Monday, September 17, 2012
To you and me, in this day and age, this black block of a building would appear foreboding, maybe even an ill-omen. But a century ago, this would have represented excitement, hope and the thrill of setting out to new worlds and civilizations. It is one of the original buildings of the Port of Chennai and used to house the embarkation offices, along with its twin. Together, they would have been terrifying sights for at least one set of travellers: those bound for transport to Kala Pani, that dreaded cellular jail in the Andamans, who would also have set sail from the quay here.
That other half of this building was demolished during a modernisation drive in the 1980s, but for some reason, this one was spared. Sitting on the Western Quay of the harbour, this building appears to have fallen out of regular use. Built with chunks of Pallavaram gneiss, it has stood up to the salty sea air for all these years showing little signs of wear. It could well survive for a few centuries more and can be put to better use than being a storage facility. In its comedown, it today evokes more pity than awe!