March 19, 2012
One of the most sensational cases that Dr. C. B. Gopalakrishna investigated from the Forensic Science angle was the history-making Alavandar murder case. Even though more than half century has passed since the murder and its trial that shook South India, it is still being talked about and discussed as excitedly as it was 50-plus years ago. This writer wrote a TV serial based on this case in Tamil, which was produced by the Dhina Thanthi Group-owned TV Division, and telecast over Doordarshan some years ago. The serial turned out to be a major success.
by Randor Guy
The noted Madras morning daily, The Hindu, carried a short news item one morning during August 1952. It had a sensational headline that caught the reader’s attention at once. "CITY BUSINESSMAN MISSING!"
A complaint had been made at the Law College police station in Esplanade, Madras that a person named Alavandar was missing, and his whereabouts were unknown. The complainant was a well-known businessman of the city, a big dealer in fountain pens and the owner of the noted firm Gem & Company, M. C. Cunnan Chetty.
Who was Alavandar? A man in his early 40s, during World War II he had worked as sub-divisional officer at the Army Headquarters at Avadi near Madras. He belonged to the Hindu Vysya community to which M.C. Cunnan also belonged. Known as "Komati Chettis," the Telugu-speaking members of this community are traditionally businessmen and many of them wealthy. But Alavandar was not. After his discharge from the British Indian Army service he looked around for a living and chose to have a small business of his own. Plastic goods.
The age of plastics dawned in India, soon after the World War II and caught the fancy the Indian consumer. The articles were colorful, light, and not so expensive. Plastic articles became the fashion of the day and Alavandar thought that it was a good line of business. His fellow Vysya, Cunnan Chetty, kindly gave him a small space in the frontage of his pen company for him to display the goods and conduct his business. Gem & Company drew many customers and it seemed a fine venue of business for the novelty of the day.
Alavandar also had another line of business. Selling saris on installments. The installment business was something new in Madras during that period. With its easy terms of payments and possession of the goods it found ready acceptance and took firm roots. Though some criticized it as "buying on the never-never," it found its place in the economy of the country and the world too. (According to law goods bought on the installment plan never really belonged to the user until and unless the last installment was paid. Until then the lessor was the legal owner and he had right to seize the property at any time for default in payment. That was why it was called buying on the "never-never" system of purchase because the article never legally belonged to one until the end.)