Saturday, September 27, 2008

Place to stay

Mansion: 2 a (1): manor house (2): a large imposing residence b: a separate apartment or lodging in a large structure. I didn't know about the 'b' meaning, but thanks to Merriam-Webster, I do now. Had always thought of mansion as a huge house with large gardens, occupied by a single family.

Nadar: A caste / community in Tamil Nadu, believed to be able to trace their lineage to the ancient Pandya kings. The word itself means 'ruler of the land' and possibly refers to the title given to those who were vassal chieftains of the Pandya rulers.

Virudhunagar: A town in southern Tamil Nadu that is the headquarters of the district with the same name. Just south of Madurai, this region was one of the earliest strongholds of the Nadar community. Given the community's traditional strengths, it is also a trading hub for both agricultural goods as well as products like matches, cement or textiles.

So where does a Nadar from Virudhunagar stay when he has to come to the state capital to trade? This mansion near the Chennai Central railway station may have been built with that facility in mind, but the trader Nadars of today are likely too well off to be using such accommodation. Being close to the station, it is not a favoured haunt for those who have some kind of permanence in the city - mansions in T.Nagar or Triplicane are more ideal. Here, the space is taken up by some of the hundreds of people who come to Madras every day, in the hope of making their mark.

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