Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting to work

Until about 5 years ago, Sriperumbudur was a sleepy little town on the way to Bangalore, just outside Chennai. Since then, it has been transformed into a major electronics / telecom manufacturing hub, thanks to Nokia, probably the world's largest phone manufacturer. The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) anchored by Nokia and housing its component suppliers also, provides employment for over 12,000 people. Many of them come from villages over 50 km away from Sriperumbudur, but the buses run by the companies in the SEZ make sure that they arrive on time.

Shift-change time is therefore high traffic time, naturally; here are the early arrivals, coming in for the afternoon shift - they are only the vanguard, maybe just about a tenth of the total workforce that would come in for this shift!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bunker below ground

Once upon a time, there was a Round Tana at the junction of Wallajah Road and Mount Road. Or at least, the old timers say there was one; this photograph shows a domed structure which could well have been the round tana, because it is right at the same junction. You have to really be an old timer to remember seeing that structure, because it was pulled down sometime in the early 1940s. Though I am hard pressed to imagine what the connection was, the cause of its demolition was Japan entering World War II - maybe it was so distinctive that its absence would make target marking very difficult for the Japanese aircraft?

In a gesture that really seemed to cock a snook at the threat, the city built an air-raid shelter right under the spot where the round tana had been. In all likelihood it was never used, for the Japanese did not make any serious effort to attack Madras. After the war, the cavernous shelters were put to use as public conveniences for a while. It must have been really convenient for the public, too, for the Round Tana of those days was a favoured hangout - most cinemas were nearby and so was Jafar's, that famed ice-cream & soda shop of those days. Sometime in the 1960s, though, the crowds began to thin out, more cinemas opened further south on Mount Road and Jafar's faded away.

With so much of underground space available, the city put it to good use by clearing out the public conveniences and allowing their approaches to connect up with one another - and lo, the first pedestrian subway in the city was in place!

Friday, May 29, 2009

A little shop

For the Madrasi Paan connoisseurs, there are only a couple of places for that ultimate, ideal, paan. Of course, each of them has his or her own favourites, but if any of them has passed on the paan from this shop on Nungambakkam High Road, s/he cannot claim to be a true lover of the leaf. Did I say Madrasi? Mistake. This shop is pretty well known across India, to anyone who has visited Chennai and has felt the urge for an after-dinner refresher - the host would know that, with this shop, he can't go wrong!

Early evening, the homebound office goer chomps on a bit of luxury; the cops ignore the two-wheelers that are parked while the riders select their favourites from the menu. Later in the evening, the two-wheelers would be replaced by four-wheelers, including the Audis, the BMWs and the Mercedes - the lure of an after-dinner paan from Calcutta Pan Shop is too strong for anyone to resist!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fit for a viceroy

No one knows for sure what prompted Alavandan Chetty to choose the name he did for his furniture emporium on Wallajah Road. The explanation most commonly offered is that he named it in honour of the then Viceroy of India who was visiting Madras when the shop was opened. Somehow, there seems to be a confusion in the dates; though George Nathaniel Curzon, the 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, was indeed a Viceroy of India, he took that office only on January 6, 1899. His appointment, announced in August 1898, caused a sensation, for he was the youngest ever to be the Queen's representative in India. Alavandan Chetty must have chosen to ride on the popularity of the name, rather than dedicate his business to the man, when he opened Curzons in 1898.

Both Alavandan Chetty and his son, Seshachalam, who took over the business later, were clear that their furniture would be the finest they could make. And they turned out the best of home and office furniture, keeping in tune with the latest developments globally. Even within its reputation for high quality furniture, Curzons made a speciality of library pieces, for which they turned to Dr. S.R.Ranganathan, who guided the early design of this specialised furniture.

Like many other business of that era, Curzon & Co floundered after Seshachalam - 'Curzon Chettiar' to many - passed away in 1969. Though it somehow chugged past its centenary year, it is not the force it was; competition has hobbled it badly. With the Viceroys long gone, it seems that no one has time for viceregal furniture any more!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A bit of Arabia

Although date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) have been known in Tamilnadu for centuries, their cultivation has never been seriously attempted. With the other palms - coconut (Cocos nucifera) and palmyra (Borassus flabellifer, the state tree of Tamilnadu) - having taken root, the space for a third kind of palm is rather limited, I guess. So, although the tree is well known, it is more often used as an ornament, rather than a cash crop.

Even as an ornamental plant, date palms are not really common in Chennai's public places. One of the few places (if not the only one) in the city where date palms can be seen is at the point where Greams Road meets Mount Road. It could possibly be that the grand mosque at Thousand Lights, which is just across the road from this junction, influenced the planting of the date palms here. Whatever the reason be, it is nice to see a change in the greenery!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gambling place?

Well, you could hardly associate watching a movie at Casino with gambling of any kind. It was kind of taken for granted that if Casino is playing the movie, it would be completely paisa vasool (value for money). Of course, many of the movies used to be the Hollywood blockbusters - and it was thrilling to watch them at Casino.

But now, the hall can just about get by. There's hardly any parking for cars - the theatre was built in the days when Madras had a total of four-and-a-quarter automobiles or something, when the space in front of the cinema was good enough for them to come sweeping up and pick up those genteel folks who had finished watching a good motion picture. Sadly, it seems no one with a car goes to watch a movie at Casino any more!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Crossing the junction

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon traffic, when people were either recovering from the shock of Chennai Super Kings' defeat on Saturday, or were getting ready for the IPL finals last evening.

Mount Road is deserted - or at least a close approximation; traffic is thin and in the heat of the afternoon, people are in no particular hurry to go anywhere. Except that solitary cyclist, who doesn't seem to care about signals!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hill temple

Reaching the Thirusoolanathar Tirupurasundari temple in the Pallavaram hills, the first thought that comes to mind is - what was it that led Kulothunga Chozhan II to build this temple here almost a thousand years ago? The settlements around the temple are very obviously end of 20th century - and I remember that in the '70s and through most of the '80s only hermits would clamber up the hills to live in the scrub there. There were historic settlements from the Pallava period, but none on this particular hill, near this temple.

Legend has it, however, that this hill was particularly favoured by the Lord Brahma for his worship of the Lord Shiva, because it was surrounded by four other hills. It was this legend which prompted Kulothunga Chozhan II to raise this temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, in his manifestation as Tirusoolanathar (Tirusoolam = Trishul = Trident), accompanied by his consort, Tirupurasundari (the beautiful one). The sanctum sanctorum of this temple is rounded at the rear, a feature that is not very usual in temples of Tamilnadu. Other features that Kulothungan would find unusual are the icons on the roof - all of them are modern, somehow jarring the senses, even if they were without the vivid colouring - and the tiled steps and floor at the entrance - something that has been done without any thought of harmonizing with the rest of the structure....

Even though it is Tirusoolanathar there, the name of the town does not derive from the deity, improbable as it may sound. A churam is a kind of valley, a barren place in between rocky hills; having been made holy, this area amidst the four hills came to be called as Tiruchuram and over time has become identified more with the deity than with the natural formation!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Multiscreen opening

When it opened, thirty-seven years ago, it was one of the first public cinema theatres on Arcot Road. AVM's Rajeshwari was more of a preview theatre in those days, and Kamala Theatre filled the gap between Liberty Theatre and the studios at Vadapalani. With a capacity of almost a thousand seats, it was one of the better halls to watch a movie in; being at the edge of the movie industry's hub, there was also a chance of getting to see a star, too. The lobbies and the stairways used to be lined with all the industry bigwigs who had visited Kamala Theatre - actually, not just the bigwigs, there were photos of just about anyone. None of them had any signs, so it was a fun game to try and identify all the lesser lights of the industry, each time we went to see a movie there.

Filling a thousand seats, show after show is a huge challenge these days, and the hall is doing what it can to meet the challenge now. Even then, they are going with just one additional screen - with their plans of adding about 600 seats, the challenge of filling seats does not seem to have got any easier. Let us hope they continue to grace their walls with bits and pieces of Tamizh cinema history; that might yet prod me to go watch one (or two) more movies there!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Shore to hill

The Thirusoolam hill is one of the ancient mountains near Chennai, a part of the Pallavaram hills. It is not a place where one would expect to see anything nautical; but Chennai continues to throw up these quirky surprises. Not only was there a Port Trust Officers' Colony atop the hill (the Tamizh sign says 'Harbour Colony'), but there was also a 'Harbour Road' that leaves one completely disconcerted for a moment!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Of time gone by

An old-world scene, from the street around Kapaleeshwarar temple, Mylapore. But for the SUV and the bikes, it would have been the same a century ago, too. Maybe it will remain the same a century hence!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lasting faith

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the 'Town', this building seems to be slightly out of place. The last remaining structure of what was once a large complex of buildings, it celebrated its sesquicentennial a couple of months ago. The origin of the insititution it houses (used to house, rather) can be traced back to 1836, when Rev. George James Laurie and Rev Matthew Bowie, the Chaplains of the Church of Scotland in Madras, requested headquarters for a missionary to run the St Andrews School which they had started a year or so earlier. And thus it was that the Rev. John Anderson came to Madras; in 1837, he opened the General Assembly's School in Armenian Street, with the core group of 59 pupils moving from the St Andrews School. It was to be the first of many schools founded by this Scotsman, whose love for education seems to have been greater than his love for the gospel.

The school grew; in 1877 it was re-christened as "Madras Christian College". College House, College Chapel, College Hall - buildings joined the College itself and, difficult as it is to imagine now, George Town became an important centre for higher education. It was only in 1919 that the Senatus Committee recommended the College's move, upon which it relocated right across the city, to Tambaram, where it continues to function today. Sometime in between (Mr. Muthiah puts it as being after 1895), the College Chapel and College Hall were switched; the latter, which was called Anderson Hall in memory of the college's founder, became Anderson Church.

That holy association has probably saved this building from the fate that befell its companions; though it is listed as a heritage building by INTACH, there is no guarantee that such listing will save it from demolition. A better protection, however, is provided by an active congregation, which travels from various parts of the city to this building!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Evening scene

Close to six o'clock on a Saturday evening and the traffic around Panagal Park is just building up. Surprisingly, even though the day had been hot, the air was not dusty at all - and given the volume of traffic, the quantity of exhaust fumes was - dare I say it? - negligible.

Most likely that it had nothing to do with the vehicles - the trees providing so much of greenery are probably acting as buffers for the dust and the smoke, too!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Colourful fruits

A peaceful sight - the unhurried fruit seller catching up on the news while waiting for early morning customers.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Keep your distance

Early last week, the city saw signs like this one being painted on certain roads. These are indeed common enough signs during the election time, but this year, they seemed to have 'doubled' - during the earlier elections, the signs had said '100 m' only, but this time, they had gone all the way up to 200 m.

With about 700 million people across the country being eligible to vote in the just-concluded parliamentary elections, the process of the vote is indeed quite complex - in some sense, it is the pinnacle of organization, with almost every eventuality being considered. One such eventuality is the possibility of 'last metre influence'; therefore, political parties are not allowed to have their voter helpdesks, or any posters, handbills or any other promotional material within the specified distance from a polling booth.

Yet, there seems to have been some gaps. Although the Election Commission of India was clear that the sanitized zone extended up to 200m, the Tamil Nadu Government was still advising the police about a 100m zone!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Local cafe

John Doveton lent his name to a school in Purasaiwalkam over 150 years ago and in the years since, his name has been used for things much more than the school itself; it has gone on to represent the whole area around the school. It has been mangled in more ways than one - a set of Anglo-Indians were fond of pronouncing it 'Duff-ton' rather than the 'Dough-ton' and that became so popular that I am pleasantly surprised to see the Doveton spelling being used, without having been altered to match the phonetic effect.

One example is this cafe, right under the flyover. Maybe it is a bad example, because it has been there for over 35 years, serving as a hangout for the late-hippie generation and then going on to what it is today. Doveton Cafe is a good place to step into for a cup of coffee and then sit down to ramble on about world affairs (and those of your college-mates', too) without having to worry about how fast the meter is running!

Friday, May 15, 2009

West side entry

With the 'new' airport at Bengaluru being almost a two hour drive from the city centre, the number of people choosing to drive up, rather than fly, to Chennai would certainly have gone up. If you are one of those, you would be glad to see this toll booth because that's the last one on NH4 before you enter Chennai.

Unlike the one on the ECR (was that the first ever toll road in Chennai?), this one is managed by the National Highways Authority of India. The NH4 has always been a very significant road (not only because it connects Chennai to Poonamallee) for it is the road link to Bangalore and beyond that, all the way to Mumbai.

Even though I wasn't driving in all the way from Bangalore (I had gone only to Sriperumbudur), I was still glad to see this sign - it is back to the city!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A temple begins?

Doesn't really take much to get faith started, does it? It's like holding your car key with your left hand and then moving it to your right - or the other way around, if it pleases you. Do it often enough and it will be a ritual that, when you miss it, leaves you feeling vaguely uneasy. It is what makes the Bodyguard Muniswaran the place to go to for new vehicles.

Here's one more, sprouting under a peepul tree on the extension of Flagstaff Road. Someone cares enough about this Nandi to smear turmeric and vermillion on the treetrunk around it. From the looks of it, a few people have already begun to regard this Nandi as a fulfiller of wishes; notice the coloured ribbons tied around the roots of the tree (top of picture)? Those must be the reminders of favours sought. A few more years of this and then a structure will start coming up around it, regular pujas will be performed, donations will be accepted, the works. Then, the legend of the temple will have to be created, with stories of how prayers to this idol were miraculously fulfilled.... in fact, I'm tempted to come up with a story or two myself!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Water supply

Coming up from the southern districts into Chennai city, the NH45 rises up in a bridge just before getting into Porur. That bridge divides the Porur lake into two unequal parts, with the smaller part, shown in the picture on the left. Spread over 300 acres, the lake today is less than half of what it was about half-a-century ago. The 800 acres covered by the lake provided the water to irrigate about the same area of farmland. As the city spread out, the farms went away and the lake began to dry out, too, leaving the field clear for illegal encroachments.

Those encroachments came in the hundreds; as always, the ones who came in later were the innocents, lured by the prospect of having a small piece of land that they could call their own. As always, they were the ones who suffered the most when the government finally woke up and went on a massive eviction drive to clear up the lake bed, in November 2006. Since then, there has been a better effort to protect the remaining part of the lake, so that it continues to be a major source of water for the city's population.

There is much that remains to be done, for the deal was to clean up the lake, de-silt it and improve the storage works, once the eviction was complete. In the two years since, there does not seem to have been any change in the lake's storage capacity; as against the promised 60 million cubic feet, it still remains at around 25 mcft!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Drunken line

The heat has been quite merciless. Chennai is cooled somewhat by its sea-breeze; on record, the sea-breeze begins anytime between 11.30 am and 1.00 pm; I suspect that's the time it crosses from the water on to land, for it is only around 2 o'clock in the afternoon that one begins to feel any effect of the breeze. Until then, things are in a general state of stupor, made worse if one is required to hop into and out of airconditioned spaces.

The stupor extends to the medians drawn on the NH4; the heat is enough to melt the tar and the highway yellow flows with it, creating an effect that can be matched only by an inebriated road painter!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gates re-opened

Chennai is home to several automobile companies; firms like those of the Amalgamations Group, the TVS Group, the Hinduja Group and the CK Birla Group had created a rich and diversified eco-system of automobile and auto component manufacturers in and around Chennai. Many of those firms were established long ago and have been part of the Chennai's industrial map for a long while now. A fresh impetus to Chennai's automobile manufacturing prowess came about in the mid 1990s, with the setting up of passenger vehicle units by Ford and Hyundai.

Though Ford was the earlier of the two (I believe so - there is not much separating the two, in any case), it was Hyundai that caught the imagination. The first model that rolled out of the plant at Irungattukottai was a huge success and Hyundai was off, blazing the tracks - they currently have the capacity to roll out about 400,000 vehicles a year, while Ford tops out at about half that.

Over the past few months, workers at the Hyundai plant had been agitating, demanding some concessions from the management; things came to a head towards the end of April, when a strike was called. Thankfully, it has not been allowed to prolong and the factory is back in action today, after an agreeement to this effect was reached on Friday. The picture shows a car, probably with some of the managers, entering the factory on Saturday afternoon - maybe they were getting ready to crank up the lines on Monday morning!

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!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Relax - keep cool!

The guards manning the toll booth on NH4, just before Sriperumbudur, have nothing much around to be distracted by. So, when the kulfi-seller walks by, pushing his cycle, they jump at the chance of picking up some, to cool down in the pre-noon heat. They do seem to be enjoying themselves, don't they?

Seconds after I took this picture, a wide body truck, not judging the width of the toll lanes properly, came by and smashed into a divider - that must have got these gentlement jumping out of their reverie!

Friday, May 8, 2009


I am not sure if I've ever travelled on the Metropolitan Transport Corporation in Chennai until a couple of weeks ago. Of course I've travelled in the city's buses, but as far as I can recall, it happened in the days when they were called 'Pallavan', rather than the current, bland moniker. In fact, it seemed to be a rather odd thing, in the early '70s: the transport authority of the state capital was named after a lesser dynasty than those of the smaller cities of Madurai (Pandyan), Coimbatore (Cheran) and Thanjavur (Chozhan). At least the blandness of the current name has put a stop to the rampant splitting and re-naming of transport authorities across the state, for a dozen years, now.

My Pallavan memories are still the green buses, with two seats on either side of the central aisle, with metal brackets on them providing handgrips for those standing; handgrips made shiny by the sweat from countless palms, leaving behind a sour smell on your hands for long after you let go of the bus. Today's coaches are bright and plasticky, the handgrips more hygienic probably, but less memorable, surely. The seating plan is still the same, but I found a familiar sign missing from its usual place. So I turn to the conductor, and asked him where the seats reserved for the women were. Very brusquely, he pointed to all those on the left of the bus and then glanced at the side of the roof on the left. The he did a double-take, took a quick look a the last, full, row of seats and turned grinning to me, saying, "Inge thaan saar adhu" (This is where it is, sir).

Certainly reassuring to learn that the old habit of keeping all the seats on the left for womenfolk hasn't died, even if there is no sign saying so!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hotel with a view

It stands in a quiet corner of Purasaiwalkam, near the Jeremiah Park. With its front door opening out to the park, there was nothing else for it but to name this hotel "The Park View Inn"!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Evolving house (s)

In the early stages of the city, housing units were built as approximations of what people were used to in their villages: single storey, walls common to two houses, tiled roof, a thinnai in front, the atrium-like centre courtyard... these were the design elements considered important by the 'natives'. The British, though, liked to have their gardens, didn't care too much for the tiles, had multiple levels in their houses, adapted the thinnai as a verandah... and that template was mimicked by even those Indians who made their fortune working with the Company.

Somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, the uppper middle class (was there such a demographic then?) probably tried to combine both worlds - that was probably the period when the single-storeyed row-houses added an additional floor, gave it a balcony and simulated the verandah, though at an elevated level. The house below seems to have gone a step further by pushing that design into the idea of a garden-house, coming up with a very nice adaptation. Though it looks like it could do with a coat of paint, the photograph does not do it justice - it is really nice and quaint, taking Dr. Alagappa Road back to the days when it was Ormes Road.

But look at the flats behind - the very latest stage in the evolution of residences, they still retain vestiges of the tiled roofs of the days past!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stately, but ignored?

The State Bank of India's branch office on Mount Road is a magnificent building, probably a century old and looking as stately as its name suggests.

But within Chennai, it is relegated to the status of a poor cousin. The bank's office on Rajaji Salai is a more splendid structure, even older and more historic. Maybe out of a desire to not give credit to many of its buildings, the bank also does not promote this as a heritage building or anything of the sort. It is only when one steps back on Mount Road and looks at this frontage does the beauty of the structure show itself.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Parched throats

Sometimes, you just can't beat water as a quencher of thirst.

Chennai Metrowater has spruced up the polyethylene storage tanks which can be found by the roadside at several places. Normally these tanks are used to store water in areas which do not have piped water supply. This one, in front of Fort St George, however seems to be one that is meant for passers-by to slake their thirst.

With agni nakshatram ('fire-star') having started today, passers-by sure need it!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Calm tank

Temple tanks are meant to be representations of pure and holy waters. The calm of the early morning water is wonderfully soothing and lets you reflect on the higher powers, even if it is only for a brief while before some other devotees jostle you, looking for their own space in the vastness of creation. Normally, the balance of the 'pure'-ness is maintained within the ecosystem of the tank; the fish and the water-plants strike an equilibrium by cleaning up the waste washed off from the rituals that use the water of the tank. The fish also get their main food from the devotees or from some of the temple staff, who make sure they don't have to always scavenge for their livelihood.

Like with all other finely balanced ecosystems, it doesn't take much to throw this one too off its steady state. Sometime in April, the Panguni festival saw the throng of devotees grow multifold. In their fervour to do good, they apparently threw in a lot of food into the tank; food that the fish could not finish off and so remained, rotting at the bottom for a couple of weeks, apparently. And then the fish began to die. Fisherman brought in by the temple authorities to clean the tank reportedly "...fished out more than 60,000 dead fish in a single day..."

A few days later, a faint stench stays in the air. Apart from that, the system seems to have returned to normal - the fish are back to rippling the surface, hoping that someone will feed them the right food!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Strong man

Originally begun as a shed making toy ballons, the Madras Rubber Factory has grown into one of the country's biggest producers of automobile tyres. Along the way, they found a new identity for themselves, created a logo and got into a clutch of other activities, many of them centered around cricket.

The 'MRF Man' was created sometime in the '70s, to counter the myth that south India (the 'Madrasi') cannot make the heavy duty tyres required by the trucks. Thus came a visual association with MRF and the strength of its tyres.It has been successul for sure - MRF's place among the leaders of industry in India is assured!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Take shelter

The Metropolitan Transport Corporation may operate the city's bus services, but if you want to catch one, you'll have to take shade at the mercy of the Corporation of Chennai. At the last count, there were approximately 1,200 bus shelters across the city. Many of them are in an advanced state of disrepair, the cement seats crumbling, as the are pillars. Others are designed rather poorly, that is not possible for them to be used as waiting spaces.

A couple of years ago, the Corporation of Chennai embarked on an ambitious project of upgraing the bus shelters. The idea was to form some kine of Public-Private-Partnership where a large enough proportion of the revenue goes back to the partner who has enhanced the look of the bus shelter. About 350 such shelters were identified; the modified design included cc tv, decent seats, a backlit panel, plus information panels showing the expcted time of the next bus and many other things which are essential for the commuters to know. The initial plan was to convert 350 of the existing shelters; it has been almost four years now, but it doesn't look like 350 bus stops have been upgraded.

The one in the picture certainly has been. Being right ouside the Secretariat of Tamil Nadu, it was probably one of the earliest to be upgraded. It appears that it is being used very sparingly; nobody wants to be the focus of attention from the ministers who look across to this bus shelter as their vehicle leaves the gate of the Fort!