Friday, August 22, 2008

Happy birthday!

It was 369 years ago that Francis Day, with his dubash (interpreter) Beri Thimmappa negotiated a grant of land for the British East India Company to build a 'factory' upon. Though Day was encouraged by his chief Andrew Cogan, their bosses in Surat remained sceptical that this bit of land, roughly 10 square kilometers in size, would amount to anything. But Day was firm: the friendly Nayak, the availability of cloth at a far cheaper rate and the natural protection offered by the rivers Cooum (to the west) and Elambore (south) made the site eminently suited for trade, much more so than his base at Armagon, further to the north. (It is also said that Day had a thing going with a lady from the Portugese settlement at San Thome, and it was therefore more convenient for him to be based closer to her - but that gossip is nearly four centuries old and has never been verified completely...)

Right from those times, the Bay of Bengal has been kind to Chennai. Even after the Port of Madras was built, the long stretch of sandy beach, the Marina, has remained largely unaltered - maybe it has extended just that little bit more into the sea. North of the Port, the areas of Royapuram, Tiruvottiyur, and Ennore have faced large scale erosion, and the sea has eaten up a good potion of the land, but south of the Port, the sands of the Marina probably remain as they were on August 22, 1639, when Day completed the transaction and was granted the firman to commence trading.

Ignore some of the signs of the modern day on this photograph and you can almost convince yourself that those ships you see out in the 'Madras Roads' are merchantmen of the 17th century, waiting for the tide to rise for the masula boats to ferry their cargo from the newly established factory at Medrasapatnam.... Well, it is Madras Day after all, so let the imagination run free over the last 369 years!


LVISS said...

That was the Day evrything got started u say.

Shantaram said...

>> Ravindran>> Indeed it was - what a Day!