Sunday, May 10, 2009

The half-Monty

It is ridiculously expensive to even think about the possibility of such things now, but there was a time when one man owned a stretch of property from today's Abhiramapuram down to the Boat Club area, right up to the Adayar river. 108 acres he had, did John de Monte, a Portugese businessman who had come to ply his trade in the French controlled, originally Portugese, settlement of San Thome. His businesses flourished and he was for a time the junior partner in the firm of Arbuthnot, de Monte & Co - a firm that was one of the pre-eminent businesses in British India before the collapse of Arbuthnot in the early 20th century.

His son having died in an ill-fated sea voyage at a young age, and his mentally ill wife also having passed away, John de Monte bequeathed most of his money to various individuals and charities. But he desired that none of his lands be sold, preferring instead that the houses be maintained by the executors of his will, to be let out for 'Pious and Charitable uses'. This clause was managed by the Bishop of San Thome; over time, the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore has come to be the owner/operator of these lands and buildings. Sometime over the past 15 years, the Archbishop has let the maintenance of the buildings slide. They were last occupied by executives belong to the Easun Group of companies; since they vacated, the houses haven't been let out and the whole of de Monte Colony had taken on an eerie aspect.

Suddenly, these signs have sprouted in front of all those empty shells in de Monte Colony. As anyone can figure out, the only reason for them to have sprung up now is the one that's sought to be negated in the last line of the signs - surely the properties must be up for sale, now!


moochhi said...

looks so rustic in the middle of much hustle-bustle. may the quietness stay!

Shantaram said...

@ Moochhi: Amen to that!