Coppers from paupers
Dharmalingam Venugopal [Nilgiri Documentation Centre]
Not long after the Mahatma wrote about paupers in 1928 (The Hindu Feb 21) he made a weeklong tour of the Nilgiris. On Feb 2, 1934 he addressed public meeting at Kotagiri which was, ‘attended by about 6,000 people, mostly Badagas, a hill tribe. They presented to Gandhiji a purse and an address of welcome’.
Matha Gowder of Kannerimukku village, a young Badaga who was then free lancing for the South of India Observer wrote the welcome address. The Badagas had also made a modest collection of coins to be presented to Gandhiji. As Matha Gowder completed his welcome speech with a humble offer to accept the ‘coppers from paupers’, Gandhiji was immensely pleased and appreciated the gesture.
Matha Gowder, the eldest son of Andi Gowder of Bayly and Brock, Donnington, Kotagiri died young. Dr. K. M. Anandan, a legendary doctor who was the Medical Officer in Kotagiri is said to have lamented, ‘with Matha gowder his English too has died’.