Monday, June 18, 2018

Reading for Pleasure

– Mario Vargas Llosa’s historical novel “The feast of the goat”-

A few years ago, during one of our conversations, my younger brother, Hari (Dr.HK Varma) told me about the brilliance of the writing of the Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. It was heartening to note that that the scientist in him had not lost touch with human sensibilities despite his busy schedules involving lots of international travel and the nitty-gritty of administration. I was working for a Company at that time and my days were mostly in the office or in travel leaving me with little option for reading. Still, I managed to read Llosa’s “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter”, that made very interesting reading with its many hilarious anecdotes. (I remember the scriptwriter in the novel who used to sell his Radio scripts to telecasting companies by weight. This I feel is applicable to many of the TV serial scripts presently telecast by most of the regional language channels in our Country.) The book is partly autobiographical with details of the 18-year-old narrator falling for a 32-year-old divorcee in Peru of the 50’s.

Now that I have time at my disposal, I keep myself busy with various activities that interest me.

One of the streets of Palakkad where I go for a morning walk

I go for long walks in the morning enjoying the nature and later do my researches on various war medals in my collection. I have lots of cataloguing to be completed for my collectibles that include war medals, coins, antiques, and books. Besides spending time with my wife Sindhu and talking to her on various subjects as a dispassionate observer, I give her a helping hand to make an occasional exotic dish. I go for an evening walk as well to the heritage village of Kalpathy enjoying the scenes and breathing the aromatic scents of various eatables freshly made by the street vendors. This is a place where the time stands still. I think it has been so since the 13th century when the Tamil Brahmins started to migrate to this part of the land. ( The place has a vague resemblance to the busy streets of the Wild West with people, wagons and animals and the occasional Tavern. Here, the cow replaces the horse and the coffee shop comes in place of the pub). I work on my computer a good part of the day and find time for reading for which I have built up a few cupboards of selected books.

Drawing of an old western town of the 19th century

One of the streets of the heritage village of Kalpathy, 2018

I just completed reading the magnificent historical novel, “The Feast of the Goat” by Mario Vargas Llosa. The official website of the Nobel Prize announced thus: The Nobel Prize in Literature 2010 was awarded to Mario Vargas Llosa "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat". In this outstanding work of historical fiction, Llosa has brought out various powerful images vouchsafing the above citation.

Mario Vargas Llosa

The book dwells on the assassination of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the dictator of The Dominican Republic who ruled the country with an iron grip from 1930 to 30th May 1961 the day on which he was shot dead by a team of seven conspirators most of whom were his former associates. 

The Dominican Republic with its capital at Santo Domingo is a Caribbean nation with Haiti bordering its West. Countries in the region like Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama all were fertile grounds for revolutions, uprisings and dictatorships due to the geographical, demographic, economic and political reasons of the 19th and 20th centuries. There always was the US, the big brother, watching over these nations with keen self-interests of its own. No wonder, the Dominican Republic gave birth to a most intelligent, cunning and brutal dictator in Rafael Trujillo who had earlier been trained by the US Marines during its occupation.

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina  (1891 –1961)

The fascinating yet bloody tale is viewed from different angles, the primary one being from the beautiful spinster  Uranita Cabral, a senior official of the World Bank and daughter of Augustine Cabral who was the Secretary of State under Trujillo administration. She recounts her story after 35 years of the assassination when she visited the Country for the first time in as many years. She had some startling revelations to be made before her paternal aunt and her daughters as her father lay dying paralyzed. Then, there is the story of the conspiracy and the assassination from the side of the conspirators portrayed by Llosa with great skill and with his keen understanding of the working of the human mind and its struggle for survival in difficult times. The aftermath of the assassination and the brutal retaliation and tortures that followed are portrayed by Llosa in great detail keeping the reader with a pounding heart. We also have a view of the Country and the political leadership through the eyes of Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo, the Dictator who preferred to be known as “The Chief” or “The Benefactor”.

While most of the characters in the novel are actual people who lived, there are a few like Uranita who are fictional characters. All the 24 chapters of this 475 pages novel are most engrossing.

Llosa’s portrayal of the Generalissimo, his intelligence Chief Johnny Abbes Garcia and Dr.Balaguer, the puppet President who later came to his own man are particularly powerful. Man’s craving for justice, his cruelties, greed, passions, the urge for survival and ultimately the futility of most actions reflect in the novel taking its turn through various characters. We also realize that the nemesis always catches up with a man based on his actions. Once we read the epilogue of the events that followed, we realize that the law of “Karma” is absolute or unassailable. Otherwise, how do you interpret the untimely accidental death of Ramfis Trujillo, playboy son of the Dictator, who committed untold atrocities after the assassination of his father? How does one explain the Alzheimer’s disease that caught up with the “Bountiful First Lady”, Dona Maria Martinez de Trujillo who opened many numbered Swiss Bank accounts to which millions of dollars were transferred and then forgot about all these numbers that were never shared with anyone including her children due to mistrust? She died in exile in Miami in 1989.

I don’t have pretentions as a literary critique and hence do not want to approach the novel from that angle. As one who loves good books, I recommend the book to my young readers who would definitely gain much after reading it. They are sure to grow emotionally and intellectually. Llosa, no doubt is one of the greatest of Latin American writers of all time and this book underscores the truth most emphatically.

Aldous Huxley paid tributes to his friend D.H.Lawrence in the following words. “He seemed to know, by personal experience, what it was like to be a tree or a daisy or a breaking wave or even the mysterious moon itself. He could get inside the skin of an animal and tell you in the most convincing detail how it felt and how, dimly, inhumanly, it thought. “

This above comment is applicable to Llosa as well, I am convinced. 

Palakkad, South India
19th June 2018 

Photo credits: and other websites.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Return of the Native!

I welcome back my good readers to my blog after a gap of 6 years. The gap represents a good time in human life during which the communication had been lost and so much had happened in each of our lives.

The death of my father had caused in me a deep vacuum and I had lost the thrill of writing. Added with the vagaries of an official life it was not easy to relax and write. As Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel laureate, rightly observed, “Every man’s death begins with the death of his father” and I felt the ripples very earnestly.  Later in November 2016, my dearest mother too left the world and it was mentally very shattering for me. In moments of aloofness and some despair, I felt the void and the absence of caress and experienced the chill of being an orphan. I thought about many little things I could have done for them, about the leisurely time I could have spent with them and about the soothing touch my presence would have given them. Even now, the intensity of the loss hounds me in my extremely private moments.  Alas! Life is a one-way traffic and no one can retrace the steps.

Presently, having retired from the service and the days (nights too) are spent at my will I thought of scribbling on matters that interest me. If any of my young readers, in particular, could get some positivity about any of my observations and writings, I would feel very happy. All that I write come out of an unadulterated heart and will necessarily bear the stamp of integrity.

Palakkad, South India

Father’s Day, 2018

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Musings over Padma Awards and a small food joint in Bangalore

Padma Shree Dr.D.Chinnaiah , FRCP, with his wife.

As we celebrated the 63rd republic day, it was also an occasion to recognize great contributions to the country through various medals, orders, decorations and our own Padma awards. No doubt, the Padma awards as different from those decorations to the uniformed men constitute a different category and the awardees more often than not represent people of eminence from various fields.

When we honour great men or women we are in fact honouring our own civilization, our own times and our own legacy thus remembering with gratitude our forefathers who have helped us to reach the place in history we enjoy today.

Padma Awards

Instituted in 1954, the awards of Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, in that order, come behind the highest civilian award of Bharat Ratna for distinguished services to the nation.

While the awardees from the fields of arts, entertainment and public affairs are rather well known, those from the fields like medicine or science and technology are less known in comparison. This may be because of the nature of their careers and activities thereof.  

Over the years, we have indeed witnessed  many controversial awards too, as in the case of Nobel prizes  ; but these have not necessarily diminished the aura and recognition attached with these awards. One thing the State governments could do well is to include the brief life sketches of these eminent personalities in the curriculum especially in the upper primary or high school syllabi. This will enable our future generation to know more closely about the lives of their seniors who have greatly contributed to make the life enriched for every citizen of this great country. We could of course do away with some of the film personalities who have been honoured with Padma awards but whose behaviours in public life and conducts in general leave much to be desired.

Visit to Padma Shree Dr.D.Chinnaiah, Bangalore.

Last week, I was fortunate to meet at his home, Sri. Dr. Devappagowda Chinnaiah, an eminent cardiologist from Bangalore, who was a Padma Shree awardee during 2006. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and was the founder Director of Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research at Bangalore. I was fortunate to see a Padma Shree award in its original form very kindly brought to us by the gracious wife of Dr.Chinnaiah.  A much respected and loved person that Dr.Chinnaiah is, he lives in Jaya Nagar with his wife. Their daughter who also lives there told us of her Neurologist husband Dr.G.T.S. Subhash and informed us of their imminent visit to Cochin in connection with a National Seminar of Neurologists at the Bolghatty palace Hotel. I informed them that it is a good occasion to see this small island and the Dutch palace built in mid 18th century which was later used by the British as the official residence of the British Resident of the Princely state of Cochin.

Padma Shree Medal (Obverse)  of Dr.Chinnaiah


Padma Shree Medal (Reverse) of Dr.Chinnaiah   

Vidyarthi Bhavan, an ethnic restaurant

Coming back to a lip smacking subject, I know that among the fabled food joints of Bangalore, there are quite a few small restaurants serving great ethnic food. My friend, Vinod Murari took me to such an exotic place. This small eatery which was started in 1943 is in Gandhi Bazaar near Basavangudi   and is called Vidyarthi Bhavan. Probably in those colonial times it served the students, I presume. It does not serve any conventional south Indian meals for lunch but instead serves exotic Masala Dosa, Poori, Idli,  Kesari bath , Vada and Kara bath which are very tasty ,  natural and moderately priced. The unique chutney they serve with Dosa is not brought in small bowls but is poured into your plate using a large serving bowl with handle in the traditional style. What was interesting to note was that the shop opens in the morning for breakfast at 8 am and closes at 11.30 am and then it reopens only at 2 pm when a small hungry crowd awaiting the lip smacking delicacies could be seen eagerly waiting to rush into the dining area. I must admit that the wait was worth it because all those items we took were simply sumptuous and extremely delicious.

Vinod Murari in front of Vidyarthi Bhavan

Price list displayed; moderate prices.

Quite a crowded place

Those of my readers who go to Bangalore and who have not visited the place may take note of the above and enjoy some great food at Vidyarthi Bhavan.

Tripunithura, South India,
1st February 2012.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Snippets of Mysore

The Mysore Palace

Despite one’s age and the years of experience, an official trip could give an unsettled feeling to a person wanting to take time off to make some personal visits. Since my work involved a forenoon session of last Sunday, the afternoon came handy for some brief wanderings in the city of Mysore.

I have always loved Mysore for a variety of reasons. Just like our own Travancore, Mysore too had been a princely state with many exotic aspects attached with it. Paul Brunton, the British mystic and traveler had been a personal friend of Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar the Maharajah who reined Mysore between 1902 and 1940. A scholar and spiritual master, the Maharajah, had been eulogized greatly by Paul Brunton, in the dedication of his book, “The Quest of the Over-self”, through the following words; the clear Hellenic mind of Plato foresaw that, “the world can only be saved if the Kings become Philosophers or if the Philosophers become kings.” The love which everyone in the state bears for you reveals how true those words are!”.  I read this remarkable book three decades back while at the University at the instance of a senior friend, Dr. Mohan who was my room mate in the hostel and who may have now retired as a senior scientist from the ARS- Agricultural Research Service-.  Raja Ravi Varma’s association with the Mysore royalty, Diwan-ship of Sir Albion Rajkumar Banerji of the ICS both in Cochin and Mysore, Khedda-the unique trapping of the wild elephants- etc were subjects of great interest to me.  Besides, the unique palaces and the magnificent zoo attracted visitors to Mysore over the years. Last but not the least, being a foodie, the sumptuous vegetarian dishes of Mysore with succulent accompaniments, have always been a great temptation.

Gandaberunda -The mythological bird with two heads, royal emblem of the Wodeyars-

The Mysore Palace

The majesty of the palace still attracts a lot of visitors local, national and international. Inside one of the halls of the palace, I found a very friendly policeman who came forward to explain certain nuances of a fine painting. As with most of the policemen anywhere over the world in the under-developed and developing countries, he too expected a baksheesh. On my query – not to get caught on the wrong side of the law- as to whether it would be in order if I tip him, he politely replied that I might do it if it pleased me and I readily obliged. Inside the palace photography is not prohibited provided you do it with the help of a mobile phone. You are not allowed to use the Camera inside the Palace.

Horse carriages in front of the palace


Inside the palace

Painting of Jayachamaraja Wodeyar (r.1940-50) on his "thread ceremony day"

The vendor of peacock feathers

Painting of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV inside the palace

Another view of the palace

The Jaganmohan Palace

The place offers more to a connoisseur interested in paintings, objects of art and different antique and royal pieces.  The Raja Ravi Varma gallery where more than a dozen of his paintings are displayed obviously warrants more care. It was appalling to note that paintings like, Jatayu Vadha, Harischandra in Distress and Srikrishna liberating his parents show signs of total neglect with the canvas being torn and unattended.

In front of Jaganmohan Palace

Visit to the house of Mr.A.C.Lakshmana

It was a pleasant experience to call on -at his house- Sri.Lakshmana with whom I had made acquaintance through this blog. He is a senior civil servant retired from the Indian Forest Service as a Secretary to the government of Karnataka. A wise man of great erudition, he is also a good conversationalist. He is keeping himself very busy  attending to his NGO work advising, helping  and guiding the farmers of Periyapatnam and Hunsur  to adopt various practices to increase their yield through scientific farming. In between he has found time in writing his memoirs more like a service story which may be published soon. I have already made a booking for a copy of this book and, knowing him, am sure that it will make great reading.

Mr.A.C.Lakshmana IFS (Rtd)

The cold climate of Mysore is one thing with which you will certainly fall in love. With some warm clothing on, an outing in the evening to one of the local restaurants could be very enjoyable with the accompaniments of some Akki Rotis. You may as well go for the usual Vada Sambar which has some sweet tingling which Mysore only could provide.

Tripunithura, South India.
63rd Republic Day.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bidding adieu to 2011

It was in December 1987 that we moved to Kochi from Trivandrum. I was then a dashing young blade and the branch manager of a nationalized bank in Ernakulum. I was also the father of a baby girl, who graduated in Architecture with honours from the University of Nottingham a fortnight ago.

Along with Madhu, my bosom friend of 4 decades, we went to Taj Malabar hotel in Wellington Island to welcome the New Year. Those days,        Indian Rupee was still strong, and was trading at Rs 14.80 per US Dollar. Good salaries were only in four digits and hence the New Year dinner at Taj was only Rs 250 per head. I remember that south Indian film star Kamal Hasan was there to welcome the New Year. English writer Jayasree Mishra (Remember, Ancient Promises) known to us as Rani was there in resplendent dress and I remember that she won a prize for that on that night.

Since then, much water has flowed under the bridges all over the country and the world. Every New Year was in a different place, some very low key and some quite loud.

Today, I and Sindhu are at home. Unni too is here. The lad in his 12th class has to move too to the University by next June. Life has to go on.

Against the big backdrop of space, time and lives of millions of species of living things, what is so important about a new year? Frankly, I do not know. But it is a good time to introspect and make life more simple and enjoyable by taking life lightly and being kind to every little living thing.

South India,
31st December 2011.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Corruption, Punishment and Justice

Of late, any news about the corruption in public life in India is drawing much attention. Hitherto, most of us had resigned to our fates and consoled ourselves believing that the institutionalized form of corruption is here to stay and the so called intelligentsia can not do much about it. Thanks to people like Anna Hazare, Vinod Rai, Julian Assange and innumerable functionaries in various places like the judiciary, our pessimism is gradually waning like snow in the sunshine.

What is probably desired in India is perhaps not to introduce new laws but the implementation of the existing laws with a heavy hand to ensure punitive action.  Of course, many modifications in existing laws may be required for this.

Last week, the hedge fund tycoon Raj Rajaratnam of the Galleon Group who was convicted by a court in US for 11 years in prison was also made to pay 63 Million US Dollars as penalties.

There are additional civil penalties of US Dollar  97 Million also being claimed from him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.  Personally, I feel that similar penalties being charged on corrupt persons should be the order of the day so that ill- gotten money can be best controlled.

It is very amusing to read about bails being granted to corrupt officials who have amassed millions of rupees by executing bonds of a few thousands of rupees. The news pertaining to a very corrupt couple in the IAS is a case in point.

Anybody making ill-gotten wealth should realize that neither can he enjoy the funds thus created nor can he breathe fresh air outside the prison if he makes money by corrupt methods. His wealth though invested in the names of family members should be confiscated by the exchequer with which much developmental work can be undertaken. Justice delayed tantamount to justice denied and hence the wheel of justice has to roll faster.

Let the government take a leaf out of the above example of US judicial system and come out with a Lokpal bill which should be welcomed by all except the corrupt people in our public life. 

My friend Jens Nordlunde, a Dane by birth and settled in Switzerland recently wrote to me,

“I once read that, although corruption is almost unknown in Denmark, that in the 17th and 18th century it was widely spread. The government made a law punishing corruption harshly, but they also made sure that people not corrupted enforced this law.
It is a very difficult problem to solve – but most important to solve it, for the people and for the country. “

I cannot agree with him more.

Tripunithura,South India.
31st October 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ananda Ranga Pillai and the French Pondicherry

As I walked through the Ranga Pillai Street in Pondicherry, I asked my colleague if he knew the reason why the street was so named. Thankfully, he had heard of this colourful personality Ananda Ranga Pillai of French India who lived during the tumultuous times of the mid 18th century when both the English and the French tried hard to have its foothold over South India.

18th century engraving of French Pondicherry

Ananda Ranga Pillai (1709-61) was the first secretary and adviser of the French East India Company in Pondicherry during the early decades of the 18th century. He was the “Dubash” or the translator and commercial representative of the French Governors, notably that of Joseph Francois Dupleix with whom he had a very personal rapport throughout his life. His private diary written in Tamil and covering the period from 1736 to 1761 is an amazing record of personal, historical, political and social matters during those momentous years of South Indian history.

We should be thankful to two French men Gallois Montbrun and Edouard Ariel (1818-1854) who had found the diaries of Ananda Ranga Pillai written in Tamil and which they got translated into French. Gallois Montbrun’s copy was used by Father Price and Rangachari to translate the diaries to the English language towards the end of the 19th century. Of the 12 volumes in English, 3 were published by them before 1914. H.Dodwell subsequently completed the next 9 volumes. The copies done by E.Ariel, who died at the age of 36 in 1854, are now preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterrand in Paris. Unfortunately, the original diaries written by Pillai are lost for ever.

Ananda Ranga’s father, Thiruvenkitam Pillai was a merchant in Madras who came to settle down in Pondicherry at the instance of his brother in law, Nainiya Pillai who was courtier and agent of the French there for which M.Herbert was the Governor. The business flourished and they became quite prosperous when Nainiya Pillai was imprisoned by Herbert on some flimsy accusations and he died in prison. His son, Guruva Pillai, a determined young man out to prove the innocence of his father, escaped to Madras with others and he traveled to Paris and had an audience with the Regent, the Duke of Orleans.

Guruva Pillai who embraced Christianity was made a Chevalier of St.Michael and was appointed the head of all Indian subjects of the French at Pondicherry and returned with great success. In the mean time, Herbert had been recalled and the new Governor welcomed back Thiruvenkitam Pillai and other wealthy merchants to Pondicherry. Guruva Pillai died without issues followed by Thiruvenkitam Pillai in 1726.

This is the place that belonged to Ananda Ranga Pillai

M.Lenoir, who had taken charge as the new Governor employed Ananda Ranga Pillai, a young and ambitious businessman in his father’s slot and later appointed him the native head of the French factory at Porto Novo manufacturing clothes. Ananda Ranga Pillai started his own trading posts and became a successful and wealthy trader. M.Dumas, who took over from Lenoir too held Pillai in high esteem but his star began to rise further with the arrival of Dupleix as Governor in 1742. Having known the father-son duo during his earlier tenure as an official in Pondicherry, Dupleix appointed Ananda Ranga Pillai as a Courtier or Chief Dubash in 1747.

As Chief Dubash, Ananda Ranga Pillai extended yeoman service to Dupleix with whom he seemed to have a very special relationship as could be observed from his notes. Dupleix indeed counted upon the advice of Pillai on many matters though they had their fair share of differences too. The greed of Dupleix especially that of his wife comes out clearly through the diaries. All the weaknesses of Dupleix as a human being and all his strengths as a Governor of the French are depicted by Pillai with consummate ease through his observations. The financial and political power Pillai enjoyed under the French rule also are visible from his recordings.

Joseph Francois Dupleix (1697-1763)- Governor General of French India-

We also come to know of the personal rapport he had with Maharajah Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the founder and of modern Travancore as also with many rulers that included Chanda Sahib (Nawab of Carnatic between 1749-52) the Nizam of Hyderabad and others from erstwhile southern principalities.

A random selection of his notes with references to Travancore is given below to enable the readers to have a glimpse of his style and his eye for details. These notes unfold history from the vantage point of a remarkable person who witnessed history not as a bystander but as an active player who did his part remarkably well in a time of glorious uncertainties. Pillai died in 1761 just four days before the British occupied Pondicherry in a devastating battle with the French.

Those interested can read more direct from the twelve volumes of “The private diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai “, some of which are available online with Internet Archives.

A period hotel on Ranga Pillai Street

By the beach of Pondicherry with Mr.Pandurangan.

Saturday, 3rd March 1741

This forenoon at 11, Naranappaiyan, an, envoy from the Raja of Travancore brought a letter, accompanied by presents, to the Governor. He came by land as far as Karikal, and taking a boat thence, arrived at Pondicherry. A salute of seven guns was fired when he delivered the gifts and letter to the Governor. The latter, after perusing the communication, conversed with him for a while, presented him with a turban and shawl, and bade him farewell. The envoy took leave, and repaired to his lodgings.

Monday, 11th April 1746

At 6 this evening, the Governor received a letter from Karikudi, to the following effect: A ship called the Pondicherry Marchand and commanded by M.Puel, proceeded from Mascareigne to Mahe. Instead of returning to Mascareigne, as the original intention appears to have been, she was cruising off Kolachel and the neighborhood of that port. The Raja of Travancore sent for M. Puel, and suggested to him that as news had been received that two or three English ships were making for those parts, he ought to consult the safety of his charge, and depart for some more secure locality. M. Puel then took his vessel to Karikal, and having discharged the cargo of firewood with which she was laden, and her ballast, sailed for the Danish port of Tranquebar, where he anchored. Whilst in the roads there, the ship was surrounded by five English men-of-war, which engaged her during the whole night. M. Puel, seeing that he could not cope with the enemy, ran his craft on shore, landed with his men, and blew her up. The Danish Governor commanding the fort of Tranquebar saw what occurred, and enraged at the manifestation of hostility by the English in a friendly port, ordered a few cannon shot to be fired at their ships, which returned the fire, killing a gunner, and wounding two of the garrison. The Danish Governor, seeing this, exclaimed:

“We are weak; they are strong. Let it be. God is just. An inquiry will surely be made into this matter in Europe." So saying, he wrote a letter to M. Paradis conveying intelligence of what had taken place.

The Governor of Pondicherry is .reported to have said on receipt of this news.

“M.Puel has done well to run his ship ashore, to escape capture by the English. When the circumstances of this matter become known in detail to the King of Denmark, he will surely demand satisfaction of the King of England for the hostile attack made by the English in a friendly port, and for the killing of a gunner, and the wounding of two men in the Danish service. The people of one nation cannot attack those of another, although they are their enemies, when the latter are protected by the flag of a neutral power. If such a thing happens, it is equivalent to a declaration of war by the first nation against the third. If the former of these, however, repudiates any hostile intention, it is bound to decapitate the offenders. This being the law of Europe, there is scarcely a doubt that the head of Commodore Barnet will be struck off."

Two or three respectable Frenchmen, who overheard these remarks of the Governor, communicated them to me. M. Le Maire, M. Cornet, and two or three other Frenchmen told me that other matters will be made known when M. Puel, the captain who blew his ship up, comes to Pondicherry.

Tuesday 4th October 1746

I next went to the Governor's house, and some time after my arrival a Palmyra-leaf letter from Vala Martanda Raja, of Travancore, and a letter from the French priests residing in that country were delivered to the Governor. The former of these contained the following:

“Some time ago, two of your ships anchored in the roads here, and we saw to the repair of these. The Dubash of Mahe was then here. A report is current that a fleet of nine sail on its way from France had an engagement with six of the English off Negapatam, but that the latter escaped. We desire to be informed in writing whether your fleet will reach our dominions in October."

As Tanappa Mudali desired me to go with him to the Governor, to interpret the letter, I went. When he began to translate it, the Governor interrupted him, saying that he knew what it was about, because the other letter had already given him the information, and therefore that he need not interpret it. Tanappa Mudali attempted to proceed, and the Governor again said that he was quite aware of the contents of the letter. Nevertheless he persisted in going on, on which the Governor expressed his annoyance, and thereupon Tanappa Mudali withdrew.

8 February 1747

Five ships which lay in the roads were despatched to-day, on an expedition. Two of them, when at Madras, encountered a storm, and had been dismasted. They were brought to Pondicherry, and refitted. The third was the St. Louis. The remaining two were under the command of M. Dordelin, and had arrived from Acheen. All five were fitted out as men-of-war, and were supplied with the necessary munitions and stores. Their objects of mission was to engage and take the English ships, which were said to be cruising on the Malabar coast, off Anjengo and Tellicherry; the capture of these places, also, forming one of the objects of the expedition. The captains of the ships were directed to take on board 6,000 Angrias, * who had offered their services. The Raja, of Travancore was also written to, asking him to procure the assistance of the Angrias*, and the letter was carried by one of the ships. The squadron set sail from Pondicherry, about one watch before sunrise.

  • This name was applied to the followers of a noted piratical chieftain—one Toolajee Angria—who, following, at the time that Ranga Pillai wrote, in the footsteps of both his father and step-brother, had long been a constant source of trouble and danger to the sea trade of the Malabar coast, and of frequent annoyance to the servants of the East India Company. His misdeeds, and those of his people, were finally put an end to, in February 1756, when his last stronghold, Gheria, was captured, and his 6eet destroyed, by a combined sea and land force under the command of Admiral Watson and Colonel Olive, and he, being made a prisoner, was handed over to the Mahrattas, who took good care that he should do no further harm.

8 March 1747

On Monday the 6th March or 26th Masi, I wrote a letter, in the name of the Governor, to Maharaja Vanji Vala Martanda Varma of Travancore, and despatched it by his agent Kunti Nayakkan. A copy of it is in the file of papers with Madananda Pandit.

October 25, 1748

When I went to the Governor's this morning, he gave the letter for Vanji Vala Martanda Varma, Raja of Travancore, to the two Christians waiting and sent them away, telling me to give them 20 rupees. I got the money from Parasurama Pillai, gave it to the Christians, and sent them off.

18 September 1751

This evening a letter came from Mahe saying that, in spite of all assistance afforded to the Raja of Kolattanad, the English and the Ikkeri people were helping his enemies who had become very powerful, so that more troops were needed.

There are indeed various other more interesting details in the diaries of Ananda Ranga Pillai which can be of great interest to the discerning readers.

Tripunithura, South India

25th September 2011.

Reading for Pleasure

– Mario Vargas Llosa’s historical novel “The feast of the goat”- A few years ago, during one of our conversations, my younger bro...