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Another one bites the dust

The Kushaldoss Garden and

Opposite Pachaiyappa's College, right on Poonamallee High Road, was one of the most magnificent mansions on a road known for its garden houses. Kushaldoss Gardens, as it was known, tragically fell to the wreckers' hammers a couple of weeks ago - and with that vanishes from the Madras scene probably the last marker of a family that was one of the most prominent ones in 19th Century Madras. Many members of what was the leading Gujarati family in Madras still live in the city. I hope now that Kushaldoss Gardens has been pulled down to make way for development, they'll be more forthcoming with the story of a family whose connections with Madras go back over 175 years and the story of the mansion that stood out on Poonamallee High Road. Until then, what little I've been able to gather of both in the past, I offer readers today. But it is a record that is vague at best and with a surmise or two at worst.

Of the family it was written, "There is no more honoured name than Kushaldoss in the whole of Southern India." The best known of the family was Dewan Bahadur Lodd Govindoss Chathoorbhoojadoss who, as a 36-year-old, was appointed Sheriff of Madras in 1914, and who gained an envious reputation as a philanthropist. His father was Chathoorbhoojadoss Kushaldoss, but was C. Kushaldoss & Sons on Mint Street, founded in 1828, a business established by Govindoss' father, or grandfather as is stated in at least one brief account of the family? But whoever established the business house, textiles and banking were its main business, though it was also involved in a considerable amount of trading activity, dealing particularly in silk, musk and spices. They also ran an embroidery factory, the first in South India. For years, they were agents for Burmah Oil throughout the Madras Presidency.

Dewan Bahadur Chathoorbhoojadoss, Sheriff of Madras

The richly ear-ringed, be-ringed and massively turbaned Govindoss cut a fine figure in the Madras of the day. But he made a greater impression with his donations. He contributed Rs. 10,000 to the statue of Edward VII raised in 1906 in front of the gates to Government Estate, across from Simpson's, he gave the entire Rs. 45,000 for the George V statue raised in George Town in 1913, he donated lavishly to the SPCA and various Hindu charities, and he gifted the Madras Pinjrapole, that old age home for cattle, the 12 acres in Ayyanavaram where it was established in 1906.

On both sides of General Patter's Road, between the LIC building at one end and the erstwhile Midland Theatre campus at the other, appears to have been Kushaldoss property and in it, where a school now functions close to the theatre, was the Kushaldoss home. Another Kushaldoss property was the garden the YWCA bought in 1906 to develop its home. But Kushaldoss Gardens, with its handsome polished black granite pillars, ornate half pillars and decorative cannon - when I last saw it some years ago - has always been a bit of a puzzle to me. Was it at any time the property of the Travancore Royal family and was Ramalayam in Adyar its `country retreat' at the time? If so, did the Royal family buy it from one of those sahibs who built their garden houses on either side of Poonamallee High Road, or did they build it? On the other hand, did the Kushaldoss family build it, buy it from the Travancore family or from someone else? While hoping I'll get an answer to these questions, one thing I can state with certainty - and that is that from at least 1945, the property was known as Kushaldoss Gardens. I wonder whether the name will be remembered in whatever development takes place on the site.


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