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  • The man behind the convocation gown

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    M.S.R. Murty showing the VIP robes ahead of the AU convocation, in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

    M.S.R. Murty showing the VIP robes ahead of the AU convocation, in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

    The octogenarian has been supplying the special garment since 1959

    Year after year, M.S.R. Murty has been an integral part of the jubilation of scores of graduates who pass out on the convocation day wearing black ceremonial robes, flinging their black scholars’ hats into the air.

    Since 1959, the 80-year-old has been supplying the black gowns for the convocation of the Andhra University and 50 other colleges in the districts of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam.

    Celebrity customers

    From former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to actors like ANR and Bhanumathi to former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, several important personalities have worn the gowns made by Mr. Murty, a known name in the university and college circles of the city.

    Ahead of the 83rd and 84th combined convocation of the University, the octogenarian is filled with nostalgia as he goes down the memory lane to share some priceless moments.

    “In those days, AU convocation used to be a big affair and meticulously held every year on the second Saturday of December. We had a tailoring unit at our book store in the One Town area, where the black gown with golden border used to be stitched,” says Mr. Murty, who took over his father’s business in 1959. Till about a decade ago, the gowns used to be stitched at the tailoring unit in the city. However, a dwindling interest in tailoring business made it difficult for him to get the work done by local tailors.

    He now gets the gowns made from a Chennai-based unit. This year, he is supplying as many as 1,100 gowns for the convocation.

    The first film celebrity to don his gown was ANR when he was conferred the honorary doctorate degree of ‘Kalaprapoorna’ by the AU in the 70s. Later, it was during Indira Gandhi’s visit the tradition of the ceremonial gown was changed to silk scarves.

    “That particular year, I was ready with gowns when hardly 20 days ahead of the convocation I was informed about the change. I had to rush to Mumbai to get the silk cloth for the scarves and managed to make 100 scarves in a span of a week’s time. Ms. Gandhi was very particular about protocol and there were elaborate arrangements and practice done to avoid any chance of even minor goof-ups. I made a special velvet scarf for Ms. Gandhi for the convocation where she was conferred D. Litt. ,” recollects Mr. Murty.

    Age has certainly not withered him as he gets ready for Saturday’s convocation with two separate sets of gowns – the black ones for the graduates and the coloured ones for VIPs.

    “The gowns are given on rent for ₹150 and I charge a caution deposit of ₹1,000 from each student, which is refunded once the gowns are returned,” says Mr. Murty, who also supplies gowns for convocation of other colleges and universities like GITAM University and Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University.

    With his children settled in their respective careers, Mr. Murty continues his family business with diligence in his twilight years.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Andhra Pradesh / by Nivedita Ganguly  / Visakhapatnam – July 27th, 2017

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