Feast of Memories -16

Dr. Madhavan shares his reminiscences in a series of articles. He has named these memoirs as “Feast of Memories”.
In this episode he recounts the memorable visit of Dr. and Mrs. V Kurien to Erode. Dr. Kurien had agreed for the visit provided he is also taken to the house where Kurien family stayed in Gopichettipalayam and the School where Dr. Kurien studied. Dr. Kurien addressed the Convocation of the Tamilnadu Agriculture University as Chief Guest on 17 January 1979. He also met Mr. C Subramaniam during this visit to Erode besides meeting farmers and visiting village level Milk Producers Societies.

Dr. V Kurien, founder Chairman, NDDB visits Erode

Whenever I went to NDDB, Anand, on official work, I used to request Dr V Kurien, Chairman NDDB to pay a visit to Erode to look up the work of the NDDB spearhead team. Dr Kurien agreed, but on condition that I took him to the school (Diamond Jubilee School) in Gobichettipalayam where he had studied when he was a small boy.

Dr Kurien’s father was the Civil Surgeon at the Gobichettipalayam Govt Hospital those days and the family had lived in Gobichettipalayam. I assured Dr Kurien that I would take him first to the Diamond Jubilee School and later to Erode.

So, that was the deal to get Dr Kurien to Erode. Gobichettipalayam was mid-way between Coimbatore and Erode.

Dr Kurien was invited to be the Chief Guest at the Seventh Convocation of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore on January 17, 1979.

Dr Kurien accepted the invitation and also agreed to visit Erode, after the function. All of us at Erode were delighted and thrilled on Dr Kurien’s visit to Erode. The time allotted to Erode, including Gobichettipalayam visit, was very short: January 17 afternoon and January 18 forenoon. Dr Kurien was to take an afternoon flight from Coimbatore to Madras on January 18. But, on my persuasion, he agreed to travel by an afternoon train from Erode to Madras on January 18. We were very happy because that gave us more time with Dr Kurien at Erode.

We drew a detailed plan for Dr Kurien’s visit: Jan 17 evening – visit to Diamond Jubilee School, etc; attend a Bonus Distribution Function at Vellankoil Milk Cooperative. Jan 18 forenoon – visit Semboothampalayam Milk Cooperative; breakfast with Dr LK Muthuswamy; meeting with farmers at the Erode Milk Union’s premises where the Feeder Balancing Dairy was coming up. This was to be followed by lunch hosted by Mr SK Paramasivan, Chairman Erode Milk Producers’ Union.

We were informed about Dr Kurien’s programme well in advance and therefore, we had sufficient time to make arrangements for his visits to different places. First of all, I made sure that Dr LK Muthuswamy will be available on both the days. I could also persuade Mrs C Subramaniam to meet Dr & Mrs Kurien at breakfast on January 18, 1979 at the residence of Dr Muthuswamy.

Visit to Gobichettipalayam

At Gobichettipalayam, I took the help of Dr KS Sengottian, a close relation of Dr Muthuswamy. Besides, Dr Sengottian happened to be a schoolmate of Dr Kurien’s brother, K Kurien. Dr Sengottian and K Kurien were alumnae of Diamond Jubilee School. Dr Sengottian introduced me to Mr Sachithanandam, Principal of Diamond Jubilee School.

He was very happy to know that Dr Kurien was an alumnus of Diamond Jubilee School. He agreed to make arrangements for Dr Kurien’s visit to the school, including a public function to felicitate Dr Kurien. I spoke to several people in and around Gobichettipalayam and found out at least five people who were Dr Kurien’s schoolmates at Diamond Jubilee School.

To my good luck, I could also locate an old Brahmin Teacher, Srinivasachar, who knew the Kurien family very well. Srinivasachar was K Kurien’s tuition teacher and whenever he taught K Kurien, V Kurien used to sit/sleep in his lap! I told Srinivasachar about Dr Kurien’s visit and requested him to be present on January 17. He gladly agreed. Through enquiries with people who had known the Kurien family, I could also locate the house where they had lived. The building remained the same, had not undergone any change!

We made arrangements for Dr Kurien’s visit to Vellankoil and Semboothampalayam Milk Cooperatives and for the farmers’ meeting in the Erode Milk Unions’ premises. Representatives from all the affiliated milk cooperatives were invited for the meeting. Dr Kurien’s stay at Erode on January 15, 1979 was arranged at the Seshayee Paper Mill Guest House, courtesy: Dr Muthuswamy. 

Mr Paramasivan and I received Dr & Mrs Kurien at Coimbatore airport on January 16, 1979. Dr & Mrs Kurien stayed at the Agricultural University Guest House, Coimbatore. 

The Convocation was in the forenoon of January 17, 1979. Dr Kurien was the Chief Guest and delivered the key note address. I had also attended the function. After the function, Dr & Mrs Kurien and I left for Gobichettipalayam, en route Erode.

We drove straight to Dr Sengottian’s house at Gobichettipalayam where we were met by Dr Sengottian, Mr SK Paramasivan and Dr Muthuswamy. From there, Dr Kurien was taken first to the house where his family had lived. On entering the house, Dr Kurien became emotional and said that he was hardly four or five years old when he lived there and that he had only vague memories of his stay.

Visit to Diamond Jubilee School

Later, Dr Kurien visited the Diamond Jubilee School. Mr Sachithanandam, the Principal of the school took Dr Kurien around the school. Dr Kurien recognised the class room where he had studied, even the bench and place where he had sat! Seeing the school bell, Dr Kurien said that it was the same bell which was there during his days. Dr Kurien became very emotional after visiting the school and tears rolled out of his eyes.

He wrote in the school visitor’s book: “I am happy to visit the school where I studied fifty years ago. If at all my life had become purposeful, it was because of the strong foundation I received in this school. (Signed) Verghese Kurien dated January 17, 1979”.

After visiting Diamond Jubilee School, Dr Kurien attended the public meeting arranged by Mr Sachithanandam. The audience consisted of leading personalities from Gobichettipalayam and nearby villages, many of them alumnae of Diamond Jubilee School and staff and students of the school.

The Deputy Collector, Gobichettipalayam, a young IAS officer, was also on the stage. Mr Srinivasachar, one time Tuition Teacher of K Kurien, was specially brought to the function and was seated on the stage. Mr Sachithanandam welcomed Dr Kurien and introduced him to the audience. Mr Srinivasachar recounted his memories and shared his association with the Kurien family, particularly the interaction he had with K Kurien. He recalled the days he had given tuition to K Kurien when Dr Kurien, a small child then, used to sit and at times sleep in his lap.

He felt it was God’s will that brought Dr Kurien to Gobichettipalayam because of which he could see him and also reminisce the good old days. Mr Srinivasachar spoke in chaste English, with absolute clarity. Dr Kurien thanked Mr Sachithanandam for taking him around the school and arranging the public function. He said he was immensely happy to visit the school where he studied some fifty years ago and that he would cherish the visit for ever. He thanked Mr Srinivasachar for having made it convenient to meet him, despite his old age. He complimented him on the chaste English he spoke with absolute clarity and said that the present generation had a lot to learn from him. Dr Kurien wished the Diamond Jubilee School all the best in the coming years.

Visit to Milk Producers Cooperative Societies, meeting Chairmen of Societies at Erode

From Gobichettipalayam, we drove to Vellankoil Milk Cooperative where the bonus distribution function was arranged. It was dark when we reached the village. The entire village had turned up for the function and the meeting arena was illuminated and bore a festive look.

The President of the milk cooperative welcomed Dr Kurien and introduced him to the farmers. Dr Kurien complimented the farmers for organising the cooperative in their village and managing it efficiently. He was happy that the cooperative was in profit and that the members were being paid bonus. The cooperative disbursed some Rs 23, 000 bonus to its members, during 1978-79. Besides bonus, the cooperative also distributed prizes to the farmers who had supplied the highest quantities of milk, three prizes in all. Mrs Kurien gave away the prizes to the recipients, all ladies. The function was followed by dinner hosted by the Society President.

On January 18 morning, Dr Kurien visited the Semboothampalayam Milk Cooperative. On way, I showed him the milk distribution outlets we had recently organised in Erode Town. At the milk cooperative, Dr Kurien was happy to see the farmers (many of them ladies) standing in orderly queue and supplying milk. He spoke to the farmers and the society staff on the functioning of the cooperative. During 1978-79, this cooperative had disbursed some Rs 15,000 as bonus to its members. This cooperative had obtained a telephone connection recently and at the request of the President, Dr Kurien inaugurated the new telephone, by making a call to another cooperative which had a telephone connection. 

After visiting the Semboothampalayam cooperative, Dr & Mrs Kurien had breakfast with Dr LK Muthuswamy and his family. Mrs C Subramaniam had joined them at breakfast. It was indeed a memorable occasion for Dr & Mrs Kurien to meet all of them, particularly Mrs C Subramaniam who had specially come down from Madras.

After breakfast, Dr Kurien attended the farmers’ meeting at the premises of the Erode Milk Producers’ Union. Representatives of about 200 cooperatives had assembled for the meeting. Mr Paramasivan, Chairman Erode Milk Producers’ Union welcomed Dr Kurien and introduced him to the farmers. He profusely thanked Dr Kurien for all the support that the NDDB was extending to the Union. Dr Kurien in his address to the farmers complimented them for their efforts in successfully replicating the Anand Pattern in Erode. He said that the Erode cooperatives will be a model not only for rest of Tamil Nadu, but all the Southern States as well. Further, he said that the “Anand Pattern” was being tried for other commodities also viz fruits & vegetable, oilseeds, cotton, salt etc. He wanted “Erode” to be another “Anand” and wished every success in their endeavours.

Speaking at the Coimbatore Agricultural University Convocation Address, Dr Kurien said “The Anand Cooperative became the basic model for the national dairy development programme which is popularly known as Operation Flood. Under this programme, over the last few years, the Erode District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union has come up. Already, it has 153 village cooperatives. It handles 22,000 litres of milk daily and we are sure that it will rapidly come to handle much more than that, when its new plant, which is now under construction, comes on stream. In fact, Erode had become the Anand of the south. It is one of the 37 district dairy cooperatives which are now arising all over India. Moreover, Erode is the nucleus of a major milk cooperative network, which will cover most of Tamil Nadu during Operation Flood II”.  

Mr Paramasivan hosted a sumptuous lunch in honour of Dr & Mrs Kurien at his ancestral home in Chinniampalayam village. Mrs Paramasivan was excited to have Dr & Mrs Kurien at their house. For her, it was several days of planning and hard work to treat the guests with the very best of the family tradition. Dr & Mrs Kurien enjoyed the lunch and profusely thanked them for all their courtesies. He invited Mr & Mrs Paramasivan to Anand. Mr Paramasivan thanked Dr & Mrs Kurien for visiting them and accepting their courtesy. He said that their visit to Erode and their house will be long cherished and remembered.

After lunch, Dr & Mrs Kurien left for Madras by train. For Dr Kurien, a train journey was unthinkable because of his busy schedule which necessitated travel only by air. But, Dr Kurien’s weakness was always been the farmer for whom he will sacrifice anything! As the train started moving the station, Dr And Mrs Kurien, standing at the door of the coach, said “Poyittuvarom” (Goodbye).

A few days after reaching Anand, I received a letter from Dr Kurien which said “Dear Dr Madhavan: Just a line to convey my thanks to you for having made our visit to Coimbatore and Erode so very memorable. You have certainly succeeded in infusing the Anand spirit in that area. Mrs Kurien joins me in conveying to you and Mrs Madhavan our kindest regards. Yours sincerely, V Kurien dated January 27, 1979”.

To me, this was not just a letter. It was the most precious gift that I could ever think of: a life time achievement award!

Contributed by Dr. E. Madhavan, Former Regional Director NDDB , Mumbai

2 thoughts on “Feast of Memories -16”

  1. This visit to Erode is special especially since Erode is my birthplace. During my postings in NDDB, Erode I regularly visited Mr SK Paramasivam at his house. He used to praise Dr Kurian and NDDB. We discussed dairying in general and he was very passionate to talk about the Dairy farmers. I invited him to NDDB few times . He used to call me OORUKARA ( meaning both of us belonged to Erode ) . Dr Kuriens statue is at NDDB, Erode and Mr Paramasivam made it a point to visit during Dr Kuriens birthday and death anniversary to pay his respects. This in spite of his age and health .

    1. Thanks Lester for your comments. There are two more episodes of Feast of Memories 17 and 18 remain to be posted. Dr Madhavan has described the incident of Dr Kurien’s Statue that Mr. Paramsiam wanted to put in Erode and how it was finally put at ETDC.

      You could help me by sharing old pictures of Erode SHT, Dairy Cooperative meetings, Dairy plant etc. I wish I could add more pictures to Dr. Madhavan’s beautiful narrative. Thank you

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