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.