Thursday, April 30, 2009
And the books are of all kinds, ranging across accountancy, marketing, technology and some other subjects that seem to have been invented just for the book having to be written. Murali gets - and devours - them all, yet finds time to keep his morning open to meet people over a long conversation. I came across his open diary about a year ago - it seems a good way for anyone to walk into a newspaper's office and talk at length about something that they are passionate about. For Murali, I guess it gives him enough 'deep background' and would certainly keep him updated about diverse topics from a diverse group of people. The lure of a lunch at The Hindu's canteen is too strong to resist!
Back to the books: Murali reads tons of them (literally) every month, writing reviews for those that he has to (as part of his work) or feels like (on his blog). I can't imagine how many he'd be reading, but he says he reviews about 50 books each month, on an average. I'd be happy if I can get through that number over a year's time!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Summer fruits are out there and the roadside vendors are doing pretty well for themselves. Sweet lime, musk melon, apples, oranges, pomegranates, all of them worth their juice.
Where are the mangoes, you ask? Well, they have a tendency to heat up the body, so not too many road-side juice stalls serve them - you're better off having them in a milk shake!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Pattiveeranpatti's connect with Madras is not a story of brute power, however. P.R.K.Nadar had started off helping missionaries in the Palani hills sell the coffee from their plantations, sometime in the early 20th century. As has happened in several such stories, he decided that he was cut out for larger things and brought along his coffee to Mylapore. Setting up shop to the south of the Kapaleeshwarar temple, he began selling his coffee to the locals. It is common knowledge now that a cup of hot filter coffee early in the morning does put a lot of beans into the body; almost three-quarters of a century ago, this discovery must have electrified the local populace. Demand grew and P.R.K.Nadar - or could it have been his son? - decided it was time to brand their coffee and so was born Leo Coffee - a brand that has instant associations to Madras, to filter coffee and for Madrasis of my generation, to A.R.Rahman; it is said that the music he scored for the Leo Coffee Ad brought him to the notice of Mani Ratnam, beginning a journey that has so far travelled all the way to the Kodak Theatre.
But the firm of PRK Nadar & Sons takes all of that in its stride, for they still retain some of their old-world ways; click on the picture and you will see their sign still reads 'Madras'. Even more interesting - they still display their 5-digit telephone number!
Monday, April 27, 2009
The Indian Cockroach, on the other hand, is not all that common. Chances are that, even if you were to see one, you might think it is some kind of a ladybird beetle and would pass along, thinking that you don't often see a ladybird in black and white. But what you have seen is indeed the seven-spotted Indian cockroach, the Therea petiveriana. Now you know how to spot one the next time around!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Chennai is sweltering already, even though it is nowhere near the peaks that would come during the agni nakshatram (fire star) phase. The forecast high for that period is 48 degrees. And yes, that is in Celsius - it will take a lot of elaneer (tender coconut water) to cool that off!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
The British viewed the space around St Thomas' Mount as an ideal area for rest and recreation. That it had spiritual connections was an added advantage. The Council at Fort St George purchased a garden house at St Thomas' Mount as early as 1685 and it was put to use for sick and disabled soldiers to recuperate in. With that 'remote' outpost established, traffic from the Fort increased and 'The Road to the Mount' became an important one, leading out from the southwestern gate of the Fort.
Today, that gate is no longer in use. Mount Road comes in, rushing through the commercial areas, opening out just after Pallavan Salai to give the traveller a good view of Sir Thomas Munro seated, saddle-less, and then rushes over the Cooum before stopping abruptly at this point. And then turns away, suddenly losing itself into Muthuswamy Road (to its left) and Flagstaff Road!
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Flowers are essential, of course. You have a choice of the arali (Nerium indicum), the jasmine (Jasminum auriculatum), the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), the rose (genus: Rosa) and, because this one is close to the Kapaleeshwarar temple, the nagapushpam (Couroupita guianensis) also. And then you have the grasses - I believe that's the darbha grass, used as a purifying agent in sacred rituals. Finally you have the coconuts and the charad - the small earthern lamps, either filled with ghee or as just the shells.
The agarbattis seem to be missing here - or maybe I'm missing something about the poojas to be performed at this temple!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Things haven't changed much, even when election time has come around. Obviously the MP's office is not the place to meet party workers, but was still surprised to see this kind of propriety being maintained. Maybe it was just the time I passed by? Hope not!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The two Area Headquarters under the Southern Command are at Mumbai and Chennai. Needless to say, the one at Chennai covers the four southern states - in army shorthand, it is ATNK & K Area. The ranking officer becomes the General Officer Commanding in Chief for the Area HQ. Of course, the GOC-in-C has a very nicely appointed house to live in; across the road is a sign that could well have become gibberish to the civilian had they insisted on putting in the 'GOC-in-C' bit also - it would have read "ATNK & K Area GOC-in-C, Flagstaff House"
That the Flagstaff House is on the banks of the Cooum is certainly a disadvantage, but one that can easily be borne by Maj. Gen. EJ Kochekkan, the current occupant. A lifelong armyman, he's certainly not going to be put off, no matter how many mosquitoes try to raid his residence!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Although it is nearly a generation old, the Mass Rapid Transit System is still fairly new in terms of its adoption by the general public. Unlike the Metro systems of New Delhi or Kolkata, Chennai's MRTS decided to use the same rakes that were being used by its existing suburban train system. Maybe folks saw it as being an extension of the existing network, with all of its downsides and the only upside being that the MRTS trains were now servicing areas of the city where people had had no reason to use suburban trains. Whatever the reason be, it is only over the past three or four years that the MRTS has become a transport mode of choice.
The stations too, lack the bustle of those on the older lines. With almost all stations being raised above the ground level, the noise of the streets does not rise up to the platforms; neither does the crowd and the silence of the tunnel-like station seems quite eerie. But I'm told that Tirumailai station is this way only because it is a Sunday; on weekdays, it can do a passable imitation of a busy suburban train station!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Yet, pause. Look through those numbers again and you'll find that there are 69 dailies in English alone. 386 in Tamil. 492 in all, including Gujarati and Marathi titles. Of course, the newspaper reader in Chennai is spoiled for choice, but obviously so many will not be available at your local newsstand. When you go there, you'll have - let's say, about 6 English dailies (and maybe another 4 business dailies in English), 8 in Tamil, maybe 4 in Telugu and a couple each in Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. By that reckoning, the range in this shop seems to be par for the course.
I need to find out more about that Zoo Zoo Zinzu - both the daily and the weekly that are supposedly being published from Chennai!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Sure, we can expect more colours lining the roads over the next few weeks - but not too many more. Almost every local party makes do with just five colours - white, black, red, yellow and blue. One would have thought that a new party would choose a contrasting colour, just to differentiate... but no, they just don't seem to want to!
Friday, April 17, 2009
The Grove is the also name of a school run by the CP Ramaswamy Iyer Foundation. It is a very apt name, for there are several trees protecting you from the sun in almost all parts of the grounds. The school is not the only building that you see; there are a couple of others, too. Your eyes, however, will be drawn towards this magnificent building; a building that has been around for almost 125 years. Inside, the rooms are a mix of the spacious and the cramped, the latter probably serving as guest rooms or something, for those single male visitors staying over. As you look around this building, you will also learn that sometime in the early 1900s, it was only a part of the property purchased by Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer's father, a part that was most likely set aside for the son. Sir CP added the first floor of this building and made sure that used some very high quality materials - teak from Burma, marble from Venice, ceiling tiles from Belgium - as he renovated The Grove to his liking.
Today, this builidng houses the officers of the Foundation and an art gallery. As you walk out, you will reflect on the fact that the larger property was called The Baobab; the memory of that one tree is only in The Grove of today!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Therefore, one cannot rake up an argument that the state emblem has been mis-represented; just because there's a lion capital in a public place, it does not automatically become a representation of the state emblem, you see. This is the third Ashoka Pillar I know of in Chennai, after the ones at Ashok Nagar and on the Marina. Of those two, I am fairly sure that only the latter is the state emblem. This one, as well as the Ashok Nagar Pillar, are merely representations of Ashoka's pillars.
But that does not mean you can fool around with Ashoka and his lions - The State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005 will deal with you if you try any such stunts!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
It did attract some of the more swank names, especially a host of foreign airlines, who made it their flagship office in Chennai. But the building failed to capitalize on that good start; the majority of the space there is taken up by offices that are so cheered by the thought of being on Mount Road that nothing else matters to them. It is not as if the construction is bad or the rents exhorbitant; Karumuttu Centre is a perfect example for how the "three most important things in real estate are Location, Location and Location". If only this building had been a couple of spaces to the north, it would have had a long waiting list of people wanting to be housed there. As it is, being just to the left of the Cenotaph Road signal, it is a considerable pain for anyone coming in from Alwarpet or Adyar to get in - a long drive south to make a U-turn is called for. With the kind of traffic around, that is not an exciting prospect for anyone!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
One of the earliest institutions in the city - if not actually the first - to help children with the condition is Vidya Sagar. In fact, it is not aimed only for the children, but for the parents also; many a time, it is the grown-ups who feel more defeated and despondent. The children know of no such thing as 'giving up'. For them, every day is a celebration of life! The challenge is to make sure the children are able to stand up for themselves and can continue to do that through their life.
Far easier said than done, but the team at Vidya Sagar has just begun their work. Their early proteges are now adults and are coping reasonably well in a society where there are but few opportunities for inclusion. The first twenty-four years have established Vidya Sagar as a key resource in Chennai for children with special needs. The next quarter century will show that Chennai can be truly proud of Vidya Sagar and its students!!
Monday, April 13, 2009
Having decided that I would start this blog on Tamil New Year's day, I was kind of prepared to start on April 13, 2008, even though I had been thinking of the next day. Given all the confusion around the dates, here I was, thinking that today would mark the close of the first year of this Chennai Daily Photo blog and I would begin a New Year tomorrow! Thanks to Ramanan for setting me right - so here's a rather 'unthought of' photo to mark the New Year for this blog!!
That's a picture from the top of St. Thomas Mount - right now, it kind of symbolizes to me that there is so much more about Chennai that remains to be said; the first 365 days have only begun the story.
Thank you all, who have dropped by, stayed on, encouraged, humoured or have suffered through this for the last year. Just you wait, there is more to come!!
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Founded as a private institution by Dr. Alexander Hunter in 1850, the Madras School of Arts was taken over by the Government within two years. Though Dr. Hunter continued to be in charge, the institution was renamed the Government School of Industrial Arts, with an Industrial department that turned out building material and accesories, while the Artistic department focussed on drawing / painting, engraving and pottery. Over time, the School included other specializations like photography, sculptre and extended into metal-working. Though the Madras School was not the first formal school for art in India, it was a formidable counterpoint to the Bengal School, producing some of the famous artists and sculptors of the time. Rather ironically, its first Indian principal, in 1929, was Devi Prasad Roy Choudury who had studied his art in the Bengal School and then broke away from it. The Madras School has also had its share of break-aways, the most famous being the Cholamandal Artists village, founded by KCS Panicker, a former principal of the College of Arts and Crafts (as it is now known) along with some of his former students.
It is easy to pass by this building, right on Poonamallee High Road, without paying much attention to it. But the next time, look out for a unique feature of this building; the fish-scale roof tiles (you can see them if you click on the photo to enlarge it), which are rarely to be found anywhere these days!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
From what is visible over the walls, there seems little chance of holding classes in what seems to be a multi pillared, open-hall kind of arrangement on the first floor. The students, however are not required to be inside this building, though it was built to encourage them to be more devout. A rather unusual feature of this temple is that it has two chief deities; on the ground floor is Gurudev Yogiraj Shanti Sureshwari. He is in the standard mode, back to a wall, facing all the devotees. On the first floor, the idol of Shree Parshvanathji, the 23rd Thirthankara, is in the middle of the hall, facing all four directions. That seems to be a really unique way of keeping watch on everything that's going around!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Not that the Marina needed 'beautification' in the manner determined by the Corporation of Chennai. All it needed - and continues to need - is the deployment of public amenities in large quantities, to make sure that there is no litter clogging up the beach. Of course, controlling the indiscriminate spread of makeshift stalls and other commercial ventures on the beach would also go a long way in the beautification.
But, until people realize that there is a beauty in letting things be, machines like these will keep ploughing the sand this way and that to create the artifice; they forget what John Keats said,
Thursday, April 9, 2009
It doesn't look like much, but those steel strips being weighed are really heavy - you could sense it when they were being lifted on to the scale and later, when they were taken off. I did not get to see the reading, but I'm sure they represented a significant number for the traders taking the weight in the picture.
Significant enough for them to not bother about the lady trying to walk past or the school kid who is hurrying back home. And if I had to hop over the strips to go my way, it is no skin off their back!
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
In the early 1920s, this building - Venkatarathnam Mahal - would have been one of the many that housed several families. Carrying out their trading activities, these families would have used the ground floor more for their business, with the upper floor being the more private, family quarters. Today, hemmed in by its newer neighbours, it attempts to cover all its shortcomings by the catchy signages and displays at the street level. Upstairs is another story, though!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Their alarm was well-founded. Dr. Guruswamy had made his reputation by keeping his mouth shut, listening to his patients, relying on 'percussion diagnosis' even where it was not traditionally used. Though well off, he was modest and frugal; and yet, Dr. Guruswamy would never treat anyone, no matter how poor, without a fee, because he was convinced that if anything was free, it was without value. His brilliance in medicine meant that he could not be denied a full professorship at the Madras Medical College - and so he became the first Indian to hold the post of Professor of Medicine, in the early 1920s. This was the man who had been interviewed during the 'flu epidemic and had voiced his opinion on the mode of treatment. According to him, the service of humanity overruled the ethics of the profession in this situation.
Dr Guruswamy died that same year, 78 years old and still capable of rattling the 'modern' doctors of his time. When a bridge was built near where he lived in Kilpauk, there was only name that could be given to it - a name that it continues to bear today!
Monday, April 6, 2009
These stables in the picture do not threaten to go that way, mainly because there seem to be several takers for the services offered by these horses. Of course there is the regular baraat performance, needing the bridegroom to come in on a horse; then there are several themed parties needing the horses and carts to create just the right ambience - whatever it may be. You may have seen them, all spruced up, heading out for an evening's engagement very early in the day. In case you were wondering where these are coming from, look no more, for here's your answer!
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Whoever parked the car right under the sign must be someone completely convinced that the Lord is everwhere, so it doesn't matter. Alternately, it could be an atheist; stretching that logic, it could be an atheist who does not believe in a God that one does not have to fear, or 'beware of', because "... the God I don't believe in is a good God, a merciful God..."*!
* Catch 22, of course, which lets us not believe in just the kind of God we don't want to believe in!
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The road runs a reasonably straight course for most of its 23-km long distance to Poonamallee; but there are some kinks that cannot be straightned out. Like this one, at the junction of Poonamallee High Road and Raja Muthiah Road. Though it looks like it was taken from the middle of the road, it ws done standing on the pavement of Poonamallee High Road. And yes, on a clear day, you can see right up to the walls of the railway track near the Fort station from here... looking down the road from the other side with the sun at your back, you could probably see a long way, maybe all the way down to Poonamallee!
Friday, April 3, 2009
Unfortunately, there is no record of any memorial to either of the two, or their dubash, Beri Thimappa; an omission that has often been lamented by several of the city's heritage enthusiasts. The name of this building is therefore rather intriguing. Actually, I missed it at the first look, because the signboard saying 'Madras Centenary Telugu Baptist Church' was what caught my eye and I took the picture of the church building. It was only later that I began to ascribe different meanings to the words 'The Day Memorial' on the building.
Could this actually be a forgotten memorial to the city's founder? Or is it commemorative of the founding day? Another trip to Vepery is definitely called for!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
For the moment, Cenotaph Road and the Chamiers Road junction look like badlands. The pilings on the Cenotaph Road side have been completed and ones on Turnbulls Road will begin soon. The pile driver moved across last week - it should have started its work out there a couple of days ago. Work seems to be moving ahead quite rapidly - this one might actually beat the target date for its completion, courts willing!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
But the 'yellow' touch does not end there. The lamps shine golden, the flames reflecting off their ridged stems; the oil used to fuel the lamps is golden too, a few shades darker than the bronze of the lamps. The light falling on the flowers highlights the yellows among them; as the ritual concludes, you get slices of bananas, still in their yellow skins. And finally, the deep yellow of the sandalwood paste stays smeared on the forehead long after the lamps die out!