Friday, September 29, 2017


My unforgettable life experiences by  Dr. Palani G. Periasamy
Dr. Palani G.Periasamy is a first generation industrialist, an NRI who came back to India to participate in the growth story of Tamil Nadu by starting several industries and educational institutions. 

In his evolution as an Industrialist  the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Dr.MGR had a catalyst role to play. In view of his close association with him  , there was an opinion in the world of  business and politics that he was the Front Man whom MGR was using  to invest his own money. This led to the author facing a lot of problems in running his industries after MGR passed away and a new Government came into power. All through his turbulent but successful career as an industrialist, Dr. Palani had to face a lot of criticisms from not only  politicians but also from a few  friends who had invested money in his projects, who felt that they were not getting enough returns.

`Periasamy is really enjoying life. He travels in a Benz Car. Politicians, officials, film stars and other VIP s are seen around him in celebrations` would be the crux of the gossips.
` When relentless criticisms were levelled against me , I could not rebut them as that would have opened up a war of words. I decided that through this biography I would  tell the world the full and true story and how I had to fight against all odds to reach the position I have reached today.`

Out of the 283 pages of the text in the book over fifty percent are devoted to the author`s friendship with MGR recalling many interesting experiences with the `Puratchi Thalaivar`. This may be because the inspiration for the book came from  a series of articles that the author wrote  in Dinamalar titled `I & MGR`.
Dr.Palani  met MGR during his first visit to USA as chief minister. As he was the  President of Tamil Sangams of three States in USA,  he  was requested,  by MGR`s friends in India , to coordinate all activities of MGR during his stay in USA. Watching MGR from close quarters Dr.Palani`s  respect and love for MGR grew . He was impressed with his keen commitment to develop Tamil Nadu into a top class state in terms of both industries and education and his humane approach in dealing with people. 

Dr.Palani quotes the instance when MGR refused his  offer to travel in his big car instead of the small car which the Indian embassy official had brought to the airport to  take him to the Hotel where he was staying. MGR responded, ‘I have come at the invitation of the American Government. I will travel by the car sent by them. Here it is the protocol that is important and not a big car or small car’.
On another occasion MGR missed a train to New York from Baltimore because he was busy at the platform talking to a woman who had travelled a long distance with her child, just to meet him.  He justified his missing the train by telling Dr.Palani, “ Doctor! Rail may come and go.  But if I had not spoken to her she would have felt hugely disappointed. Just look at the woman. How happy she was`’ 

It seems that MGR too was very impressed with Dr.Palani`s network , sincerity, frankness and  organising skills.  Before he left USA,  MGR requested Dr.Palani to help start a top class management institution in Tamil Nadu. The establishment of Anna Institute of Management in Chennai  was the first initiative in which the author actively helped the TN Government. Thus began his tryst with Tamilandu and its industrial progress resulting  in his starting a number of industries and educational institutions later.

It was during MGR `s second trip to USA when he was in  the Brooklyn Hospital undergoing treatment after a Kidney transplant that Dr Palani  faced a major crisis in his life. As a good friend he was actively helping MGR and his team during their stay in the hospital. Back home it was election time and the opposition started spreading the rumour that MGR was dead and that his body was kept in an ice box by Dr.Periasamy.  Not knowing the true facts his family back home was also very upset. The rumour had the potential of  making  AIADMK lose the elections.  Periasamy, then decided to shoot a video film, showing MGR in action in the hospital room, depicting him perform  his normal activities, establishing that MGR was recovering well.  This video was widely screened across Tamil Nadu turning the electoral scene in favour of AIADMK. The Video tape really created  history in Tamil Nadu

Dr.Palani was born to Palani Gounder and Palaniyammal in 1939 as the first male heir of the family at Muthugapatti near Namakkal in Tamilnadu. His father was deep into farming and agriculture oriented industries. Dr.Palani credits his father for  inspiring him to help others who are in need as a credo in his life.
 He did his schooling in Sendamangalam High School , 5kms from his village. He did his first college stint in Alagappa Arts College in Karaikudi and later at St. Joseph`s college, Trichy where he passed B A Economics with flying colours. This  helped  him get an easy entry  into  Presidency College, Chennai to do his MA in Economics. In Presidency college he got involved with the Students Union of the college where his leadership qualities and organizing skills brought him close to many politicians of the time including K.Kamaraj, the then Chief minister of Tamil Nadu. 

`As a student leader I had the good fortune of being associated with several industrialists, educationists, social workers and other VIPs  which proved to be a turning point in my life. My  latter day successes in life was the result of the rich experience I gained in Human  relations as a student leader` says Dr.Palani.
After failing in his attempt to join the Indian Administrative Services, though he had lucrative offers from a few private  companies, he decided to join P.S.G.Arts College in Coimbatore as a teacher as  he realized that  teaching was his first love. Later he joined the Tagore Govt. Arts College in Puducherry, where he rose quickly  to become an Asst Professor. He was only 25. When his efforts  to get a doctorate  in India failed he decided to go to USA to pursue his dream.  He earned a Phd from the University of Pittsburg in Economics in 1969 after which he joined the Washington  college as an Asst Professor. He was to become a very successful educationist during his stint as a popular Professor between 1969 and 1987. He was  also earning good mone
It was during his stay in Baltimore that he initiated the `Tamil Nadu Foundation of USA` of which he became the Founder President. The Foundation encouraged the NRI Tamils to donate money to the Foundation ` to extend assistance to the health and education sectors in Tamil Nadu`. His success with the Foundation as a leader led him to  start the Federation of Tamil Associations in North America ( FETNA). Before returning to India, motivated by MGR, he had also started a company ` Mid-Atlantic Associates` and invested in hotels, shopping malls etc. and earned sizable profits not only for himself but other friends who had invested money in his company. He did not realize at that time that this experience would lay the  solid foundation for his becoming a leading industrialist in Tamil Nadu, later. His move to Chennai to start industries was largely because of the incentives offered by  MGR. 

Dr.Palani says, `A portion of funds invested in my business was from my own earnings. The rest was from the Tamils living in America who had faith and trust in me. Unfortunately, those who did not know the facts  spread  rumours that MGR had been my source of funds` 

His first industrial venture was Dharani Cements followed by Dharani Sugars. His foray into educational field started with  PGP Arts College   which  was followed by PGP College of Engineering, PGP Polytechnic College, PGP College of Education , Dharani International School, Dharani Matriculation High School and PGP International School.

It was MGR again who goaded him to  start a Star Hotel of International standard in  Chennai. Though the initial idea of starting a joint venture with the Tamil Nadu  Govt. failed because of the political developments after MGR`s demise, Dr.Palani went ahead and started  the `Le Meredian Hotel in 2000 on his own with support from friends. `Le Meredien` proved to be one of the very successful ventures of the PGP group leading him to start another `Le Meredien Hotel` in Coimbatore.

From Muthugapatti to Washington, from a teacher to a leading industrialist, Dr.Palani`s life story is both interesting and inspiring.

 Published by Vanathi Parhippakam, the original biography  in Tamil  was written by Dr.Palani  in association with the Tamil writer Rani Maindan and it has been translated into English by the bi-lingual writer Charukesi.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Call Drivers

  Call Taxies and Call drivers have become an integral part of our lives these days. This article is about the ubiquitous Call Drivers who have become  essential service providers to all those, particularly senior citizens like me, who own cars but do not have the confidence to drive their cars because of poor reflexes and weakening eye sight.
 I had resisted the temptation to hire the services of call drivers for a long time because of a sense of insecurity I felt in hiring them. I did not like the idea of all kinds of strangers coming home and also the thought that my car would be ruined in the hands of such drivers with their varying driving skills was unnerving. However, when  my part time driver quit his job and I found that I don`t need the car every day, I was reluctant but compelled to start using the services of call drivers.  Looking back I realize that over 90 different drivers have had the pleasure of ‘raping` my car in the last one year. A few of them repeatedly.  Yes, that is how I feel every time a driver doesn`t handle the clutch and  gear system properly. As a person familiar with the rules of correct driving, it is a painful experience to sit helplessly in the backseat of the car , when the driver is mishandling your  car.

The service provider whom I have been using claims to have over 1500 experienced drivers on his roll and has given me satisfactory service so far. Except once in the last one year, the drivers generally have arrived five minutes before time. And those who don`t know the area where I live, call me and ask for directions. It helps that most of the drivers have their own two wheelers which enables  them to reach their customer`s place on time.

The drivers not only come in different sizes, shapes, driving skills but also some with irritating habits. There is a Carnatic music fan, who  starts  listening to the music from  his `Thumb Drive`    which he will plug into the audio system as soon as he is ready to drive. If by mistake you ask him `who  the singer is?`, he will start waxing eloquent about Carnatic music, assuming that you are also interested in his favourite passion. Another driver , in his fifties, has this habit of driving very close to the median.  So close  that I would be worried that he might hit the median any time. When I question him on this bad habit, his response, `If I leave a gap some stupid driver will try to overtake me saar, and  I don`t like anybody overtaking me when I am driving!` This guy also has the weird habit of  showing signs with his hand to cars coming from the opposite direction, sitting inside an air conditioned car!

While most of them are the quiet type who hardly talk, there are a few given a chance ,  will start revealing their whole  life story . I don`t mind such types because I pick up ideas for my stories from such talkative drivers. Some who are gossip mongers  happily narrate interesting anecdotes from the lives of a few celebrities whose cars they drive frequently and so  the list goes on.

Whether I like it or not I have learnt to live with the services of call drivers whenever I have to go out in the evenings or travel to distant  places wading through heavy traffic during the day.

This article appeared in Adyar Times issue dt 17-23rd September,2017 under my column `Rajan`s Random Reflections`

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Live for 100 years

`Live for 100 years` is a blessing commonly bestowed  on youngsters by elders. The expression is also used by people whenever they receive an unexpected call or meet someone suddenly.

 “You will live for hundred years- I was just thinking about you and you called.!” Almost every other day, all my life, I have been getting such a response from some one or the other when  I contact them on the phone; or  visit them  without appointment. It looks like I have telepathic ability which is constantly at work. While I used to be happy receiving such blessings when I was young, these days I resent it. I tell my well wishers not to curse me with long life but to wish me a healthy life as long as I live. I have a reason for a change in my attitude.

It is a known fact that because of advanced medical facilities enabling early diagnosis and treatment of diseases, the average life expectancy of people has gone up. From the obituary pages of newspapers you will notice that the average age of people dying of natural causes is   over 80. And there are many who are over 90 years.

 Many senior citizens today have begun to have a healthy second innings post retirement from a career job and are following their passions and live longer. However, it is impossible for them  to stop the natural ageing process leading to  old age related health issues. In spite of their efforts to keep themselves fit and busy with activities we find many old people are afflicted with dreaded ailments like  Dementia, Alzheimer, Parkinsons, etc.  Such diseases not only reduces them to a pitiable state but also imposes tremendous strain on the care givers in the family. I am a witness to many such instances of elders over 80 years among my close friends and relatives giving tough times to their family members. Such care givers, in spite of the love they have for the elders in the family, cannot but pray for the early exit of their dear ones. It is heart wrenching indeed.

 The well to do in our society can afford to appoint full time professional caregivers or admit their elders into old age homes or hospices providing good  care facilities at a cost.  However, it’s the middle class people staying in cramped apartments without the financial resources who suffer the most. Life becomes hell for such families.

I have always felt that those old people who die of sudden cardiac arrest  or those who go to sleep but don`t wake up in the morning are truly blessed people. One day they are alive and  active and the next day they are gone without imposing any burden on their families.

During  my active working days I used to Pray; `God! Give me lots of problems and the courage to face them… make my life interesting`. These days I pray; ` God! Please take me with my shoes on…. when I am still active and useful to society`. I don`t want to be a burden on my family with protracted illness of any kind.
Will God listen to my prayers? Only He knows.

This article appeared in the Adyar Times Issue dated 10-16thSeptember,2017 under my column `Rajans Random reflections`.

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