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Karumuttu -The Man

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“Men may come,
Men may go,
But I live on forever”- so sings the river as it flows..

The deeds of this man speak volumes about him.

“He is dead,
His children are dead,

But his name lives on forever.”- so sing his progeny, while trying to live like him.

I am a silent admirer of the excellent qualities of a man, my own grandfather, who was a business giant with no management degree, a great architect with no architectural diploma, and a philanthrophist with no conventional belief. His greatness lies in his acts. Born into an affluent family in South India, he was educated in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He started his career as an apprentice in his father’s firm in Colombo. Later, he took up journalism.

He wrote articles which highlighted the plight of the estate labourers. On returning to India in the early 1920’s, he started a spinning mill, Sree Meenaksh MIlls, in Madurai, as a competitor to A&F Harvey Mills. He never looked back. He went on to set up 16 textile mills, started a bank, entered into insurance, and also published a Tamil news daily.

As the going was extraordinarily good, he wanted to do something for society. Unlike many of his contemporaries, who spent huge funds on the renovation of temples, he involved himself in the cause of education. His first educational institution was a school in his native place in memory of his wife Visalakshi. The school was inaugurated on his daughter Saraswathi’s wedding day in 1947. This small beginning led to the formation of many institutions in Madurai, his business headquarters. In every area of education, we can see his imprint. A college for science and arts, a college for teacher training, a college for engineering and architecture, a school for management, and a score of high schools in his mills were established in succession, year after year.

Each building depicted the Man. The frescoes and the inlaid lines, the piillars and the columns, the dimensions and the space, the colour and the paint, the elevation and the appearance talk about the Man, even today, nearly 36 years after his death.

Recipes are meticulously written, with correct measurements of salt, chili, sugar, butter, spices and nuts. But this man’s greatness is beyond comprehension. His taste is beyond the palate, beyond the scene, beyond the munificence.

Karumuttu Thiagarajan is his own reward.

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  • S.Elamurugan

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