for his hat- trick against Bombay compliments Ramki’s great character in the most challenging of times “He was well suited for multi day matches for he could grind an innings. He was a difficult bat to dislodge and would never give his wicket away easily not just in his prime in the early 70s but also in later years when I came up against him for LMW. He had a good temperament and with the kind of runs he scored at the University level and for YMA should have played for Tamil Nadu. But despite never playing a single match for the state, he was never vindictive or cynical and has always remained a wonderful human being. He hails from a fantastic family and throughout his life has exhibited all the great attributes of his forefathers.”

TN Ranji Trophy winning captain and now Chairman of Selectors S Vasudevan says that Ramki has been one of the sweetest persons he has come across in his life.

Cricket Selector for close to a decade
From the mid 1980s,  Ramakrishnan donned the role of a selector starting with the age group and went on to become a state selector. He takes a lot of pride in recounting his years as a selector and what it meant to him “During my time, not a single player was chosen other than on merit. I did not allow interference or undue influence. Of course I had likeminded selectors at that time like M Sriram, Sampath(Vellore) and M Srinivasan as colleagues." 

Best Bowler he has faced
While he liked N Barathan a lot for the way he bowled, clearly VV Kumar was the best he had faced “VV would pin you down. He would study the batsman, read his mind well and plan the next wicket accordingly.”

Raja was a treat
Among the batsmen, he counts KR Rajagopal as the best from that generation “He was a fearless cricketer. I still remember the way he stepped out to N Barathan and hit a flat six that thudded into the Northern wall in front of the Presidency College at Marina. He was as good a batsman as one could get. From that generation, Satvindar was the other batsman who was a treat to watch. His footwork was outstanding.”

The Sporting Spirit Intact
In recent decades, he has also taken to Golf at the Coimbatore Golf Club and has won many trophies. He also captained the Coimbatore Golf Club for three years. D Lakshminarayanaswamy (DL), the President of Coimbatore District Cricket Association, has known Ramakrishanan for well over five decades. The two of them played against each other at the college level (DL played for PSG Tech), together for Ramakrishna Steel for over a decade and have over the last 10years been mates at the Golf Course. He is saddened that Ramki did not get his due at the state level ‘I have known him from the time he was a beautiful leggie in his early teens. He performed as well as one could in the Collegiate and University matches and deserved to have played for a long time for TN. While he did not get his due, not once did he hold it against anyone. That is reflective of his character. He moved on with life and made a mark for himself in Law.”
"Today, he is top class lawyer and held in high esteem by everyone in the city including the Judicial fraternity. As a personality, he is like a rock. You can count on him in the most testing of times. However, if you are wrong, he would be straight on your face.And he has a terrific memory and can easily roll out episodes that happened four decades ago."

"He continues to be very competitive even though he is touching 70. That shows the competitive sporting spirit in him. He has been a very solid golfer and has won a number of tournaments." 

Despite the traumatic phase in the first half of the 1970s when he sat out repeatedly – TN 12th man had become synonymous with Ramki, he has no ill feelings. He has no clue even today as to why did not get to play a single match despite being in the TN squad for that length of time but has no regrets about not making into the playing XI. Giving up serious cricket in the mid 1970s led him into Law and in the decades since, he has carved a niche for himself  in the profession with a wide ranging corporate clientele including the then cricket supporting SVPB (GVG Group) and Ramakrishna Steel.

He has just celebrated his 69th birthday this fortnight an age for a bit of relaxation but that does not seem to be the case with PRR. His clients are after him through the day on the phone seeking advise on civil matters. There seems to be an even greater demand for him now given his clean track record and his straight talking nature. The man, who is on the committee of the Ramnagar Ramar Kovil, counts it his blessing to have come back to Coimbatore to pursue Law and the success in this profession over the last four decades has given him immense satisfaction and happiness. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Vasantika Sundararaman Devotional Drawings Mylapore

Like Prahladh of Thiruvallikeni, Vasantika of Mylapore has taken to an early interest in devotional drawings and has begun colour sketches of Lords and Acharyas at the age of five
Looking at the idol of Vedantha Desikar, the UKG student has sketched the Vaishnavite Acharya with guidance from her amma
Some children are naturally blessed with devotion and are positively impacted by specific Gods and take a liking to them at an early stage in their lives. This section had featured a story in May last year on the then ten year old Thiruvallikeni boy S Prahaladh, who has been spending his free time devotionally sketching Lords of Divya Desam and Paadal Petra Sthalams. His amma’s encouragement in this devotional process has been very important taking him to temples that are close to his heart and locating for him rare pictures of his favourite Lords for him to sketch. 

He had begun his first Pencil Sketch at the age of five with a drawing of Srirangam Ranganatha after coming across an old photograph of Ranganathaswamy of Srirangam in his South Facing Sleeping Posture. And before his parents realized, he had picked up a plain paper and begun sketching the Lord with his pencil. Similar was their experience when after visiting Nelliappar Temple, he began sketching them within the next few hours and presented to them his drawing of Nellaiappar. When the family visited Melkote, Prahladh refused to return as he simply could not take his eyes away from his favourite Lord Narasimha. And by the time he returned to Madras, he had already sketched out Narasimha atop the Melkote hill leaving his mother in happy tears.

If Prahladh’s amma moved from Mylapore to Thiruvallikeni, another amma made the reverse - moving from Thiruvallikeni to Mylapore after her wedding. Kesava Perumal Sannidhi Street's Pavithra Sundararaman is just beginning to experience the early phase of the devotional interest of her five year old daughter Vasantika, a UKG student of Vidya Mandir, Mylapore. 

Sketches Vedantha Desikar
Pavithra has found that her daughter has taken to an early interest in Godly drawings. Just like Prahladh, Vasantika too has begun her devotional drawings at the age of five. Every time she sees a Lord she goes back home and picks up her colour pencil to draw her favourite Lord. Around the Navarathri festival, with so many Godly idols in front of the kolu, Pavithra’s interest in drawings has seen a rise.

She has made three sketches –Vaishnavite Acharya Vedantha Desikar, Lord Krishna carrying the Govardhana Mountain in his hand and adding some finishing touches to her amma’s sketch of Srivilliputhur’s Andal.
Vasantika’s devotional interest has been such that she narrates every story of the idol that has been placed in her kolu at home this year. Alongside, she is also capturing each of these deities in the form of drawings. The drawing class at school has also been an inspiration for Vasantika to latch on to an early interest in drawing.

Like Prahladh’s amma, Vasantika’s amma too has now begun the process of locating for her interesting idols that she could draw with her colour pencils.
                 Vasantika's Krishna with the Govardhana hill

Vasantika’s appa P Sundararaman has combined outstanding academic achievement with complete knowledge of the traditional scriptures. By the time he graduated in Commerce, he had completed his CA with very minimal coaching!!! And much prior to that, even before he had completed his schooling, he had completed his course on Divya Prabhandham. It is no wonder that his Prabhandham Acharya Natteri Srihari Parthasarathy (, who will be felicitated later this month for his contribution to creating the next generation of prabhandham members, considers him as the best student in his 35years of Prabhandham initiation. Srihari had spoken highly of Sundararaman’s ability to capture the essence of the Prabhandham verses and to understand the nuances of the presentation of the Azhvaars, especially many of the difficult and long verses of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar.

Vasantika's grand father S Padmanabhan is the Sri Karyam of the Ahobila Mutt and former HOD- Sanskrit, Madras University.

It has been an interesting way to develop devotional interest in children and creating in them Bhakti towards the Lord through these drawings. 
After five years of devotional sketches, Prahladh had in July this year, driven by his deep devotion and a liking for Lord Narasimha, spotted an interchange of Moolavar and Utsava idols at Ahobilam ( from the decades goneby, something even the regulars to that Divya Desam were not aware of. Such has been the impact of early initiation into devotion, that at the age of 11 he has been able to pick up changes that is not so visible to the normal eye.
                           Prahladh's Namperumal Brahmotsavam

While Prahladh has already sketched several hundreds and has even been allocated an almirah to store his drawings, Vasantika is just starting out on her devotional endeavour. With the personalized devotional motivation, and the regular Divya Desam, Azhvaar and Acharya storytelling of  her amma and with the traditional background of her appa and thatha, it is likely that Vasantika's interest in devotional sketches, much like Prahladh's, is only likely to increase in the years to come.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Natteri Srihari Prabhandham Acharya 35 years Felicitation

Vayam Namaamaha Dravida Veda Vaibhavam - Celebrate together the glory of Divya Prabhandham
To mark 35years of his Prabhandham Acharya service including 25years at the Vedantha Desikar Srinivasa Perumal temple, Sishyas are planning a grand four day celebration later this month
He will be felicitated by the Jeer of Ahobila Mutt and it is likely he will be honoured with a Title for his over three decades service and creating the next generation of Prabhandham members
Around 100 Students have been initiated into Prabhandham during this period
1970s and 80s marked a low key period in the devotional movement. There was a mass exodus of original inhabitants from historic temple towns to cities in search of greener pastures. Most moved into corporate jobs away from the previous traditional endeavours connected with temple and related activity. Recital of Nalayira Divya Prabhandham is one such that has now been lost in most of the remote temples in Tamil Nadu as the Prabhandham Scholars of yesteryears have moved into cities and the next gen too has.

It is in light of this background that the contribution of Prabhandham Acharya Natteri Srihari Parthasarathy assumes significance. 

His own Prabhandham initiation in the 1970s
Hailing from an orthodox family in the Ahobila Mutt tradition, Srihari,  son of renowned Bruhaspathi and Vedic scholar Natteri Parthasarathy, learned Nalayira Divya Prabandham from Vaikuntavaasi Sevilimedu Srinivasacharya and later from his maternal uncle Esayanur Sridhara Satakopacharya (presently Aradhakar, Ahobila Mutt) and completed the course at the age of 17. Srihari had the fortune of undergoing Aahnikam and Grantha Chathushtaya Kalakshepam from Maha Vidwans Vaikuntavaasi Purisai Nadadhur Sri Bhashya Simhasanam Krishnamacharya Swami and Azhisoor Srinivasacharya Swami.

The first batch of students in the mid 1980s
He had joined the kainkaryam at the Vedantha Desikar Srinivasa Perumal temple in Mylapore ( in the early 1970s. By the mid 1980s, a large proportion of devotees had moved into the corporate world. The traditional service personnel in temples were dwindling. Having learnt from such stalwarts in the 1970s, Srihari was keen to share his learning with the next generation of students and began his Divya Prabhandham tutoring in the mid 1980s initiating the sacred verses of the Azhvaars to a small group of students. 

1996 - Formal Full Fledged Prabhandham Course at the Desikar Temple
A decade later, in 1996, he formally began the full time Prabhandham class at the temple arriving at the temple at 6am every morning (though initially for a period the classes had been in the evening) after his late night work at the Sports Desk at The Hindu, from where he often returned home well past 1am.

The first batch of students, who are still an integral part of the Prabhandham Ghosti at the temple utsavams, graduated in 2007. With these students he adopted different techniques to get them to imbibe not just aspects relating to the recital but also to understand the essence of the verses through a secret process. 

Felicitation in 2017
Over the next decade, he initiated around 40 students into Divya Prabhandham. In May 2017, the Prabhandham Students had felicitated him for his two decades of service at the Vedantha Desikar temple. 
Now well into his 50s, Srihari has begun, in the last few years, the third batch comprising of another 35 students. The new batch of students has been already initiated into Namazhvaar’s Tiruvoimozhi and is currently learning the Iyarpa verses.

End of 2006, when the temple was planning to launch a website, Srihari was entrusted with the task of creating a strong content to propagate the time-tested values of the rich tradition of Sanathana Dharma and important tenets of the Visishtaadvaita philosophy. As the Founder Editor of the website, Srihari has been conducting online quizzes and contests on varied topics relating to this philosophy. As part of this engagement, he has also been writing commentaries, online, on Vaishnavite Philosophy.

When a book was brought out in 2006 as part of the 80th Birthday Celebrations of 45th Jeer of Ahobila Mutt, Srihari wrote a ten page commentary with his own interpretation of each of the decads of the 10th Canto of Nam Azhvaar’s Tiruvoimozhi including praising Lord’s Kalyana Gunas, describing the way in which Azhvaar has shown us the noble path and about how Prapatti’s five Angams have been showcased in this last canto.

Four Day Celebrations - Oct 25 -28
Marking the completion of 35 years of Prabhandham Acharya service, the Sishyas of Srihari, are planning a grand four day celebration - 'Vayam Namaamaha Dravida Veda Vaibhavam - Celebrate together the glory of Divya Prabhandham' - later this month at the Vedantha Desikar Srinivasa Perumal temple in Mylapore. The celebration will start with Veda Parayanam on Monday October 25. This will be followed by an Upanyasam on Divya Prabhandham by Esayanur Sridhara Satakopacharyar on Tuesday (Oct 26) evening. 

Felicitation by Ahobila Mutt Jeer
Prabhandham Acharya Srihari will be felicitated on Wednesday October 27 evening by Azhagiyasingar, the Head of the Ahobila Mutt. The felicitation function will be preceded on Wednesday morning by a Vidwat Sadas on Divya Prabhandham & Desika Prabhandham. It is likely that he will also be conferred a title for his 'Prabhandham Kainkaryam' that day. The four day event will conclude on Thursday Oct 28 with a Music Concert exclusively on Divya Prabandham by Smt. Jayanthi Sridharan. A Thematic Souvenir is expected to be released soon after the celebratory event.

Creating the Next Gen Prabhandham Members
Srihari has made a Significant Contribution in taking forward the Prabhandham recital into this new Century. He has gone about creating the next generation of Divya Prabhandham Experts in a quiet and unassuming way. While the idea has been for youngsters to learn and become proficient, he has also encouraged older people to take up to learning the Divya Prabhandham. One of the important lessons he has imbibed in his students throughout these three and a half decades has been to present these verses at temples and not to use it to further their financial interests.  His outstanding efforts to initiate four different set of students over the last 35years has been a great act of selfless service that he has rendered to our society in the process helping keep the Prabhandham tradition for the foreseeable future.