KOLLAM: The tombstones at various places in the town have a tale to tell of the erstwhile port city of Quilon, which later became Kollam, a fertile land for businessmen and travellers who explored its potential and natural resources.
The roots of the building that presently hold the headquarters of the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) in Kollam date back to the days of World War II. The high pillars, wooden roofs and staircases too have stories to tell of life and betrayal.
The story of the gigantic two-storied building starts from the time of an American businessman Lindsay Johnson since it was built in 1935 on two sovereigns of gold placed under its basement. Johnson first came to Kerala as the representative of a New York-based food company, who later went back to his home town to marry Elza and returned to settle down with his own business.
Johnson was blessed with a baby girl whom he named ‘Kerala’, long before the State was even thought of. His business thrived and he became one of the richest men of his times. Happiness did not last long with the advent of World War II when the American Government ordered its citizens in India to return.
Lindsay Johnson pledged his house to the well-established Quilon bank at that time and handed over his cashew business to his manager Swaminathan, while looking forward to return after the war. He also ordered his manager to repay all debts from the income generated by his business.
During the first few months, the manager and owner wrote to each other. But things soon took a different turn. The manager told Johnson that his business was running at a loss due to the world war and the bank was looking to attach the building. The manager in turn diverted the profit from the cashew business and the building was attached by the bank.
The building was later put up for auction and was acquired by F.X.Pereira, who had already started mining rare earth minerals from the shores of Kollam. As time passed, the building was procured by the State Government to make it the headquarters of a public sector company that deals with cashew, incidentally the business of Lindsay Johnson....