Category Archives: Madras

Miracles Do Happen Even in This Kaliyug.


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A Mother and daughter in Chennai (This picture was posted on Facebook)
A Mother and daughter in Chennai (This picture was posted on Facebook)

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In  the early hours of August 8, 2015, around 6:30 am,  a  walking group called “Twalkers” saw a mother and her daughter carrying a travelling bag at the Anna University Campus in Chennai,

The Twalkers saw them still standing in the same spot when they came around the second time. They inquired why they were standing there in the early hours.

Thangaponnu, the mother told them that she was a shepherdess from Musiri, a Panchayat town in the Tiruchirapalli district. Her daughter R. Swathi had scored 1017/1200 marks in her Plus Two examinations. After applying for entrance to B.Sc. Agriculture course, her daughter had been asked to come to Anna Arangam, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, to attend the counseling session ahead of the admissions process to B. Sc. Agriculture, scheduled to start at 8:30 am. She showed the letter received by her daughter from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU).

On scrutinizing that letter,  the Twalkers saw the mistake. TNAU had directed Swathi to present herself at The Anna Arangam, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, in Coimbatore, but some people had  inadvertently misdirected them to Anna University, Chennai.

When the mother and daughter realized their mistake, they lost hope of reaching Coimbatore in time because the distance between Chennai and Coimbatore by road is 533 km (331 miles) and would take around 8 hours to travel.When the mother and daughter realized the mistake, they lost hope.

Since the counseling was to start at 8.30 a.m. in Coimbatore, the Twalkers decided to help the girl and her mother reach Coimbatore by air flight. The Twalkers decided to share the flight cost of ₹10,500.

Some Twalkers teaching at the Anna University, spoke to TNAU registrar C.R. Ananda Kumar, and explained to him the situation and asked for extra time for the girl candidate.

The Twalkers brought breakfast for the girl and her mother.

Once the flight tickets were booked and confirmed, the Twalkers took Swathi and her mother to the Chennai airport to board the 10:05 am Coimbatore flight.

The flight Swathi and her mother were on landed at 11:28 am in Coimbatore. Arrangements were made to pick them at the Coimbatore airport. They reached the TNAU counseling venue by 12:15 pm.

Around 2:00 pm Swathi got admitted to B.Tech. (Biotechnology).

Swathi and her mother are now planning to visit Chennai again soon to meet the Twalkers who had spontaneously helped and thank them. The mother said that they would return the money the Twalkers had spent to buy their flight tickets.

Isn’t this incidence a miracle in this Kaliyug.

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Murder Most Foul: Part 3 – The Killing


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Alavandar: The Local Casanova

C. Alavandar belonged to the Hindu Vysya community of Telugu speaking ‘Komati Chettis. The members of this community are by tradition businessmen, and many of them wealthy, but Alavandar was not.

In 1952, Alavandar was about 42 years old, married and had two children. He lived in the crowded Nattu Pillaiyar Koil Street, in George Town, Madras, with his family.

After his discharge from the British-Indian Army, Alavandar got employed as a salesman at Gem and Company, the foremost dealers of fountain pens in China Bazaar, Madras, owned by M.C. Cunnan Chetty, a fellow Vysya.

Soon after the war ended in the mid-1940s, celluloid and plastic goods made their foray into the Indian market. Alavandar wanted to start a small business selling celluloid and plastic wares. Cunnan Chetty gave Alavandar a small space in the frontage of his pen company to display his celluloid and plastic wares and conduct his business.

Despite his unseemly looks, Alavandar always dressed well with a necktie or a bow-tie to boot. He was not keen on conducting business but had interest only in women. He was indubitably a womanizer, a local Casanova, romantically involved with many women.

In the early 50s, fountain pens were a prized possession. Alavandar used to allure young women by initially presenting them fancy fountain pens, building their friendship, and eventually taking them to a lodge on Broadway to have sex with them.

Alavandar also sold saris in instalments on easy payment terms. He chose this line of business mainly to inveigle women. Many of his women clients who failed to pay the instalments were willing to pay him in kind by accompanying him to lodges to have sex with him.

He regularly visited the YMCA, opposite the Madras High Court, always in the company of a woman. Once he boasted to one of his friends that he had slept with 400+ women of all communities.

One of the women he was romantically involved with was Devaki from Kerala.

In mid-1951, Devaki, then young and single, engaged in Hindi ‘prachar‘ work, came to Gem & Company to buy a fountain pen. There, she met Alavandar and the two became friends. By October that year, Alavandar took her to a lodge in George Town and slept with her. To the playboy, Devaki was just one more notch on his scabbard.

By the end of that year, Devaki broke off her relationship with Alavandar and got married to Prabhakara Menon.

After their marriage, Prabhakara Menon and Devaki went to Gem & Company. Alavandar congratulated Menon for marrying the lovely young woman. The way Alavandar behaved intimately with Devaki, sowed seeds of doubt in Menon’s mind about the fidelity of his wife. One day the newly wedded couple went to Minerva Theatre in Broadway, Madras. During the show Devaki confessed to her husband about her intimacy with Alavandar and said the womanizer was stalking her again, harassing and beseeching her to renew their relationship.

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Alavandar Murder Case - Paper cutting - 2
A paper cutting with photos of Prabhakara Menon, Devaki and Alavandar.

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The Killing

The Menons had a boy as their servant and provided him food and lodging in their house. Later on, during the murder investigation, the boy told the police that at nights sleeping on the floor near their bedroom he could hear Devaki sobbing at times. Also, he had heard Menon and Devaki talk about Alavandar and the ways to get rid of him. According to the boy, Menon had coerced his wife to bring Alavandar to their house so that he could meet out to the devil his due.

In the morning of August 28, 1952, the day of the fateful murder, Menon bought a ‘Malabar knife’. Later in the day, he gave the servant boy pocket-money and asked him to go sightseeing as he was new to Madras.

That afternoon, Alavandar came to Devaki’s house at Royapuram by rickshaw with high hopes since Devaki had told him that her husband would be away from home. Many people in the neighbourhood including the owner of the shop hiring out bicycles near Devaki’s house, had seen Alavandar going up the steps and knocking on the door. But nobody saw him coming out of that house.

As soon as Alavandar stepped inside the house and closed the door, he started physically molesting Devaki, trying to undress the unwilling woman. Prabhakara Menon, who was in the kitchen, rushed out with a knife in hand and enraged with what he saw, killed Alavandar by stabbing him.

Menon then cut off the dead person’s head using the lethal Malabar knife.

The couple packed the murdered man’s headless torso into a steel trunk. Menon transported the steel trunk to Madras Central Railway Station. On his way to the Egmore Railway Station, Menon threw the Malabar knife in a park on Broadway, Madras. With the help of an unsuspecting porter, Menon placed the steel trunk under a seat in a third class compartment of the Indo-Ceylon Express.

On returning home from the railway station, Prabhakara Menon wrapped the severed head in Alavandar’s shirt, carried it to the Royapuram beach, and buried it in the sand.

Later in the night, the couple set out for Bombay.

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← Previous: Part 2 – The Headless Cadaver

→ Next: Part 4 – The Trial and the Judgement

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Murder Most Foul: Part 2 – The Headless Cadaver


Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The Boat Mail Train aka the Indo-Ceylon Express

In the 1950s, there was much traffic between India and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) by land and sea. The Boat Mail train, aka the Indo-Ceylon Express plied between Chennai (then Madras) and Dhanushkodi on the Bay of Bengal. It took almost 19 hours to complete the journey of 675 kilometers.

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Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.
Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.

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After the Boat Mail train reached Dhanushkodi Pier at 15:05 hours in the afternoon, the passengers after alighting from the train crossed the Palk Strait using the steamer ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar Pier in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The ferry steamer used to leave the Indian shore soon after 16:00 hours. It took about 3½ hours for the crossing.

The era of the Boat Mail came to an end after a cyclonic storm with high-speed winds, and high tidal waves struck South India and northern Ceylon between December 22 and 25, 1964. The entire town of Dhanushkodi was completely submerged with heavy casualties. The railway line running from Pamban Station to Dhanushkodi Pier was destroyed, and a passenger train with over 100 passengers drowned in the sea.

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 The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964
The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964

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Years later, the name of the train changed from Indo-Ceylon Express to Rameswaram Express.

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The Headless Cadaver Crammed in a Steel Trunk

As the day dawned on August 29, 1952, the Indo-Ceylon Express was nearing Manamadurai. The passengers in a third class compartment started complaining about the stench emanating from a steel trunk placed under a seat and the foul-smelling gooey fluid that oozed from it. The train had left Madras Egmore railway station at 20:00 hours the previous night, on its way to Dhanushkodi.

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Alavandar murder case - steel trunk

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When the train came to a halt at the Manamadurai Junction at 10:15 AM, the Railway Police detained the compartment. The local police opened the steel trunk in the presence of witnesses and were shocked to see a headless nude male cadaver crammed inside, along with severed limbs.

Since the penis was circumcised and the victim was wearing green socks on his feet, the colour preferred by most Muslims, the police concluded that the murder victim was a Muslim. However, the police overlooked the thick string around the waist, usually worn by Hindu men, even today, to hold the loincloth in its place and did not place any importance on it.

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The First Autopsy in Madurai

Manamadurai was then part of the Ramnad district. At the district headquarters in Madurai, the District Medical Officer Dr Krishnaswamy, a radiologist, performed the autopsy on the headless corpse at the Erskine Hospital, (now Madurai Medical College). He took X-rays, and his report said the headless trunk belonged to a male of 25 years of age. Unfortunately, this conclusion was not quite correct.

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The Second Autopsy in Madras

Meanwhile, the headless corpse was brought from Madurai to the Forensic Department of Madras Medical College where Dr C. B. Gopalakrishna, Assistant Professor of Forensic Medicine at Madras Medical College carried out a fresh autopsy.

The autopsy result said the head was slightly decomposed. A sharp weapon had been used to sever the head at the cervical vertebra, and a piece of bone was missing. Nevertheless, the cervical vertebra of the head and the trunk fitted perfectly confirming that they belonged to the same person aged between 42 and 45. The missing Alavandar was 42.

Two teeth had peculiar formation, over-riding one on another. At the mortuary, Mrs Alavandar, after looking at the severed head and the peculiarly formed teeth – a solitary black tooth along with two teeth over-riding one on another, and the pierced earlobes, she confirmed that the corpse was that of her husband.

That Alavandar was an opium addict came to light when the narcotic was found in the dead person’s stomach. He might have consumed it as an aphrodisiac, or as a relief from his frequent asthma attacks.

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← Previous: Part 1 – The Decapitated Head 

→ Next: Part 3 – The Killing

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