The Good Samaritan

This is saga of the gentleman,though born with a silver spoon in his mouth, had throughout the short span of his life, the interests of the down-trodden at heart and worked for the improvement.Be it a temple   languishing for funds, rejuvenation of an institution in the doldrums due to constraint of resources and infrastructure, a town beset with drinking water problems, etc., You can find this Apadh Bhandava and Anatha Rakshaka (rescuer of those in difficulties and protector of orphans) in the thick of battle in shining armour to rescue those in distress.

Sir Muthiah Chettiar

This gentleman born on 8.02.1887 in a well known Nagarathar family of Chettinad,spent his

Sir Muthiah Chettiar
early childhood days in the company of his brother (later to become Dewan Bahadur Pethachi) and two sisters. Like all good children, he had his education in a government school in Chidambaram. After his brief trust with education, he, by dint of hard work and a pragmatic approach, not only sustained the on-going family business, but also developed it to such a remarkable extent that he became the family's pride and rivals' envy. The enormity of his contribution will be apparent if it is realized that at a time when transport and communications systems were crude and undeveloped he had to administer effectively business interests spread over several countries, like Burma, Malayasia, Ceylon, Indo-China, etc..He took over the United India Life Insurance Company and boosted it morale. As he was a shrewd banker, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Indian Bank.

His daunting spirit defied the wartime dangers and egged him on to visit Europe when it was plunged into the First World War. Though not a politician by nature or by temperament, he did not hesitate to respond positively whenever and wherever there was a demand for his stewardship. He headed local municipalities, and then called Unions. He allowed the Post Office at Kanadukathan to function from one of his buildings.

Though business was his first love, he did not neglect areas impinging on social harmony. He gave liberally to religious and social causes. A school in Madras was heading for its downfall because of paucity of funds but he could not bear it. He agreed to finance that school and to take over the responsibility for administering and developing it. Today, that institution stands four squares as a fitting monument to this philanthropic heart. No wonder the then Government of India watched his progress and contribution to society with considerable interest and delight which ultimately led to the conferment of knighthood on him, in 1921, at early age of 34.

He was elected to the Legistrative Council as a representative of the South India Chamber of Commerce.

He was fond of music and was a Member of the Triplicane Music Sabha.He was the Secretary of the Cosmopolitian Club, one of the most prestigious clubs of those days. He was fond of horse riding and it was a common sight to see him and his friend Zakiruddin Ahmed, who subsequently became Deputy Commissioner, on horse back.

This saga would appear as though he had a setback in his life, in any case the almighty never blesses any individual with unadulterated happiness. He had therefore the mortification of one of his sons turning out to be a spastic though the other one proved himself more than a chip of the old block. His family life with four children (2 sons and 2 daughters) was, otherwise on an even course. It had, however the shock of its life when this brain and bullion of society was snatched away by the cruel hands of death at the young age of 43. The family had to console itself that those whom Gods love die young.

You must have by now guessed the identity of his good Samaritan!

Sir M.Ct.Muthaiah Chettiar, whose portrait appears on else where in this Souvenir.And to the question as to which is the monument to this gentleman, the answer is: it is the same institution whose centenary we are now celebrating.

God and Three Shillings

St.Terasa of Avilla, who often embarked on big things with meager means, once wanted to build a large orphanage, but had only three shillings in hand. Many advised the saint to wait for some more time, so that enough funds could be collected before beginning the construction. To this St.Terasa's reply was, "With three shillings, Terasa can do nothing, but with God and three shillings there is nothing that Terasa cannot do."

Change Oneself First

The sufi Bayazid says this about himself:- "I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: 'Lord give me the energy to change the world" "As I approached middle age and realized that half my life was gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me. Just my family and friends, and I shall be content". "Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, my one prayer is' 'Lord' give me the grace to change myself'. If I had prayed for this right from the start, I would not have wasted my life."

M.Ct.M. Chidambaram Chettiar

Born on August 2, 1908, M.Ct.M Chidambaram Chettiar inherited at the early age of 21, not only the vast estate of his father, Sir M.Ct.Muthaiah Chettiar, but also the sagacity and soundness for which the family was known in business enterprise. The late Childambaram' as he was affectionately known to his friends, began his childhood with encomiums from his teachers. Then followed the unfolding of a full and varied life in public activity. He was for years a distinguished member of the Upper House of the Indian parliament, then known as the Council of State. He was on active proponent of chambers of commerce and industry. A sports man in every sense of the term, he was steward of the Madras Race Club for many years. A Unostentatious but generous philanthropist, his name has been associated with numerous educational institutions. Widely traveled and well-read, he was a person of rare personal charm.

His greatest contribution has been in the field of insurance, banking and industry. Inheriting the management of the United India Life Insurance Company founded by his distinguished father, he made matchless contributions to the building up of this premier institution not only in India, but in countries abroad like Burma, Ceylon, Indonesia, Malayasia, Philippines and Thailand. The magnificent United India Life Building in Esplanade, which became the rendezvous of every visiting insurance interest to Madras, was entirely his creation. But, even this fell short of his own dynamic approach and he became the first to conceive the idea of a skyscraper building in the field of insurance in the whole of India, as early as the year 1953. Being the first of its kind, he requisitioned the services of the internationally reputed firm, Messrs. Brown & Moulin, to design the building and until he was wrenched away from our midst on that fateful day of March 13, 1954, he was the honorary architect to the minutest detail of this imposing landmark in Madras.  The building was to involve an investment of almost a crore of rupees as estimated then and it called for rare fortitude to conceive of a building of this dimension.

By a stroke of the pen, the life Insurance Corporation of India became the inheritors of the soundness and popularity that the name "United India" carried. So also, the new Guardian of India Life Insurance Company, which the late Chidambaram Chettiar salvaged from the shock that the failure of the Travancore National & Quilon Bank imparted to this company. This company also grew from strength under his care. Indeed, a large claim of his insurance business, which he forcefully argued in person in the United States of America, several years ago, has now been admitted and became a windfall to the L.I.C. His interest was not only in life insurance, he also founded the United India Fire & General Insurance Company in the year 1938, closely following the Indian Overseas Bank, and this company has been growing from strength to strength.

Equally laudable in his contribution to Indian Banking, especially in the twin domains of exchange and overseas banking, which were largely the pre-dominant interests of Exchange Banks of India. When he was hardly 28 years of age, in the year 1936, the late Chidambaram chettiar had the wisdom to found the first Indian Bank, with the avowed object of doing primarily overseas and exchange banking. This was at a time when the largest bank of India, was statutorily prohibited from undertaking exchange business, as it was considered to be extremely risky for an intuition handling vast monies of the Government. That the founding of the Indian Overseas Bank, with its operations in Burma, Ceylon, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and Thailand, paved the way for more Indian Banks launching into the field, that the state Bank of India, the successor to the Imperial Bank, has since avidly taken to exchange business, amply vindicates the sagacity of his decision. Indeed, he presided over the destines of the Indian Overseas Bank with unique distinction and built it up, brick by brick. In fact, he lost his life in one of the missions for the Bank, which took him to Indonesia. The Indian Overseas bank put the name of India in the map of Banking in the Far East and lent not only assistance but prestige to hundreds of thousands of Indian abroad.

The same passion for new projects found expression in pioneering another industry in India, the manufacture of synthetic fibres. The Travancore Tayons Limited conceived by him, was the first major industrial venture in the line, not only in India. But in the Far East as well. In his own words "It had been foremost in.", his "mind to start and be associated with some industry which would be unique and which would be useful to the country as a national asset". The great stature that Travancore Rayons has attained is a living monument to the genius of this eminent son of India. The many undertakings that he founded and fostered in his all-too-brief but glorious span of life, have found the means of livelihood for some 10,000 people directly associated with these economic pursuits.

In the field of education, the late Chettiyar addressed himself to development to the Sir M.Ct.Muthaiah Chettiyar High School, started by his father, and gave generously in time and money, to make it a very useful institution in the city of Madras. Late he started the Lady Muthaiah Chettiyar High School for Girls in memory of his mother.

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