Krishval Musings

Monday, 15 December 2014


Quibble Island cemetery in MRC Nagar, R.A. Puram, Chennai Ref:

Not many know  about the  200 year old cemetery in MRC Nagar near Chettinadu Vidyashram in R.A. Puram, Chennai.  There seemed to be a marsh island known as Quibble from the sea shore to the end of Mandeveli at the estuary of Adyar River.  A battle was fought in this place on October 24, 1746 AD and its significance is hardly known to the Indians.   This battle was hailed as a landmark in the history of the Indian army.  
The battle known as “Battle of Adyar” (Battle of Madras) was between the army numbering about 11000 troops   of Arcot Nawab, led by Mephouz Khan, son of   Anwarudin Khan and the French army of 1300 men led by Captain Louis Paradis.   The result was a big surprise.  The Arcot Navab’s army was routed by the French which was outnumbered by almost 10:1.  It was hailed as a decisive battle that not only ensured the supremacy of the Europeans (French) but also revealed the importance of training the Indian natives in European style warfare.  It was a great revelation to the Europeans but unfortunately not for the Indians.   It was a clear demonstration of the universal reality that quality will prevail over quantity.   The British who were the bystanders of the conflict wasted no time in recruiting Indian soldiers and gave them training in the European warfare to improve their fighting ability.  The dividends were super rich for the British.  Many battles were fought after 1746 where the British with less number but well qualified and trained Indian soldiers could defeat the local Maharajas and Nawabs who relied on large numbers rather than on quality.
The British East India Company (EIC) was successful in conquering India with the help of trained Indian soldiers. Apart from their   superior fire power and effective planning & organisation their crafty diplomacy and crookedness of bribing the enemy commanders to betray their king were also crucial factors. (There were many traitors all over India)

A few of the EIC victories in decisive battles in India (70% of the EIC troops were Indians.)
Battle & year                            EIC Troop strength         Indian King. Troop Strength
Battle of Kaveri Pakkam1752          1600                                   Nawab of Arcot  5000
Battle of Plassey 1757                       3000                                   Sirj Ud Dawla   62000
Battle of Buxur 1764                         7092                                   Nawab of Audha  40000 .
Battle of Khadki 1817                       3000                                   Maratha Empire 28000
Battle of Aliwal 1846                       12000                                   Rajodh Singh  20000
Battle of Ferozsha 1845                  18000                                   Sikh Empire  30000

What the British military did in the last century is being repeated by many MNCs in 20th century.  Soldiers are replaced by knowledge and skilled workers from India. The situation has not changed even after independence.  It is the reflection of our inability to realize the importance of quality.

Quantity has proved to be superior in a few exceptional incidents such as the Korean War where the large number of Chinese soldiers wiped out the well trained and qualified US troops in 1950.     

How do you explain the superiority of quality over quantity? 
It can be explained by practical examples rather than by a concrete definition.
How was a small island nation called Britain in the North Atlantic  able to conquer and rule India for over two centuries despite the fact that India was almost 18 times more than the size of Britain and its population, wealth, knowledge and tradition?  We may attribute many reasons like our diversities and lack of spirit but the actual answer is the superior qualities of the British in several fields. 
Another convincing example can be seen in The National Geographic Channel.  Zebras and wildebeests (gnu) outnumber the lions and leopards by one to two hundred but they cannot fight and defeat the carnivores which are bestowed with high qualities like courage, strength, skill, speed, manuvourability, intuition and wisdom. They have the brain power to plan a strategy to get their food.  They fear neither the larger size of their prey nor the large numbers of their herd.  The herbivores, despite having overwhelming   numerical strength, lack the mental power and sense of unity   to organize themselves and make a concerted retaliation against the predators.     

 Single Lion confronts a herd of wild buffaloes.


Indians have the instinct of fearing and respecting large numbers and big figures.  This syndrome has escalated further due to the new trend of empowerment by which the mediocre and opportunists have been taking control with the help of their majority. We are getting into a situation whereby the tail wags the dog.   This misconceived democratic process has grossly undermined the quality of education, governance, relationships and development.
There is general apathy towards achieving high quality among Indians.  The merit of the institutions like religious centre, hospital and university is judged by the large visiting crowd.   There is a misleading analogy that large crowd is attracted by quality.  The attraction for the gullible Indians is driven more by avariciousness, superstition, bias, ignorance and the timid instinct to follow the crowd.
Indians suffer from an over dose of pity, sentiments and meekness.  Quality will be maintained only by a strong mind which shuns mediocrity.  Quality should be enforced, it cannot be developed by passive means. Aspirations of India can be achieved only if she follows   nations like  Singapore and   China  which  were like India four decades ago but   are now admired by the world  for their tenacity   in  improving the quality  and power of their numerical strength  by imposing tough and progressive governance.   

The Quibble Island event has left a clear   message on the forward   for us; unfortunately it remains unread even after two centuries.   

Dr. Krishnan Arunachalam

‘The Decisive Battles of India from 1746 to 1849 Inclusive’. by G.B. Mellison.
‘A Madras  Miscellany’ by  S. Muthiah


(Published in Mylapore Club magazine Sep/14 by the author) 

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