Monday, May 31, 2010
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!
Sunday, May 30, 2010
As we were walking out, we had to wait to let cadet officers - both gentlemen and lady cadets - march past us. Been a long time since one heard the synchronised crunch of marching boots!
Saturday, May 29, 2010
A certain Mary Florence Potts of Iowa made some improvements to the earlier, externally heated 'sadirons'. She first had the baseplate pointed at both ends, which enabled the sadiron to be moved back and forth, rather than in just one direction. Further, she patented a 'detachable handle' design and sold her product as a set of 3 sadirons and one detachable handle - with that, one of the irons was always being heated up, one was cooling down and the third was being put to use all the time.
These days, of course, electric irons with thermostats and internal heating elements have replaced the charcoal iron almost everywhere. Yet, a sight that would not be out of place at Gochsheim Castle (reputed to have the largest collection of over 1300 historical irons) is played out in several areas of Chennai every morning, when the local iron-man sets up his practice for the day. The flames leaping out from the maw of the appliance remind us that for all our modernity, our clothes continue to depend upon a technology that's been around for over 2000 years!
Friday, May 28, 2010
Though I haven't read the entire book yet, I'm sure I'll like it. Those parts I rushed through (I had some vague thoughts of asking profound questions at the launch) made for easy, yet insightful, reading. I was slightly taken aback when I saw a Hyderabad based story - when was that city last on the beach? Despite the fish connection, it seemed a little out of place, but with some biographical background, I thought it was probably as close as this author would get to talking about himself in the book. And Samanth's confession that this one was indeed the story closest to his heart validated that thought.
It was, however, the toddy shop story that was first excerpted in the Mint a couple of weeks ago. And I just couldn't resist this picture of the author with the toddy shop.... !
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Many believe that the best marble monument in India is not the Taj Mahal, but rather, the Dilwara Temples near Mount Abu in Rajasthan, sacred to Jains. It was from these temples that the Jains who had settled in Madras drew architectural inspiration from for their newer temple in the city.
Though the structure is new, worship at this particular site is not. The Chandra Prabhu Bhagawan Naya Jain Mandir, on Mint Street, was built at the same spot where one of Madras' oldest Jain temples, the Swetambar Jain Temple, stood. As with the other temples of the tirthankaras, the sanctum sanctorum is elevated from the ground level. Here, the main deity is Chandra Prabhu, the 8th tirthankara. Built largely of limestone, with accents in marble, it is both completely different (from the grey granite, or the gaily coloured gopurams) and similar (to other Jain temples everywhere).
Also, just as many other places of worship do, this temple also offers free food every day - only, in keeping with Jain traditions, the food is entirely free of spices, oil and even salt!
Monday, May 17, 2010
More than 30 years later, the Maraimalai Adigalar Bridge can be thought of as just another point on Mount Road; although there is still some greenery beyond the bridge, straight down to the Raj Bhavan, the buildings on the right proclaim it a part of Chennai. Still, it was almost 300 years ago that the first bridge was built here, so give us some time to believe it is not the city's boundary any longer!
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Enter the Mahtanis. Most likely as a consequence of partition, young Gobind Mahtani reached Madras from Hyderabad (Sind, Pakistan), to join his uncle. With the additional management bandwidth, the Mahtanis moved their small silk garments business to these premises, taking over the entire ground floor. The first floor was then taken up by India Coffee House. Maybe it was the coffee, maybe it was the clothes - the building became a meeting place for the men-about-town, who would pick up their clothes at India Silk House and then saunter up to the India Coffee House for a cuppa, and much conversation. When the Coffee Board decided to close down the Madras outlet of the India Coffee House, the Mahtanis were ready to expand and they took over the vacant space to start their furnishings division.
Today, this landmark is tucked away in a crook of Mount Road's curve; one hopes the Mahtanis are able to hold on to this heritage structure against the onslaught of all kinds of modernisation happening on Mount Road!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The watermelon continues to be a favourite, both as a solid and a liquid - here are a few of the fruits stacked up at the Koyambedu market!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Unfortunately, I was disappointed inside the bakery as well. I'm not sure what kind of Persian delights I was expecting, but it seemed to have all the same breads, buns and biscuits that could be found in any old bakery. Or maybe the New Persian Bakery is very discriminating about who it serves the genuine Persian stuff to; must try to get friendly with the folks there and find out if there are indeed trays of zulbia or halva kept hidden for regular patrons!
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Now, with plans to build a 3000-slot parking lot for 2-wheelers, it is likely that all the traffic density forecasts will be hit for a six - and then we'll have to look for a new bus station soon!
Monday, May 3, 2010
Many of these countries referred to the lungi as 'Palayakat'. One school of thought is that the word is a corruption of Pazhaverkadu (now called Pulicat), north of Chennai, where the Dutch had their fortress before the British presence on the Coromandel coast. These simple rectangles of cloth were probably the central players of a brand-building (okay, category-building) exercise a couple of centuries ago. The British varied the dimensions of these rectangles, or converted them into running lengths, and popularised them as 'Madras Checks' in its colonies, including the ones in America. Palayakat is a forgotten term now - certainly in Chennai, where lungi still holds sway, but companies behind the popular old brands still use the term: like Sangu-mark lungi-gal, which is a brand of The Madras Palayakat Company.
There could be another story of origin for the word, however. It could have originated from 'palasar-e-kattu', 'palasar' being the manner of tying the veshti, urging the users of the humble lungi to wear it like its more formal counterpart!
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Not that a visitor to Chennai would be disappointed if he asks for coffee at the roadside stall. The vendor would pour all liquids in the same fashion, raising one vessel as far as his arm can stretch. Maybe the distance travelled cools down the milk, but then, what is the point, if it is going to go back into the boiling pot, anyway!
Saturday, May 1, 2010
On the occasion of his birth centenary in 1987, Madras city named a road after him, turning Adams Road into Swami Sivananda Salai. A statue of the saint was set up at the eastern end of the road, just where it joins Kamaraj Salai. Somehow, the statue seems to be of a roadside bookseller, pressing his wares on the passer-by. True, Swami Sivananda wrote close to 300 books, but he is to be remembered for much more than that.
At the western end of Swami Sivananda Salai, there was (is it there still?) a statue of Lord Ampthill, who was Governor of Madras between 1901 and 1906. I'm not sure if it was planned that way, or if it is just coincidence; one of Kuppuswamy's first forays into the public eye was in 1901, when, as a 14-year old, he sang a song to welcome the newly appointed Governor of Madras at the Kumarapuram railway station!
I'm back, on the monthly Theme Day for the City Daily Photo community. To see photos of statues from cities around the world, check this link out!