Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Solid housing

In front of Singaravelar Maligai, the office of the Chennai Collectorate, is this incongruous structure. The arrowhead-tipped bars blocking its entryways reinforce the first impression of this being a cage of some kind, though what it could have held within it escapes the first level of deduction.

It is in fact a specially constructed cupola, designed to house the 14.5-foot high statue of Lord Conwallis. It was built in 1925, in front of Bentinck's Building, which was the then home of the Madras Collectorate. The statue, in its cupola, had pride of place right in front of the building. But it was a very short stay there for the statue; exposure to the salty sea-air was corroding it and so it had to be taken away to the Connemara Library. The cupola continued to remain there, even as Bentinck's Building was left to rot and later demolished to make way for the 'modern' office of the Collectorate.

It is anybody's guess how long it will be allowed to stand - maybe it will take that strangler fig growing on it to bring it down!

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