Friday, August 22, 2014

Hidden treasure

By rights, this building should have celebrated its centenary with great pomp and show five years ago. Its foundation stone was laid by the grandson of the lady whose name it bore; called the Victoria Memorial Hall, it took three years to build. Prince George (later King George V) laid the foundation stone on January 24, 1906 and it was open to public on March 23, 1909. Henry Irwin, the architect who is usually remembered in the context of Indo-Saracenic style, took inspiration from Mughal and Rajasthani designs for this building. The canopied turrets and the Jaipuri-Jaina windows got this building to stand apart from its neighbours.

The first occupant of the building was the Victoria Technical Institute which had until then been functioning from the museum itself. The VTI operated from this building until 1951, when it was taken over by the government. It continued to be associated with arts and crafts, for it now housed the National Art Gallery. There was quite a lot of art there, with paintings from the Mughal period, rock art, traditional Indian paintings and quite a few paintings from the British era. Most of those works were moved to the new art gallery building right next to this, sometime in 2003; for by then, the Victoria Memorial Hall had been deemed unsafe for use.

Last year, a renovation project was announced with much fanfare. Apart from putting up a metal screen/barricade around the front of this building, not much more was done on the renovation front. In some ways, this is quintessential Chennai: grand ideas and beautiful structures. But somehow, they stay hidden, not thrusting out in-your-face, but knowing that there is beauty here, even if you have to come over all the way to this corner of the museum and have the patience to look beyond the barricades!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Grand house

Despite being one of the most historic buildings in the city, Doveton House is not easily accessible to the public, being situated inside the Women's Christian College in Nungambakkam. Maybe it is just as well, for the college has been able to maintain the building in possibly the same shape it was constructed, well renovated and with few, if any, modifications. Coming in from the main gate of the college, we get to see this magnificent building, constructed in 1798 from the designs of Benjamin Roebuck, an architect in the service of the East India Company. The purpose for which it was built is not very clear, but in the early 19th century, it appears to have passed into 'native' hands. It is said that Lieutenant General John Doveton, in whose name it continues to be known today, acquired it from a Linghi Chetty in 1837. As to whether that was the same Linghi Chetty who has a road named after him in George Town, your guess is as good as mine.

It is said that when Lt. Gen Doveton died in 1847, he bequeathed the property to a "brahmin family". Little is known of that bequest, but within a few years, Doveton House had become Company property, with the East India Company using it as accommodation for its troops and officers. In 1875, it was used for a different purpose: as the venue for the house arrest of Malharrao Gaekwad of Baroda, for his role in the attempted poisoning of Col. Sir Robert Phayre, the British Resident of Baroda. Much later, in 1914, it was the venue of the 29th session of the Indian National Congress, which was historic if only for Lord Pentland, the Governor of Madras, dropping in on the proceedings.

In 1916, Doveton House and other buildings in the 11 acres of its gardens were bought by the Women's Christian College. A description by Dr. Eleanor McDougall, the first principal of the college, describes it as having "stabling for twenty horses, a band stand...the tallest porch in Madras". The purchase was funded by by a gift of $25,000 from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Legacy. John D. Rockefeller's munificence continued in the form of further funding for building a chapel and a science block. The college continued to grow over the years, but Doveton House has remained its nucleus, housing the Principal's office on its ground floor. As I said earlier, the building remains true to its original construction, but try as I did, I could not make out where the "...little tower", as Dr. McDougall wrote, "for monkeys to live in..." could have been!



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Four years on

How long does it take to write a book? Quite a while, apparently. It has taken a lot of travelling, a lot of cloak-and-dagger meetings, and a whole lot of surreptitious telephone notes and sketches for Samanth Subramanian to get his second book out on to the shelves. The first was four years ago, and the years between, on the evidence of the first few pages of his new book, have been spent well.

This Divided Island does not have a political agenda. It is very easy for the Lankan civil war to grab any discussion about it and drag it to an abusive free-for-all. The first evidence of that was in 1985, when some of my college-mates went on a signature campaign against the government of Sri Lanka, and the years since have hardened stances. 

I am looking forward to reading this book. I thought I would be able to finish a substantial part of it before its Chennai launch ten days ago, but it is not a light read. There will be no chest thumping, guts-and-glory story. The stories will be of ordinary Sri Lankans, voiceless people who were the worst affected in the 3-decade long war. The war ended in 2009. These stories will live on for ever!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Slow day

In the background, the Pallavaram hills look on; they have seen several days in their time, and this is no different from the many they have seen. They must be very old hills, for they have been worn down to almost sea level. This is also the area where traces of a palaeolithic settlement have been found.

The slowness is seen in the parking lot of the Chennai airport in the foreground. Usually a mess of vehicles trying to go every which way, the lot seems quite sleepy - but this was last week, before the long weekend, when almost everyone had probably got to where they wanted to go!



Monday, August 18, 2014

Going, going...

Auctions in Chennai bring to mind only one name: Murray. That name was borne by a gentleman who, in January 1915, was appointed as a judge of the Madras High Court. Three other names he had, for he was fully Sir Victor Murray Coutts-Trotter; and it took him another nine years to become the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. During his tenure as the Chief Justice, he learnt that the firm Dowden & Co., auctioneers, was shutting down and moving back to England. The courts needed an auction house and Sir Victor looked around for one. He finally sounded out S. Vedantam, who was working with Dowden & Co., about the need to set up one. 

Vedantam took the justice's approval to name the firm after him. And so was born, in 1927, the firm Murray & Company. Whether the Hon'ble Justice had any stake in it is unclear, but very soon, Murray & Co., was appointed as the Receivers for the Madras Presidency. With business growing, operating out of a small office on Thambu Chetty Street, near the Court, was not good enough. A branch was opened on Mount Road, within the grounds of Kushaldas Estate. 

That branch, was in these premises, tucked in behind the LIC building. A year ago, the building was deemed unsafe for occupation and that, probably more than anything else, forced the firm to move away to Mylapore. Over the 87 years of its existence, Murray & Co. has handled several auctions, both public and private. They have sold a hospital, a king's residence, army surpluses... pretty much everything that is fit to be sold. Given a few months, they would probably have been able to find a buyer for it themselves!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gokulashtami

The ninth avataram of Vishnu was the one who knew of his Godliness right from his birth, unlike the earlier avatarams who were completely ignorant of their divine spark. Krishna knew that he was a God and was not exactly shy of showing off. Stories about his childhood are legion and these stories are recalled today, as much of the country celebrates his birth with much festivity today.

Most of the celebrations in Chennai are of the "at home" variety. The common theme is the outline of the boy Krishna's footsteps as he trails them after knocking down the pots of butter - and then there are all the eats to be had, the music to be listened to, all of which celebrate Krishna's carefree boyhood rather than his life as an adult. 

For this day, here is a painting of Krishna with Yashoda, his foster-mother. There are several representations of this duo, but this is not one of the more common ones. But it is by Raja Ravi Varma, the man who single-handedly gave a face and form to most Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. This oil-on-canvas can be found in the Chennai museum, along with a few others of Ravi Varma's canvases. Go on, enjoy the day!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Door to the guru

Like the Buddhist temple of a few weeks ago, I had assumed that there was only one Sikh gurdwara in Chennai. Maybe that is still true, but just as with the Buddhist temple, there is a second gurdwara in the city, hidden inside the Huddleston Gardens of the Theosophical Society in Adyar. 

It doesn't seem to have been used often. But it is there and it did not look like anyone is going to challenge you if you choose to use this as a house of prayer. The Theosophical Society has such buildings around, representing the larger religions that the Society tries to replace, or at least subsume into itself.

However, I sense a problem. A gurdwara is just about any place where the Guru Granth Sahib has been installed and is taken care of very reverentially. Forget the latter, I don't even think the former has happened in this building!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Pass-through

At the north-eastern end of Napier Bridge is this obelisk, which, until a few days ago, was a mystery to me. It has a masonry base - and the entire structure is brick and mortar itself. The base has no indication of what it is for; as if to tease the curious passerby, there is a rectangular indentation in the base which makes it appear as if there was an intent to have a plaque there, but that the idea has been dropped and no one has bothered to fill up the space, or to finish up the rest of the column itself.

The structure seems to date back a long way. An early picture of the bridge, said to have been taken in the 1890s, shows the obelisk at its end. When I posted a picture of it a few years ago, I had tried to get the column in its entirety. It was only a few days ago that I realised I had missed the most important aspect of this structure. The thin metal rod topping the masonry.

The Napier Bridge - named for Francis Napier, the 10th Lord Napier, who was Governor of Madras between 1866 and 1872. It was during his tenure that this bridge, to connect Fort St George with the sandy strip of beach to its south, was built. At that time, there was no concrete to build a bridge with; the strongest material for such purposes was iron, and that was what was used to make a sturdy bridge. Although its concrete replacement came over 70 years ago, the Napier Bridge is still referred to as Iron Bridge. In the days when the bridge lived up to its name, the biggest threat it faced was from lightning strikes during the monsoons. That could only be removed by having a much taller attractor of electric current - and hey, presto, the mystery of the obelisk has been solved!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ready to take off?

In the airport, they are getting ready to launch a boat!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Potholder

The statutes at Peoples' Park were all originally white - or colourless, with their white paint having faded over many years. Around 2008, when the Corporation got around to re-painting them, they decided to go vivid colour. 

Maybe it was a good decision. The colours don't appear to have faded much over the past six years. The lady's saree looks as bright as it was when she first wore it!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Further light

The Government Museum in Chennai has a very eclectic collection of artefacts. From the crocodile that was found in the Cooum to a schoolboy's toy bus claiming to be a model of the MTC buses, the collection has something in it for everyone.

The pride of the museum, however, has to be its bronze gallery. Even if it is only they who say it, no one would dare to counter their claim that the museum has the largest collection of such antique metal under one roof. The gallery is home to over 1,500 pieces, the huge majority of them representing Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Roughly a hundred of the pieces are Jain and Buddhist; the remainder are a bewildering mix of periods, schools and sources. Having been the Presidency Museum, it was the place where any kind of uncommon object was sent out to from anywhere in the Presidency. 

The pièce de résistance of the bronze gallery is this figure of Siva performing his cosmic dance. All the other pieces in the gallery are enclosed in glass cases. The beautiful Ardhanarisvara image, set on a revolving base, grabs your attention as soon as you enter. There are several others that hold you spellbound. But taking a picture is a challenge, thanks to be intervening layers of glass and the reflections therefrom. The idol of Siva, set on a raised stage at the far end of the gallery, has its special background. With no glass covering it, visitors can marvel at this wonderful figure from the 12th century CE; and no, it is not called the Nataraja, or "King of the Dance". Given the intense feelings it brings out in anyone who passes by, it seems more meaningful to call him what is a greater title - Natesha, the "God of the Dance"!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Throwing light

Pradeep Chakravarthy is a management consultant. But he is more than that, as well. He is deeply interested in the history and heritage - of this part of the world, specifically. He has written "Thanjavur: A Cultural History" and has also been the editor of a collection of writings on Kodaikanal. So, when he announces that he is going to lead a session to explain the basic differences between the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagara styles, there is a rush to be part of that session. We were lucky to get in, and there we were at the Museum on Sunday morning. 

Basically: the Pallavas were the earliest of the three - their sculptures of Gods, or humans, were natural, showing them in relaxed postures, low on detailing, oval faces, cylindrical headgear. Through the Chola period, the figures became more stylized, the headgear conical, faces rounder and the body began to take postures that would have been difficult to sustain in real life. The volume of sculptures grew through the Chola and the Vijayanagara dynasties, and they became more 'industrialized'; templated designs and details, churned out by moderately skilled craftsmen, sacrificing originality and natural representation for the ease of mass production.

There were more details, and Pradeep weaved them into a tapestry of how life must have been in those days of yore; it was a compelling performance. The importance of noticing details, which is what helps you become a more-than-an-open-mouthed-gaper, was especially brought out right at the start. What most people would consider to be run of the mill stone columns near the statue of the Buddha are actually columns from the Pallava era, with inscriptions revealing what the king Mahendravarman considered himself to be. For more on that, over to Pradeep himself!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Second bridge

In the earliest days of the city of Madras - essentially the Fort St George - the main exit from the city would probably have been through the Walajah gate, heading out west to the seat of the Nayaks at  Poonamallee. There would have been less reason to go south; the twin rivers in that direction would have made it even less attractive. But by the early 18th century, the journey to the Mount was a reason for the residents of the Fort to cross two rivers. Bridges were required. The Elambore River was probably the easier to ford; there is a record from 1714 about a "Water-Gate Bridge" between the Fort and the Island. The second bridge, over the Cooum took another two years to be built.

Called the Triplicane Bridge, it appears to have been a rather ill-fated bridge. In 1721, it was damaged by floods. Though it was repaired, repeated floods brought it down. As if nature wasn't enough, la Bourdonnais also brought it down. Between man and nature, the bridge kept falling down and rising up, until the new century came up. In 1805, a new bridge was built. The earlier one(s) never had any formal name(s) - Triplicane Bridge and Island Bridge were variously used, with startling originality. 

The same originality continued into the new century, with the new bridge. Or maybe it was just superstition or sentimentality, for the bridge was named after the patron saint of England. Not just that. It was called the New St George's Bridge, for, in the intervening period, the Water-Gate Bridge had been replaced by St George's Bridge about fifty years earlier. That name continued to be in use for well over a hundred and fifty years. It was only in the late 70s that it was renamed after EVK Ramasamy Naicker, and it is by his name that it continues to be known today - Periyar Bridge!



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tuck in

A little behind the Music Academy, on TTK Road, this eatery has been a haunt for the displaced Malayalee ever since it opened about 30 years ago. I think it is a slight exaggeration to call it a restaurant, for it is a very basic operation. Tables, chairs, steel plates - maybe a few plain china plates as well - the waiters dressed as they please, no uniforms here, it gets to be about as authentic a Kerala experience as possible.

There are some outfits that try to keep up with their early clientele, growing old - 'evolving', if you will - with them. And then there are others that try to stay young, staying with their original reputation, forever attracting a new generation of patrons. That approach runs the risk of being branded 'downmarket', especially if the new generation considers their offerings too old-fashioned.

Kalpaka has probably got its act down well; their menu is just the standard, solid, regular fare, things that the Malayalee has been used to for maybe a couple of centuries. Aapam, the Kerala porotta, and the Kerala Syrian Beef Fry. These are comfort foods for the non-resident Keralite and there is still a regular inflow of them into the city, keeping Kalpaka in business - and true to its coconut oil roots!


Friday, August 8, 2014

Cooum Kong

That's the only way to describe this creature depicted on the roof of a temple by the Cooum. For all its incongruity, it looks humanoid enough to scare away some intruders!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Collapsed

The II Draft of the Master Plan for Chennai envisioned cycle rickshaws as a viable mode of para-transit, shuttling between residential areas and the collection points for the larger modes of transport. But that plan seems to be a fairly long way from being put into action. The cycle rickshaws seem to be where they were many years ago; not a single new rickshaw seems to have hit the streets. 

But they haven't gone away entirely, either. In some parts of the city - near the Central Station, around the streets of George Town, and towards the end of Mount Road, near Chintadripet - they are still quite common modes of transport. 

This one, however, does not seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere. Its owner/driver was sitting nearby, not a care in the world. The rickshaw doesn't seem to be damaged or having been hauled in for maintenance. Maybe it is just taking a break!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Square arch

This was raised in 2012 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Tamil Nadu legislature. It was earlier the Madras state and somehow it was felt necessary to mark the transition of the name of the state with this structure. 

It is called an arch, but its outline defies the definition. 

For better or worse, it is going to remain on the Kamaraj Salai for a while, so let us enjoy it while it is around!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Remembrance

It has been a hundred years since the Great War began. Being a part of the British Empire at the time, India was drawn into the war, without too much of a say in the matter. Notionally a volunteer force, the Indian Army was pitched into several battles; with them were the armies of several princely states and European volunteers. The total number of troops from India was over a million. Almost four-fifths of them were sent to Middle East Asia, with the rest going to France and to Africa. 

Over 60,000 soldiers from India lost their lives in the Great War. The founding nucleus of the Indian Army, the Madras Regiment, had its fair share of causalities. The city decided to honour the fallen with a memorial at the south-west end of Fort St George. The space that was known as "Cupid's Bow" until then was cleared up and an open, circular stone pavilion was built. On the western side, the circle is marked with the years 1914 and 1918.

This pillar, in the centre of the circle, was a later addition, after World War II. The years are repeated here. Around the circle, each section commemorates a battlefield where soldiers from Madras Presidency laid down their lives. Some of the names are no longer in common use: Mesopotamia, for example. Some others:  well, they have become so enmeshed with fighting that one reads them with weariness - for example, Gaza. This memorial to the fallen soldiers of the Madras Presidency has been modified to reflect some of independent India's wars. Let us hope that there will not be reasons to keep updating this memorial!


Monday, August 4, 2014

Really?

This building was one of the most visible faces of the Nilgiri's Dairy Farm - a business that was begun in 1905 when Muthuswamy Mudaliar, a dak runner, opened a shop at Charles Villa, Coonoor. Muthuswamy was probably servicing requests from the families up on the hills to bring up butter and similar products from the plains and he felt he could do better than to carry such stuff piecemeal. 

In 2006, after the business had completed a century, the PE firm Actis took a majority stake in Nilgiri's and franchised the brand. At that time, this store on Radhakrishnan Salai was the only one being run directly by the first family. Sometime last year, Prabhu Ramachandran, Muthuswamy's  great-grandson took this property back from Actis, through the Blue Hills Group, an investment company with interests in diverse businesses.

So now, the family of the founder do not have the rights to the Nilgiri's brand. The Blue Hills Group has bought, apart from this store, a few of the other stores as well. Having done so, they have brought a clutch of brands into their new chain. Many of them are new, and even seem to be homegrown in Chennai. But there is one large sign announcing this to be the "Waitrose London Supermarket" - though it seems quite different from that famous London supermarket!



Sunday, August 3, 2014

A different view

The road along the Cooum just after the Napier Bridge leads to the establishments of the Coast Guard, the Navy - the INS Adyar - and the CISF. Also along the road are residential quarters for officers of the Chennai Port. With so many government establishments along the way, signs and barriers - not to mention the odd security guard as well - make one nervous about pulling out a camera anywhere on that stretch.

But the view from the end of the road gives you a fair approximation of what the Madras coast must have looked like in olden days. The sandy beach runs south for a fair distance. The buildings of the University of Madras, government offices along the coast, the TV tower and the multi-super-speciality hospital in the distance... that's quite an unusual view if you are not a resident of the naval quarters.

The Cooum was still - as it is most of the time - and therefore looking deceptively calm. It was reflective of the lazy Sunday morning that it was!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Prison gate

It is now over 5 years since the Madras Central Jail was demolished, making way for the new block of the Madras Medical College there. For the last few years of its existence, the Jail at Park Town had no inmates, all of them having been moved to the sprawling campus of the new, model prison complex at Puzhal. The earlier Central Jail in Chennai had about 11 acres of space; the suburban train track ran right next to it. The noise of traffic would not have been very far, either. 

The Puzhal complex is far bigger. For starters, it is not one prison, but three. The complex houses the Chennai Central Prisons I and II, each with a capacity of 1250 inmates. Then there is the Special Prison for Women, which can hold 500 women prisoners. All these are spread out over an area of 212 acres, almost in the middle of nowhere. At least, when the prison started functioning, there were not many other establishment on that stretch of the NH5, about 25km out of Chennai. 

Even now, there are not too many reasons to stop at Puzhal. The locality has a population of about 30,000, most of who seem to be living just across the highway from the prison gate. From the highway, the entrance looks quite neat, with arches above the gate not quite indicating what lies within. The prisoners here surely get a greater sense of loneliness than in the crowded Chennai facility earlier!



Friday, August 1, 2014

Takeaway store

That is the theme for the month, but what is a store if it is not to take things away from? This one in West Mambalam doesn't stop with the usual coconut biscuits, murukku and peanut candy, but lets you know that it offers food for thought as well.

Though, with that spelling, one would be taking a big chance on what is going to be actually taken here!



First of the month, it is the Theme Day again. Head over to the collection of theme day pictures from CDP bloggers around the world!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Old building

With the nationalization of the life insurance business, the LIC of India became a monopoly. With that also came the assets of several of the life insurance companies that were doing business in India - almost 250 of them. 

Many of those companies had long histories. Among the oldest was the Oriental Life Insurance Company of Calcutta, which had been started in Calcutta in 1818. With its nationalisation, their buildings were also taken over by the LIC. That's how this lovely building, at the corner of Armenian Street and Errabalu Chetty Street came to have that sign in front, looking quite out of place with the rest of the facade. 

It is often held up as an example of Art Deco in Madras; of course it is from that period, the 1920s, but somehow I think the architect / builder slipped in some Jaipuri-Jaina touches as well. The jalli of the uppermost balcony is, in my mind a giveaway - what do you think?


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ships at rest

When you are stuck for ideas, Chennai has a great solution. Go to the beach. Since it is not the sand there that clears your mind, I went to another place by the sea.

The Port of Chennai is 139 years old this year, going by the foundation stone. Or maybe even older, if you take into account previous attempts at building a harbour on this unforgiving seashore. Whichever way, it has seen it all.

Wonder if anyone has made any watercolours of it!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Memorial to a poet

The Bharathi Ilakkiya Mandram is one of the innumerable groups that celebrate the life and works of Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi. Bharathi was one of modern India's greatest poets, a firebrand nationalist who considered prejudices as great an enemy as the British. His poems were therefore as much exhortations against the imperial rule as they were against social practices which marginalized women. 

Born at Ettayapuram, educated at Tirunelveli, widely travelled across India, Bharathi's involvement with the freedom movement was in the company of the more strident nationalists like Tilak and Chidambaram Pillai. That brought the British police on him and he moved to Pondicherry, then under French occupation. He came back to British India in 1918, was arrested and imprisoned. Though he was released within a couple of weeks, he had to sign an undertaking that he would show his works to the DIG of police before publishing them. Obviously, this cramped his style considerably and the stress led to his health breaking down.

His last years were spent in Triplicane. Living in a house near the Parthasarathy temple, he regularly visited there, and got into the habit of feeding Lavanya, the temple elephant. One day, in a spirit of playfulness, Lavanya knocked him down; already frail, this blow was quite debilitating to the poet. He survived for a few more months, house-bound. After he died in 1921, he was never forgotten, but rarely celebrated, either, for a long time. The owners of the house he lived in at Triplicane, were loath to turn it into any kind of memorial. It was only in 1993 that the Bharathi Ilakkiya Mandram succeeded in having the government take over the building and turn it into the Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi Memorial House, making it one more memorial to the poet in his home state.  Among the many pieces of memorabilia here is a two line letter, blessing the opening of the memorial at his birthplace in 1947, from Mahatma Gandhi - written in Tamizh!



Monday, July 28, 2014

What's new?

It is not fair to expect a 'Tea House' to be open in the morning, which is when this picture was taken. The Novelty Tea House is not a pretentious newcomer to the world of eating out in Chennai; it is an establishment that is being run by the third generation in the business currently. 

Chandrakant Moolchand Shah was probably frustrated trying to find some north Indian snacks in the early '50s. He channeled that frustration into setting up a stall. There seem to have been no grand plans initially; it was just a 'tea stall', but clearly, the desire was to be different, hence 'Novelty'. Sowcarpet, where the first stall was, welcomed it. Over 50 years, the stall grew into a 'House', but remained within the north Madras area. It was only over the last 4 or 5 years that they have opened out to other parts of the city.

This one on Radhakrishnan Salai is, I believe, the most recent of the three locations. When open, it is usually chock-a-block with those itching to have a dahi-poori or four with their cuppa tea, or maybe a faluda. Once inside, it is easy to imagine you are away from Chennai - there is so much of Hindi in the air that English and Tamizh sound intrusive. But that is only to be expected at an establishment which claims to have introduced the pav-bhaji to Madras!



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Big man

We have seen this man before. Here. He sits in the middle of the Peoples' Park, lording it over the grounds. This is the statue of Diwan Bahadur R. Subbayya Naidu, CIE who was Commissioner of the Corporation of Madras between 1937-40. 

Though there is not much that I have been able to find about his tenure. He seems to have been a civil servant dedicated to the Empire rather than to the people. An announcement in the Straits Times of Singapore on January 21, 1937, informs us that Subbayya Naidu was a former Agent of the Government of India in British Malaya - he certainly did get around. 

Until 2008, this statue, like the others in the park was all uniformly white. Whoever came up with this colour scheme probably thought of this man as a blue-blooded sahib!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

School in the middle

As one of the earliest planned settlements of the city of Madras, during the 1730s, the designers of Chintadripet had thought of several amenities, including deities from the "old" city of Madras, for the convenience of its residents. However, they do not seem to have paid much attention to education - in the formal sense, as we know it now. It is not as if such schools were unknown; the 'Madras System of Education' was exported back to England from St George's School in the century before Chintadripet was a gleam on the banks of the Cooum. 

The oldest school in the Chintadripet areas is the 170 year old Chintadripet Higher Secondary School. This one in the picture is of a much more recent vintage. In the late 1940s, there was a need to expand one of the existing schools run by the Kalyanam Chetty family (who had funded it). It was then that Rao Bahadur Ganapathi Pillai, a Councillor of the Corporation of Madras, came forward and offered his property to house the school. He had only one condition: that the building should never be demolished. 

The construction of the times being quite solid, the building remains in fairly good condition. Even though it is crowded by its neighbours, the Chintadripet Middle School continues to run from this building - named "Ganapathi Buildings" after its benefactor!


Friday, July 25, 2014

Headgear man

It is sunny in Chennai and these fans would come in handy to beat the heat. And you don't have to always fan yourself; they can protect you from the sun as well!



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Old and new

A curious blend of architectural styles on Radhakrishnan Salai. Which one do you think looks better?