Thursday, June 23, 2022

Kapali Temple Kolathur College

Temple activist TR Ramesh fights for Kapali Devotees’ cause
Mylapore resident and President of the Temple Worshippers Society, TR Ramesh has been taking up many devotee friendly causes relating to the Kapaleeswarar temple. Last year, he stalled the demolition of the buildings on Kumara Gurunathan Street adjacent to the temple where the authorities had sketched a multi storied complex. It is the street where many of the service personnel of the temple have resided over the last century or so.

Over the last nine months he has been fighting tooth and nail on the transfer of Kapali temple funds to the new arts college planned by the TN Government in Kolathur.

Challenges the announcement in the assembly
In October last year, soon after the announcement in the state assembly of the setting up of the college, Ramesh filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court challenging the legality. Referring to the TN HR & CE act he says that only the Trustees of the temple who alone have full authority over the assets and properties of the temple and are in control of the administration thereof. “While the surplus funds from out of the offerings made to the Kapali temple could be used for the purpose of setting up an educational institution, such a proposal must come from the trustees to the Commissioner. The Commissioner or the HR & CE Department of their own accord do not have the authority to set up an educational institution."

Kapali Temple - Where are the Trustees?
The Kapali temple has not had a board of trustees for a long time and no attempt has been made over the last decade to appoint a trustee. 
Over three Centuries ago, when the Kapaleeswarar temple was being built in its current location, the Thuluva Velalar community had a significant role to play in its development. 82 year old AC Kandaswamy, a Civil Engineer, is now the President of the Poonamalee Uyir Thuluva Vellalar Marabinar Sangam that was officially registered in 1946 once the HR & CE took over the temple. He recounts the role of his forefathers in the development and improvement of the temple over the last few centuries “Mylai Naattu Muthaiappa Mudhaliar donated lands for the temple 380 years ago. Several members of the community made large donations in the form of jewels and house properties for the maintenance of the temple and the Service Personnel.” 

Even after the HR & CE took over, three members of the Thuluva Vellala community were appointed as trustees and this went on till 1976. And then all of a sudden, no members were appointed from the community. 

'Temporary' Fit Person continues for a Decade!!!
Ramesh has questioned the continued presence of the Fit Person. He has repeatedly told this writer over the last many years that the appointment of a fit person is only a stop gap measure and it is only upon the board of trustees that the decision-making authority in the temple is born. All matters relating to the administration of the religious institution "shall be decided at the meetings of the Board of Trustees.”

At the Kapali temple, P Vijayakumar Reddy has remained as the 'Fit Person' for a decade!!!

 "The duties of trustees, as being discharged by the fit person allow the latter to undertake the day-to-day administration and running of the temple but he cannot be seen to have any right to alienate the property or the offerings at the temple or take any major policy decision pertaining to the temple" Ramesh said.

A fit person temporarily discharges the duties of administration and the transfer of funds would be a much larger policy decision that a fit person ought not to take. The mere fact that a fit person may have continued for years and even a decade in the absence of government endeavor to install the rightful administration by the appointment of trustees, will not confer any greater right on a fit person than a mere caretaker discharging the administrative duties in the absence of the real administrator. 
Ramesh said that the application to start a college by a temple should come from the Trustees of the temple. In the case of the Kolathur college, the announcement was made in the assembly and the Commissioner acted on that announcement “As per the HR & CE act, the Government or the HR & CE (Commissioner) do not have the rights to start the college on their own on behalf of a temple.” 

Get back the Hereditary Trustees
Acknowledging the points raised by Ramesh, the Judges in their remarked pointed out that these substantial issues raised had to be addressed and assessed. They also directed that educational institutions on the basis of Section 36 of the Act should not be instituted till trustees are first put in place 

In April this year, Ramesh pointed to the Court that despite their direction to appoint hereditary trustees from the Poonamallee Thuluva Velalar Community, the Kapali temple has failed to do so.

Kapali funded college without a Religious Instruction
Another fundamental point Ramesh has raised is the non inclusion of a course in Hindu religion as a prominent subject He had told this writer last year that a course pertaining to Hindu religious instruction would be mandatorily required as a part of the main stream curriculum of the educational institution and not as an incidental subject.

The court in their direction said that the college offered BBA, B. Com and other similar courses without there being a regular course in religious instructions in Hindu religion. It will be a condition precedent that a stream of religious instructions in Hindu religion be introduced. If such a course is not introduced within a month of the college starting, the further functioning of the college cannot continue, the court had said. 
In a 1972 judgment, the Supreme Court had clarified on what constitutes Religious Instructions “Religious Instructions is that which is imparted for inculcating the tenets, rituals, the observations ceremonies and modes of worship.” 

Almost as to answer Ramesh, the institution hurriedly announced a 'six months certification course' in Saiva Siddhantha and Vaishnavism which he has vehemently objected to!!!

Outside of these procedural aspects, Ramesh has also pointed out that the Kapali temple did not have funds to buy the land as well as to run and maintain the college every year.

Ramesh is giving his best in trying to secure the devotees' funds for the purpose for which it was presented to the Lord of Mylapore. He quotes the 1876 privy council and is confident that truth will prevail in this case

"...Where the power is given to do a certain thing in a certain way, the thing must be done in that way or not at all and that other methods of performance are necessarily forbidden...."

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Vedantha Desikar Temple New Gen Prabhandham Members

The Vibrant Prabandham Ghosti at the Vedantha Desikar Temple in Mylapore has gained further momentum with the arrival of the new gen in good numbers
It is the first week of June and devotees are trickling into the Vedantha Desikar Srinivasa Perumal temple ( just after 6am for the street procession in the morning. While the priests are giving the final touches to the alankaram, IT staffer Aravind arrives on a two wheeler with his 11 year old son Raghava Simhan all the way from T Nagar to be part of the Prabhandham Ghosti. A class VI student of PSBB T. Nagar, Raghava Simhan is focused on academics. But his appa is keen on his son to take the devotional path in life and has begun initiating into the sacred verses of the Vaishnavite Saint Poets. While he prepares every day for the periodic tests that are part of the school calendar, Raghava Simhan has already learned around 2000 verses from the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham. He provides almost equal attention to learning these verses as much as he does with his school lessons. For the Vaikasi Brahmotsavam at the Mylapore temple, he was up at 5am every morning to get himself ready for the procession. On most days he was back in the evening as well for the street procession.
                            T Nagar PSBB's Raghava Simhan

Rama Priyan (Sreekar) is the youngest of the lot of a bunch of kids who were present at the Brahmotsavam earlier this month. He is all of 5 years and has just made his way into class 1 at Vidya Mandir this month. Between software development (Main Frame) at TCS and being part of the regular Prabhandham Ghosti round the year at the temple, his appa Sudarshan, a software engineer, has been making time to initiate Sreekar into the stotras of acharya Vedantha Desikar over the last many months. During Margazhi, Sudarshan has also been presenting upanyasams at the temple in the evenings.
                        5 year old Rama Priyan (Sreekar)

CA initiates son into the Sacred Verses
Sriram, a Chartered Accountant who runs his own audit firm in Venkatesa Agraharam, is well versed in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham and has been a regular at the ten day annual Brahmotsavam and Desikar Utsavams. He too has been initiating his 8 year old son Haardhan into the ‘Mudhalayiram’ verses over the last year or so.  Haardhan has also been learning Desikar Stotras and has already completed a number of these as well.
                                  CA's son  Haardan

Vaideeka's son - All round learning
Contrasted with the above and away from the corporate world is Murali Krishnan who has been in Vaideeha activities for the last 15years. His son Raghavanujan, now 8, began his initiation very early when he was just about 4 years. He has already completed half of the verses from the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham as part of the class organised inside the Desikar Temple by Acharya Srihari. He has also learned over 10 stotras of Acharya Vedantha Desikar. In addition to the sacred verses of the Vaishnavite Saint Poets and Acharya, Raghavanujan, a class III student of PS Sr. Sec School, has also been initiated into Vedic learning.
                      Raghavanujan - also into Vedic Learning

Several decades ago, as seen in a story in January last year, Vedic recital was prominent at the Desikar temple. Over the last two decades, with the initiative of Prabhandham Acharya Srihari(, the recital of the sacred verses of the Saint Poets has gained dominance at the temple. And that has rubbed off on the parents who are passing on their knowledge to their sons. 

It has been refreshing to see the bunch of young kids being part of the vibrant Divya Prabhandham Ghosti during the street processions at the Vaikasi Brahmotsavam earlier this month From CAs to Engineers, From IT professionals to the traditional Vaideekas, fathers for whom the Vedantha Desikar temple has been an integral part of their lives over the last three decades are ensuring that their sons are initiated early on into the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham. And that augurs well for the Prabhandham Ghosti. While the Vedic recital is not anything like it was in the past, Prabhandham Ghosti is vibrant with the members gathering in good numbers at all the utsavams at the Desikar Temple. These young kids have been a welcome addition and their rendering of the Prabhandham is bringing a special devotional flavour to the utsavams.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Kapali Temple Battery Cars Dumped in Kalyana Mandapam

Where are the battery operated cars - The Grand launch of March 2020 has fallen flat 
Two Golf Carts meant to ferry devotees to the temple have remained dumped in a Kalyana Mandapam in Venkatesa Agraharam
The High Profile Launch in March 2020

This section has featured many stories on the HR & CE model of ‘all income to them’ and ‘all expenses to the donor’ ( Mylapore’s Kapaleeswarar temple is a prime example. Despite being one of the six richest temples in TN, the Temple has always been seeking financial support of the donors.

In the second week of March 2020, just under a fortnight prior to the national lockdown, Kapali temple was abuzz. The top officials of Sundaram Finance were headed to the Eastern Raja Gopuram to present the two electric golf carts that they were donating to the temple that evening. It was a gala event with devotees in good numbers witnessing the two new vehicles being handed over to the temple. The donation of the two battery cars was big enough for the then HR & CE Minister Sevvoor S Ramachandran and Mylapore MLA R Nataraj too to be present on the occasion. The two vehicles had cost Rs. 12Lakhs.
This story comes in light of the announcement last week by the HR & CE Minister P Sekar Babu of allocating wheel chairs for temples across TN to serve the disabled and the elderly.

A launch ahead of Panguni Utsavam
The launch of the battery cars at the Kapali Temple was timed just ahead of the annual Panguni Utsavam where several thousands participate. It was expected that the two vehicles would be put to use at the utavam but with the national lockdown the utsavam was cancelled and actual operation of the vehicles had been delayed.

The six seater vehicle was to operate outside the temple on the four Mada Streets. The idea was for the two battery operated cars to pick up devotees from the Mada Streets and drop them at the Eastern Raja Gopuram, and to pick them back from the Raja Gopuram and drop them at appropriate points.

The temple JC Kaveri had said at that time that the two battery cars would run in the first half between 630am and 12.30pm and in the evening from 4pm to 9pm with the battery being charged between 12.30pm and 4pm when the temple is closed for darshan. 

The vehicles had come with warranty with support for all maintenance requirements. Both the vehicles had also been insured with third party insurance.
The then MD of the company TT Srinivasaraghavan(TTS) had hoped for the vehicles to serve devotees, particularly the elderly and the physically challenged to access the centuries old Kapaleeswarar temple. “We trust and hope that the vehicles will be put to good use for the benefit of the public at large”, he had said that evening while presenting the keys of the two cars to the temple JC.

Wave 1 led to closure of the temple for a long time. Wave 2 in the summer of 2021 too led to a rather prolonged restrictions for devotees. Despite the high profile launch, these two unexpected events had delayed the operation of the vehicles.

However, with the reopening of the temple late last year, one had expected that these would serve the elderly. But the two vehicles have not been anywhere in sight around the temple except at the PS School ground during the night of Maha Sivarathri this year when a mega night long event was organised by the temple. The Panguni Utsavam this year witnessed huge crowd ( with devotees staying back through the night for the Rishabha Vahanam. Following the big annual utsavam in Panguni, devotees have been thronging the temple in large numbers

Dumped in  a Kalyana Mandapam
But the two vehicles have remained dumped at the temple’s Kalyana Mandapam at Venkatesa Agraharam. The temple authorities have said that when they tried to operate the golf carts, many visitors wanted to use the service for their shopping. The authorities also said that beggars who are seen in good numbers outside the temple began boarding the vehicle for a drop to the temple entrance which made it difficult for other passengers to sit.

Many devotees that this writer had spoken to shortly after the launch had raised apprehension on the operational challenges of running this service around the Mada Streets unlike in Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple where it is operated within the temple complex ferrying devotees from the Perumal sannidhi to the Thaayar Sannidhi. The benefits of the battery cars were clearly seen in Srirangam but in Mylapore the temple authorities have failed to capitalize on the large corporate donation and the launch that took place amidst media glare has fallen flat with the two vehicles remaining unused. Like with most other things, with passage of time, devotees too have forgotten that this facility was made available by the corporate for their benefit.

Yet another instance of how HR & CE has misused (in this case unused) the services of responsible donors.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

K Barathan Railways BCCI Umpire

He quit Sanmar Group after just one season to rejoin Railways and went on to play Ranji Cricket for a decade
In 1992, he started the season with a century and 11wickets playing on one leg but failed to rise to the next level
“He was very helpful and backed me completely in my first year in Ranji” – Karnataka Coach Yere Gowd who made his Ranji debut under Barathan’s captaincy

Between 1979 and 82, two spinners, M Santosh Kumar (IOB Santosh) and S Madhavan (RBI Leggie) quit their respective jobs in the Railways to join Banks in Madras letting go of opportunities to play Ranji Trophy in the Central Zone. In 1985, another spinner who could hold his own as a batsman joined the Railways but his quitting the very next year seemed to lead him in the footsteps of his predecessors. A year later, after a good season with Jolly Rovers, he was forced to rejoin the Railways. His appa, who retired as a station master in Mambalam, felt that a Government job would offer long term security. As luck would have it, the Railways reached the final of the Ranji Trophy in his very first year and he went on to play for a decade, something his senior spinners from Madras had missed. Here’s the story.

Another YSCA Guru product
K Barathan joined the Guru team (YSCA Gurumurthy) at the Somasundaram ground as a 6 year old. As with most boys in the group, he too would wake up early at 5am to be among the first at the ground to get extra batting that was on offer for the first comers. He started off as a wicket keeper to the outswingers of Gurumurthy. After Guru finished his spell, Barathan turned his arm over with his off spinners “While I always saw myself as a batsman, it was my teammates who motivated me into bowling as they liked my action” says Barathan looking back on those early years in the 1970s at the Somasundaram ground.

For almost two decades, a lot of his cricketing time including chats with friends was at the Somasundaram ground.

Grand Prix- The Turning Point
He played for TFUCC and UFCC T Nagar, both Guru managed teams in the TNCA league but the turning point in his cricket career came in 1984 when he moved to Grand Prix in the first division. Encouraged by Mukund and provided enough opportunities by captain PS Raman, Barathan had an outstanding season topping 600 runs in the league. By this time, he had captained the Pachaiappas college team for a couple of years.

"I had offers pouring in from Indian Bank, IOB and SPIC but my appa’s experience in the decades preceding in the Indian Railways turned the decision towards the Central Government job."
A century under Bharath Reddy's watchful eyes
That year, he hit a career best 170 against Jolly Rovers, watched by Bharath Reddy, who roped him in the next season. While Barathan had another great season, (un)fortunately his century against the Railways for Jolly Rovers turned his life around. Narasimhan, who later went on to become the GM at the Railways, saw him score that century and immediately asked for Barathan to return to the Railways or pay a huge compensation as per the exit clause.

Coming from a middle class, we did not have money to pay up. In any case, my appa was keen on a Govt job for he thought it was better than the then uncertainty for cricketers in a private firm” says Barathan on his decision to quit Sanmar Group after a year.

Features in the Ranji Final
While he had been in the TN Ranji squad in the year he played for Jolly Rovers, his move to the Railways meant he featured in the Ranji final in his very first year. He had made a good early start to that season with half centuries in successive matches including picking up three wickets and scoring a fifty on debut. While he bowled a marathon spell in the final, the match itself was largely a forgettable one for the Railways.

One of his closest friends in the Railways was Ranjit Khanwilkar “We played together in my debut year for Railways. He would wake up at 4am, walk for an hour and was a voracious reader.  He was awesome talent. I had hoped to play together with him for a long time but unfortunately he passed soon after I met him at the YSCA match in the 1st week of June at the RKM ground.”

He also began his coaching stint in those early years coaching the Railway cricketers at the Somasundaram ground. "I always liked coaching as it gave one the opportunity to produce future cricketers."

His Best Season 
After a few quiet years, Barathan came into his own and was at his best in the 92-93 season. He counts his 11 wickets and 107 against Rajasthan in chilly conditions in Jaipur as the best match in his life especially as the performance came on the back of a big injury. He had injured himself a day ahead of this Ranji match in practice when a yorker in the nets left his left ankle swollen. 

He looks back at the contribution of his teammate on the eve of the match “Yashpal (Sharma) who played for a year as a guest was keen on me playing the season opener. My roommate Srikant Karge applied ice through the night without sleeping even for a minute to help me get fit. In the morning at 6am, he woke me up to ‘test walk’. I wore Durga Prasad’s size 12 shoe on one foot and my own size in the other.”

Batting on one leg 
“While I was happy about some additional rest after we won the toss and batted on the first morning, the top order was knocked over quickly before lunch. And that meant I was in earlier than I had expected. I batted on almost one foot through that entire innings and without a runner to score that century.”

Barathan followed his batting performance with a 7 wicket haul that forced Rajasthan to follow on. He was back again on the field to capture four more wickets for a match haul of 11 wickets. “I was lifted by all the players at the end of the match. Yashpal (Sharma) was particularly pleased with my determination.”

After that performance, he was on a high and felt he could be in line for a national call up. Word spread that it was between him and Gyanendra Pandey but he was not to make it. He says that it was the closest he thought he came to going up the cricketing ladder.

Current Karnataka coach Yere Goud, who played well over a 100 first class matches made his debut for the Railways under Barathan’s captaincy. The two shared an unbroken century partnership in that match. “He was my captain when I made my debut for Railways against MP at Gwalior. He could hold his own either as a pure batsman or as an off spinner. He had great skills in both departments with natural flair and was outstanding fielder in close in and outfield. He was always helpful and backed me completely.”

UR Radhakrishnan (UR) who joined the Railways after starting out at SVPB Udumalpet played together with Barathan in the few years that he was there “He was a fantastic all round cricketer and an asset to the team. He could bat and bowl and field anywhere.” 

Right at the end of his Ranji career, he picked up six wickets to help the Railways to a win in the knock out match.

Returns to Ranji Cricket as an Umpire
A decade after hanging up his boots, Barathan returned to Ranji cricket as an umpire. When he was in the last year of eligibility the Railways did not recommend him. Barathan recalls the great gesture from his teammate that helped become an umpire "I had reached my cut off year and the Railways did not recommend my name. Arvind Kapoor sacrificed his place and handed a NOC for me to take the exam. It was his great gesture that allowed me to become a BCCI umpire.”

Over the next decade he went on to officiate in the IPL. Among the highlights was officiating in Sachin’s last match, one that he considers a most memorable experience. Another big moment for him was WI legend Viv Richards, then consultant with DDR, coming up to him and asking for permission to inspect the pitch ahead of an IPL match.

His decision, albeit a forced one, to join the Railways a second time in 1987 led him to play close to 50 first class matches. He was also the first one from Madras to captain the Indian Railways in Ranji Trophy cricket, an achievement he is quite proud of. His experience in first class cricket also made way for an entry into Umpiring, one that he enjoyed for a decade. The new age extension up to 65 has given him a new lease of life especially when he is going to retire from the Railways after 35years.

Barathan is now looking forward to another go in Umpiring. One hopes that like his second stint in the Railways, this one too will be successful one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Kapali Temple Mathalam Vidwan Balasubramaniam

From Kannapuram to Kapaleeswarar
Father and Son have served at the Mylapore temple presenting Mathalam for over five decades 
Asthana Mathalam Vidwan J Balasubramaniam has been serving at the six kaalam pooja at the Kapaleeswarar Temple for over two decades following in the footsteps of his appa Jayachandran who was at the Saint Poets praised Mylapore Temple for three decades from the late 1960s.  Balasubramaniam spent his entire childhood listening to the Thevaram verses of the Othuvars at the Kapali temple. 

His forefathers hailed from Thiru Kannapuram, a Divya Desam praised with a 100 verses by Thiru Mangai Azhvaar and were Thavil Vidwans at this historical temple. For several decades, his grandfather Srinivasan presented the Thavil at the Sowri Raja Perumal Sannidhi. The ustavams had been grand and his grandfather enjoyed the presentations early morning through the month of Margazhi in addition to playing during the round the year utsavams. It was a serene atmosphere around the temple and vibrant through the year. He was given accommodation and reasonable amount of Paddy as remuneration for his services. Into the 1960s, life turned financially challenging with the exodus of original inhabitants and a slowdown in the utsavams. 
Jayachandran learned mridangam at the Dharmapuram Atheenam for a few years and then moved to the music college in Madras in the mid 1960s to further his proficiency in Thavil. While the situation had turned sour at Thiru Kannapuram and the future prospects looked bleak, he was keen to head back to the Divya Desam to continue the services at the temple after completion of his course at the music college.

To Kapali Temple in 1968
However, a pleasant surprise awaited him. In 1968, Kapali Temple’s Nagaswaram vidwan of the time Balu asked him to join his troupe at the temple as they were looking for a Thavil artiste. Instead of taking the train back to Thiru Kannapuram, Jayachandran entered the Kapali temple to present Thavil every day of the year for a dozen years at a monthly salary of Rs. 75.

In 1980, he received the official appointment for ‘Mathalam Sevai’ from the temple and performed at the temple for another two decades.

Balasubramaniam had grown up at the Kapaleeswarar temple from the time he was a crawling child. “The presentation of the Othuvars was a big early influence on me and it played an important role in me becoming devotionally attached to the Lord. From very early on, it had been my devotional dream to present in front of the Swami and Ambal at Mylapore.”
He learned Mridangam from Thanjavur Natarajan, former Principal of the Music College in Madras. End of the previous century, he finally managed to get that opportunity. For close to 25years, he has been presenting Mathalam service during the Deepaaradhanai each day of the year in addition to playing during the Utsavams.

Rejects a Lucrative offer
A dozen years ago, he received an offer from the music college but by then he had become deeply attached to Kapaleeswarar. He does not regret the rejection “I would have earned double the salary today had I joined the Music College in 2010 but from my childhood I had been fed on Kapali’s food. If money was the only thing in life, I would have moved out but the message from Ambal and Swami was clear to believe in them and continue my service at this temple. I had no two thoughts about it and firmly had faith in the divine couple that they would take care of me.”

In these dozen years, since that offer, he has also received project based offers to perform but he has rejected each one of them “I could have earned a lot outside as there is high demand but I understood early on that God writes our accounts – I have always heard him ask me as to what I am doing for him each day. Even if I fail one kaalam in my service, he gives me an alert that my mind is deviating from devotional service towards monetary benefits.”

“Almost all the service personnel at the Kapali temple are on rotational murai performing 15days service where as I have got an exclusive 30 days in a month opportunity. The positive vibration inside the sannidhis and the peace of mind has to be experienced to be understood.”

Devotional Service during the Pandemic
The biggest of donors did not have the opportunity to have darshan during the Pandemic where as he was blessed to be presenting before the Lord. “That’s the kind of devotion he has come to relate to with Kapali and Ambal”

As a young child, his appa initiated into ‘devotion without expectation’ and through the last two decades he has tried his best to follow his appa’s message on service to the Lord. His devotion to Kapali has meant that he has had to skip the weddings of even close relatives. 
On the eve of Pournami this Vaikasi, he was invited to Tiruttani but his mind has been devotionally bonded to Kapali and he did not make the trip.

Sometime in life, he wants to experience Sowri Raja Perumal at Thiru Kannapuram where his forefather had played the Thavil for several decades. That is still a far way off for he has atleast another dozen years of service at the Kapali temple. For the moment, his mind is all on Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Sriram Krishnamurthy High Performance Cricket coach New Zealand

Making a mark in the Kiwi land
At Wellington, Sriram played a key role in developing Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra transforming them into international cricketers and now at Northern Districts, he is working with the Who's Who of NZ cricket
While the TNCA have not explored his services over the last decade, he is back in Madras this month for a short stint with Madurai Panthers in the TNPL- a strong performance could help him get noticed here
At the start of the previous decade, Sriram Krishnamurthy, who had played for Grand Slam (India Cements) in the TNCA league, was trying to explore a career in cricket coaching. After his degree, he worked at a BPO but could not take his mind away from cricket. He did not make much headway as a player but believed he had the ability to translate his cricket knowledge into making other players understand themselves better and to convert that understanding into performance on the field. While he did not get any opportunities in TN/TNCA, he found surprising interest coming in from Australia. For a couple of years, he coached teams at the state level in Victoria and South Australia. However, it had not been a full time -through the year - contractual engagement and visa restrictions  meant he had to return to India for 3-4 months in each of those two years. When he was touching 30, his appa (who passed away in 2020) was keen for him to freeze on a career and settle down in life.

It was then that Sriram explored the possibility of coaching in nearby New Zealand, where the easier visa conditions meant he could coach through the year for multiple seasons.  A mate at Cricket Victoria (Australia) put him on to Dave Gillespie, President, Taita Distrct CC, an eight decades old club in Wellington.

Exploring cricket coaching in the UK
That English Summer in 2015, Sriram went back to the UK for a 6 week stint with Derbyshire in the T20 blast. 7 years prior, in 2008, he had played for Cornwell Cricket Club, a minor county in the UK following which he had done his Masters in HRD (Human Resource Development) from the Lancaster University in Manchester. It was during his stint in Manchester that he got initiated into Coaching. His Masters degree had a paper on Knowledge Management and Sriram wanted to explore if this concept could be implemented in the sports field. In 2010,  on the invitation of The English and Wales Cricket Board, Sriram was involved in a High Performance Coaching related work ahead of the 2010-11 Ashes where he conducted Coaching Workshop for coaches including lecture sessions for those coaches who were to be  handling the English team in the Ashes that summer that year. 

While England was one of the options for him to explore in 2015, the visa restrictions there that were similar to the ones in Australia meant he could not fulfil his appa's wish of 'settling down'.

Moves to Wellington, New Zealand
And thus in August 2015, he moved to Wellington to coach the U19 team. While there was still half a mind to coach in his home land in Chennai about which he had always been passionate about, opportunities were not forthcoming.  With a new family in the offing, he was keen to be full time in one country. 

For those with exceptional talent, there was an option to get through into NZ with a 'Talent Visa'. Dave (Gillespie) felt that Sriram was well qualified for this visa given his credentials at that time. 
Identified by the Kiwi Board as one of the key coaches
Having started out as a U19 coach at Cricket Wellington in 2015, by 2020 he had become the batting coach of the Wellington Firebirds, one of the six first class teams in the country. During the period, he was identified by NZ cricket as one of the dozen coaches to take forward NZ cricket. And with that identity came big opportunities for Sriram. He was part of three tours with NZ A as well as a prestigious tour with the U19 team at the World Cup. When Bangladesh toured NZ, he was appointed as the coach of the NZ XI that played a tour match  ahead of the international series.

Develops Conway, Ravindra and Blundell
At Wellington, Sriram had begun to work with Conway, Blundell and teenager Ravindra. It was he who insisted on Ravindra’s selection for the U19 world cup when he was just 16years old.  Sriram is credited with developing them from state cricketers to now playing for the Black Caps.

Each of these have given Sriram a wide ranging and varied experience.

Sriram is grateful with the way Wellington treated him in that phase “When I landed in New Zealand in 2015, full time coaching roles were very limited. While Cricket Wellington offered me a contract, it was not enough to lead a comfortable life, financially. They pointed me to Taita CC as an additional engagement that served me well and kept me going in those initial years."

"Kiwis are a very helpful lot and kind in nature. Dave (Gillespie) immediately got my wife a job soon after her arrival in New Zealand. And that made a big difference to our lives.”

His close association with Graeme Aldrich
When Sriram got an opportunity to attend the annual high performance workshop in the winter of 2016, he had a chance meeting with Northern Districts' great Graeme Aldrich. Sriram immediately hit it off with Graeme, one of the most well respected first class cricketers in NZ and one with the record for the highest number of wickets for Northern Districts. 

The two of them did level 3 coaching and went to the U19 world together – Graeme as the bowling coach and Sriram coaching the batters.
Moves to Northern Districts
After five years in Wellington, Sriram moved to Northern Districts in 2020 to work alongside Graeme. In the last couple of years, he has handled the likes of Kane, Southee, Boult, Sodhi, Wagner, De Grandhomme  and Santner at Northern Districts. It has been one of his most enjoyable experiences to work with the greats of Kiwi cricket. 

What has amazed him has been their openness to learn and the mindset to absorb new and interesting cricketing aspects. 

As he looks back at the 7 years in NZ, he is delighted at the way the board has taken care of him and is keen to show his loyalty to them for the trust they have placed in him during this period.

It has also been a great experience for him in these 7 years - first to be working with state players and helping them make their way into the national team and now to be working so closely with top international players and the Who's Who of Kiwi cricket. Right from the start, his differentiated model has been to understand the personality behind the cricketer, be relatable to them by speaking their language and engaging in long conversations with each of them to help them gain confidence in their inherent strengths. 
At the TNPL this month
Well over a decade ago, he had played alongside KB Arun Karthik in the city league in Chennai. His old mate reached out to him in 2018 to explore coaching the Madurai team in the TNPL. Sriram is currently in the city for his second stint in the TNPL coaching Damodaran backed Madurai Panthers. Seven players in the team are currently involved in the 1st division league final taking place today. Over the last fortnight, he has had individual sessions with cricketers in the TNPL team trying to help them build on their strengths. It will be interesting to see if he can make a big impact on the T20 players and their performances in the TNPL. If he does, it is likely he will catch the eye of the powers that be in this part of the country.

While he is currently well settled in the Kiwi Land, his heart has always been in Madras and he continues to hope that someday in his life he would return to Chepauk to coach cricketers in his home town.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

M Santosh Kumar IOB TN ICA

Back with a Bang!! 
Offie from the 1970s and 80s Santosh Kumar failed to bag a permanent place in the TN side but is making a big comeback in his second innings and eyeing a top post in the TNCA this year
The fact that Santosh played Ranji trophy for TN as an off spinner when Venkat was still around was by itself a significant achievement - Bharath Reddy, his college captain and TN teammate
On the back of a strong performance for the Junior State and in the Buchi Babu tournament, a young 21 year old off spinner was included in the South Zone squad to play the visiting Australians, bereft of the packer players, in 1979.  M Santosh Kumar had not yet played Ranji cricket for TN though he had made his debut for the Railways, as a previous staffer at ICF. With PR Man Singh as the manager, Hyderabadi Shivalal Yadav got the nod in the XI in that crucial match and shortly after played Test Cricket for India. While he could have easily played Duleep and Deodhar Trophy for the Central Zone, much like S Madhavan (he joined RBI in 1982), Santosh too had quit the Railways opportunity to join a nationalized bank (IOB) in Madras. Legendary off spinner S Venkataraghavan still cherished dreams of an India return and continued to play for TN into the early 1980s denting Santosh’s hopes. He was IOB’s standout bowler for 15years helping them win many trophies especially in the shorter format and remains the bank’s highest wicket taker. In his second innings in cricket, he is now making a strong comeback. Having been the TN representative at the ICA over the last three years, Santosh is now eyeing an even bigger role in cricket and is confident of a bagging a coveted position in the TNCA come the elections in a couple of months. He says he will stand up for the players and the support staff that had been hitherto elusive. Here’s the story

A Childhood in and around Chepauk
M Santosh Kumar spent his entire childhood at the Chidambaram Stadium with his appa Muthu, the legendary TNCA marker and the man who ran the BS Nets. Every morning he would be woken up at 5am to run around the stadium. As a Hindu School cricketer, he was prolific both as a batsman and off spinner and played for the city and state schools. Even as a young teenager he was seen as a promising cricketing and expected to climb the cricketing ladder. 

In that early phase at school, his appa was a true inspiration. Every time he picked five wickets, he would pay Rs. 100. “But when I began to pick these in bag loads, he made it more challenging for me. He lifted the bar to include 25runs as well”,  says Santosh, sitting at the Secretary’s office at MUC, a post he has held for many years, now.

His all round performances were so consistent at the school level that his appa almost had to give up this motivational exercise. (At the State level around the same time, Venkat Challenged Kalli to score a 25 in a Ranji match!!!). "He used to hide behind the tree and watch me bowl in matches. At the end of the day, he would discuss extensively including on field placements”

Santosh improved his bowling skills under Audi Chetty’s coaching but he also remembers that great coach for initiating him into the mental aspects “Every time I felt low, he would come to me and inspire me with his motivational talk. It was he who asked me not to lose heart and asked me to keep working hard.”
Big Year in Schools Cricket
1973 was a big year for the then 15 year old Santosh as he shot into prominence in the schools tournaments with extraordinary performances for the City and State Schools. Against Karnataka, it was his two wickets in an over including that of Roger Binny that triggered a collapse and handed TN a comeback win to take them into the Ghulam Ahmed Trophy final.

Street Fighter
Former Andhra Ranji Cricketer and a St Bedes student in the early 1970s, GA Pratap Kumar played against Santosh in the inter schools tourney and alongside him  for City and State Schools.  Much later, the two locked heads in a fierce rivalry with SBI's GAP taking on IOB's Santosh in the 1980s. He recalls the strong competition among four spinners in early 1970s "AP Rajasekar, Gautham, Santosh and I competed for spots in the schools team. Santosh was very hard working. He was a born street fighter and would not give up easily. He picked up a lot of wickets at the schools level and scored big runs. It was unfortunate that he did not go on to play much for TN."

Under Bharath Reddy, Alongside S Vasudevan
He continued his hugely successful run into the Pachaiappas College where he played under Bharath Reddy and bowled alongside S Vasudevan. Strong performances for the college earned him a place in the University side. Reddy was the real motivating source in those early days “He was the best captain I played under. He was an inspiration from behind the stumps and would lift your spirits even you were completely down”. 

In the TNCA league, he started off with UFCC T. Nagar and then moved on to TVS MSC in the 2nd division. During his college days, he scored a century before lunch for TVS MSC showcasing his batting prowess. The secretary of the club, Devraj (SBI), back him to the hilt and supported him financially paying his college fees. 

Stars for Junior State
In Junior State cricket, his 6 for 43 helped bundle out a strong Hyderabad batting line that included to be state cricketers Shahid Akbar and Khalid Abdul Quayyum.

Into his late teens, he joined ICF as a clerk based on his performance for the University. In his very first year at ICF, he made his Ranji debut for the Railways and was hopeful of playing for Central Zone to further his cricketing interests. 
A Big Decision - From Railways to a Bank
In the summer of 1979, his appa directed him to take up a bank job. ICF was not necessarily seen as a plump post in those days especially when compared to one at a leading bank.

Ranji cricketer from the 1970s V Krishnaswamy ( was building a strong team at IOB. Santosh recalls that big decision in his life “My appa was very committed to TN. Chepauk, TNCA and TN meant everything to him. He wanted me to play Ranji for TN even though I had settled down at Railways and a good future beckoned. I followed his direction and quit ICF in 1979.”

He grew up watching legendary spinners Venkat and VV Kumar ( bowl tirelessly at the BS Nets. His most memorable experience as a bowler at the BS Nets was bowling to TE Srinivasan, who consistently challenged the youngster to take his wicket. While they were heroes to him, he himself was a hero at the Hindu Sec School and was treated like one by his Physical Director LC Rangan.

For South Zone against Australia -1979
Like any other teenager, he dreamt of playing for the country. His rather surprise inclusion in the South Zone squad against Kim Hughes’ Aussies came on the back of a couple of big performances in the Buchi Babu tournament. He recalls picking up 24wickets in two Buchi Babu matches and 22 wickets in the first four matches in the 1st division league and was in prime form. His early Ranji debut as a teenager too gave him confidence and he was looking forward to playing against the Aussies. The selection had lifted his cricketing spirits, and the hopes of climbing the cricketing ladder shot up.  Off Spinners Prasanna and Venkataraghavan had already played for well over a decade for India and were at the end of their careers and this was to open the doors for a young offie in the Indian team. 

His appa told him that a strong performance against Australia would get him into national prominence but alas his dream was dealt a severe blow on the morning of the match. He recalls that morning “I was all excited to be playing that match and was looking forward to the challenge but as luck would have it Shivlal was chosen in the XI on the morning of the match and soon made his debut for India. Even captain Kirmani was disappointed at me being left out be he could not go against PR Man Singh’s words.”

The move to IOB gave him financial security and a long almost four decades career at the Madras headquartered bank where he ended up as the highest ever wicket taker. But his hopes of moving up in cricket were crushed. While he may have been a regular feature for the Railways in the Ranji Trophy, it was lot more challenging for him in TN with Venkataraghavan ( still cherishing the dream of a India come back after being left out following a disastrous run in the World Cup and the England tour in mid 1979. S Vasudevan ( had established himself as a left arm spinner and with the dramatic emergence of Vidya Mandir school boy leggie L Sivaramakrishnan (LS), Santosh was relegated to the sidelines. He was in and out of the squad playing less than 10 Ranji matches for TN. 

A Good first season
When he did get his chance, he picked four wickets in his Ranji Debut for TN against Kerala in 80-81, the season when he played 5 Ranji matches for TN. Santosh remembers the conversation he had with Venkat in Cannanore at the end of the Ranji match after his wicket taking spell on TN debut “Venkat told me that he still harboured ambitions of playing again for India and that the only way he could do it was to play and perform in the Ranji Trophy. This meant that I was unlikely to be a regular feature for TN and even if I was would not get enough overs to prove my credentials.”

“Till the Junior State level, I took wickets in good numbers in every phase starting city schools. And yet when it came to the Ranji, I was sidelined. I was always under trial and every match was a severe test to hold my place. I should have played lot more matches for TN and don’t think I was given a fair chance by TN” says Santosh looking back at those frustrating years for TN.

That same season, in January 1981, he picked up seven wickets in a Gopalan trophy match in Salem against a strong Lankan side and he believed that he would get several more chances but those opportunities remained elusive and the next season proved to be his last.

His Pachaiappas College and later Ranji team mate S Vasudevan remembers the big partnership the two had in a losing cause in the Ranji semi finals against Bombay in 1981 “We played together right from the state schools up to Ranji Trophy. He was a very good off spinner and also batted decently. He took a lot of wickets during school and college days.” 

All Round show against Nirlons
Interestingly in one of his best innings, he put on close to a century partnership for the last wicket with R Madhavan ( for the TNCA Prez XI against a Nirlons attack comprising Sandhu and Shastri in the Buchi Babu tournament this after having taking five wickets against a batting lineup that included Gavaskar and Sandeep Patil (Madhavan scored a century that shot him into prominence at the National level)

Can't play two off spinners!!!
Off spinner Chandrasekaran (, who took over 100 wickets in two league seasons in the early 1960s, played only one Ranji match for TN. Since then till the emergence of Santosh, no off spinner had been able to make his way into the TN squad. Leg Spinner S Madhavan (RBI Madhavan) returned from Central Zone duties to join RBI in 1982 and never played for TN, with LS preferred to him through the first half of the 1980s. He is sorry for the lack of opportunities for Santosh in the 1980s "He was a very good off spinner. When the selectors wished, there have been enough cases of two left arm spinners or two off spinners playing in the XI in cricket. It just so happened that they did not fit him into the XI."

Kerala’s Balachander invited Santosh to move to that state so he could play Ranji cricket there but much like Chandrasekaran two decades earlier, Santosh refused. 
Bharath Reddy (, who Santosh rates as the best captain he played under has the final word “The fact that Santosh played Ranji trophy for TN as an off spinner when Venkat was still around was by itself a significant achievement for him.”

Outstanding performer for IOB
IOB had not been a cricketing team to reckon with till the first half of the 1970s. It was V Krishnaswamy who drove a cricketing wave at the Bank. Santosh remembers Kicha even sponsoring food for the entire team in the league matches “Kicha was inspirational and the best that I had seen in cricket. He brought the team together and much after his Ranji retirement would stay till end of a league match motivating us to give our best. It was under him that NP Madhavan, Vasan and I, among many others, blossomed at IOB. It was through his efforts, from the background, that the bank emerged as a strong team in the 80s and 90s. ”
Santosh also acknowledges the brilliant close in cordon built by Kicha. "I owed a lot of my wickets in that early phase to IOB’s fielding with Kicha and Venkatachalam and later Junior Ramesh in the close cordon holding sharp chances."

Santosh says that though he was frustrated at not getting enough chances for TN, Krishnaswamy motivated him and kept him going through the first half of the 1980s “He believed in my abilities and motivated me right till the time he was in India (Kicha moved to Korea in the 2nd half of the 80s) and gave me a lot of hope. He firmly believed that I could make a comeback in Ranji.”
Shrewd Off Spinner
IOB's opener from the 70s and 80s M Sundar watched Santosh very closely. He says that Santosh was one of the finest & shrewd off spinners he had come across during his playing days, particularly on matting wickets  “He was very nippy off the wicket & it was always testing time for the slip fielders. He captained IOB very successfully and we won many trophies under him.” 
His Appa’s experience in preparing pitches rubbed off on MSK. Sundar says that Santosh was a very good reader of wickets, a talent very few cricketers possessed and could correctly predict how the wicket would behave.

Another IOB team mate from the late 70s NP Madhavan ( says that as an offie Santosh was very nippy at his peak. However, he could not be restrained  and would blow up.  

A Powerful 2nd innings in Cricket
He went on to become a manager at IOB. His two daughters have followed in the father’s footsteps and currently hold good positions at IOB and SBI. Interestingly, his son, who could not make it big as a player, has just picked up the video analyst role with the Indian team for the current series against SA and will also be travelling to England for the one off test. He is also the video analyst with the KSCA.

In his second innings in cricket Santosh Kumar has managed to get a powerful role and for the last three years has been the TN representative on the ICA. 

At the meetings at the TNCA in recent years, he has made his presence felt  raising issues that most others have chosen to remain silent about. The meetings that in the past had lasted under 15 minutes have now gone on for two hours with Santosh seeking closure on issues he has raised.  In a letter to the TNCA written last week, a copy of which is available with this writer, Santosh, has also pitched for an amount for the Ranji winning team of 1988. In that letter, he has also asked for monetary benefits to former Ranji players who had played less than 25matches.

He is now yearning for more, and eyeing a top post at the TNCA this year in the upcoming elections. Unlike in his playing days, he is confident of securing the post – a true transformation as a personality over the last four decades!!.  He has also placed demands for the stands in the newly reconstructed stadium to be named after former legends including umpires. He says that he will soon get a significant hike for umpires, scorers and video analysts at the TNCA. 
             Seen with likely TNCA Prez Ashok Sigamani

Santosh Kumar, with whom this writer has officiated as an umpire in many TNCA matches, was a nippy off spinner in his prime and had risen to the State level on the back of strong performances starting with city and state schools and later at the Pachaiappas College and in Buchi Babu Tournament. However, with Venkataraghavan still playing for the State, Santosh could not break his way through on a consistent basis for TN in the early 1980s and faded away without making much of a mark, though he performed extraordinarily for well over a decade for IOB in the first division league and in limited overs tournaments. 

Now, close to four decades later, the unrestrained anger that NP Madhavan spoke about of Santosh from the late 70s and early 80s is seen in its full form. At the MUC, soon after his arrival at the Secretary's desk, everyone in the office are on their toes. He picks up every pending item and pins them down. With a drainage issue that had gone out of hand at the club with the demand going up to close to a Lakh, his solution is simple. He calls the Chairman of Sewerage Board and questions the process. Within hours, the team land up to close the issue.

On the cricketing front in TN, his process is no different. He is determined to fight for players' cause and is taking it up with the officials. Relentless in his pursuit to achieve what he wants and clear with the way he will get it, he is aggressively going after the top spot in the TNCA and says in his typically challenging way to question him if he does not secure the dues for the players and the officials once he is in the hot seat!!! 

This section will track the developments.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Devadhanam Ranganatha Temple Sridhar Bhattar

With the sincere service of Sridhar Bhattar who has dedicated himself to this temple, devotees have been visiting in good numbers in recent years to have darshan of the 18 Feet Ranganathaswamy 
Encroachments have meant that the hereditary trustee has had to fight tooth and nail to secure the lands back
Hailing from Edur Village in Gummidipoondi, Sridhar Bhattar joined the privately managed Ranganatha temple in Devadhanam just under two decades ago. He had learned the agamas from vidwan Santhanam Bhattar at Pattanam Koil (Parrys). He had participated in the Samprokshanam at the Ranganatha temple and soon after took solo charge as the archaka. 

When this section wrote a story on the temple a dozen years ago, there were no proper roads leading to the temple both from Ponneri and Minjur. Devotees visited in small numbers. Against this backdrop, Sridhar Bhattar started off with one kaala pooja for which he was presented an annual Sambhavanai of 32 Mootai paddy. 

Over the next decade, his sincere service attracted devotees to the temple. When he joined the temple, he had decided that he would not go out to any other temple to perform service or be involved in any other vaideeha activity. 

Saligrama stone 18 feet Ranganatha in Bhoga Sayanam
At this temple, the 18feet long Ranganathaswamy is seen sleeping in a Bhoga Sayanam posture on the serpent bed with 3 folds formed by the 5 headed Adisesha with the right hand of the Lord placed beneath his head and the left hand stretched forward. The moolavar deity is made out of Saligrama stones. Even the jewels of the sleeping lord are of Saligrama stone. At the feet of Lord Ranganatha are Sri devi and Bhoo devi. Anjaneya is seen with folded palms along with Maha Rishi Thumburu inside the sanctum.

Snake Hill behind the Sanctum
On the Western side of the temple behind the sanctum is a snake hill. The belief is that this snake protects the temple and the devotees who visit here.

Prarthana Sthalam
A visit to the temple is said to provide immediate job opportunities, help in marriages and progeny.

Sincere Service lures devotees
Sridhar Bhattar's sincere service led to devotees visiting the temple in good numbers especially for the Thiru Kalyanam on Panguni Uthiram and Bhogi, Rama Navami, Aadi Pooram and Vaikunta Ekadasi. In recent times, they have also been thronging the temple on Pournami with an expansive Thaligai being organised on that day. He also began performing two Kaala Pooja at the temple. In the decade gone by, with growing popularity of the temple, with devotees wanting to having darshan of the huge Ranganatha in Sayana Kolam, proper roads were built making access to the temple lot better compared to the past.
AR Gopi, Hereditary Trustee

Encroachment Challenges
However the temple has had to face some challenges in the recent past. The hereditary trustee of the temple, A.R. Gopinath, has been managing the temple for the last several decades having followed in the footsteps of his forefathers who were Zamins of Anuppampattu . Unsurprisingly for a remote temple, 'political' encroachments have come in the way of the growing popularity of the temple. Over three acres of land belonging to the temple has been illegally occupied with politicians campaigning against the trustee. Gopinath has been fighting a legal battle to secure the land back. “I have produced the documents in courts based on the Old Survey  Register (OSR) dating back to the middle of the 19th Century and have secured an eviction order.”

He has also put a big notice around the temple stating the historical ownership rights relating to the temple.
Despite its remote location, there has been a surge in number of devotees visiting the temple from far and wide. Sridhar Bhattar, who does not have children, has committed his lifetime to this temple, while the hereditary trustee has said that he would fight tooth and nail to secure the lands belonging to the temple.

Devadhanam is located 30kms North of Madras, 4kms from Minjur and about 7kms from Ponneri  The temple is open from 7am-11am and 430pm-7pm. Contact Sridhar Bhattar @ 97868 66895

How to reach the temple
Take a Suburban train from Chennai Central/ Beach and get down at Minjur (27kms- 45minutes) – Gummudipoondi section. From Minjur, take an to reach the temple in about 15minutes.  Buses ply between Broadway (Parrys Corner) and Minjur. Metro is available till Wimco Nagar from where there are regular buses to Minjur.

When here, also visit Varadaraja Perumal temple in Minjur