19-Oct-2007

Blast from the past

One of the buildings I visited before I left Mumbai for Chennai in mid 2003 was a dilapidated, heritage building in townside. It was typical of such buildings. The lift was cranked by hand and could be operated only when the liftman was around. The stairs were worn so smooth by years of use, that most of them were shallow. The plaque near the entrance said ‘Lakshmi Insurance, Lahore , 1921’. It could have been Lakshmi General Insurance and it definitely was some other year, but I am sure about the name and the era. I do remember my busy day grinding to a brief halt as this living proof of an India before partition came to light. It was like stepping into a moment in history when Lahore based businesses must have had branches in Mumbai and when Hindus living in Lahore must not have worried about the next riots.

I had forgotten all about this till I was surfing yesterday and came across this article http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2006/04/10/stories/2006041000110500.htm

The article is about a man called Santanam. Santanam was pretty well educated – he had studied in Cambridge, cleared his civil service exams and eventually gave that up in favour of law. Unfortunately, the conservative Tamil Iyengars back in his hometown, Kumbakonan (in Tanjore, Tamil Nadu) were not willing to hobnob with him or give their daughters in marriage (The article does not say why. Obviously the penchant for NRI grooms is quite recent). Santanam promptly pushed off to the North, and the rest as they say, is history. He found a bride and plunged into the non-cooperation movement. Eventually at the behest of Lala Lajpat Rai, he founded the Lakshmi Insurance Company, which had offices in Lahore, Delhi and present day Mumbai. This company later merged into the present day LIC.

Ah. The pleasures of everything falling into place serendipitously

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