Coimbatore Is A Paradise, Reminisces Palakkad Born Retired IPS Official

Sekaripuram Subbaraman Vaidyanathan divides his time between the old and the new worlds. He lives in the USA and in Coimbatore. His wife Nirmala keeps him company and a few relatives live nearby in the retirement home chosen by the hospitable couple. Vaidyanathan was born to Subbaraman and Arundhati who was known as Ponnammal. The family hails from Sekaripuram near Palakkad in Kerala. The Palakkad and Thrissur regions are known for the presence of a large number of learned people who speak Tamil. Many of them were Sanskrit scholars and were also known for the innovative minds. Our former Chief Election Commissioner T.N.Seshan is from Kalpathi area in Palakkad district.
The village Sekaripuram is so named after Shekhari Varma, the ruler of Palakkad. This old village is known for its ‘Rettai Theru’ (double street) and the annual car festival takes place in the month of May. Vaidyanathan was brought up in Coimbatore but remembers spending his summer vacations at Sekaripuram. The village is famous for its temples – Lakshminarayana, Ayyappa, Bhagavathi, Shiva & Ganapathy. A major Kumbabishekham festival in May 2007 was conducted at the Lakshminarayana Temple. The five temples belong the five main streets of this village.
Kerala was always known for its interest in acquiring knowledge. Therefore a number of scholars settled down in this region. Patronage helped them to progress and the agraharams were known for the dissemination of knowledge. It was a time when knowledge was shared and not peddled.
Subbaraman, the father of Vaidyanathan was B.A., L.T., of those days and he was a science teacher at the Municipal High School in R.S.Puram. He had served as the Head Master of the Middle School in the same area. Subbaraman moved over to the Suburban High School in Ramnagar thereafter. Vaidyanathan studied at the R.S.Puram Municipal High School and moved over to Suburban High School in 1950. His Intermediate was from the Government Arts College (1953 – 1955) in Coimbatore. This was followed by a B.A (Hons) in Economics from the St.Josephs College in Trichy.
“Life changed thereafter for me. This was the turning point. I wanted to clear IAS but was not eligible because of my age. One had to be 21 years in order to appear for the exams. Therefore I did my IPS. I had to teach myself and had stayed with my elder brother S.S.Venkateswaran in Mumbai. The exams were cleared by me in 1958 and I joined as the A.S.P (Assistant Superintendent of Police) in Baroda. I had cleared the exams with high scores but yet agreed to go to any part of our country. The Bombay State became Maharashtra & Gujarat those days. I put in work at Baroda, Ahmedabad and Amreli (Saurashtra) for about 7 years. The IB (Intelligence Bureau) was my place of work thereafter. I served in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Trivandrum for about 13 years or so. The work culture did not suit me and therefore I quit in the year 1980 while I was D.I.G (Deputy Inspector General of Police),” recalled Vaidyanathan while talking about Coimbatore.
Vaidyanathan settled down after his marriage to Nirmala and the couple are blessed with Vijay & Rajiv. Both the sons are in the USA. The IPS officer quit his position and joined the private sector. “I thought that it was a good place to work but then it was yet to mature itself with good management practices. Work took me to Singapore and Sri Lanka. I had served with the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) as the Director – Human Resource Management. Well I must share this – we used to receive a number of foreign dignitaries and delegations. My work in this regard was recognized by the Government. I was awarded a medal for my service,” added Vaidyanathan before shifting back to his memories of Coimbatore.
Tirupathi Venkatachalapathy happens to be the Kuladeivam for Vaidyanathan and Nirmala’s family deity is Manapalli Kavu. The bust of the Devi is worshipped in the sanctum. Nowadays, the Vaidyanathans spend a lot of time with their relatives in their retirement home. They have a lot of time to chat, read and walk around in the gardens. Avid reader Meera Padmanabhan, the elder sister of Nirmala lives next door.
Coimbatore is the home to a number of old age homes / retirement homes. A lot of talent and experience can be discovered in these homes.
Vaidyanathan recalled his experiences in Coimbatore. “R.S.Puram was the most advanced part of the city. Diwan Bahadur C.S.Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar had created this nice place. The Diwan Bahadur Road was known as the ‘Seventy Feet Road’ and many people had written about this road. We had cycles and they were a luxury. We used to peddle our way to places like Tatabad and Marudamalai. This was like going abroad. Classmates used to get together in order to finalize the trips. We cycled all the way to Marudamalai, climbed the hill and used to witness the abhishekham to Lord Muruga. The discussion was to ensure the timing of the same.”
The youngsters had cycled to Bharathi Park which had been known as Goshion Park then. A number of movie shoots had taken place in this park those days. They used to visit the Coronation Park (V.O.Chidambaram Pillai Park) near Jail Road (Dr.Nanjappa Road).
A loud speaker used to broadcast the news on news time. Radios were a rarity then and more than 100 people used to assemble on news time in order to keep themselves updated. Otherwise they had to wait for the news paper news next day. Vaidyanathan & co used to cycle through agricultural lands too. He remembers the fields, coconut and areca groves of those times.
Vaidyanathan and his classmates ate at home most of the time but remembers having food at a number of vegetarian joints – C.S.Hotel, Ranjitha Vilas, Bombay Anand Bhavan, India Coffee House, Ideal Restaurant, Original Viswanatha Iyer Mittai Kadai and Regal Restaurant. Non vegetarian food was available in the town area but these boys did not frequent them at all. Subbaraman had got a house at the Cooperative Colony (later came to known as Sai Baba Colony) and the family began living there. He remembers a structure which was placed in order to announce its founding. It had been unveiled by N.Sanjeeva Reddy, the Union Minister for Cooperation.
Nirmala Vaidyanathan remembers the Coimbatore of 1964, “We were newly married and watched the movie ‘Pasamalar’ in a thatched roof theatre near our house.
They changed the reels a number of times during the movie and therefore we had a number of breaks.” Nirmala’s father Dr.S.R.Krishnamurthi had put in efforts during his tenure at the postal department and his work integrated the department in Travancore Kingdom with the rest of the country. Dr. S. R. Krishnamurthi had done a doctorate on ‘Temple Culture in the Chola Period’ (Annamalai University) under the guidance of K.A.Neelakanta Sastri. He had done his thesis during the times of his active service.
Vaidyanathan and his friends used to watch English movies at Rainbow and Srinivas theatres. He remembers seeing the first Superstar of Tamil cinema M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar in Coimbatore, “MKT was always with a silk jubba and he had a shining complexion. I have watched a number of his movies as child and they include Sivakavi. I remember watching Jagadalaprathapan and movies connected with N.S.Krishnan too. Coimbatore was a big movie centre.
During the later years we used to get video cassettes of these movies and watch them from home.
Those were the times when we frequented Raja Theatre, Srivalli and Shanmugha often. Cannot forget those days.
Coimbatore had a fine weather, commerce, good people and good quality infrastructure.”
The retirement homes in town have brought back a number of Coimbatoreans and their memories back home.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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