Saturday, October 5, 2013
Once upon a time, the name of this street was a little longer. But with the government deciding that caste names and titles should not be publicly acknowledged, the original name of Kalavai Chetty Street was shortened. And in doing so, they anonymised one of Madras' prominent merchants, Kalavai Chetty. Some of his business partners, who were dubashes of the British East India Company, are remembered - with their full titles - in street names of George Town.
Kalavai Chetty was quite prosperous and lived north of Fort St George. His business dealings took up a lot of time and he was unable to visit the Kachhapeeswarar temple in Kanchipuram as often as he would have liked to. His solution was simple: build a temple in Madras itself. That he did, giving over a part of his lands on what is today Armenian Road. It may not have hurt him much, because at his peak, the leases he held included Tiruvottiyur, Tondiarpet, Vyasarpadi, Purasaiwakkam, Egmore and Nungambakkam.
The settlement of Chintadripet, where this street is located, was a little after his heyday, although he must still have been around. Maybe he gave up a part of his holdings here for the settlement to come up, and hence a street with his name came up here rather than in George Town. How nice it would have been to have retained his anglicised name, Colloway Chetty, in this street - when the Chetty dropped, that would have got us all mixed up!