Thursday, October 9, 2014

The view north

The Marina Beach is supposedly 13 kilometres long, but that's the entire stretch from the edge of the Port of Chennai, all the way down past Besant Nagar. Somehow, I am unable to consider all of that as one beach, because the shoreline changes its character as it passes through Chennai.

This 4km stretch is most likely the beach that captivated Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff when he visited Madras sometime in the 1870s. He returned to Madras in 1881, this time as its Governor. One of the first things he did was to commence building a promenade along the sandy strip. On its being opened to the public in 1884, he named it the "Marina", from his recollection of the Sicilian beach - apparently an Italian general, when walking along the promenade with the Governor, mentioned to him that the beach reminded him of Palermo.

Since then, the Marina has been graced - and at times disgraced - by several projects. It was one of the key points in the city for public and political rallies. Thilagar Thidal, where Mahatma Gandhi addressed the people on his visits to Madras, is now just a memory. At the northern end, memorials to two former state Chief Ministers got the courts to declare that the beach should not be used for any other such memorials. At the moment, the sandy strip is going through one of its relatively cleaner phases; so, even if you are not able to go along all the 13km, this stretch should be good enough to rejuvenate you!

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