To Manapad, By rails in 1926 By Fritz Miranda.
"Bharathy, can you visualise how I might have looked seventy five years ago?
Wearing shorts and an ill-fitting shirt, dishevelled hair and bare footed, difficult to picture, isn't it? Let me tell you something that happened at that time.
One summer vacation our father took us to a seashore resort near a village called Manapadu close to Tiruchendur. In the morning, my father went to the village to buy aappam for breakfast. Having forgotten to tell him to buy some other things, my mother sent me with another list. Playfully juggling some seashells, I turned the corner when a gruff voice shouted, yaarada athu ?(Who is that is a weak translation. Kaun hai re thu? In Hindi sounds better but does not have the punch of the Tamil phrase). I turned around quickly, but could see no one. Puzzled and confused I took a step when the stern voice again demanded, yaarada athu? As there was no one in sight I was terribly frightened and took to my heels. I ran into my father who was returning and told him about the voice. Not able to quite and stand my incoherent recital, he took me to the spot where I heard the ghostly voice. I held on to my father's shirt-tail firmly as we neared the spot. Yaarada athu? the voice called. The line was repeated. Looking up, my father saw the bird - Mynah perched on a stick protruding from a hut. The bird puffed itself up and chuckled to himself. I showed my fist to it? What else could one do to a bird?
Mynahs make good pets and can be taught to speak. Their imitation of the human voice is far better than that of parrots which have a nasal accent."
Mr.P.J.Prasad, author of this article is aged about 80 years (Wow!) and is living now in Kalakad, Tamil Nadu. This article appeared in the newspaper, 'The Hindu' dated 17th April, 1999. I wrote a letter to Mr.Prasad, who replied to me immediately with a brief intro, later sent me a very lovely and interesting letter. I reproduce it below:
Surely you must be thinking I am callous in replying your letter(s). Fact is you have stumped me with your eagerness in gathering info of Manapad. I should say enthusiasm. Here I am unable to provide any material worth the while. My excuse is that I was too young then. This incident I narrated in the article that appeared in 'the Hindu', was etched indelibly. And 75 years is quite a passage of time you would agree. My father was the Head Master of Margoshi's High School at Nazareth, a place close to Tiruchendur. He would take us to Manapad (two summers I think) for the vacation. We used to stay in a resort of (Late) Mr.Daniel Thomas, a leading Vakil of Palayamkottai. The Villa was close to the sea shore. This was how we happened to go to Manapad.
One thing I do remember is about the train ride from Tiruchendur to Manapad. There existed a narrow gauge (or zero gauge) line. (or am I mixing up?) The train of my memory had sure sort of open carriages. I might not have remembered but for the fact one of my cousins - much senior to me and my elder sister - whom we both hated - was with us on the trip. He was a cocky young lad ( now nomore ). We hated him because he used to tease my sister and I, as a knight in armour, stood by her side to defend! This cousin of mine (even forgot his name) used to jump out from the moving train, run upto a palm tree ( aplenty of palm trees I remember) pelt stones at the birds with his catapult and run back and get into the train ( all these gimmicks was to show off ! ). The train moved so slowly. Please check up about this if a train line was in existence around 1926 (28?). The train had few carriages for passengers. The rest was for goods.
Dear friend, I could gauge how disappointed you would be reading this letter of mine. On seeing your enthusiasm I am going to write to my elder brother now at a place called Thirthamalai in Dharmapuri district (he must be around 86+) Also to my elder sister, who is in the States. They may remember something about your wonderful place Manapad. When I get a reply I will write back.
Till then buy and God bless. Your friend P.J.Prasad
P.S. It is more Greek than Latin to me your mention of "website www manavai.com".Whatever it is!
(Thank you Mr.Prasad ! Your letter was not disappointing but it opened another interesting Story !! )
Though Mr. Prasad's memory of his train trip to Manapad is brief his narration is lively and it was of a great source of inspiration for me to do further research on the railway line. Senior members of Manapad did confirm the existence of the railway line during the period Mr.Prasad mentions. The rails said to have been used by M/s.Parry & Co. to transport the palm tree juice from Kulasekaranpatnam, a place near Manapad. People there still remember a "Seeni Aalai" (Sugar factory) in K.patnam.
I contacted Parry & Co in Madras for further information on the sugar factory and the rails. Most people in Parry did not know anything about a sugar factory Parry had, in a far off place in 1920s. But then, Parry & Co. provided me with a book, "PARRYS 200 A saga of resilience", the book published on its 200th year anniversary.
Yes. There is a graphic description in the book about the rails that once traversed that sandy terrain. I reproduce few paragraphs from the book here with the written permission from its publishers:
" It would be an exaggeration to say that E.I.D.'s venture at Kulasekaranpatnam (which appears in the early records as 'Coilsagrapatnam' and which was later called Kulasekaranpatnam) was an expensive failure. It was on the verge of success, but failed in the event, as will be seen a little later. But another venture of E.I.D. in this phase proved to be a resounding success.
Seeni Aalai Now
Train Ticket for the Railway
The Kulasekaranpatnam failure in far away Tirunelveli District, saw Parrys go down fighting, so to speak. Kulasekaranpatnam is typical of the south Coromandal coastal region, full of palmyrah and 'odai' palms in a virtual desert of sand. It was inhabited sparsely, mainly by palmyrah tappers. Rich in the palms which provided the juice from which jaggery was made. Kulasekaranpatnam had been supplying jaggery to the Vandipalayam factory from 1848. It occurred to the partners that, in order to save the costs of the long haul from Tirunelveli to Nellikuppam, it might be possible to set up a sugar factory in Kulasekaranpatnam where palmyrah juice could be pumped directly from the trees instead of being converted from the indirect medium of jaggery. The chief technical problem that had prevented juice from being transported to Nellikuppam was that, in transit, the juice would ferment unless treated with lime. Parrys thought this problem could be solved if a factory were built in Kulasekaranpatnam. Fuel and labour were lacking in the area. For labour, Parrys enlisted a few Koravas, members of one of the criminal tribes of the time who were under police surveillance. Casuarina was planted and coal imported. The machinery was brought from the Tiruvennainallur factory which had been closed down in 1904. It was very difficult to haul the machinery across the hot and heavy sand characteristic of the region. The main boilers were transported in novel and daring manner. They were plugged and shipped to Kulasekanpatnam. Then, they were thrown into the sea, leaving it to the surf to bring them ashore.
All this effort went to nought; the factory failed. Try what man could, the palmyrah juice fermented on its way and, therefore, could not be used in manufacturing sugar. The old method of making jaggery in Kulasekaranpatnam and then transporting it all the way to Nellikuppam had to be restored. But there was an interesting offshoot of this unsuccessful venture.
A light railway was set up initially to carry jaggery to the factory in Kulasekaranpatnam. It was little more than a tramline. But the South Indian Railway persuaded Parrys to build a genuine light railway to connect the factory with the railhead Tuticorin. It also allowed Parrys to use it for the public. The line covered about 27 miles, nine of which were along the seashore. The Kulasekaranpatnam Light Railway functioned from 1915 to 1940, but it had been endangered as early as 1926 when the Kulasekaranpatnam factory was closed. In 1940, the rails were uprooted and contributed to the war effort. But a ticket issued by this railway is mounted and preserved in Parrys as a proud memento of something that could have grown very big. "
I was floored guys, nearly 84 years ago people travelled by train upto our beautiful Manapad. History is interesting as I travel back in time. I can almost see the heroes and heroines and their stories unfold. I wish I had a time machine at my command. But no matter I shall continue to dig. Meanwhile there would still be stories of love, of joy, of hatred, of hope and expectations centred around the train. Anybody who do have such stories of their own or somebody else' 'or any 'titbits' of info, can mail them to
Believe me, I love every minute of this! Bye for now!!