Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You can check out any time you like, but...

It does look like a the facade of a nice garden house, with its high-ceilinged verandah on the first floor and the arches almost inviting you to step into the portico. The most famous tenant of this building was probably Veer Savarkar. But this is not a place that you'd try to be invited to - Savarkar was transited through this en route to the infamous Kalapani at Andaman - for, it is was part of the Chennai Central Prison complex, which has now been completely razed to make way for - well, a lot of modernity.

Don't be fooled into thinking that the Chennai prison was a place of leisure; there were only a few buildings like this, which were built to accommodate convalescing prisoners - and the high-profile ones at that. Even that luxury disppeared a few decades ago, when these buildings were converted into study areas on the ground floor and maybe some office spaces on the first floor. Convalescing or not, prisoners had to stay in their cells. Along with all the other buildings of the complex, this one is gone too, and the 11-acre space will soon have a new look.

Replacing the stony blocks of prison cells will be a blood bank attached to the General Hospital, as well as a station of the proposed Chennai Metro. There are a couple of smaller buildings planned, but it seems that a reasonably large part of the space will be given over to a park and some recreational facility - what a change that would be from its previous use!

Some more photos of the former Chennai Central Prison complex are here.

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