Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fit for a viceroy

No one knows for sure what prompted Alavandan Chetty to choose the name he did for his furniture emporium on Wallajah Road. The explanation most commonly offered is that he named it in honour of the then Viceroy of India who was visiting Madras when the shop was opened. Somehow, there seems to be a confusion in the dates; though George Nathaniel Curzon, the 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, was indeed a Viceroy of India, he took that office only on January 6, 1899. His appointment, announced in August 1898, caused a sensation, for he was the youngest ever to be the Queen's representative in India. Alavandan Chetty must have chosen to ride on the popularity of the name, rather than dedicate his business to the man, when he opened Curzons in 1898.

Both Alavandan Chetty and his son, Seshachalam, who took over the business later, were clear that their furniture would be the finest they could make. And they turned out the best of home and office furniture, keeping in tune with the latest developments globally. Even within its reputation for high quality furniture, Curzons made a speciality of library pieces, for which they turned to Dr. S.R.Ranganathan, who guided the early design of this specialised furniture.

Like many other business of that era, Curzon & Co floundered after Seshachalam - 'Curzon Chettiar' to many - passed away in 1969. Though it somehow chugged past its centenary year, it is not the force it was; competition has hobbled it badly. With the Viceroys long gone, it seems that no one has time for viceregal furniture any more!

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