Mullai Periyar – We picked up this book in this year’s book fair. I should confess beforehand that I am not a kind of person who would pick up this book at first look. But he chose it. Now the book is at my home. Finishing off all the books that I had picked up for myself and with no book left over to cover up for my 2 hour journey to office , I just took this book with me. The author is just simply amazing. Writing fictions I feel is easier, you can let out your thoughts that comes up to your mind. But for history, you need a lot of research and Vijayapadma has done a full justice to this. The book keeps loading us with a lot of information and we just cant let down the book until all our ‘What happened next?’ questions are answered.
Why this DAM?
Its centered around ‘Mullai Periyar Dam’ in Kerala state of India. The book doesn’t just begin with the construction of Dam, but takes us back to the history of India – British king James I ,wanted to the get the trading rights for his East India company . Sir Thomas Roe was sent by the King to get the rights for Trading. The English ambassador Sir Thomas Row befriended the Mughal emperor Jahangir and became his drinking partner. Slowly he got the permission to establish trading in India. First this company took over the west and east seashore area to export cotton. Since there were a lot of protest against this, they got permission to expand their trading in Madrasapattinam.
Slowly the British started to export grains from India leaving the people of Chennai Makkanam to starve. As the famine struck strongly, the Chennai Makkanam people started falling on the streets and death rate due to famine was rising up at faster rate. This threatened the then ruling Britishers. To combat the mortality rate and at the same time to secure their trading, they decided to strengthen the Water bodies to support agriculture. Madurai was then ruled by Senathipathy, who looking at the dried lands of Madurai, Ramanathapuram districts decided to merge Mullai and Periyar rivers, build a Dam and divert the water flow through Madurai and Ramanathapuram. But he did not have enough funds to kick start the project. After Senathypathy, there were so many people who attempted to start this project but all their efforts went vain. After around 65 years, John Pennycuick and a group of Military professionals were assigned by Queen Elisabeth to take over this project. Pennycuick gave an estimate of 75 Lakhs to complete the construction and it was sanctioned by the Government.
Pennycuick has planned a lot for the project. People who were very strongly determined we chosen for labor work. Since those areas were thick dense forest by then, people had to travel a lot of distance for work,so to combat this travel time, they had put houses for labors near the construction place. Hospitals were arranged for people who gets infected by cholera. More and more people came for work as they were fairly paid. When there was just 30% of work left over to complete the construction, there were two big disaster they had to face. One, all the Phase II constructed part of Dam was destructed by a group of elephants and Phase III was destructed by flood(There is an interesting story related to this- Read it yourself :)). When the government refused to allot more funds to combat the loss, Pennycuick went to England sold off all his properties and came back to India with 45 Lakhs and they successfully completed the project.
There are a lot more interesting facts on this book. This book surely enlightens people in a way that next time, when we read a headlines in Newspaper on Mulai Periyar, It would definitely be Pennycuick’s determination and efforts that pops up on our mind before Mullai Periyar the Kerala – TN dispute takes over the mind.