Neidal Anto of Tuticorin has sent two books to me through Ivarius Fernando ,Chennai , a fortnight back. One was on the most revered Chairman that Tuticorin ever had , CRUZ FERNANDO and the other on the town Tuticorin itself.
Both well written, in easily readable style, slender in size, flawless in grammar and spelling, appropriately fonted and neatly printed, and moderately priced.
The biography of Cruz Fernando delineates, his early days, his employment in mills, his association with his British masters, his public service in educating the poor boys off broker money, his attempts to bring water to thirsty Tuticorin from the Tamiraparani, his daily visit to hospital to tend the sick , his laying out the cemetery and the market, his annoyance at the flea fested- foodstuff sale by the widow, and the compensation he renders to her , the efforts he takes to bring up a municipality building etc.
All these are well known to any discerning Bharatha and to the enlightened in Tuticorin and elsewhere. But the knowledge , Neidhal Anto adds, on the Collector Ash being shot and killed by Vanchi, at Maniyachi in the book indeed is something many of us have so far not heard.He informs us that collector Ash was shot at , not so much for his oppressive handling of Tuticorin national rebels and the riots they caused but for violating the caste code of the times.
Anto would say that Collector Ash did the mistake of taking in his vehicle a low caste pregnant woman in pangs through high caste street and offended their sentiments.
He would further aver that Ash ordered all his staff irrespective of their caste affiliation,to dine from the same table and drink from the same trough while in office—progressive steps much ahead of the times.
Anto records these information from hearsay. I wish he or some one else who reads these probes further and exposes if any record any where is available to substantiate and lend credit to such averments.
But one comparison comes to my mind. Dyer who massacred the congregation in jalianwallahbagh was reported to have been ired by the insult heaped on a British woman and took revenge on the crowd assembled in the Bagh.
Anto’s stout defence of Cruz Fernando constructing a memorial for his friend Collector Ash who helped him to bring water to Tuticorin,but held in contempt by Nationalists when the nation was fighting against the British for independence is laudable. He informs the reader that it is equal to VOC naming his son Walleshwaran, in gratitude to Justice Wallace a Britisher, who restored his lawyer Sannad when he was in indignant circumstance in life.
There are pages in the biography where Anto bemoans the lack of adequate recognition for this great savant from the community. But books like the one written by Neidal Anto highlighting the selfless services of Cruz Fernando I am sure would hasten the recognition for such noble souls.
On Neidal Anto’s ‘Tuticorin’ next Saturday.
By A.X Alexander