Saturday, August 22, 2020

S Mahesh TN All Rounder

A Cricketer who lived on principles, played by his rules, went against the norm of the day and achieved what no other cricketer in the State did in the 1990s – Did not play a single match for the top 3 clubs in the city and yet played 50+ first class matches 

Now Head Coach of VB Academy 

‘Maggie’is the one of the very few genuine allrounders in TN’s over 8 decades cricket history- VV Kumar, Legendary Leg spinner and Chairman of TN Selectors in the mid 90s                             
It was just after the new academic year had begun in 1990. I was walking around at the Pachaiyappas College B Ground when I saw a tall guy repeatedly sending the ball outside the huge wall on the Western side. Not often do you see the balls getting lost almost every over at that ground. It was an early indication of what the teenager was capable of. 15 years later, after he had played over 50first class matches as a top notch all rounder including Duleep and Deodhar Trophy, in his final season in local league cricket, I umpired a match of his at Chepauk where he showcased a characteristic that had been an integral part of his cricketing career. Extreme aggression on the field, a vocal and vociferous display of emotions, a bit of stubbornness and taking on the opposition head on (in this case the umpire as well), almost literally, had become a feature of the way he played cricket. He took everyone on in the field, from the big to the small, and many a time won the cricketing battle. He debuted at No.11 and opened the batting in his final first class match. After his cricket career, he slogged at a manufactured firm for 15years, the only first class cricketer from the 1990s to work full time at a firm for that long. 

As I tried to catch up with him almost 15 years after that match at Chepauk, this man, a complete workaholic, now in his late 40s was cycling his way back 250kms on a newly bought cycle to Chennai, from Krishnagiri. For a cricketer who had played with aplomb for the state for over a decade, he could have reached out to the ‘powers’ that be to get the necessary clearance during the lockdown. But this man would not. He has lived his life on principles and often that has come at a cost but he has remained undeterred, one of the many rare qualities of this terrific all rounder. The greatest pride he has, looking back at his first class career, is that he had No God Father, No Mentor, faced ‘sports politics’ at important phases in his career and yet managed to play half a century of first class matches, purely on merit. 

Here is the story of a unique cricketer from the 1990s, who never played a single match for the top three renowned clubs of Chennai – Chemplast, India Cements or MRF and yet played a decade of first class cricket.

A 'Sodakku' Exponent in Tennis Ball
S Mahesh began his cricket on the streets of Azhvaar Tirunagari (not to be confused with the Nava Tirupathi Divya Desam ( on the western outskirts of Chennai playing tennis ball cricket, where he would often bowl the knuckle ball much before it became popular in international cricket with Ajantha Mendis. Unlike many others his age, he did not go to any academy and continued with tennis ball cricket until one day leggie Chandrasekar (George Oakes), with whom I played league cricket for a year in the 1990s, roped him into a league team when he was 15 years. He batted at No. 11 in his debut match (he also batted at No. 11 in his Ranji Debut) for Perambur Cricket Club but showed his bowling skills picking up 5 wickets. It was the beginning of a long almost two decade association with cricket in which he faced many a struggle to bring to light his cricketing skills.
Challenges at RKM 
Unfortunately, he found challenges in the very beginning. Right then as a 15 year old he showed what he was made of, an indication of what was to follow in his life. The Sports Master at RKM School, T. Nagar was a Ball Badminton enthusiast and wanted him to focus on this sport while Mahesh was keen on cricket. After his class X exams, he made it clear that Cricket was his first interest and that he would move to another school if he was not allowed to play cricket for the school. The master relented and Mahesh had his way over the next two years. 

Mistrust begins 
As with middle class families of the time, his parents were keen for him to pursue his academics and for him to join Vivekananda College. But there was pressure from the cricket team at Pachaiyappas College for him to be an integral part of their cricket for the next three years with SM Balaji, who he would join at Indian Bank the next decade, being instrumental in him taking the decision for a cricket life at Pachaiyappas. But it was also the time when he was let down in terms of the course he was to take. After his acceptance to join Pachiayappas for cricket and when he had let go of all other options in the city colleges, he was given a different course (BA Economics) by the Physical Director after having been promised his more preferred course. It was a decision that probably led him to an everlasting mistrust in people. And as is seen from his career, rarely did he agree to offers even if it were seemingly lucrative.

The first Big Breaks but more sour taste in early years 
His first big moment in cricket came when he was chosen for the state U19 team. He had not played U15 or U17 cricket for the state and this was to be his first entry into junior cricket for the state. He picked up wickets in his first year. And then an event following a match in U23 left a poor taste in him and the mistrust in people continued. He had joined SPIC in the first division league to play under VB Chandrasekar(

In an U23 state match, Mahesh was asked to go as night watchman and he came up trumps with a blistering knock of 99. When Mahesh came back for the match at SPIC,  VBC made a remark to his club and U23 team mate J Gokulakrishnan ( ‘Why did you not go as the night watchman. See he (Mahesh) has now used the opportunity.’ He was just out of his teens and to hear this comment from a former India player left a sour taste in him.

Ranji Debut and rejects offers from top clubs 
It was after Gokulakrishnan was called for ‘chucking’ that Mahesh made his Ranji Trophy Debut, when in his first year at work at SPIC, in January 1994 at the age of 20. In the year they played together for SPIC  Mahesh and Gokulakrishnan were feared as Wasim Akram -Waqar Younis duo of Chennai cricket 
During the months following his Ranji debut, he was in constant chat with his captain at SPIC and former Ranji Trophy batsman PC Prakash who looks back at that summer of 1994 “We definitely wanted him to stay at SPIC for he had performed brilliantly for us. I still remember his great spell when he took 7 wickets against Chemplast. Offers were pouring from all the leading clubs and he would discuss each of these with me at my house. While he would hear out all that I said, he would come back the next morning and go back to where we started. He was indecisive, off the field on the choice of the league team.” 
It was an incredibly great feeling for him that year with every single team in the first division pursuing him after he had just turned 21. Quite shockingly, Mahesh rejected all the top offers and went for the officer’s post at Indian Bank.

Having seen him at SPIC, VBC was keen to take along with him to India Cements with Gokulakrishnan. While the former moved without battling an eyelid (India Cements had helped him incredibly soon after the chucking incident) and formed a formidable partnership with VBC at India Cements and later for Goa, Mahesh pondered over the move and did not get to sign up. It always struck him that Gokulakrishnan was VBC's preferred choice and that he may to play second fiddle to him.
TA Sekar of MRF too tried for a while but he found Mahesh too moody for his liking and did not pursue further after Mahesh did not answer in the affirmative “We were interested in him but he was influenced by so many others and hence we did not pursue. He was too moody.” 

And then Vijay Sankar - The Biggest Rejection 
However, it was the rejection of Chemplast that was the most interesting and gave an indication of the personality behind Mahesh. Now VC and MD, Vijay Sankar was at the ground to watch league matches in the late 1980s and early 90s. He was fully in charge of 2nd division team Kohinoor for whom Mahesh’s brother S Ramesh ( played as a teenager. Vijay had a special liking for Mahesh and tried to put sense into him on the benefits of playing for a strong team like Chemplast. There was a time in the 1990s when Vijay even went to Mahesh’s house to get him to agree and pampered him even on devotional trips to Tirupathi. He even went to the extent of assuring him of a corporate career after his cricketing retirement but Mahesh remained firm and stubborn. It was rare for one from the founder family to pursue this way but Vijay found Mahesh to be a class apart and worth this persuasion. 
Unfortunately, Mahesh had developed a mental block from a young age of the way the team was run at Chemplast. In his mind, he had decided that the cricketing culture anchored by Bharath Reddy was not one suited to him. He never changed his mind in the years that followed. Almost 30 years later he is grateful that Vijay Sankar did 'what he did' in that phase and says that he has the greatest regard for him but does not regret not playing for Chemplast in his life time “I consider Vijay Sankar as next only to my Mother in life in the way he engaged with me at that time but I could not have played for Chemplast in the environment that existed there at that time.”

Satish recalls the day when Vijay Sankar came home and spoke to the family members for well over an hour sitting in the portico of the house in Azhvaar Tirunagar on Mahesh being taken care of at Chemplast “We were all convinced that he should play for Chemplast. Mahesh would hear out the family members but while he would give us hope once in while as if he was listening to us, I think in his mind he was also clear that Chemplast was not the place to go for cricket. As this went on, my brother Ramesh asked me not to force him into a decision and we let him take his own call.”

The Initial Years at Indian Bank
Instead of the top three cricketing teams of the city, he opted for the officer’s post at Indian Bank. Unfortunately, he does not have happy memories at Indian Bank. There were no proper net facilities, at least not like the ones from the top private clubs. He did not have cricketing shoes that fitted his size( he had to seek that from the West Indian team). 

Only years later did he realize that he was always seen as a staffer who also played cricket as contrasted with the private clubs who were seen as professional cricketers. On the cricketing front, he was completely squeezed. He remembers bowling from morning to tea against Railways in one single spell. There was no ‘taking care’ of the fast bowler at that important phase in his life. It was testimony to his fitness that he bowled without complaining but it left a bad taste in him on how people used him. He remembers another match “Against India Pistons, I went to bat at 90/6 chasing around 240. Soon we were 110/8. I scored an unbeaten century and we took the first innings lead. In the next match, I was once again sent at No. 8. That was the way I was treated at the bank.”
Eldest brother and former India Pistons captain S Satish Kumar remembers Mahesh as being a fitness freak right from his childhood days “He was a self motivated person from very early on . He would wake up at 4am on his own and cycle all the way from Azhvaar Tirunagar to the Beach on the East Coast for his morning run and fitness regime. He would then go to the Bank by cycle. In the 2nd half he would be at the nets bowling long hours. He had great work ethics right from his teenage days. He would cycle to school, college, nets and to the Bank. That’s how he developed the stamina to bowl long spells. His focus on fitness also let to his strong shoulders.”

The fitness freak and a Cyclist all his life once  'bought' the 'Match of the Match' cycle from Ananthpadmanabhan ( after a YSCA Trophy tournament.

More Distrust-Cricket Politics in the State 
In one of the years when he was performing well, he overheard a bathroom conversation between two senior people who were working a plan to sideline him from the team. Similar to Rajesh Kannan ( a few years ago, Mahesh was dropped citing fitness issues when he was fully fit. It was the legendary VV Kumar, the Chairman of the State selection Panel, who fought for Mahesh in the selection committee meeting backing the wickets he had taken and the runs he had scored and remained firm to keep him in the TN Squad. 

Legendary VV Kumar fights for 'Maggie'
VV Kumar stood his ground citing the exceptional performances of Mahesh “I went and watched Maggie in the local league matches and found his performances to be exceptional. He was prepared to ‘go miles’ to be successful. He had it in him to be a match winner especially with his ability to bat with impunity and was capable of playing in the higher echelons of cricket. Had he been given more chances and used better in the matches that he played, it is likely he would have scaled much higher for he was one of the few genuine allrounders in the history of TN cricket. ” 
VV Kumar found the same challenges at the Zonal level too when he was part of the South Zone Selection Unit in that period “I pitched for Maggie and told them that he was a player for all occasions. He could bat in any spot in the order and had the ability to turnaround a match on his own. But he did not get the chances he deserved.” 

As he went through that phase in the mid 90s, he knew t was always going to be an uphill battle to fight cricket politics “You had to always remain in the good books to be picked and I was not one such guy to do things to be in the good books” says Mahesh of his struggles to remain in contention through that decade.

Simply a Captain's Delight
Match Referee S Sharath the TN captain in the late 1990s remembers Mahesh as a captain’s delight “He never complained even after bowling over 30overs in a day. He was such a workaholic that members of the TN state team of the 1990s used to constantly joke ‘Mahesh, you are making up for (your brother) Ramesh.”
“Under my captaincy, both Mahesh and Gokulakrishnan brought ideas, winning culture and attitude. In that phase, their performance in the first division was mind boggling.”

Best years in cricket - 1999/2000
In the first few years of his cricket for TN, he had to bowl on placid tracks or on turners in home matches.

In March 1999, in a match when Madanagopal ( scored 199 in a super league Ranji Trophy match, Mahesh scored his only first class century against Maharastra. He also did well with the ball with three five wicket hauls that season. He performed even better the next season, capturing 37 wickets in Ranji cricket that earned him a call in both the Duleep and Deodhar Trophy.

Opens batting for TN ( Debuted at No. 11!!!)
January 2000 was one of the best months for him in first class cricket. In the last match of the Subbiah Pillai one day tournament, TN had to win early to win the tourney and for the first and only time for TN he was promoted to open the batting (quite something for a man who went No. 11 in his debut match for the state). And he produced a scintillating inning getting to his half century in a record 21 balls. He went on to score 69 in 29 balls as TN chased 130+ in 11overs. 

Gets Viru but appeal rejected
A month earlier, in his first and only Duleep Trophy match, he trapped Virendra Sehwag plumb in front when he was on 70. The umpire negated the appeal to his disbelief. As was his way throughout the 2nd half of his career, he minced no words with Sehwag when he came crossed to the non striker’s end “Kya Bhai Viru. Should you not have walked”. The pilot one that Sehwag, he told Mahesh “If Umpire had given that out, I would have walked off”. Sehwag went on to score 274 and South Zone was knocked out. Mahesh never got another chance in Duleep Trophy. 

Blistering Form in Deodhar Trophy
Deodhar Trophy in January 2000 proved to be a dream run and his fighting spirit was on full display. Mahesh remembers this reason for more reasons than one “There were some former TN players who were gunning for me. They went to the extent of telling the captains for that tournament on keeping me away. That made me even more determined to show what I was capable of.” 

He was promoted to the top of the order as a pinch hitter in the tourney opener against West Zone. He scored 85 in a partnership of 160 with Karnataka’s J Arun Kumar. In the next match he opened with JAK and for the 2nd match in a row he put on a century stand this time in 20overs. Laxmi Ratan Shukla was hailed as the next ‘Kapil Dev’ and he was at his ‘sledging best’ when Mahesh came into bat. Repeatedly Mahesh smashed the ball into the boundary and point his bat at LRS. It was one match when Mahesh’s verbal aggression as well as his powers with the bat was externally visible. 

In the next match, he began by hitting four fours in HS sodhi’s first over of the innings as SZ once again got off to a rollicking start. 

Cricket Politics Again, Yet scores
Finally, the ‘forces’ from TN had their way. After three terrific starts, Mahesh was shunted down the order for the final match of the tournament against North Zone. But like VV Kumar said above, Mahesh could bat anywhere in the order. South Zone slumped to 75/5 and in came Mahesh at No. 7. He was in sublime form in that series. He played yet another blistering knock that his TN teammates and those in the city league had long known him four. Four towering sixers and he posted close to a century stand with Sharath. 

He repeatedly hit straight sixers off the back foot as he showed one day to Venkatesh Prasad well over two decades ago. Sharath remembers the back foot sixers that Mahesh made his own “Mahesh was the only cricketer that any of us from that generation had seen hit back foot sixers down the ground and over the covers. It was hitting of the extraordinary order.” 

K Srikkanth, who played for Pentasoft a couple of years in the first division league acknowledged that he had only seen Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar play those kind of shots after watching yet another of Mahesh’s raging six hitting in a league match. 

Mahesh was among the top run getters nationally that season in the Deodhar Trophy. But he never played another Deodhar Trophy match in his life. In that phase, he played another blazing knock scoring 68 helping TN recover from 60/7 in a Gopalan Trophy match. In Moin Ud Dowla tournament he got Kaluwitharna out second ball.

Quits Indian Bank 
Just as things were looking up on the cricketing front, his employer in the 2nd half of that decade, Indian Bank, was going through a rough patch and he heard rumours of Pink Slips being handed out. He was at the peak of his powers then having just had the best of seasons for Tamil Nadu. The doors at Chemplast or India Cements may still have been open but he chose an unlikely option of the IT firm Pentasoft. The Penta group was coming up then and the expansion plans were a mega affair. For the first time, he played first division league cricket along with his two brothers, S Satish Kumar and S Ramesh. He joined the Penta Group with the assurance that he would be initiated into MainFrame. The finances were lucrative at that time and he was paid many times what he earned at the bank but it was too short lived. 9/11 happened and then for all the hype surrounding the launch and expansion, the Group collapsed in no time and Mahesh was caught in no man’s land. There was no salary for several months. He did not want to go back to Chemplast or India Cements who had previously sought his cricketing services. As he came towards the end of his career, he was suddenly out of job.

A few years earlier, when he was in the peak of his powers, India Pistons had provided him one of the most lucrative offers in the city for a cricketer but he had rejected like the many others that decade. But he was now looking for a work option and India Pistons made him pay the price ( 

For a cricketer who had played half a century of first class matches, he was hired at almost half the price of what they had offered him a few years earlier. The memories at the beginning of his college life began to haunt him again.

Final days in cricket - A fortnight with Dhoni
In 2003-04, at the tail end of his first class career, former India Cricketer Aashish Kapoor roped Mahesh in as a professional cricketer for Tripura. It was the year he came in personal touch with MS Dhoni who was playing for Bihar that year. He stayed alongside Dhoni for almost a fortnight as part of the Zonal One day tournament in Jamshedpur. After picking Dhoni's wicket in the opening match, he scored his last memorable knock- a stroke filled 92- of his life with Dhoni’s bat in the final match of the tourney, Captaining and Opening the batting for Tripura A delighted Dhoni gifted him his bat, one that he treasures to this day well over 15 years later. 
Former India Cricketer Karsan Ghavri who watched Mahesh bat that fortnight fought for his inclusion in the East Zone team but Tripura rejected the suggestion citing that he was only a guest player. He began his career fearing being called by the Karnataka Umpire and ended his career with the news that the (East) Zone could not consider him for selection as he performed (only) as a guest!!!

He also counts Sachin Tendulkar personally calling him to bowl to him at the 'nets session in Chennai as one of his memorable moments.

Soon after his retirement from first class cricket, he went to the Himalayas on a trekking expedition, one that he counts among his best experiences in life.

After being in the limelight for over a decade in the glory of high class performance as an all rounder, the post first class phase turned out to be quite a challenging one. He is probably the only first class cricketer from TN from the 1990s who worked full time in a corporate environment for 15 years. He  worked in many different departments from Product Casting to Label Printing, from Production Planning to Billing, Inventory Management to even Accounting. He was also in charge of the After Market Sales which went up from Rs. 4crores when he took over to around Rs. 15crore when he quit in 2017. He was unhappy at the way he was treated durin this phase but like he did during his cricket career, he remained a workaholic and quietly slogged his way for 15 years till he could no more put up with the unfair treatment that he always felt was being meted out to him. Throughout this phase, the mandate had seemed to be to take him to task for rejecting their lucrative offer in the late 1990s. 

Rejects VBC’s offer in 1990s, Heads VB Academy in 2020
He then spent a brief period at the cricket academy at Ramachandra College but fell out with former TN wicket keeper M Sanjay and quit that as well. And then as fate would have it came to him an unlikely offer something he could not have visualised during the lifetime of VBC.
Almost 30 years after he rejected the first big call in the first division from VB Chandrasekar to move to India Cements, he was offered the role of the Head Coach of the VB Cricket Academy by CSK's N Srinivasan (CSK seems to have taken over the management of the VBCA)   soon after the sudden demise of VBC exactly a year ago. Truly, life has come a full circle for S Mahesh. 

The principled lifestyle that he has held on to himself all through the challenges was hugely influenced in his early years by his Azhvaar Tirunagar neighbour Margabandhu, who was a colleague of his father at ANZ Grindlays Bank. Eldest brother S Satish Kumar is now able to connect Mahesh’s principled character from those days in the late 70s and early 80s “Margabandhu Maamaa and his wife were childless and Mahesh spent a lot of time in their house almost as their son. Maamaa was principled and systematic. As a banker, he would never accept gifts, was punctual, systematic and disciplined and very helpful. Before this death, he wrote his huge house off to the Sankara Mutt. Mahesh imbibed all the good qualities of the Maamaa and he was the biggest influence on him during his formative years.” 

He is one of the only 7 seven cricketers in TN’s history of those who had played between 50and 75 first class matches. Had he played for Chemplast or India Cements in the 1990s, he may have catapulted into a different level for he may have mingled with the best of the cricketers at the nets and in the dressing room. Instead, typical of him, he chose a bank that was not known to produce Ranji Cricketers and stayed with them through the peak of his career. 

Through all the challenges during his playing days and after, Mahesh remained his own man, lived by his rules and achieved what no other cricketer in Tamil Nadu believed was possible - Play in the league for a Public Sector Bank in Chennai and you could still play a decade of Ranji Cricket. Mahesh was one in a generation kind of personality. He was distinct in that he did not bow down to anyone and still hasn’t. He played cricket on his own terms in the only way he knew from the time he began as a flood light tennis ball cricketer in his teens. He gave his best in everything he did but refused to go behind anyone for ‘chances’. A cricketing working fulltime in a corporate has been unheard off since the 1990s. Mahesh showcased that one could play for long for the state and then slog it out in a corporate as well. 

Into his late 40s, Mahesh spends a lot of time with street dogs in Avadi feeding them each day of the year, a kindness that has been passed on to him by Margabandhu Maama.

Friday, August 14, 2020

TA Adhishwar Mumbai Indians Strategy Analyst

Not a Fast Bowler, No Masters Degree – 'A Life with Dogs and Cricket Strategy' 

TA Sekar was the fastest Indian bowler of his time and had the legends of Pakistan at the peak of their powers hobbling at the crease in January 1983 at Lahore and Karachi. If not for the shoddy slip catching, his Test Career may have charted a completely different path. But a result of those ‘drops’ meant his international playing career was short lived(  In the 2nd phase of his cricketing journey starting 1988, he carved a name for himself, as the architect of the MRF Pace Foundation, helping create the next generation of fast bowlers along with Dennis Lillee. And over the last decade, he has been on an even more exciting phase first as the Director of Delhi Dare Devils and now for many years with the Mumbai Indians in the IPL actively involved in identifying and selecting the players at the auction.

Being the son of once India’s fastest bowler and a man credited with producing several fast bowlers in India, it would have been normal and expected of TA Adhishwar to have followed in the footsteps of his father. He tried for a brief while but quickly accepted failure on the playing front but much to the delight of his parents, he has carved a niche for himself in two contrasting arenas. He has turned into a successful entrepreneur having set up in his teens ‘Hotel for Pets’, a venture he is now looking to expand across the country, and closer to his parents’ interests, signed up a lucrative deal with the biggest name in the IPL when he was just 22. 

Now 25, he is currently in the West Indies, working as the strategic analyst for Barbados, the Champions of the Caribbean Premier League, where he has worked closely with the likes of Christ Gayle and Andrei Russell over the last three years. Here’s the story

The birth of Adhishwar 
TA Sekar and his cricket crazy wife Prabha had been quite depressed after they found 10months after the birth of their first son, Abhijith, that he was not going to be a 'normal son'. Medical facilities that decade was still quite primitive in India.  The late 80s, when there was so much buzz around Sekar and the launch of the MRF Pace Foundation(, was a tumultuous period on the personal front for in those years he visited several hospitals to seek a turnaround for Abhijith.Later, Sekar took him to Australia and Sri Lanka but those proved to be of no avail and they resigned to the fact that Abhijith would not be able to sit, stand or walk all his life. 

It was during that depressed phase that Rathnam, the then head of cricket operations at MRF (and many other well wishers) advised Sekar on a more positive outlook to life and thus the idea of a second child cropped up. It was against this background that Adhishwar was born. In fact, Sekar was not present during the delivery for he was away in Maritius with his cricket team. In the early phase of Adhishwar's life, he missed a normal sibling and thus began his interest in pets.

Father’s fast bowling vision for the son
When Adhishwar was just 2 years old, he was already 3 feet tall and with the scientific theory that he would double his height to at least 6 feet, Sekar believed that he would be suited to fast bowling. His mother, Prabha, was a cricket crazy fan right from her school days. The only matches she did not watch in her teenage years were those in the Blue Star tournament!!! 

For all the success of his father in the cricketing arena and his mother being a diehard cricket fan, Adhishwar’s early interest was not on cricket but ‘cars’. He would read every car magazine in the country and would ‘go-karting’ every weekend on the ECR (maybe that’s the reason one finds multiple cars and car brands at the parking lot of Sekar’s house in Sastri Nagar these days). 

Leggie becomes a Fast Bowler 
It was only later that he went up to his parents and asked if he could join a summer camp. He started off as a leg spinner for he idolized Anil Kumble (he was not yet 5 when the legendary leggie took all 10 wickets in an innings) who too was tall for a leg spinner. But soon, his father talked his way into fast bowling citing his height. Thus he became a fast bowler, though he is still a leggie in his mind. 

While he did take some wickets, working under the guidance of Abdul Jabbar at his academy in CLRI, his mother spotted in him a different kind of skill ‘In the tournament at his school, he would go about organizing water for the day, umpires for the tournament, pickups and drops for the boys that soon the entire responsibility was bestowed on him. He used to organize everything around cricket’ she remembers of Adhish from just over a decade ago. 

Into his mid teens, he continued with his fast bowling and made it to the round robin stage in the city squad in the U14 category. Like all teenagers and with his father as a fast bowling coach, he too nourished ambitions of playing for the country as a fast bowler. But serious injuries threatened him right through that phase. From shoulder to ankle, he encountered in a matter of a few years all the injuries that a fast bowler would be prone to in an entire career. 

Grew up fostering Stray Dogs 
By this time, he had become passionately attached to something that has been close to his heart right from childhood. As one growing up without much of a personal interaction with his sibling (elder brother Abhijith has been physically challenged right from birth), Adishwar had developed a special bonding towards pets and used to foster the stray dogs in the Adyar neighbourhood from when he was a young boy. Much before he entered his teens, he pushed his parents for a pet at home. But given the challenges at home, they were not too keen on a dog at that time. 

Munaf Patel gifts a Rottweiler 
During the 2010 IPL, he met with India fast bowler Munaf Patel and began chatting about dogs. When Munaf told him that he had a Rottweiler pup at home, Adishwar’s interest grew for he had always cherished having a Rottweiler. And one day, much to the surprise of his parents, Adishwar introduced Krugar (who passed away recently after almost a decade at home), the Rottweiler sent to Adishwar as a gift by Munaf from Surat. 

Turns a ‘Pet’ Enterpreneur 
And soon began his first entrepreneurial venture when he was just in his teens. Adishwar teamed up with another cricket Shravan Krishnan to run ‘Hotel for Pets’ on ECR. It was meant to be a high class ‘resort’ where owners could leave their pets while on vacation. The demand increased exponentially. There have been times especially in the summer when he has not been able to accommodate the request of pet owners, such was the demand. Following the success in Madras, he expanded this concept to Bangalore, setting up the infrastructure there almost single handedly. 

Aged 20, he received the Student Start up award from the TATA Group for developing the hotel for pets into a successful business model. 

Injuries halt his playing interests 
Serious injuries during his teenage years meant that the fast bowling vision of his father did not take off in the way he would have liked. But Adishwar was not too concerned for, apart from continuing his entrepreneurial venture, he had already begun to take ownership of his career in another area within the cricketing arena, 

With his father’s interactions with the world’s top players at the pace foundation through the 1990s and early 2000s and his association with the IPL right from inception, Adhishwar had access to the best players in cricketing world. He was good with technology and gadgets from an early age and with his background research began tipping his father on players. 

The First IPL Tips - Suggests Nannes and Pietersen 
Talking to this writer from the West Indies, where he will remain posted for the next month guiding the 2019 Champions Barbados with his inputs, he looks back with delight on his first tip to his father in the IPL “Based on my research, I suggested Dirk Nannes to my father when no one else knew about him in India and insisting that he pick the fast bowler for the Delhi Dare Devils.” 

This surprise pick turned out to be one of the successful bowlers in the early years in the IPL. 

It was also Adhishwar who presented to his father the value of Pietersen to the Delhi team given their composition at that time and convinced him to go for the English great. His father was truly impressed by the research done by Adhishwar and ever since has looked up to his son for ‘player’ ideas ahead of the auction. 

Adhishwar is grateful to his father for encouraging him and considering seriously the suggestions made by him. He considers it a big boost, one that created the early interest in him to pursue the research on cricketers “It was after my father accepted the suggestions on Nannes and Peterson that I began to take things very seriously. Ahead of every auction, I went about my research on players and began providing my inputs to him.” 
One of the differentiators at that very early stage was of Adhishwar envisaging what other teams would do and how his father (DD /MI) could outwit them. The efforts of his son left even the seasoned TA Sekar surprised “Spotting and unearthing a talent is one thing. But Adhishwar went one step ahead which really took me by surprise. He analysed the other teams in the IPL, understood their line of thinking based on past trends and presented to me as to the choices they are likely to go for. This helped me a great deal in my preparation.” 

Academics vs Cricket?
And then as he went past the teen, that typical dilemma stuck its neck up again in this family too. By the time he graduated, there was pressure on his parents from close relatives to get Adhishwar to do his Masters and focus on academics. He had not made much of a progress as a player and they wanted him to pack his cricketing kit and turn his attention to perhaps a corporate career. Adhishwar followed their advice, but only partly. He did pack off his kit but remained associated with cricket. 

His mother, Prabha, a home maker who supported several remote temples in Tamil Nadu for almost a decade through this writer, has been a source of inspiration for Adhishwar right from his childhood ‘When I have been confused with life, she’s the one who advises me on the direction to take and I usually listen to her for she has a practical approach to life. Importantly, while she presented her thoughts, she always allowed me to make my own decisions and that independence and freedom has really helped me with my decision making skills of today’ says Adhishwar on the contribution of his mother in him chalking out his career path.

By 2015, the intensity of his global research on players had increased manifold. He was breathing cricket almost the entire time, outside of his work with the pets. He has been present in the ‘outfield’ at every auction, first at Delhi Dare Devils and then at Mumbai Indians. He says that mingling with the team, speaking to the world’s best players and coaches has had a huge positive influence on him. 

And then the Biggest Break!! 
Through a cricketing agent, he managed to break through into the Caribbean Premier League where he came in close contact with Gayle, Carlos Brathwaite and Andrei Russell. In the last three years, he has had the experience of working with three different teams – Jamaica, St Kitts and now Barbados. 

The biggest break in his life came in 2017 when Akash Ambani, son of Mukesh called him in for a chat in his room. So impressed was he with Adhishwar’s incisive knowledge of the premier league teams and cricketers across the world, that within 10 minutes of the meeting, he offered him a one year contract with the Mumbai Indians as a Strategic Analyst. He was just 22 then. It was the best moment of his life for he was to work officially with the Super Stars of world cricket. He was particularly happy that the contracts, both with Mumbai Indians and in the Caribbean, came on his own based on merit without the influence of his father. 

His performance in the first year led to Akash handing him a longer term and a more lucrative contract that has meant that he finally put to rest the pressures of the relatives and has become firmly entrenched into the IPL as an analyst of one of the best premier league sides in the world. 

Father’s Support - Massive 
While Sekar was not involved in putting in that 'word' for his son at Mumbai Indians, he played a role in the formative years of Adhishwar that the son considers as being massive. While his father wanted him to be a fast bowler and the best at that, Adhishwar says that his father’s message to him has always been to ‘give the best in everything you do’. As he looks at the decade gone by, he realizes that his father’s association with the IPL and the consequent presence at the auctions and the matches has thrown open big opportunities for him to interact, learn and improve in his teenage years. All along, the discussion with his father has always centered around cricket and more specifically on scouting for talent, technical aspects of cricket, the auctions and its impact on the team composition. 

‘My father has been my biggest sounding board’, says Adhishwar. When in 'cricketing' doubt, his father has been the first person he has reached out to. 

Adhishwar has not rested on the laurels of the IPL and the CPL. He has simultaneously also qualified as a level 2 coach from Cricket Australia. He has tried to understand indepth and imbibe the fast bowling knowledge from his father, especially on the technical aspects of fast bowling. 

Not a Fast Bowler, No Academics - Dogs, Cricket and Adhishwar
Not so long ago, his father wanted him to become a fast bowler of repute, his relatives tried their best to convince him into academics while his mother believed he had great organizational skills. Adhishwar has surprised all of them by signing into the IPL as a Strategic Analyst and that for a top notch team with high expectations every year. A couple of decades ago, it would have been unlikely for youngsters in India to have jumped into a non playing career in cricket at 22. But that is what IPL has offered – a financially lucrative career alongside the superstars of cricket and globally renowned business people.

The real turning point for Adhishwar came when someone told him a few years ago that the thought of converting a passion into profession would never work. He probably considered it outdated thinking and it was just the kind of trigger he needed to prove the thought process wrong. Since that day, he has worked with the belief that “if you’re passionate about something and pursue it with all sincerity, there is a good chance that you will be successful.” And that is what this 25 year old is seeking to achieve - a distinctive mark for himself in the Cricketing Arena in a really challenging and high pressure scenario.

On the non cricketing front, the two ‘pet resorts’ have become so successful that Venture Capitalists have expressed interest to pick up stake in his firm. Adhishwar is just waiting for the restrictions of the lockdown to be lifted for him to roll out the expansion of 'Pets Care' business.

It is truly a Unique Combination - 'Care for Pets' and 'Advise on Cricketers'- That's Adhishwar.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Pancharatra Agama Temple Administration

If the authorities set hand on an Archaka's land, it will be treated as a serious offence - Pancharatra Agama
The Sthalathars should be without material desires and anger, not talk ill of others and follow dharma in every walk of life, should be present at the temple from Sunrise to Sayanam
62 year old K Sriraman Bhattar of Therazhundur, son of the renowned Kannan Bhattachar (who passed away a few years ago after over 7 decades of service at Therazhundur Divya Desam) is one of the most well respected Pancharatra Agama experts in the country. He is well versed in several languages and can speak fluently in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and English, in addition to his indepth knowledge of Sanskrit. His knowledge initiation in Pancharatra Agamas began at the TTD. Right from his teenage days, he developed special interest in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham, the sacred verses of the Azhvaars. He has also learnt part of the Vedas. His father, Kannan Bhattachar, had been performing Thiru Aradhanam at the Therazhundur Divya Desam ( from the 1950s. Right from his early teens, Raman Bhattar used to join and watch closely the performance of his father during the utsavams including grasping the minute details of the conduct of the Brahmotsavam. 

While he has performed archaka service at Therazhundur, Thiru Cherai, Banaswadi and Secunderabad temples and Samprokshanam in over 700 temples across the country, he counts the initiating of the Pancharatra Agama and creating 100s of Pancharatra archakas as his best service to-date. 

Raman Bhattar, as he is affectionately called in the temple circles, is now involved in an even more of a gigantic contribution to the Pancharatra Agama Temples in the country. He is in the process of dissecting this ancient Sanskrit text – Paramapurusha Samhitam - for the benefit of Tamil readers so this could stand as a long standing reference material when issues relating to temple administration crops up in the future and for those in the future generations who may not be well versed in Sanskrit. 
Lockdown, and before, there have been several questions on the role of archakas, sthalathars and the temple administrators and this has also been quite a sensitive and touchy subject. This story provides an insight into the administration of Pancharatra temples as directed in Paramapurusha Samhitam. Part 1 of this series provides details on specifics relating to archakas and Sthalathars. 

The great rishis of the time approached Narada for a briefing on the role of archakas, paricharakas and the sthalathars of Panchatratra Agama Temples and Narada quite willingly narrated to them with complete clarity on every aspect of temple administration. The text starts right from the appointment of archaka and goes up to directing the evening duties of Sthalathars. 

Archaka appointment 
For the welfare of the state, he says that right at the time of installation of the deity in the Sannidhi, the administrators should have identified the archakas to perform Thiru Aradhanam. The appointment of such archakas has to be made public prior to the installation. 

Who can be an archaka 
The Samhitam says that an archaka should have been initiated into the Vedas and Upanishads and should be one who understands the inner meanings of the Pancharatra agamas. It calls for a very important fundamental characteristic in him ‘he should be someone who should fear doing a wrong act.’ A Vaishnavite, he should have undergone pancha samskaram and belong to a hereditary archaka family. Interestingly, it also calls for him to be ‘healthy’, placing specific emphasis on the hygiene and health of the archaka who touches the idol to perform the aradhanam. 
In case a hereditary archaka is not available at any point of time, it says that one with similar characteristics as referred above can be appointed but the Samhitam lays stress on the fact that he should be a Vaishnavite, have in-depth knowledge of Pancharatra Agama and be one with devotion. 

Who cannot be an archaka 
Further, he says that a Non- Vaishnavite, one without an Acharya Dikshai and the sacred thread and an unhealthy person cannot become an archaka in a Pancharatra temple. 

If an appointment is made contrary to any of the above principles, the Samhitam warns of serious repercussions ‘Not only will the state see a downward trend, the archakas as well as the people too will face severe challenges.’ 

An archaka should not go after money 
The samhitam states with absolute clarity that an archaka should not perform aradhana for money. If an archaka shares with a devotee even as a simple piece of information that he has been pushed to a state where he is performing pooja to meet his ends meet, Narada says that such an archaka will have to face punishment in hell. Not just the archaka, even those who meet and engage with such an archaka will be subjected to hardship. 

The Samhitam also clear states that an archaka cannot do work that does not directly relate to the deity. Those who do ‘human karma’ related poojas will be considered a sinner. 

For big temples that have multiple sannidhis and there are requirements of multiple archakas, those from different gothrams should be appointed. 
Administration’s duty to take care of the Archaka 
The archaka, who has installed the idol, and his descendents are the ones bestowed with the rights to carry out the pooja in the temple. The Samhitam places the responsibility on the administrators of the temple for the financial stability of the archakas. In order to enable the archakas to carry out their duties without the worry of finances, the authorities of the temple are to hand out lands to the archaka as a thanking gesture to him for having accepted to perform the pooja. 

Lands to Archakas 
The archaka, who touches the deity and performs aradhan,a should be considered as equivalent to God ‘He should be seen as God in human form’ says Narada. And hence, the powers that be at the temple should prostrate in front of the archaka in full public view and present him with Sambavanai. The archaka is the one who will be solely entitled to the land and the granting of the land should be seen as an act of pure donation to the archaka for his well being and for his service to the Lord. The harvest from these lands solely belongs to the archakas. 

However, at any point of time, if the State or the powers that be begin to show interest in these lands, it will be treated as a criminal offence. The Samhita records that the authority that experiences and enjoys even a miniscule part of this land for any length of time, will go to hell. The handing over of the land to the archaka should be in front of Lord amidst chanting of sacred verses. The presentation of the lands should be inscribed on a stone for future records. The family of one who gifts such a land to the archaka will be seen to be of the highest order. 

Other than the grant of lands, no salary should be paid to the archaka. There is a clear warning that any cash paid as monthly salary to the archaka will create unhappiness and negativity among them. Not just the giver but also the archaka who accepts cash as salary will be deemed to have faulted and their families too will face suffering. 

The Samhitham says that only if these guidelines are followed to perfection, will the installation of the idol meet its desired results in the state. 

The above directions are applicable to all temples, big and small alike. 

The Paramapurusha Samhitam also lays down the roles and responsibilities for the Sthalathars of Pancharatra temples. Vaishnavites, they can be Grihasthas or Brahmacharins. It records that the best scenario is if they are Yathis. The place of residence of the Yathi will be announced as the Mutt which should be located in the 2nd or 3rd Thiru Chutru. Mutts for Yathis and Thirumaligai for others should be granted by the authorities in power. 

Code of Conduct 
The Sthalathars should be without material desires and anger, not talk ill of others and follow dharma in every walk of life. And definitely they should be ones following Vedas and Upanishads. They should have been initiated with Pancha Samskaram and be followers every day of what is stated in the Pancharatra Agama. 

Personal Presence at the Temple every day 
From Sunrise to Sayanam, the Sthalathars should be present and remain in the temple to perform their stated duties in the temple. If they adhere to this, they should be given the first theertham and prasadam. 

During Brahmotsavam and other big festivals, the Sthalars should be gifted liberally with Sambhavanai.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Ananthapadmanabhan International Umpire

Kerala's Best Cricketer now an International Umpire
Agraharam Boy from Thiruvananthapuram breaks into the International Umpiring League

The small town boy from the agraharam in Thiruvananthapuram (, to whom Marbles and Gilli Thanda were favourite pastimes in his school days and who went on to become Kerala’s best ever cricketer with his performances through the 1990s, has now become the First International umpire from the state. KN Ananthapadmanabhan has just been inducted into the international panel of umpires from India. It may be recalled that long standing Elite Panel Umpire S Ravi, with whom Ananthan umpired his first ever Ranji Trophy match has missed out from the international panel signifying an end to his international umpiring career (

Coaching vs Umpiring? - Year 2005-06
Like with his entry into cricket as a leg spinner, his foray into umpiring too was unplanned. Soon after his retirement from Ranji Cricket and while he was actively playing for IOB in the first division league in Madras, there was an opportunity to coach the Kerala State team. He had played over a 100 first class matches and was one of the most respected cricketers. He would have been automatic choice as the coach of Kerala and it was lucrative as well. He was already a Level II coach at that time. 

TNCA Umpire seeds the Umpiring thought into Ananthan
While he was pondering that decision, it was TNCA Umpire Gururajan who seeded the thought of umpiring into KN Ananthapadmanabhan. The BCCI were coming up with a special category for former first class cricketers and Gururajan thought that it would be a good opportunity for Ananthan to continue his engagement with cricket by becoming an umpire. 
Gururajan had umpired many first division matches in the late 1990s including a Championship deciding match that IOB played against Jolly Rovers on a square turner. What Gururajan found particularly heartening in that phase was that not once did Ananthan question an umpiring decision. Throughout his playing career, be it a first division match or a Ranji match, he accepted the Umpire's verdict as final. IOB won that match by an innings beating Jolly Rovers, considered as giants in the city's first division league and went on to win the Palayampatti shield for the first time in their history under Ananthapadmanabhan's captaincy.

Never disputed an umpire's decision in his playing days
Gururajan also recounts Ananthapadmanabhan repeatedly enquiring about specifics in playing conditions during his playing days. He was always inquisitive of understanding the laws and the context in which it was meant. He earned a creditable name from the match officials for his onfield conduct during his playing days says Gururajan.

Sharing Knowledge with others
He also says that Anantha was also never shy to share the knowledge that he possessed. In one of the discussions, he told Gururajan in the late 1990s about the one of its kind forfeiture that was handed out by Andhra Captain Chamudeswaranath against Kerala ( captained that year by PT Subramaniam) and as to how the umpires of that time handled that rather amusing decision at that time ( while it was a one off decision in Indian Domestic cricket, forfeitures were a common feature in the English county cricket till the 1980s).

Ananthapadmanabhan too felt that being an umpire and a presence on field would be lot more engaging than a coaching role. Talking over phone from Thiruvananthapuram, he told this writer that he felt he would be in the thick of action as an umpire, understanding the emotions on the field, the pressures that the players went through and the need to make the right decision onfield. And it was this engagement onfield as an umpire that led him to shelve his thoughts on coaching and get into umpiring.

Mock Test ahead of BCCI examination
Gururajan prepared a Mock Test Paper ahead of the examination and engaged with Ananthan in this preparations. It was this that gave him the much needed confidence to face the exam (Over the last several years, Gururajan has been helping upcoming umpires in Tamil Nadu with Mock Tests ahead of BCCI examinations). 

13 decisions in his debut match
These experiences led Gururajan to feel that Anantha would be best fitted to an umpiring career and hence sowed the thought of umpiring into Ananthapadmanabhan. He came out with flying colours in the BCCI exam conducted in 2006 securing exactly the same marks as his close friend and former South Zone cricketer J Madanagopal (

Gururajan actually went to watch Anantha's first league match as an umpire at PS High School ground much to his delight.

In his first Ranji match as an umpire, Ananthan handed out 13 decisions prompting his partner S Ravi, who later went on to become an Elite Panel umpire, to remark that he was continuing to ‘bag’ wickets even as an umpire just as he had as a bowler. 

Ever since, he has made steady progress as an umpire. A few years back, Ananthapadmanabhan and Madanagopal officiated in the Ranji Trophy Semi Final ( In March this year, just a few days before the lockdown, Ananthapadmanabhan umpired in the first ever Ranji Trophy Final. Co-incidentally, for S Ravi too it was a Ranji Final debut.

Umpiring both ends in Ranji Final
He calls this year's Ranji Final as his most memorabable moment in Umpiring. It was his debut final in Ranji, what he calls as the most prestigious domestic tournament in the country, and he was faced with the challenge of umpiring at both ends after Shamsuddin was injured on field. In a high pressure game that both teams desparately wanted to win, he was presented with a unique opportunity to umpire at both ends. It was also the first time that limited DRS was introduced in domestic cricket.The stakes were simply too high and he was in the thick of action as an umpire doing both ends. He says that it was an experience that he enjoyed thoroughly

 In the last few years, he has become a regular at the IPL. To focus on his umpiring career and taking it up as a full time profession, Ananathapadmanabhan quit his bank job at IOB a few years ago. His colleague at IOB for over two decades R Rajesh Kannan too quit his job at IOB last year to pursue Umpiring as a full time career (

End of last year, he was in South Africa as part of an exchange programme and officiated in matches there.

In the near term, he would have opportunities to umpire one day and T20 international cricket in India, officiating also in emerging tournaments across the globe and fourth umpire for tests in India. He is not looking too much beyond this which is always the way he has been. 

Early days as a cricketer 
Way back in the 1970s, there was no school cricket in Thiruvananthapuram. His amma, who has been a pillar of strength, wanted him to focus on academics. Only after he joined college, did he first hold a cricket ball in his hand. And his foray into cricket came under unique circumstances at the Under 19 selections in Thiruvananthapuram. At the trials, he presented himself as a wicket keeper for he had kept wickets for his first club team Chasers. But there was already a regular wicket keeper and this young 16 year old wouldn’t stand a chance as a keeper. He changed it to fast bowling but there were four established fast bowlers already!!! And then he thought he would register himself as an off spinner. But lo… there were off spinners as well. 
      Anantha in his youth

And thus destiny got the young 16 year old KN Ananthapadmanabhan to register himself as a leg spinner. He surprised everyone with the performance in his debut match. After helping his team recover from 35 for 7 with a typically dogged knock of 35, he spun out the U19 team from Quilon with 7 wickets for 7 runs helping Thiruvananthapuram win that inter districts match. And a new cricketing star had risen in Kerala, one who was to serve the state with distinction for almost 15years. 

He made his Ranji Debut at 19 and in his first full season in 89-90 bagged two five wicket hauls against Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. A year later, he took 30 wickets in 5 games breaking into the top five wicket takers in India. His rich vein of form continued into the next season when he was once again in the top 10 wicket takers in the Ranji Trophy with 26 wickets. 

Krishnaswamy ropes him into IOB
In this phase, he made the transition to Madras and played for SBI in the 1st division league. A year later he signed up for Chemplast. But that stint turned out to be a frustrating two years for Ananthapadmanabhan for he was vastly under bowled with the team favouring the local bowlers. Barath Reddy ( did ask him to continue but Ananthan had had enough of it.

It was around that time that he got the call from V Krishnaswamy ( at IOB asking if he could join the bank. It was a big decision for him and trusting Krishnaswamy, he quit Chemplast in the summer of 1993. Later he even rejected a four-fold increase in salary at India Cements that came in from its captain at that time VB Chandrasekar(, such was the joy with which he had begun to play for IOB. That decade he captained the bank to its first Palayampatti shield 

National Call remains Elusive
His performances in the Semi Final and Final of the Wills trophy Semi Final in the early 1990s led National Selector and legend GR Vishwanath to personally inform him that he was a good prospect for India and that his name was being discussed as a contender. It was the first time in its cricketing history that a player from Kerala had earned kudos on the national stage. 

He continued to top the charts through the decade. In 96-97, he had his best year in Ranji Trophy taking 27 wickets and topping the batting charts with 597 runs including a double hundred. He also had a successful outing in the Challenger trophy in 1997-98 with an impressive 5 wicket haul against India Seniors. It was a phase where he was performing really well and one when he came closest to being selected for India. He was on the verge of national selection but the scales tilted in favour of Bombay’s Sairaj Bahutale. In 98-99, he topped both batting and bowling aggregate for Kerala, a rare occurrence indeed. In March 98, he bagged the scalps of Steve Waugh, Ponting and Lehmann in a match against the touring Aussies and within a year, he bagged a 5 wicket haul against Pakistan in front of his home fans in Kochi. Despite his strong performances through that decade, the national call remained elusive. 
With his amma who has been a pillar of strength

Does not forget his roots
The down to earth that he has always remained, Ananthan, well into his 40s, came back to Thiruvanathapuram earlier this decade to play once again for Chasers, his first league team from the 1980s and took 6 wickets for 3 runs to stave them from relegation. 

Kerala's Best Cricketer now an International Umpire
He was the first Kerala player to top the milestone of 2000runs and 200 wickets in Ranji Trophy. He signed off his Ranji career with a five wicket haul at his favourite town of Palakkad, where he had registered many memorable performances during his career. He was the first player from Kerala to play over a 100 matches. He took close to 350 wickets, a remarkable achievement. With a little more luck, he could have easily played for India as well during the 1990s. 

As in his playing days, Ananthapadmanabhan continues to be extremely disciplined. The entire umpiring fraternity looks at his early dinner and sleep pattern  as a role model for them to follow.

It has been a 14 year dream for Anananthapadmanabhan to become an international umpire. The feeling of this latest appointment has still not sunk in fully with TV Channels across Kerala hounding him for interviews following the announcement of his induction. For the moment, his focus is on doing justice to the international matches he is likely to umpire in India and enjoying that experience.The leggie from the Agraharam in Thiruvanathapuram narrowly missed playing for the country but soon Ananthan will be officiating as an Indian Umpire in an international match. And that will be a proud moment for Kerala, a state that for decades was considered as minnows of Indian cricket. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Srinivasa Perumal Temple Mylapore Flower Vendor

75 year old Rani had enjoyed two decades of brisk business and even expanded her offerings in recent times but the lockdown has left her in a state of shock

Rani thought she had seen the toughest of times in the early 1980s when there were minimal devotees in temples but the experience of the last four months following the lockdown has left her completely shocked. 

Forty year ago, she made her entry into the Srinivas Perumal Vedanta Desikar Temple in Mylapore as a young flower vendor in her 30s. Devotees did not flock to the temples as they have in the last decade or so. She brought just a couple of variety of flowers on one small plate to cater to the few local devotees. She took delight from the fact that she sold something that found a place in the heart of the Lord and Thayar. 

At the turn of the century, her business took off on a big upward curve following the devotional wave that struck temples in Tamil Nadu. The Brahmotsavam in Vaikasi grew bigger and bigger in terms of devotee support. The round the year utsavams and the sudden rise in devotees' faith in invoking the Lord's blessings on specific days every week and Prarthanai Sevai ensured that sales grew beyond what she had visualised when she first sat in front of the temple all those decades ago.
To the Koyambedu market at 4am
In the early phase of her career, she went to the flower market in Parrys to buy limited variety of flowers that the devotees sought. But in the last two decades, the range increased dramatically to include Malli, Mullai, Jaadhi, Kanakambaram, Manoranjitham, Thazhampoo, Magizhampoo and Rose, among other varieties. 

With the growth in the devotee base, her day began very early as she shifted her purchase location from Parrys to the whole sale market in Koyambedu. With the expansion in business, she could afford to take an auto to Koyambedu at 4am from her home in Mandaveli, each day of the year, to bring large quantities of  these wide ranging flowers to be at the Vedanta Desikar temple for the Vishroopam Sevai. 

An indication of the transformation in her business was seen from the fact that on special days every week, when the flowers sold out in the first half, she made a second auto trip in the day, this time to Parrys to buy flowers for the evening session.  

The pick up in business was so good that that her daily routine in temple related work extended from 4am to noon in the first half and to 9pm in the evening.

Expands Product Range
In fact, her business had grown so well that she expanded to a product range that included ghee (to light lamp), Kalkandu and other dry fruits. Every Thursday, she would also make Elaichi Maalai that was a specialty of the day.

Lockdown- Drastic fall in business
When the lockdown was announced in the 2nd half of March, she, like most others, thought that it would last a fortnight or so and was hopeful that life would be back to normal by end of April, ahead of the Brahmotsavam in Vaikasi, a phase when her sales shoots up. And then as the lockdown extended month on month, with the latest announcement through till the end of August, she began to feel a severe financial pinch. With the temple closed for devotees, her business  reduced quite drastically.
Worst still, in March, she had stocked large quantities of Ghee and Dry fruits ahead of the big Utsavams in Panguni but she was caught unawares by the sudden announcement of the lockdown. The dry fruits went unsold. And several months later, she still has a few bottles of Ghee at home. 

With the shutdown of temples for devotees, the quantity of her purchase has reduced by well over 80%. Her daily routine of 40 years too has changed. She now arrives at the temple at 7am and leaves by around 9am after having sold the limited quantity of flowers. And she does not come back in the evening. 

Like most others, the 75 year old Rani stands each day in front of the Srinivasa Perumal temple and invokes the blessings of the Lord, from outside, praying for the lifting of the lockdown in temples so she can resume her business and recover from the financial burden that she has now felt for over four months.