Update from Durham, UK

The Durham Community Fair is a merry family affair that is held in the British campus town of Durham. Madhumita Dutta, a member of the UK solidarity group to hold Unilever accountable for its crimes in Kodaikanal, had put up a poster at the event. Here’s a summary of her report, and a letter to her by a visitor who coincidentally had close links and fond memories of Kodaikanal.

Madhumita writes

Yesterday (14 June, 2015) was generally a wet and gray day here in Durham. The turn out at the fair was pretty good towards the afternoon. From 1.30 to 5 p.m., I stood by the poster talking to people. I got about 30 odd signatures, including one from an elderly lady whose husband is a former Unilever employee (metallurgical engineer). She said she will go back home and tell her husband about Unilever’s “terrible deeds” in India. Another signatory — Dr Nigel Speight said he was horrified at the what was happening. He has a personal connection to the place since his parents had gone to Kodai for their honeymoon. His father was a missionary doctor posted in Andhra Pradesh and Dr. Speight was born in Mysore and studied in Ooty. Also three academics stopped by the table, two of them were Leverhulme fellows (!!). They asked for the Leverhulme letter to be emailed to them, they said they will read and sign. Already about 10 professors/lecturers/post-doctoral scholars from the geography department have signed the letter. The letter has now gone off to two lists in the Royal Geographical Society. People who need to know about Unilever’s double-speak are being intimated. Unilever’s irresponsibility and insensitivity in Kodaikanal will not remain a secret for long.

Nigel Speight
Nigel Speight

Message from Dr. Nigel Speight

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <speight@doctors.org.uk>
Date: Mon, Jun 15, 2015 at 3:33 PM
Subject: Re: Kodaikanal: Mercury in the mist
To: Madhumita Dutta <madhudutta.new@gmail.com>

Dear Madhu
I would like to contribute my own personal response to your account of Mercury pollution in Kodiakanal:

I was born and brought up in India as my father was a medical missionary in Andra Pradesh. My mother joined him after a year and they married in 1937 in India. They spent their honeymoon in Kodiakanal, which at that time was a renowned beauty spot much favoured by the British.

While I never personally got to Kodaikanal, I went to school in Ootacamund, a neighbouring beauty spot. It saddens me to have my memories of South India tarnished in this way, and naturally the actual issues you describe are far more serious than this. I wish you the best in your struggles to counter the injustices you describe

Dr Nigel Speight
Paediatrician, Durham