Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Peter Fernandez ICA Financial Assistance

Former TN Ranji Cricketer Peter Fernandez gets timely financial aid from the ICA   -Financial Stress due to closure of Spin Foundation in 2016

Peter is hopeful of the TNCA offering him a remunerative coaching assignment after the lockdown

40 years after he made his Ranji Trophy debut, former top order batsman Peter Fernandes is seeing turbulent times, financially. He was one of the first to be roped in by SVPB (Sri Venkateswara Paper Boards) Udumalpet, whose founder Soundararajan was just beginning to promote cricket in a big way in the districts and was keen to build a strong team (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/06/svpb-udumalpet-soundararajan.html). He joined SVPB in 1976 and stayed there for almost 25 years. He took to batting only when he was in PUC but very soon played for the Universities and was part of the team that won the Rohinton Baria Cup under Bharath Reddy (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2019/11/bharath-reddy-players-man.html)

It was at the Forest College ground in Coimbatore that I first saw him bat. Against local strongholds LMW that consisted of former state fast bowler B Kalyanasundaram (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2011/08/kalli-b-kalyanasundaram.html) and Ramakrishna Steel, Peter unleashed himself. He really did not think that he would play for the state but his scores at the top of the order meant that he was inducted into the TN Ranji squad in 1980-81. He played 3 matches for Tamil Nadu that season and was never considered again. However, he captained SVPB with distinction and led them to many a victory in the Coimbatore league in the early 1980s. 

Almost three decades later, this writer had the privilege of captaining of Peter Fernandez in a TNCA league match and found that his attitude towards cricket hadn't changed one bit. He was still the quiet cricketer who rarely spoke on the field!!!
Winning SVPB Team at Forest College

Forging a strong partnership with NP Madhavan

TN State teammate of the time NP Madhavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/05/np-madhavan.html) joined him a year or so later and the two of them forged many memorable partnerships that decade as SVPB claimed one trophy after another replacing LMW and Ramakrishna Steel as the top cricket team in Coimbatore. Both of them played in the Coimbatore first division league alongside S Sukumar, M Subramaniam (Idly Subba) and an upcoming UR Radhakrishanan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/03/ur-radhakrishnan.html), among others, and was an integral part of SVPB's golden decade in cricket. During the two and half of decades of his stint at SVPB, he had lucrative job offers coming his way from Madras but like Madhavan, he refused those, for Soundararajan always took good care of the cricketers.

Much like Madhavan, Peter too was always a silent man and went about his cricket quietly. A differentiating feature of the man in the cricketing circles in Coimbatore was that conversations were always in English when Peter was around, quite unique to cricket in the city!!!

In the 1990s, Peter was also a Ranji selector for three years under the chairmanship of VV Kumar. He has also been an U17 and U22 selector.  However, by the end of the 1990s, with the severe slowdown that hit the Indian industry in 1997-98, SVPB landed up in financial trouble. His cricket teammates for two decades NP Madhavan and Sukumar moved to SVPB’s sister concern GVG Paper Mills and they continue to work there two decades later. 

Robin gets him into Spin Foundation

It was at this time that Peter Fernandez spoke to Robin Singh who had played for SVPB in the Coimbatore league in the mid 1980s after coming from the West Indies. Robin offered him a coaching role at the MAC Spin Foundation. Peter had wanted to spend 15 days in Udumalpet and the rest of the month at the spin foundation but Robin was keen that Peter join full time. He left his young family behind in Udumalpet and came to Madras to take the coaching role at the spin foundation and coached there for 15 years till January 2016 when the foundation shutdown. Unlike the MRF Pace Foundation(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2013/08/ta-sekar-architect-behind-worlds-best.html), the MAC Spin Foundation did not take off in a big way.

PETER FERNANDEZ
During the 15 year period, he came into close contact with legendary spinner EAS Prasanna, Aussie off spinner from the 1970s Ashley Mallet, Lankan legend Muralidharan and Shane Warne’s coach Terry Jenner that turned out to be an enriching experience. He also graduated to an BCCI Level 3 coach during the period. At the spin foundation, he was also involved in the preparation of the pitch and later on in managing the accounts. 

His son Rohan Fernandez is a Level 1 coach and was under Robin Singh at the academy in Dubai for a while but serious health issues laid him low and he had to return home. 

Spin Foundation shuts down - Serious Financial Challenges
Since January 2016, when the Spin Foundation shut down, Peter Fernandez has had a tough time financially with no cricketing work of any kind. Once in a while he has been involved in coaching/helping young kids in cricket but financially he has found it challenging with the health issues of his son adding to his worries. He had hoped for the spin foundation to re-open but internal family fights among the owners led to a permanent closure.

ICA's support to needy cricketers 
This month's initiative by the Indian Cricketers Association (ICA) to support financially challenged first class cricketers has come as a God sent gift to Peter Fernandez. The ICA which was formed end of last year is looking to promote the welfare and interests of its members consisting of former cricketers. This month, the ICA has pooled in financial resources from cricketers across the country to help former Ranji cricketers in need of financial help in the retired years of their lives. 

ICA is expected to handover Rs.80000 to Peter Fernandez this week. Peter says that this financial support will be of great help to him at this stage of his life. He says that he has also spoken to the TNCA to explore some sort of engagement in terms of a coaching role once the lock down is lifted and is hopeful that being a level 3 coach and with the experience he has had at the Spin Foundation he will be able to get an assignment this year with the TNCA that will help him tide over the financial challenges. 

For the moment, the funding from the ICA has been timely for this 'silent' TN Ranji Cricketer from the 1980s.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Promodh Sharma Cricketer turned Entrepreneur

Quit cricket at 20, Managed close to a 100 million dollar global business firm by his 40s

Cricket Politics, Discrimination, 'Forgotten' episodes led him to quit cricket early but the hard lessons from the cricketing arena drove him to build a global business that is recognised as one of the best in apparel sourcing in the world

Has remained simple, effervescent and chatty, no fanciful extravaganza for a man who has built a business empire - Murali Kartik, former schoolmate and India cricketer

First division cricketer from the early 1990s, Promodh Sharma is truly one of a kind person. Like most teenagers of the time, he too was one with high hopes of making it big when he made his entry into cricket just before he turned 15 and dreamt every day of donning the India cap – His mother always told him to aim for the sky ‘Even if he missed it, he would land on the treetop’!! Promodh was practical, though. While he thought he had a chance to progress to the state level, he was acutely aware of the challenges on hand. PSBB was known to be one of the stronger school teams in the city in the late 1980s. However, Promodh belonged to a branch – PSBB KK Nagar- that was not seen as strong in cricket and for most part looked down by the more ‘popular’ players from PSBB Nungambakkam. This really meant that he was never going to have the same chances as those coming out of schools like Santhome, St Bede’s or Don Bosco which had ‘stronger lobbies’. It was this phase in his life that taught Promodh to swim against the tide, for he was always fighting with his back to the wall. 

Given this scenario that existed then in the 1980s, he promised to himself to quit serious cricket if he did not graduate to a certain level by the time he was completing his college. And Promodh did what no other budding cricketer of his time managed to do. While most of his compatriots went through the cricketing grind till they were 25 before they took a career call, Promodh quit serious cricket at 20 that had been his life and breath for over 5 years and set out to build a corporate career. In the next two decades, almost unnoticed, this middle class boy from T. Nagar built a global multi milion dollar apparel sourcing firm. Here’s the story. 

The Summer of 1987- YMCA TSR Club 
The first time I met Promodh Sharma was in the summer of 1987. He resided in the Alacrity apartments opposite the Somasundaram ground in T. Nagar. We cycled every morning that summer to the YMCA TSR club in Nandanam. Even as a teenager, I sensed the toughness in him. He would not bend down to anyone. He would give it back to those who tried to pull him down. Very few could tie him down on or off the field. He was always vocal. Challenging situations brought out the best in him. 

I saw the first glimpses of his cricketing prowess when we played together in a match for YMCA TSR against Gandhi Nagar Starlets team that included among others Sanjay Rajan, whose father (the late Rajan Bala) coached Promodh at school and whom he holds in high esteem even today. In the 30over a side match that day at the stadium ground in YMCA, Promodh scored a big match winning century. He went on to play crucial knocks over the next 5 years. 
Madras High Court Advocate TS Ramaswamy who ran the YMCA (TSR) club, a cricket academy that went on to produce many big cricketers including S Sriram, R Ashwin and S Badrinath, was impressed with his gutsy approach after watching Promodh scored another ton. It was after that century that TSR suggested his name to Swaraj Cricket Club and thus Promodh got into the TNCA league in 1987-88 when he was in Class X. In the first match he played for Swaraj, he got the MOM award with a match winning knock of 40. He played many a crucial knock that year and over the next few years took steady steps towards reaching the first division league in Madras.

His foundation lessons as a batsman came from MK Iqbal of Vadapalani Sports Club (his son- a left handed batsman- later played with us for YMCA TSR) who also was all about being principled and ethical. Iqbal imbibed great values in Promodh that stood the test of time and helped him face big challenges in life, later on. 

The Best Years of his cricket - Late 1980s
The best years of his cricket also coincided with his joining the YMCA TSR Club. It was this phase in his cricketing life where he learnt a lot in terms of mental strength and application, qualities that helped him enormously during the testing times in business life later on. TSR always liked the fighting spirit in Promodh and would continuously needle those instincts that was to bring out the best in him. While TSR did not know much of the nuances of the game, he knew a way to inspire and motivate young cricketers to perform, says Promodh who continues to draw lessons from those days at the TSR club in managing the challenges in his entrepreneurial life. It was TSR's motivational ways to get the best out of his players that helped YMCA TSR beat a much more fancied Brijesh Patel academy to win the tournament in Bangalore.

It was in the later half of the 1980s that Promodh played some of his best cricket at all levels. 

The underdogs PSBB KK Nagar won the APSC championship, an inter CBSE schools tournament beating their very strong Nungambakkam counterparts primarily on the back of Promodh's match winning knocks. 
YMCA TSR 1989
In the All India cricket tournament organised by Brijesh Patel in Bangalore, Promodh made crucial contributions once forging a big partnership with his dear coach's son (Nayaz- Iqbal's son- seen in the photo above) batting with a broken finger against a strong Karnataka side that included players  such as Fazal Khaleel, Rajesh Kamath, Yere Goud, Deepu and Sujit Somasundar, who soon went on to play for the state and on another occasion batting with (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/03/gokulakrishnan-j.html) J Gokulakrishnan (also seen in the photo above). Promodh also was a kind and continues to be one who does not stay quiet when bullied. 

When the Bangalore players repeatedly bullied him he gave it back to Brijesh Patel Cricket Clinic’s wicket keeper (aka Kiran More in 1992 World Cup), Promodh held up the game and remarked “You speak better than you keep” that shut the keeper up for the rest of the tournament. 

Introduction to Cricket Politics 
By then though, Promodh had already encountered the first mega drama of cricket politics that was to leave a bitter taste in him all his life. He was on the verge of selection in the city schools team. In the original squad that was selected, he was in the reserves i.e just outside the squad of 15 players. That’s when the renowned cricket writer of the time Rajan Bala, who was also the coach at PSBB, broke a story on the age scandal in TN cricket. And thus cricketers in the original squad had to be pulled out. 
Rajan Bala ( wiki)
                                     
The sequence of events that followed shocked Promodh no end and is vividly in memory to this day “A few of us from PSBB were in the reserves in the original squad. But when the new squad was announced, the ‘original reserves’ continued to be in the reserves of the new team as well. Clearly, we paid a price for our coach Rajan Bala pulling the strings on the TNCA.” 

As he looks back at those days from the mid 1980s, one of the happy memories was from being coached by Rajan Bala which he recalls as his greatest experience “He did wonders for your spirit and was a person who allowed us the opportunity of playing 2 day games even as youngsters. His presence had a big impact on my cricket and my outlook to life. ” 

His school coach ‘forgot’ his name!!!
That was only the beginning. A year or so later, Promodh had once again got into the TNCA city schools reserves but much to his shock he was dropped from his own school team as his coach, a former Bank Opener and who now runs one of the biggest academies in the city, told Promodh that he ‘forgot’ his name. A boy who was in the reserves of the city schools team was dropped from his own school team (we will keep the specifics of that for a later story!!!). As he did then and in many later episodes in his life, Promodh answered with his bat. In the next two years, he was the highest run getter in the tournament. Over 30 years after the episode, Promodh remembers getting the wicket of South Zone u15 cricketer LU Arun (touted as one of the big performing cricketers of the time) who almost scored a ton that day  in the final of the APSC tournament with his slinging action and following that up with a match winning knock with the bat. 
My association with him continued in the TNCA league as we play third division cricket together for Rakesh Kapoor's team (Ashish Kapoor's father) - MUC. On difficult bouncy pitches playe in MUC's home ground near Parrys, he scored runs in tough situations through the 1989-90 season.

By the time he was in college, he had moved up the ladder to play for Kunal Engineering (Rising Stars) in the first division league. However, in a rough season for him, his experience turned out to be bitter. Here too he bore the brunt of ‘discrimination’. It was a tough call for a teenager like him in those days. His father had been ill and in bed for a long period. For each of the practice sessions, he made a long trip from his college, MCC, in Tambaram to the Kunal nets in Ambattur. 

While the knocks against IOB stood out for him that he belonged to first division, it was the match against another top bank side that prompted his decision to put an en to his cricket career. The aged coach, who was a renowned and respected figure, sent him late in the order on most occasions that season but when the opposition had fiery fast bowlers and on green tops the coach sent him top of the order. The year with Kunal shook his confidence in fair play and he was disgruntled with the way the game was played here and the amount of politics that surrounded the game. He knew he was not as talented as many others but always had the self belief and saw himself as a very determined and fighting cricketer. It was after the match against SBI (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/04/iob-final-team-in-tnca-league-goes-down.html) that he decided to call it quits, a decision that came soon after his father passed away. 

Death knell for his cricket career 
He was sitting quietly in the dressing room thinking that he would go as usual as No. 7 but when 2 wickets fell for 2 runs against the fiery I Rajkumar, his coach asked him to pad up and rush in immediately. He battled long and hard that innings and came back unscathed but after the treatment meted out to him, he found that while he had the will power to fight a battle on the field, he did not have it in him to battle it out with the coach and the system day in day out. While he was saddened to quit cricket without fulfilling the little potential he had, he knew that without support it was always going to be an uphill battle. From a young age, he was brought up to walk proud and never be subservient to anyone and in those days perhaps it was not a character which was appreciated in the cricketing circles. 

Promodh has all his life been a fun loving person. At most times, he would not hesitate to go to the opposition to shake their hands after a milestone. Off the field, he was chums with most in the opposition. Unfortunately, for a cheerful personality as Promodh, the big take away from his final years in cricket was the amount of politics and favoritism that he encountered at every level of the game. That for him took away a lot of the fun from the game. 

Gives up his cricketing passion - enters the Corporate World at 20 
Soon after graduation, he joined Celebrity Fashions (then the parent company of India Terrain) at 20 at a salary of just Rs. 1800 and with a Lamberetta to ride around the city on work!!! Top first division cricketers his age were paid around Rs. 5000 by the big private clubs. While his father had passed away while he was still a teenager, his mother, a staffer at Alacrity Housing had always been a pillar of strength for Promodh throughout his childhood and his years as a budding cricketer. While the money in his first job was not big, he was lucky to be mentored by V Rajagopal who groomed him to be a leader. At work, he found someone that he had not in previous five years in cricket. He was not yet 25 when he had already begun travelling around the world marketing their products. Just as he had done in cricket over the previous 5 years or so, he slogged at work, an effort that did not go unnoticed. He had moved up to become the head of marketing and partnerships. 

Turns Enterpreneur at 30 
5 years of cricket and almost a decade of having 15 hour days at work including extensive global travel took a toll on him. And he decided to take a break. Just at the time he was turning 30, he quit his job at Celebrity Fashions and went on a holiday to Sri Lanka with his wife Nirupama. It was during the vacation in Lanka and after his chats with his wife, a psychiatrist by profession, that he realized his strengths in marketing and overseas client relationships. It was his cousin Sheila who pushed him into a start up. It was another big call to turn enterpreneur. With the blessings of his mentor Rajagopal, he launched Fifth Avenue, an apparel sourcing firm with an initial capital of Rs. 2Lakhs. 

He understood the overseas customers’ mindset and believed he could bridge the gap between global clients and Indian factories. He was confident that he would be able to create value for the global customers and good business for the Indian manufacturers and he built a business around this model. He delighted his first customer, a German firm ‘Trampolin’ who had previously had a bad experience with India and its manufacturers. He started small but in the very first year he provided such a delightful experience that Trampolin soon became a large client, at a time when the market itself was not great. 

Wife and the ‘Diesel’ Brand 
Soon he bagged a large deal to manage Diesel’s entire sourcing from India, an engagement that also saw the involvement of his wife Nirupama. In a period of just three years, Diesel’s sourcing from India went up from 1 million to 23 million. 
There was no looking back since. Like in cricket, Promodh faced many bouncers in business too but he ducked under or hooked it hard as he had during his hey days on the playing field. Soon, the biggest of global brands such as Benetton, Sixty and Calvin Klein Europe came on board. His sourcing firm’s products that included sports brands were found on the shelves of the most premium stores across the US, Europe and Asia. In the decade following the launch, Promodh had truly gone global. With the customers stationed overseas, he moved his headquarters to Hongkong and he now sits atop a posh two storied building where he meets top CEOs from the apparel sector to discuss their sourcing requirements from India, China and the Far East. 

The Lockdown and the opportunity for India 
Having been locked down in his apartments in Hongkong for the last two months, Promodh with his now three decades on the ground global experience both with the biggest of global apparel brands and the Top Indian manufacturers sees the issue of the Corona virus as having serious global ramifications. Promodh has worked with the who’s who of the apparel manufacturers in India and sees this as a great opportunity for them “China has been the factory of the world and there are few businesses which do not get material from China either fully manufactured or as specialised parts. Countries and Business houses which were China centric are now forced to look at risk mitigation and viable alternatives in the medium and long term. The world can be made to see India as a serious alternative."

If entrepreneurs, businesses and the Government work together and move forward decisively, he says India has a giant opportunity which can truly spur our growth. Having worked closely with the Indian market for close to three decades, Promodh says that India has the right Demographic, language advantage and the creativity, and that ‘with the right attitude we can put ourselves in an enviable position.’ 

Former India cricketer Murali Kartik has known Promodh from his school days and has been in touch with him over the last three decades. 
He is delighted that Promodh has not changed a wee bit as a person despite all his global success in business "He has built a huge business empire with customers in multiple geographies, worldwide. But when you interact with him, you do not get a feel of any change in him from the time you saw him in his teens. He is effervescent, simple and chatty. He invites you home and chats like the friend he was when he was at school. For a man with such success in business globally, there is nothing flashy about him. There is no fanciful extravaganza. Even in his attire, there is nothing indicative of his business success. You actually see him in chappal and a simple T. Shirt. You simply cannot make out that he is a multimillionaire businessman who talks everyday with global CEOs. It is rare to find such people who remain humble, after achieving global success. But Promodh is one exception."

Runs a lower division league team
Since quitting serious cricket in the early 1990s, Promodh made a re-entry albeit for fun after he became an entrepreneur managing a TNCA lower division league team in Madras just as a weekend relaxation and to stay in touch with a sport that he loved so much. In a match that I umpired at the St. Bedes ground, one where Promodh had once struck a match winning half century way back in the 1980s to take his school into the final, I found that he had lost none of his fiery touch on the pitch. During those two years of running the league team, he offered cricket opportunities to budding teenagers from remote towns in Tamil Nadu and played the role of a mentor. Promodh now continues his association in Hongkong where he is involved with the Discovery Bay Cricket Club working with youngsters and building a team. 

Cricket to almost a 100 million dollar business 
At 20, most cricketers his age took the call to stretch their cricket career by a few years in their effort to don the State colours, but for many that proved elusive. A few managed to play Ranji, but most fell by the way side in cricket having spent the 5 additional years that delayed their entry into the corporate world. As I looked back at my cycling years with him, Promodh Sharma has always been someone who wanted to be the best in what he did. In cricket, which he was very passionate about from childhood, he definitely did not want to be an also ran. And quit cricket at 20 a bold call for someone who had lived and breathed cricket through his previous five years to move into the corporate arena just as he came out of his teens. 

Given what he had experienced on and off the field over the five years of his short career, he has always held the decision to give up cricket as the most sensible decision of his life even though it was heart breaking at that time. He also saw it that many deserving cricketers simply did not recover from their inability to match their own expectations and that of their family. The lack of mental strength meant that they ended giving up not just cricket but also took the cricketing defeat to heart and lost out on life. 
Promodh Sharma has clearly proved to be an exception as he drove the hard lessons he learnt in 5 + years of cricket something that no University or MBA would have taught and overcame the disappointments in cricket and turned around the 2nd phase of his life into a mega corporate success story. He has consistently over the last two decades used the cricketing lessons from his days with Rajan Bala, MK Iqbal and TS Ramaswamy and the fighting spirit that they all taught in his every day work life focusing just as hard in the corporate set up as he did in cricket. 

The result - he had built a multimillion dollar business with global operations by the he was in his 40s, one that has been recognized globally as a leading Sourcing Management Company in Apparel. He now anchors the Fifth Avenue Group as the Executive Chairman of the business he founded in 2000 that is now close to a 100 million dollars and one that ships over five million units out of the Indian and Chinese shores including from the apparel manufacturing hub in Tiruppur!! 

Personally, it is a delightful moment to write about one with whom I went along in our cycles across the cricketing grounds in the city, one with a never say die attitude to life and who has shown to the world that with dedication, commitment and self belief, it is possible to rise to the top despite having been pushed aside and sidelined in an early phase of one’s life.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Prahladh Devotional Drawings

Aged 10, Thiruvallikeni resident Hindu Sr. Sec School Student Prahladh spends his free time devotionally sketching Lords of Divya Desam and Paadal Petra Sthalams

In the last five years,  the only gift he has sought from parents has  chart papers and sketch pencils as his mind is forever visualizing a Lord of some temple that he had seen in the recent past

It is just past six pm on a Margazhi evening at the Parthasarathy temple in Thiruvallikeni. A 10 year old boy has just had darshan of the West facing Narasimha, praised as Thelliya Singar by Thiru Mangai Azhvaar. And much to the surprise of other devotees at the temple as well as the Bhattar at the Yoga Narasimha Sannidhi, the young boy began sketching the Lord on an A4 sheet of paper with a pencil in hand. He had had just one glance of the Lord that evening.

Even as the devotees looked on, the boy drew a beautiful sketch of Lord Narasimha in a matter of minutes. The big crowd and the noise around him was no distraction to him as his mind was focused on the Lord he had just captured a few minutes back. The pencil drawing really moved the long serving Bhattar who immediately invoked the blessings of Lord Narasimha and handed a prasadam to the boy who narrated the story to his parents later that evening.

A Pencil Sketch of Srirangam Ranganatha aged 5                       There are those in life who are blessed to be drawn towards the Lord right from the time they are born. In the case of Thiruvallikeni resident S Prahladh, this has been true metaphorically as well. He was just a 5 year old when he first came 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. When the parents came back to his room, they were stunned to see the hand drawn sketch of Ranganathaswamy. They simply could not believe that their son had such devotion in him. Over the last five years, the devotion towards God has grown manifold and he spends a majority of his free time each day drawing the Lord of the Day.  

Draws Nellaippar at the hotel room 
 A couple of years ago, when the family decided on a temple trip to Tirunelveli and around, Prahladh was devotionally moved after darshan of Lord Nelliappar and Gandhimathi Ambal. He came back to the hotel room and immediately began sketching them. Before the day had come to an end, he presented to his parents a sheet of paper that contained the drawing of Nellaiappar. 

From Parthasarathy to Chakkarathazhwar 
It amazes his parents that every temple they visit, he captures the Lord in his mind and immediately begins sketching the Lord from memory. His huge collection of sketches includes Parthasarathy Perumal of Thiruvallikeni, Kapaleeswarar of Mylapore, Durgai of Patteeswaram, Ranganathaswamy of Srirangam and Chakkarathazhwar of Thiru Mogur. Unlike most kids his age, Prahladh seeks nothing other than chart papers and sketch pencils from his parents for his mind is always visualizing a Lord of some temple that he had seen in the recent past. 

Melkote Narasimha captivates him
In December last, the family made a trip to Melkote. And when they went atop the hill for a darshan of Lord Narasimha, Prahladh refused to return. He simply could not take his eyes away from his favourite Lord Narasimha. And by the time he returned to Chennai, he had already sketched out Narasimha atop the Melkote hill leaving his mother in happy tears. On Narasimha alone, he has sketched in all his many different forms from many different. 

Lockdown- Paper and Pencils run out of stock 
While lockdown has proved to be a big challenge for the world at large, it has provided a rather unique and unheard of challenge to his parents. Locked inside the house for over a month, Prahladh began sketching Lords from different Divya Desams and Paadal Petra Sthalams each day of the lockdown. Soon he had run out of A4 papers, chart papers, pencils and sketches leaving the parents in a shocked state. The parents could not even meet his simple requirement of plain white papers and pencil as all the stationary stores remain closed.

When the lockdown 3.0 came into force this week and the stationary shop opened, the first thing his parents did was to buy chart papers, A4 sized plain papers and pencils for him that would satiate his drawing interests for at least a couple of months, leaving the 10 year old Class VI student of Hindu Sr. Sec School, Thiruvallikeni gleaming with joy. 
Shiva with Family

Cartoonist Keshav - The Inspiration
Prahladh says that his inspiration came after looking at the sketches of the popular cartoonist Keshav. He never misses an opportunity to take a close and in-depth look into the drawings of Keshav. He is hoping that one day in the near future, he will be able to meet the man who has been an inspiration to him over the last five years. 

Prahladh’s Godly drawings now run into several hundreds. His parents have even allocated a separate almirah to store his sketches. While the lockdown has meant that he cannot have darshan of Narasimha and Parthasarathy of Thiruvallikeni and Kapaleeswarar of Mylapore, he continues to sketch them from his memory of their Brahmotsavams from the years gone by. 

In addition to his interest in drawings of the Lord, Prahladh is also into Vedic Learning. He had learnt Rudram Chamakam and Sree, Bhoo, Purusha, Durga, Narayana Navagruha, Nakshathra and Neela sukthams from the late Nanilam Rajagopalan Ganapadigal. Currently, he is learning arunaprashna (Surya Namaskaram) from Sri Krishna Ganapadigal. 

At 10, Prahladh truly is a one of a kind Devotional Kid with his eyes and thoughts firmly set on the Lords of Thiruvallikeni and Mylapore.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Leg Byes Deliberate Padding Law Conundrum

Run Out on a Deliberate Padding raises contradictory opinions 
                                                                 From ICC Web Site
A difference of opinion has emerged between the ICC and the MCC on a particular law relating to the dis-allowance of runs for deliberate padding.

In a scenario, where the striker batsman, who has supposedly padded up deliberately, is run out at the non striker's end while attempting to complete the first run, the ICC ruling has directed for the 'dis-allowance' provisions to come into play and for the 'Not Out' batsman to return to his original crease and for the new batsman to take strike the next ball. 

MCC's Clarification
However, the MCC Laws of cricket, of which former Elite Panel Umpire S Ravi is a technical committee member (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/12/umpire-ravi-mcc-laws-sub-committee.html), has issued a clarification that because the run has not been completed, there is no question of dis-allowance and for the deliberate padding provision to be invoked. In such a scenario, the non striker who had crossed while attempting the first run will face the next ball.
This writer's view on this issue:

1. If a run out is given, then deliberate padding should not come into play as the law is quite clear in its wording that deliberate padding 'dead ball' decision and dis-allowance is to be invoked only in two scenarios:

a. when the batsmen have completed the first run

or 

b. When the ball has crossed the boundary.

Since neither the first run has been completed nor the ball has crossed the boundary, the deliberate padding dead ball provision cannot come into play. 

BCCI's direction to Umpires
BCCI is currently following the ICC provisions and hence for all matches played in India, the current scenario of striker being run out at the non striker's end will result in the umpire asking the not out batsman to come to his original position (non striker's end) and the new batsman will take strike the next ball.

Also, in this case as per the current ICC (and BCCI) direction, the umpire does not signal dead ball after the run out even though he is invoking provisions of deliberating padding dis-allowance. Even as per the current ICC ruling, the provision of umpire not signalling dead ball after the run out but at the same time invoking the deliberate padding provision is not consistent with the law.

What about the Dead Ball Signal? 
If the ICC's current decision is to indeed to invoke the dis-allowance provision  because of deliberate padding and the not out batsman is asked to return to the original end, then the same signal ( dead ball) that would have been made had they completed the first run and when the run out decision was not to have come into play should be invoked here as well .

While the above ICC provision is being debated, this writer is of the view that in this case, with the batsmen not having completed the first run or with the ball not having crossed the boundary, the ICC should issue a clarification to the umpires that the deliberate padding provisions will not come into play in this scenario and that there does not arise the question of dis-allowance (since a run was not completed, there is no question of disallowing an uncompleted run).

This section will wait and watch the developments on this issue.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

AVM Sampath

Through his six decades association with the film industry, the 'Sound Engineer' at AVM stood for Honesty and Dharmic Principles 
AVM name the New Recording Studio at Avichi College as 'Sampath Studio'
National awardee Audiographer AVM K Sampath was a workaholic all his life and was at home only the 2nd Sunday of every month. That was the big day of the month for his daughter Meera during her entire childhood. She would eagerly wait for the 2nd Sunday to arrive and spend the entire day chatting with him. He would share songs with her and ask for her feedback. For the rest of the month, he was all about work.  But despite his long absence from home, the always 'background man' had special love for his daughter Meera and always took good care of her from the background. So profound was his understanding that when sad scenes featured in movies, he ensured his office staff took her away from the movie hall to the snacks zone of the theatre only to bring her back as more happy scenes arrived. That love and care for her extended till the very end of his life and it was to her that he spoke the final sentences of his life.

School Days - His
Sampath had his school education in Trichy. Once when he attended a light music programme, the different kinds of music played out that evening interested him and he went up the stage to check out the way the sounds were created. Impressed with his curiousity, the producer of the show called him by his side and suggested that he should pursue music if that interested him.

After completion of Class X, he moved to Chennai and joined a license course in audiography in adyar. The principal at the college warned him of the difficulties of the course but Sampath was relentless in the pursuit of his passion. During those days, he would carry heavy music equipments as part of the training programme. Much later in his life, he would stand by the railway line to record the running of the trains and the sound of the engines, sometimes even the sound of two trains running in opposite direction such was his commitment to his trade.

He joined AVM in the mid 1950s when he was in his early 20s and had an association with them for over five decades. He recorded well over 5000 songs for AVM, was a Recipient of State awards, thrice and a National award for a Malayalam movie. He featured in Server Sundaram – the only time he was seen in a movie. After the completion of the day’s work, Nagesh would drop him in his car near the Mambalam Station railway gate. Very often, as Sampath got down from the car in dark of the night, huge crowd would surround him thinking he was Nagesh only for them to find that the legendary comedian had stumped them as he drove away quietly in his car.

Always Work came first
Meera recalls the good heartedness of her father in full measure at her wedding “Play back singer Mano was to perform at our reception. But it was the time when he received an opportunity to perform in the UAE. When appa came to know about this, he told Mano that work always came first and that for no reason he should turn down that opportunity. Mano had committed to playing at our reception and his name had even been printed on the invitation. But appa forced him to go and perform in Dubai. All through his life, his message to everyone was that one should be committed to one’s job. Even though I missed Mano’s performance, I was delighted at my father’s gesture.” 
Flying visit at the reception
Son in law and COO of Assurant India Srikanth Srinivasan remembers the day of his wedding reception in Madurai “We were just a few minutes away from the schedule time of the reception and Sampath Mama was nowhere to be seen. He was so passionately involved with the recording work for Director Bhagyaraj (who was one of his favourites), and his commitment to work was such that he landed at the hall just in time and headed back to Chennai early next morning.”
Sound Pillar of AVM
AVM Sampath’s only nephew Ravi Ramaswamy had a close association with him from his school days in the early 1970s. He says that Sampath mama was the ‘Sound Pillar’ of AVM. Even though he did not have fundamental knowledge of music, he showed extraordinary passion and commitment and straddled smoothly from the old world to modern digital equipments, an indication of his ability to adapt himself to changing technologies in the recording world. Ravi considers Sampath completing voice mixing of three films – Avatharam, Magalir Mattum and Paattu Paadava- in a single call sheet with Janaki amma as a memorable achievement.
He says that his uncle was extremely affectionate, very strict in his principles, never showed favoritism to anyone and was always wedded to his job responsibilities. Such was the trust reposed on him by the AVM family that they rarely interfered in his work and gave him complete freedom. In recognition of his work, the AVM family handed the AVM RR theatre to him (and JJ Manickam) on a revenue sharing model for him to run it independently.

Welfare of the workers till the very end
His final service to the workers which even the family was not aware till it was brought to their notice during his final moments came in April during the lockdown “He was worried about his colleagues during the period of the lockdown. During the last month of his life, he ensured support to 315 members. Till the very end, his heart went out to his colleagues. He always wanted them to be happy” says Meera.

The final interaction with his daughter
Over the last few years, memory loss took the better of him but his family doctor asked them not to disturb him from his routine as his life revolved around the workers even after he touched 80. A week before he went into coma, he knew his end was near. He called her by his side and told her “I have lived a happy life. Please take care of your amma and keep her happy.” A few hours before he went into coma, he called her by name in a thanking gesture of her birthday wishes. 

New Recording Studio named after AVM Sampath
AVM family, who run the Avichi College of Science and Arts has decided to name the new recording studio that is coming up inside the campus as ‘Sampath Studio’ in recognition of his contribution. Just prior to the lockdown, Sampath lent his technical brilliance and assistance to design, construct and commission a modern recording theatre for the students of the college.  The work had progressed at a quick pace but unfortunately the lockdown brought a halt to the work. And before he could see it through to its final completion, Sampath breathed his last. 

The man who created ‘Sound of Music’ had to be given a compulsive farewell with no sound at all, said Ravi.

Raja - His Favourite Disciple
Sound Engineer K Balasundar (Raja to those in the film industry) who had been under the tutelage of AVM Sampath for two decades now runs his own recording studio and has done recording work for around 50 films in the last two years. He says that his Guru Sampath Sir always stood by the righteous, practiced truth and worked tirelessly every day of his life. Not once did he waver from the Dharmic path. “He told everyone about his way of life and work. A dishonest or untruthful person could not come anywhere near him. 
“Almost as his son, I served him till the very end of his life and I will always endeavour to follow the dharmic path that he taught all of us” says Raja.

Sampath recently told him ‘I may not live to see that event but you will receive the National award one day.” Raja says the confidence and belief his Guru had in him has inspired him immeasurably and he will strive every bit to make his Guru’s words come true.

A Staffer’s Delight
AVM Sampath was always a worker’s man and ensured they were happy at all times. Twice he rejected lands offered to him, first by AVM and subsequently by FEFSI as he wanted them to give the land to those who did not own him, such was his large heartedness. Hence when he passed away on May 1 his son in law Srikanth Srinivasan found some peace within himself “While the death saddened us and several thousands of members from the film industry, we found some peace given the Day he passed away. He was closely associated with CAASI (Cine Audiographers Assn of South India) and always sought the welfare of his colleagues. Hence, May Day was always his favourite day of the year. Being a Staffers’ man, he would have been happy that he passed away on May Day as he considered the day as a very special one of the year.”

Tears roll down as Meera recounts the final few sentences of his life “Just a few hours before he went into coma and with memory loss at its peak, he uttered this, the last communication of his life ‘There is a call sheet for SP Muthuraman. Even though I am feverish, I should go and finish the recording for him.’ It was probably a recollection of some recording from the decades gone by. Till his last breath, his voice chanted the audio recording mantra”. 

That summed up his commitment to work and to the film industry. Sincere efforts never fail was his motto and he lived by those principles till the very end.

Friday, May 1, 2020

D Murali Journalist


His revolutionary idea of inviting CEOs to his office and doing open air interviews at Nageswara Rao Park found favour as he rolled out 100s of insightful interviews but a whistle blower act raising issues of 'Racial and Gender' Prejudice cost the CA rank holder his job at Business Line
Can we, as men, decide to raise our individual voice, rather than keep quiet, when gender injustice happens in front of our eyes? Can we rise above our individual interest and blow the whistle when gender prejudice grabs the air time and pollutes the work atmosphere around us - D Murali in an audio address a year after his exit

The bigger and long-term risk is not standing up right then when something is not right
It is the period of the lockdown and as I went back in time this week, I chanced upon something that was saddening. But as I unraveled the story over the next 24 hours, I began to salute the man whom I had known professionally for close to two decades. This story is about one who was ahead of time as a journalist and whose bold revolutionary tale hit road blocks mid way. Unmindful, he  resurfaced and has cheerfully survived the decade after. 
    
CA rank holder D Murali joined The Hindu’s new financial daily Business Line very early on in its journey in 1996 – within two years of the paper’s launch. A Chartered Accountant, he launched many new sections in the financial daily that by itself were new to financial journalism in the city – topics that were close to his heart at that time – Taxation, Accountancy and the like.

Very soon, his innovative thoughts got the better of him. He launched a section called ‘60 secs chief’, where the CEO of a firm had to answer questions that a reader could read in 60 seconds. It soon became a big hit with several CEOs featuring in it. He followed it up with several new sections (Number Crunch, Swati CA, Books2Byte and so on) that he anchored for many years.
 
It dawned on him that the views of the experts in the corporate world had to be captured and presented to the audience. That he saw as his role. 

Not often in the city was a company CEO invited to media houses for discussions. For long, it has been the practice of the writers to visit the CEO at his office and not the other way around. Murali wanted to break that myth. He wondered if the idea would work and if the CEOs  would accept an invitation for a chat at his desk on their company and the industry.

The result must have surprised Murali even beyond his wildest dreams for he began to host several CEOs at his desk at The Hindu Group’s headquarters in Madras each day of the year. Companies ranged from the several decades old traditional firms to young new born start ups. Murali made it his definitive model. He video recorded the interviews and posted them online. It was disruptive. It was unheard of in the past.

Corporate Interviews at Nageswara Rao Park
When Sundaram Finance launched the mikeless Sunday Kutcheri in the Park, Murali was present early morning on Sundays to capture the presentation of the budding musical talent. Taking on this concept of events at the park, Murali experimented with the idea of ‘interviews at the park’ as his evening interviews moved to the park. He would meet personalities at the chess square of the Nageswara Rao Park, amidst the chirping birds and record their stories (https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/IT-is-a-critical-innovation-lever/article16481002.ece).

Biz Ed of HT @ BL
One day, this writer brought along N Madhavan, the business editor of The Hindustan Times to meet Murali at his office (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pfjfKkxFro). The interview left Madhavan stunned. He remarked that even in the North and the West (of India) such a concept had not been thought of. 
Keep the PRs away - his colleagues tell him
At press conferences, Murali brought his now famous tripod to shoot the CEO's address. Suddenly, in a matter of a few years, Murali had interview several 100s of CEOs and posted those online. The visiting CEOs to his office increased manifold and that raised eyebrows amongst his colleagues. Following this, PR execs were rejected entry into his meetings!!!

Co-authoring stories for BL
During this period, Murali asked if this writer would be interested in co - authoring stories for the paper. And thus I came to write a number of joint stories with him for different sections of the paper in a very short period of time. The pace of the stories was mind boggling. But it was short lived and came to an abrupt end. To date, this writer has not asked him the reason!!!

Through those early days of his innovative journalistic model in the 2000s, Murali was clear. He did not consider himself an expert. Repeatedly he told me this during the many professional interactions I had with him during his period with Business Line.  What he was looking for in his interactions with industry folks was for their thought leadership - among entrepreneurs, authors, and domain experts, across industry verticals. And he considered it his responsibility to showcase their insights through his stories.

Murali was not possessive about the personalities he met and threw that thought process out of the window and sent open invitations to his colleagues to join him for his daily meetings. Surprisingly, very few took up his offer. It was a case of missed opportunities.

The Unceremonious Exit from BL
And then on the morning of the Kutcheri in the Park in September 2012 (http://sundaykutcheri.blogspot.com/2012/09/sahana-presents-sunday-kutcheri.html), he broke the news to me at the Nageswara Rao Park that he was no more with BL. I did not ask him the reason then or his future plans.

As I now look back at the years following his exit, when he was present at the Sunday Kutcheri in the Park and the Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival, there were no signs of remorse in him, during that period. 

His video model continued uninterrupted and has gained momentum over the last decade. He has always been at his cheerful best. Sometimes, one finds him past 10 pm at the Marina walking to keep himself fit. To date, he has posted several thousand interviews and posts online ranging from corporate stories to Art, from Chamber stories to chats with the cab driver in the Himalayas. And he  continues to be a regular at the corporate briefings and elsewhere.

For a man so used to attending press briefings and seminars day in day out, this lockdown in 2020 should have been a dampener being stuck to the confines of his home. Not for Murali, for he has always found an innovative way to make life interesting for himself and useful for others. In the period of the lockdown, he has been creating educative video content for Sanskrit learners, via chanting of the Srimad Devi Bhagavata Mahapuranam (https://lnkd.in/fBiPVQA?trk=public-post_share-update_update-text) and Valmiki Ramayanam (https://lnkd.in/fHAe6DB?trk=public-post_share-update_update-text). Earlier he had created a similar educative video on Sundara Kandam (Ramayanam). Given the impact of the lockdown, Murali wonders if some of the big corporate seminars / events and even the press conferences would happen again anytime in the near future. He says ‘Doubtful’!!! And is of the view that both the corporates and the journalists will have to prepare themselves for a different model of interaction as they go forward into the life after Corona.

8 years later - The Breaking News to me
I did not ask him for several years on his reason for his exit from BL, given that he seemed to be doing well churning out stories each day of the year for the paper. And then this month, quite accidentally during the lockdown, I landed up on his page and found a story (on his home page) that I had co-authored with him for BL well over a decade ago. Also, I found emails that were exchanged between him and the promoter owner of Business Line, his group email to the staffers of Business Line and an audio recording of the BL Editor's command to him. The entire sequence of events and the final exit shook me completely. 
 YourStory expands its editorial team, D.Murali joins as Managing ...
In the hours and days that have passed since, I lay in shock, shaken after reading through the sequence of events that led to his exit. And I went back and looked at some of my own blog stories I had written over the last decade on issues similar in philosophy to what he had brought up - a story that I posted at 3 am, a couple of hours after that dreadful night of January 16/17, 2017 when the Adyapakas of Thiruvallikeni went slow on the Prabhandham recital as a way of protest against the priests (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/01/parthasarathy-koil-adyapakas-arrogance.html) and another story on how vested interests were destroying cricket in TN (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/01/tn-ranji-cricket-fall.html).

Explaining our role in life
He tried to fight for a cause that he believed in strongly, unmindful of the consequences ( he says he knew what he was getting into but did what he thought was the right approach to life). After 16 years at BL, he was not given a farewell and hence subsequent to his exit, he took to an audio address, where he explains, beautifully, the burning issues around us that should touch the hearts of each one of us and that we as humans should be concerned with.

He says that his forced exit was abrupt because of a whistle-blowing exercise he had undertaken through a group email (to all staffers) within the newspaper raising issues of gender and racial prejudice by a Senior Editor who was also part of the Editorial Management Committee at that time (Malayalis and Women should not be part of the work force at Business Line is what the Sr. Editor had told Murali in an official meeting).

I wondered as to why a man with 16 years in the firm had to send a mail to all the staffers of the newspaper.

But as I listened, 8 summers after the episode, to the audio address, presented in fluent English, I felt proud that a man who I had known and respected for many years was ready to live by his principles and even risk a high paying job on grounds of principle. I wondered as to how many would have it in us to take such a call in life.

The BL Editor's direction to Murali
In his audio address, he says his boss (D Sampath Kumar, the then Editor of Business Line) asked him something very inhuman and immoral “Why should you be agitated (about gender prejudice)? You are not a Malayali! You are not a woman!”  his boss told Murali all those years ago. In his room, the Editor directed Murali to hand him immediately a written apology for his group email and to also 'announce' in that letter that the paper stood for gender and racial rights. Murali refused, instead he handed The Editor a leave letter and walked out of the room with what he later called as a 'Valuable Recording' ( he had audio recorded the comments of The Editor) that now stands the test of time and proof of what happened inside the closed room that day in 2012.

Alas, what a retrograde thinking! Murali said of this above comment of The Editor “If this be our thinking, as Tamils, why should you be agitated with what happens to Biharis or Gujaratis? As Indians, why should you be worried about the atrocities in other countries? Should Asia be bothered about the crisis in Europe? Why at all should the Americans lose sleep over hunger in Africa?”

He says that there is a greater realisation now that the good of all is what is good for oneself “Health and development mean a lot to all of us as much as air and water. And, to repeat the eternal Karmic message, what goes around, comes around.”

He asks “Can we, as men, decide to raise our individual voice, rather than keep quiet, when gender (and racial) injustice happens in front of our eyes? Can we rise above our individual interest and blow the whistle when gender prejudice grabs the air time and pollutes the work atmosphere around us?

Whistle Blowing without Team Support?
'Blowing a Whistle' is a risky proposition as Murali found out under a decade ago, especially if you did not have the support of your colleagues. No one in the organisation seemed to support Murali during that phase. Yet, it was a philosophical call he took for he believed then that 'the bigger and a long-term risk is not standing up right then when something is not right.' Another man would have been shattered at the manner of his exit from a newspaper but not Murali. While he did not seem to garner any support at the time of his exit, he seemed to have had no regretful look back at the past for he eased himself into other exciting things in life. For people with clarity, life becomes easy.

Colleagues did not support him then but are now part of his whatsapp group!!!
Interestingly, he has in the recent past brought together hundreds of journalists (many of his colleagues who kept quiet after his group email all those years ago are now part of this group formed by Murali!!! thats the way life works?) in a whatsapp group where he alerts them with news of the day as it happens. Many including TV channels have used his alerts to lead with their news. Such has been his contribution to the field of Journalism staying always ahead of time.

This journalist stood his ground for what he believed was a right cause taking a principled stance on an issue he considered was of high importance at the work place. Very few in life exchange a high paying job with 'Philosophy'. Once upon a time, D Murali did!!! 

Monday, April 27, 2020

HR & CE Temple Funds

Charity Begins at Home 
The TN Government has to first direct the temple funds towards meeting the basic minimal needs of the Priests before they can look at the larger Society 

It's unlikely that the temples will be thrown open anytime soon to large devotee crowd - Utsavams and Street Processions too may take months to revive resulting in prolonged hardship for priests and temple service personnel

Story Updated at 8pm on Sunday May 3, 2020: The TN Government's direction to secure temple funds to serve the needy outside of temple personnel has been pulled back.  The funds belonging to the temple will now remain with the HR & CE and hopefully the funds will be used to take care of the financial challenges of the priests and service personnel in the lockdown period

Last week’s direction by the HR & CE Commissioner to the ‘rich’ temples in the State to hand over a part of their funds (Hundi collections) to the TN Government Corona relief fund has shaken the archaka community. With the temples under ‘devotee’ lockdown (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/04/temples-lockdown-1960s-70s.html) for over a month, the archakas who were already under stress with the pitiable salary paid to them by the HR & CE are facing a bigger challenge now with the going away of the ‘Thattu Kaasu’.

In the Thirukural is a verse ‘ஆ பயன் குன்றும் அறுதொழிலோர் நூல் மறப்பர் காவலன் காவான் எனின்’ denoting the importance of the role of the ruler of the Land. If the ruler does not take care of his subjects and does not give them their fair dues, the cow count will decrease and the Brahmins whose job it is to chant and teach the Vedas will leave and go to other jobs.

While HR & CE receives about 16% of the income of the temple to meet its expenses and for its administrative services, the salary of priests in the HR & CE administered temples has remained static for decades. The fortunate archakas now receive in the low 1000s while most in the 40000+ temples continue to receive salary in the 100s. 

The revival of temples that started as a slow process in the 1990s turned into a devotional wave in the 2000s with devotees now thronging temples in huge numbers especially those that are positioned as providing relief to their problems – Parikara Sthalams, Prarthana Sthalams and the like. The thattu kaasu for archakas belonging to such temples has increased manifold in recent years. But so has the corpus of the HR & CE with temple funds (fixed deposits) running into around Rs. 300 crores.

But a large number of temples including Divya Desams and Paadal Petra Sthalams have still not seen the light of the day with archaka salary and thattu kaasu still being below par.

Abysmally low salary and Zero Thattu Kaasu now
The current salary paid to priests and temple servants in remote temples managed by HR & CE  is so abysmal that even the basic survival is becoming increasingly difficult for these priests. A priest at the Vilvanathar temple in Pathamadai is paid a salary of Rs. 19 per month while at the historical and ancient Kailasanathar temple in Brahmadesam, the priest is paid a salary of just over Rs. 200.
The renowned Vasan Bhattar, who is a father figure to hundreds of Priests in the Chozha region has been at the Therazhundur Divya Desam for over 30 years, himself gets only around Rs. 300 as his monthly salary. In many temples in the state, salary is paid only once in 6 months or once a year around Deepavali.

Thiruvenkadu - Low salary that he could not pay rent for cycle
Thiru Kannapuram - Pension not paid for three decades since retirement
Thiru Kannangudi - Salary of Rs. 900 over two decades

Private Sambhavanai more than official Salary
Even in the now popular Nava Tirupathi Divya Desams on the Eastern Side of Tirunelveli, the official salaries from the HR&CE to most priests continues to be lower than the monthly 'Sambhavanai' paid by Venu Srinivasan!!

One has to wonder as to how a priest can run a family with such a low income all through his life. In most remote temples, the priest is left all alone to take care of all the daily maintenance work as well in addition to performing the pooja.

For long there has been the critical need to revise upwards the salary of these priests to a reasonable level. It is hoped that the HR & CE will realize the unfair treatment meted out to priests in thousands of temples across the state and fix a fair pay scale that will give financial respectability to the priests. But that is towards safeguarding the longer term future of the priests.

Funds diversion during Lockdown
During the period of the lockdown, it was Venu Srinivasan’s trust that rose up again and surprised the priests in the Nava Tirupathi region and elsewhere (including Srirangam) with an additional Sambhavanai in the beginning of April but the question remains as to how much can one or a few trusts do (https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/aid-for-priests-and-vaidikas/article31360982.ece) – a story where this writer’s lock down story was tagged - and for how long and in what size. Surely, that is not a sustenance model that the archakas can bank on.
While there has been some relief with contributions coming in from private individuals and trusts, the priests may come under a lot of stress in the near term. Given the current trend, it is unlikely that the temples will open up for large devotee gathering anytime in the near future. It may be months before devotees in full force are allowed back into temples. The utsavam and street processions too are unlikely to happen anywhere in the near future. Given this scenario,  the HR & CE that administers a large number of temples in the state has to step in and ensure that the archakas and service personnel are taken care of, financially.

Financial Plight of archakas
The State Government's relief measures for the priests and the service personnel in TN temples, especially those in remote locations so far in the last one month has been meager. The priests who have been serving in temples for several decades at a salary in the hundreds have not received any special attention even during this lockdown (except for one payment of Rs. 1000) while they continue to perform daily pooja every day of the month through the period of the lockdown.

In the current scenario, when the financial plight of the priests is so bad with a salary that is below the daily ‘minimum wages’ and with no Thattu Kaasu for over a month, is it right for the Government to take away the funds belonging to temples for common relief measures, elsewhere. One does not have an objection with the Government’s intention of serving the needy in this exceptional environment but at what cost. It falls to the government to initiate steps in order to secure for the priests in TN temples a decent living and minimum wages. And to ensure the financial sustenance in such times.

Surely, the adage ‘Charity begins at Home’ is applicable here and the funds of the temples – the hundi monies presented by devotees - will have to first be directed towards meeting the basic needs of the several thousands of priests in TN temples, those that have been serving tirelessly at the temples for decades before funds can be redirected to others in the Society.

Else with a salary below minimum wages and with no thattu kaasu, the priests will continue to remain a frustrated lot and a voiceless one at that.