Monday, May 31, 2010

Missing the 'I'

A few years ago, some additions were made to the Chennai Egmore station, on its western side. They were the latest in a series of additions that were made to the buildings of this station, which traces its origins to more than a century ago. In those days - the station was opened in 1908 - it is said to have cost Rs.17 lakh to build and between Henry Irwin (the designer) and Samynada Pillai (the builder), they managed to work in some Dravidian elements into the structure. The original lobby and porch on the eastern side thus set a pattern which was not broken in the later additions to the buildings, in the 1930s as well as in the 1980s.

The newest addition, on the western side also remains largely true to the original style of construction. But if you've ever glanced up at the bas-relief crest on the eastern side, you'll notice a difference here. On the western side, the builders have strayed just a little bit. While they have retained the elephant motif of the eastern face - that was probably part of the logo of the South Indian Railway - but they have been unfaithful to the letters. The 'I', which is present in the older version (though painted over to merge with the background, now) is missing here.

Maybe that's the way it should be - future generations can argue about how the S.I.R. became the S.R. - and that's a story for another post!

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