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The ‘Kuri’ systems of Kerala


Today there is much talk of Micro Finance systems and many people have rightly decided to throw their lots into it. At meetings, the phrase creates a buzz and many a dignitary now manages Microfinance organizations. Looking back into history, what did we have in South India, particularly Malabar, Cochin and Travancore? Kerala had over many centuries practiced the Kuri system or the Chitti system. But evolving from a noble social purpose, it grew to become a lucrative and unregulated business. Since then a number of chit funds came up and these days, we associate Chit funds often to nefarious & dubious ‘blade’ companies.

It was certainly interesting to trace the beginnings of this system. While the Kuri system itself has very ancient connections to Kavu Tattakam’s and other monetary schools practiced in various primitive civilizations, the system as such was social banking, created for the good of the needy. Later it became institutionalized to develop into large chit funds and eventually became regulated by banking acts.

According to Simcox in her book Primitive civilizations, the ‘Malabar Kuri’ system existed from ancient Dravidian times and is somewhat similar to the systems in China. Eminent historian Dr NM Nampoothiri in his Toponymical work – Legacy of Nila refers to Dr Raghavan’s conclusion that the Village Banking system known as Kuri has its origins from the ‘Kaavu tattakam’ social group system. ‘Kavu tattakam’ refers to the territorial jurisdiction of a ‘kaavu’ or temple to a specific area. There were many such Thattakams and all ‘Kaavu Tattakams’ were finally linked to Zamorin’s Tirunavaya Mamankam.

Having established it as an ancient practice in Kerala (Malabar, Cochin and Travancore) let us take a look at how it evolved. Note here that Travancore manual refers to Kuri as Malabar Kuri whereas others mention Chitty systems as mostly prevalent in Travancore. Is there any difference between Chitty and Kuri? Then there is the ‘Kuri kalyanam’ which still exists in Moslem circles of Malabar. To decide whether it was for social networking, micro banking or neighborhood reciprocity, let us take a look at specifics.

First let us take a look at the standard ‘Kuri” system. It is usually associated with the need by a person to raise a substantial amount on money in a short time, for a specific occasion such as a daughter’s marriage. The organizer or receiver sets up a luncheon or dinner wherein his friends participate by attending and by contributing a certain amount of commodity or money. During this event a second event takes place, lots are drawn to decide the next recipient. This thus functions for a certain period of time by rotation with the only uncertainty being the assurance of returning the money received by receivers. Since the event takes place in a tight community, the rules and regulations are determined by the fraternal relations and compulsions. However note that ‘kuri’ does not have a mandated payment period and the amount returned is the principal without interest. The effect of delayed return or non payment is gross humiliation or loss of face in his society.

This morphed into the modern day Simple or Changatha Kuri –which was based around meetings of friends and here the regular contribution was fixed for each member of such a group. Drawing of Lots decided the recipient from the group who hosted the meeting and dinner, with the Kuri period fixed in advance. The cost of the dinner is supposedly not more than 10% of the collections. Now note here for example that if the Chit period is 25 months, the persons who get drawn in the first lots are the bigger beneficiaries as compared to the one who gets drawn in the later lots e.g. in the 23rd month. The head of the group is called Kuri Moopan and he gets the privilege of being the first to draw the loan and is the proprietor of the system, responsible for the Kuri management and overdue collection.

Writers like Edith Jemma Simcox (Primitive Civilizations) believe that the coupling of this monetary event with a ceremonial eating event may go all the way to ancient Cretan and Carthaginian clubs. It was also found in ancient Babylonia, Egypt and of course China. In China it developed to what is popularly known today as the Chinese lottery.

The Chitty system became a bit more complex - There are usually 4 types of chits observed, the Simple Kuri (as explained previously), the Lelam kuri or auction chit, the Sahaya chit for needy people and the Prize chit or lottery where a certain amount of gambling is involved. There are also grain and cloth chits. After a while, it became necessary for security to be furnished in order to draw the amount on the table as a loan.

In the auction Chitty, the member offering the highest discount gets the chitty. In the Kuri or chitty system you pay back a fixed amount, i.e. the monthly contribution, regularly.

The Moplah Kuri kalyanam is a bit different. Typically conducted among the Moplah’s and Muslim fisher folk in North Malabar, a Kuri kalyanam is an invitation to a feast to which the guest is expected to bring a cash gift. It is also called ‘payattu’ in some parts of Malabar. It is either held in a tea shop, hotel or the portico of the house of the receiver. When the host in his turn is invited to a feast by one of the guests he is expected to return double the amount, or less if he is perceived to be poor. Thari kanji is served and usually some music blares out from loud speakers meant to announce the event held under a pandal with some colored ‘Jamkalams’ lining the sides. The compulsion of repayment was always moral, not legally enforced. In modern times, anybody could attend the feast and pay as he could or wished for the food eaten. The kuri kalyanam was thus a fund raising festival, involving a number of members of the local community. Rajan Venkateswaran explains the actual event in his very nice blog ‘A peep into the past’. He also clarifies that nowadays instead of Thari Kanji, you get LMPT (short form for a plate of Laddu, Mixture, Pazham (banana) and Tea). Rajan adds - remember that Rs 50 was a fortune those days. 8 gms of gold cost Rs 36. By that account, Rs 50 then was equal to nearly Rs 10,000 of today.

The details of the money given including the name of the person is noted down in a note book. Since everyone gives, the organizer gets a substantial amount ranging from Rs 500/- to Rs 2000/-. An accountant or clerk for the occasion sat at the entrance of the pandal or hotel, collected the money and made a note of the contributed sum against the name & details of the contributor. The next time this person is invited to a Payattu by one of the attendees, he looked up his little notebook and repaid a multiple of the sum that was contributed.

I was a little surprised to note that the amount to be returned is double, thus signifying an ‘interest’ article, which is traditionally frowned upon by Moplah clerics. However, this is indeed the case, unlike a simple Kuri where only the principal has to be returned.

Some reader’s might wonder what this ‘Thari kanji’ (translates loosely as ‘rough grain gruel’) is all about. I happened to stumble upon a video explaining what it is and how this semolina plus Sooji rava based version is made. It is traditionally eaten after the Ramazan fasting period and is very different from anything you would have ever eaten, sweet with milk, spices & onions.

So why is it called Payattu? Payatuu (like in ‘kalari payattu’) means working hard at something. ‘Panam payattu’ is working hard at making money for an exigency.Little of this money is invested, and is mostly spent on deaths, births and marriages. Non-payment involved gross public humiliation and many villagers even courted suicide.

Chit comes from chitty and this is the usual term in Travancore whereas Kuri or Panam Payattu is the name employed in Cochin & Malabar. It became very popular later in the 19th century in church going congregations, with the Chit business soon becoming very popular in Trichur. Sakthan Thampuran, the Cochin King, settled 64 Syrian Christian families in the Trichur town and these astute business men with their traditional flair for trade soon built up Trichur into a flourishing centre. Their financial acumen has been mainly responsible for founding and building up the Chit system of financing which soon became an all-India institution.

So, that for you is the Kuri system or what can now be termed as ‘money-go-around’.

But then we know that avarice has no limits. Kuri’s which started as vehicles of neighborhood reciprocity and social custom soon became a lucrative business that eventually diversified into ‘blade’ companies. To read more about that, check this link.

References

Malabar Law and Custom - Lewis Moore, Herbert Wigram
Malabar – William Logan
Primitive Civilizations – Edith Jemima Simcox
Court ruling document
Toponymical Studies Calicut – Dr NM Nampoothiri

Brilliant reads – Books by Bailey & Wren


The lost German Slave girl - By John Bailey
What a fascinating book this is. It tells you the strange story of a slave girl who lived around New Orleans, the real story of a young Sally Miller who left Germany with her parents bound for better luck in America, during the black days of the second decade of the 19th century.

In 1812, the volcano on St Vincent Island in the West Indies erupted. Following that we had the massive eruption of another volcano Mt Mayon in Philippines in 1814. In 1815, Mt Tambora in Indonesia erupted. All these eruptions cast tons of dust into the atmosphere, the sunlight reaching earth was diffused and the earth cooled. With disrupted weather patterns, crops failed in China and famine enveloped Bengal. By 1816, the effects were felt in Europe. It was a year without a summer. Germany had heavy rains, sleet & hail resulting in failed crops. There was no food to eat. The populace was desperate. The Miller family was one of the devastated families in transition. Like many others, they had decided to immigrate to America. After a terrible period in Amsterdam, when nefarious body shoppers, slave traders and ship owners harassed them, the family reached the eastern shores of USA. They landed, not as free people, but as slaves, for that was the cost of the voyage by ship to America. Soon the family was torn apart, taken by different buyers and they all met different fates. One of them, the young girl Sally Miller vanished.

Many years later, in 1843, she was noticed by a German lady who had also traveled by the same ship to USA. She recognized Sally and then started the long and terrible legal rigmarole, the process of arguing her plight in the courts. The end comes in the last line of the book and the author holds you spellbound until that final paragraph.

A beautifully narrated and remarkable story, I read it in one go during a flight that was delayed with problems to the nose wheel strut and other landing gear…

The book was intensely enjoyable, taut & suspenseful, and I wrote to the author informing of my deep appreciation for the same. John Bailey replied thus “Writing is a lonely business and hard work, so it is nice at the end of it all to hear from people who have read my efforts. Hope your flight ended safely”….A nice man, a nice book and something I now treasure in my library.

You can order this book online

John Bailey is an Australian author with five books to his credit. Bailey enjoyed a varied career, from being a public servant in New Guinea, a teacher in England and a barrister in Melbourne and is now a full time writer. His latest book, Mr Stuart’s Track 2006 (Macmillan), reveals the forgotten life of John McDouall Stuart, the first explorer to cross Australia from coast to coast.

Read here an interview with Bailey

The Cat Who Covered The World
The Adventures Of Henrietta And Her Foreign Correspondent - By Christopher S Wren

This one was discovered by chance. I was in the history section of our local library pondering over some books about the intrepid traveler Ibn Batuta. Then I realized that it was actually an extension of the history section, covering geography and travel and that there were travel books on all kinds of places. Nestling between some heavy volumes on travel to China and Europe was this thin book. I wondered how it reached there. Probably some volunteer student thought that the book was about travel and snuck it in there.

It is an offbeat book written by an expatriate traveler, and I took to it immediately. For I had been in the very same boat for so many years, living as an expatriate in Saudi, Turkey, US and UK. Of course now we are somewhat settled, but it brought fond memories of that special lifestyle understood only by another expatriate. I mean, would you understand if I told you that we packed kilos of green chillies, coriander leaves & curry leaves, and froze them for a whole year while at Turkey? Taking wee bits sparingly, now and then, for cooking? But that was another world, another time.

So this one is about the travels of Chris Wren and of course the central character in the story is his cat, Henrietta.I will just quote here from the Amazon review

Christopher Wren belonged to Henrietta the cat, and Christopher Wren travels far and wide in his work as a foreign news correspondent. Of course Henrietta insisted on being brought along to Moscow, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, and all the other cities the Wrens visited. And of course Henrietta got into all sorts of scrapes - cats can cause enough trouble right in their own living rooms! The Cat Who Covered the World is a tremendously entertaining memoir and travelogue, covering 17 years in the life of a busy cat and her accommodating family. Wherever she went, she charmed, and tales of flight attendants bestowing free portions of salmon mousse and Italian taxi drivers blowing kisses into her cage while ignoring the traffic are intertwined with more typical cat stories of sudden escapes into fields, food stealing, and incessant yowling at inappropriate times….

Another ‘must read’, especially for those who love cats and even for those who do not, like me.

You can order this book online

Christopher S Wren, as well as working overseas for the New York Times for seventeen years, also served as a foreign correspondent in Vietnam and has since reported on half a dozen other conflicts, most recently in Bosnia. He has won an Overseas Press Club Award and is the author of five previous books and now lives in New York with his wife and the successors to Henrietta.

The Goddess at Pompeii


Pompeii is a ruined and partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples. Along with Herculaneum, its sister city, Pompeii was destroyed, and completely buried, during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning two days in AD 79. It is today a popular tourist destination.

On a fateful day, Aug 24th 0079, Mt Vesuvius, the nearby active volcano erupted

"You could hear women lamenting, children crying, men shouting. There were some so afraid of death that they prayed for death. Many raised their hands to the gods, and even more believed that there were no gods any longer and that this was one unending night for the world." —Pliny the Younger, circa A.D. 97 to 109

Some people of Pompeii grabbed their beasts of burden and attempted to flee the area; others perhaps chose to wait until the streets were clear of the panicked masses; still others sealed themselves up in rooms, supposing that the ashes and poisonous gasses would not harm them there. The unfortunate people who could not escape in time to avoid disaster were killed by falling buildings, overcome by the mephitic gas, or simply buried by the rapidly falling ash. Their bodies were quickly covered by the volcano's mineral deposits, which covered Pompeii in a layer more than 30 feet thick.

It lasted 19 hours. Then, there was only a long, deathly silence. About 2,000 people died. Pompeii lay buried for nearly 1,700 years. It wasn't until 1748 that archaeologists began slowly uncovering the ancient city, preserved under 9 feet of volcanic ash and frozen in time by Pliny the Younger's vivid report

Many more years of painstaking archeological digging followed. In 1939, Italian archeologist Prof Maiuri, discovered an artifact in the ruins, that had a very Indian origin. This ivory statuette which survived the disaster and lasted all these 2000 years was identified by Prof Maiuri as that of the Goddess Lakshmi and dated to around 1AD. It has since then been quoted as the ‘Goddess Lakshmi statue in Pompeii’ in many books & articles.

The museum description states
The statue portrays Lakshmi, Indian divinity of feminine beauty and fertility. Naked, with two handmaidens at her sides bearing toiletries, her body is adorned with heavy jewels: a diadem on her forehead, a necklace on her chest and large and numerous rings on her ankles and wrists. Her long hair, also richly embellished, flows over her shoulders down to her waist. She is probably one of the apophoreta, ‘gifts to be carried away’, as Martial recalls in his Epigrams, a sort of prize for winning the dice games which took place during the numerous banquets, consisting of silver, bronze or ivory statuettes. A round hole above the head suggests, however, that the statuette served the purpose of a handle, probably for a toiletry object, or that it was a support for some kind of furnishing.

This small, rare sculpture, found in a modest dwelling in Pompeii, represents nonetheless an important indication of the trade relations that existed already by the 1st century A.D. between the Western Mediterranean countries and the East by means of the port of Puteoli, known today as Pozzuoli: created in Augustan times, the port received from every known destination spices, slaves, wine, grain, ceramics and precious objects destined for sale on the Roman market.

Discovered in Pompeii, Casa della Statuetta indiana; in a wooden chest situated on the western side of the Viridarium .
Rome played an important part in the Eastern oriental trade of antiquity. The Romans imported many goods from India and at the same time set up their own trading stations in the country. A particularly famous one was at Arikamedu (near modern Pondicherry), where Roman coins, amphoras and roman glass have been found. Trading in commodities from Southern India was very much to Rome’s advantage, and it is no accident that large quantities of Roman coins have been found in that part of India.

According to Butterworth & Laurence in their book ‘Pompeii’ (Pgs 54, 55), the statuette reached Pompeii around 40AD through a caravan of traders via the overland route. This was actually the leg of an ivory tripod table. The authors note the uncanny resemblance of the poses of the two acolytes to Venus, the Greek goddess. The statuette was found in the house of four architectural styles. It was a period when antibiotics from China and religions like Hinduism & Buddhism from India etc reached Greece & Rome and multicultural Naples (Ghosts of Vesuvius -Charles R. Pellegrino (Pg 158. 159)). Two identical statues has been found at Ter (Tagara) Bokhardan (Bhogavardhana) in India, testifying the statue’s origins, however the fact that it is goddess Lakshmi is hotly disputed. The book ‘State intervention and popular response’ - By Mariam Dossal, Ruby Maloni (Pg 46) gives further information that this statue originally thought to have been made by ivory carvers (dantakara) in Mathura actually came from Bhokardan. In "The making of Roman India" Grant Parker thinks it might have been the leg of a small piece of furniture and disputes it being a representation of Lakshmi.

Moeller (The wool trade of ancient Pompeii Walter O. Moeller Pg 76) feels that there existed a trade of dyestuff between Indian and Pompeii based on the fact that the building next door to the one that housed the statuette was a dye house. So he feels that the statue perhaps came together with a shipment of Indigo dyes.

So how did the statue find its way to Pompeii? Did they go with Indigo dyes from the south or via overland caravan trade? Most likely it went with spice ships that plied the Malabar & red sea coast, then overland to Alexandria and again by sea to Naples. Puteouli (Puzzuoli) near Naples had a major warehouse constructed by Domitian as early as 78AD to stock Indian spices. So the spice trade was in full swing at that time or even before that.

Researcher K. V. Ramakrishna Rao feels that the statue is much older. He contends in his paper (Ganges Valley Civilization to Indus Valley Civilization to Saraswati Valley civilization) that the statuette could perhaps be dated to an older pre-Mauryan period i.e., before 300 BCE.

At first look it did not look like a goddess statue to me. The statue itself bears little resemblance to the Goddess statues of India. Also I felt that a goddess statue would not be passed around as a toiletry object or become a part of table legs. Looking at the hair and ornament styles, they somehow do not seem very Indian to me, mainly the hair style behind the neck. The bangles in the arms and feet look African or Rajastani Banjara type to me, and unlike a high class figurine. The figure is also less buxom compared to usual Indian statues. So was it an ivory table ‘made to order’? Was it perhaps a Yavana sculpture from Arikamedu or Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu? Could very well be and we will never know for sure, its origins.

Amazing! This little statue survived the intense heat of the lava, the disaster and is now a testament to the trade relations between the ancient Greece, Rome & India dating back over 2000 years.

The Romans or Yavana’s in Tamil history is another rich & interesting topic, more on that later…

Note
: Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, and generosity; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. Physically, goddess Lakshmi is described as a fair lady, with four arms, standing upon a lotus, dressed in fine garments and precious jewels, bestowing coins of prosperity and flanked by elephants signifying her royal power. Her expression is always calm and loving. The most striking feature of the iconography of Lakshmi is her persistent association with the lotus. The discoverer must have wrongly attributed the likeness. See the normal Lakshmi statues to the side

Further references
To see pictures of the house where the statuette was found, click here
To read Pliny’s account click here

Pictures – from the web – thanks & acknowledgement to the uploaders…

When Gandhiji met Chaplin


It started off as an innocuous mention of this meeting in a book, but when I delved into it, it turned out to be an intriguing story. The mention was - Gandhi meets with Charlie Chaplin at the home of Dr. Katial in Canning Town, London, September 22nd 1931’.

I found some details in a book ‘Indian Summer’ by Alex Von Tunzelmann, a very interesting account of the road to Indian independence. Alex briefly explained that Gandhiji was in Britain as the sole Indian representative for the round table conference. At that point of time, two celebrities were visiting London, one being Gandhiji and the other, Charles Chaplin, the actor. Some bright guy decided that they meet. According to Alex, Chaplin arrived at the appointed east dock house and tried to figure out what to say. The two men met at the first floor apartment and waved to the spectators below (see video link at the end). Chaplin remembered later ‘now came that uneasy terrifying moment when I should say something astutely intelligent upon a subject I knew little about’. What did Chaplin say?

BBC reportedChaplin was in London primarily for the British premiere of City Lights. Increasingly he was becoming politically minded and wanted to share his thoughts with 'great people'. He met George Bernard Shaw, Ramsay MacDonald, H.G. Wells and Churchill, and he wanted to meet Gandhi. The only opportunity was while Gandhi was visiting a doctor friend not far from Kingsley Hall in the East End. Crowds had gathered to follow Gandhi and more crowds were there to see Chaplin. It was only a brief meeting - but they made the front pages of the newspapers.

Gandhi foundation recorded the meeting as follows - Gandhi went to see Charlie Chaplin in a small house in a slum district of London. After their meeting was over, Gandhi asked Charlie Chaplin: "Would you like to see the demonstration of our prayers?" He said: "There is no room for you." Gandhi said: "You sit on the sofa, we will sit down on the floor", and he offered the prayers, Charlie Chaplin wrote. "Gandhi and his men did not feel embarrassed to sit on the floor in front of me but I literally felt embarrassed to sit on the sofa and look down upon Gandhi and his colleagues."
Was that all? Actually none of the above accounts are complete in themselves.

Eric L Flom provided more details the meeting in the book ‘Chaplin in the Sound era’. Following an excursion to Spain, Chaplin made his way back to London where he hoped to have a few months of rest before returning to California. There he received an unusual invitation to meet Gandhi at the house of a prominent Indian doctor. Neither knew about each other. Curiously they discussed the impact of machinery on human life. Chaplin recalled saying “I should like to know why you are opposed to machinery. After all it is a natural outcome of man’s genius and part of the evolutionary progress. It is here to free him of bondage & slavery, to help him to leisure and higher culture…. You must progress like the western world. Sooner or later, you will adopt machinery”. Gandhiji accepted his criticism graciously and many years later, Chaplin used the discussion and his comments about the absurdity of the machine age in his movie ‘Modern times’.

Now you start noticing the undertones, Chaplin’s biographers write that Gandhiji wanted to meet Chaplin and other books vice versa. Gandhi's secretary, Mahadeo Desai, says that Gandhi was told that Charlie Chaplin would like to see him. But Chaplin had said: "I had been asked if I would like to meet Gandhiji. Don Byrne comments in his book ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ - He only agreed to meet him when he heard that Chaplin had come from a poor family in the East end where Gandhiji himself had stated as a student.

Joyce Milton in the book ‘The Tramp’ mentions Chaplin saying ‘The Gandhi’s and Lenin’s do not start revolutions. They are forced up by the masses and usually voice the wants of a people’, to Churchill even before meeting Gandhi (So obviously he knew about Gandhi despite the reports to the contrary). Churchill replied “you should run for parliament’. She also mentions that Chaplin (vainly) recorded in his autobiography about luminaries like Gandhi and Einstein who ‘wanted to meet him’.

Time magazine issue (Oct 5th 1931) clarifies thus - Mahatma Gandhi even talked to Charlie Chaplin—at the cinema actor's request. When told by his Indian friend Mrs. Sarojini Naidu that "the famous Mr. Chaplin wants to see you," Gandhi seemed puzzled, asked: "What is he famous for? Who is this Mr. Chaplin?" Sensitive Cinema actor Chaplin had been stopping the week-end with pugnacious Winston Churchill, M. P., public foe of Indian Independence. Mr. Churchill has called Mr. Gandhi "a half-naked, seditious fakir!" Mr. Chaplin, possibly primed by Mr. Churchill, fired the following question at Mr. Gandhi soon after he was introduced: "Why do you champion such a crude device as the hand spinning wheel? Inventions are the inheritance of mankind and should be allowed to relieve the burdens of mankind. I am diametrically opposed," wound up Cinema actor Chaplin with a Churchillian flourish, "to the abolition of machinery!" "The hand wheel and the hand loom," answered Spinner Gandhi, "are necessary to provide occupation for India's millions. Modern machinery installed in India would leave our people too much leisure. Also we would produce more than we need and thus enforce idleness upon some other part of the world as a result of our overproduction."

Abruptly St. Gandhi jerked out his dollar watch, announced that it was 7 p.m.—time to pray. Mr. Chaplin was moved to kneel and he scarcely wobbled during the long Hindu prayer. Departing after some further talk with the Mahatma, Charlie Chaplin gasped to reporters: "Gandhi is a tremendous personality, tremendous! He is a great international figure! More, he is A GREAT DRAMATIC FIGURE.

In the book Charlie Chaplin and his times, by Kenneth Schuyler Lynn, the conversation goes thus ‘ After all if machinery is used in the altruistic sense, it should help release man from the bondage of slavery, give him shorter hours of labor and time to improve his mind and enjoy life. Gandhiji replied that the first task was to rid itself of English rule. He clarified that machinery in the past had made India dependent on the English and boycott was a method of ridding itself of the dependence. That is why it is our patriotic duty to spin our own cloth. The altruistic aspect was apparently never explored in the discussion.

Christian pacifist & Gandhi's hostess, Muriel Lester, observed Gandhi and Chaplin as they “sat on a couch, rather apart from the rest of us, and talked about the people”. In her book ‘Entertaining Gandhi’, she states - "One of my clearest mental pictures is of Mr Gandhi sitting with a telegram in his hand looking distinctly puzzled. Grouped round him were secretaries awaiting his answer. As I came in, the silence was being broken by a disapproving voice saying 'But he's only a buffoon, there is no point in going to meet him.' The telegram was being handed over for the necessary refusal when I saw the name." "'But don't you know that name, Bapu?' I inquired, immensely intrigued. 'No' he answered, taking back the flimsy form and looking at me for the enlightenment that his secretaries could not give." "Charlie Chaplin! He's the world's hero. You simply must meet him. His art is rooted in the life of working people, he understands the poor as well as you do, he honors them always in his pictures."

"So the following week, on 22 September, 1931, at Dr Katial's house in Beckton Road, Canning Town, the local people were given the double thrill of welcoming both men." Hundreds of people crowded around the house to catch a glimpse of the famous visitors, some even clambered over garden fences to look through the windows of the house.

Kathy Taylor, a resident says -Dr. Katail was at 45 Beckton Road, that was on the north side, on the corner of Hudson's Road. That would be the 3rd road on the left as you came of the Barking Road. Although she was a child she clearly remembers the excitement of all the people in the street who were crowding around the doctors house eager to see Charlie Chaplin. The house has long since disappeared.

Interesting isn’t it? When you read these many accounts, how words are twisted here & there to subtly convey different tones& meanings? In the end, it was just a brief and uneventful meeting of two remarkable lives in the summer of 1931.

As Premen Addy said in The Hindu - There was enjoyment and laughter on the faces of the Great Soul and the Immortal Trump. Gandhiji knew nothing of Chaplin's world, and Chaplin had no special knowledge or understanding of Gandhiji's. But they were kindred spirits drawn instinctively to each other by a common concern for suffering humanity and a shared sense of fun. They both loved a good joke, and one at their own expense was to be relished most of all.
Watch the video of the event
Pic - Wikipedia, courtesy Life