Saturday, February 28, 2009

The city's Sarai

Abdul Hakim was a reasonably wealthy businessman in Visharam, a town about 150 km west of Madras. He had inherited a successful hides and skins business from his father; bursting with ideas, he must have travelled to Madras many a time to do business with the leather buyers who came to George Town from Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay and the Punjab, not to mention the British, who were there for trading, anyway. The hides and skins business continued to be successful and Abdul Hakim, now with the suffix of Saheb, moved into public life through several charitable acts, largely directed towards education in his native Visharam. The Melvisharam Muslim Educational Society that he founded in 1918 continues to be active, most recently in setting up the C. Adbul Hakeem College of Engineering at Technology.

Influenced in some small way by his contemporary Rajah Sir Ramasamy Mudaliar, Hakim Saheb turned his attention to the traveller to Chennai and built a rest house near the Central Station, quite close to the Choultry built by the Rajah. So it was that bands of travellers to Madras in 1920 now had one more excellent facility to put up their feet and relax. Named after Hakim Saheb's father, Siddique Sarai has separate quarters for men and women, as well as a mosque for the men. The projecting balconies with their sloped shade keep the sunlight out and the traveller cool.

Unlike the choultry, the Sarai has been in continuous use since it was opened and is a shade better maintained than its neighbour!


Lowell said...

Very interesting place, and a very interesting story! Thanks.

Shantaram said...

@ Jacob: Thanks!