Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grease to silk

In the first few years of the 20th century, the then decade-old Anjuman-e-Himayath-e-Islam (AHI) wanted a building where the orphan children from around the vicinity of the Wallajah Mosque could be trained in some trade or the other. For this purpose, they built this red-sandstone structure, where the lower level was the training centre-cum-workshop and the truly indigent students were housed on the upper floor. In the 1930s, the AHI, guided by Justice Basheer Ahmad Sayeed, acquired a much larger parcel of land; by 1947, they had moved out of this building.

Enter the Mahtanis. Most likely as a consequence of partition, young Gobind Mahtani reached Madras from Hyderabad (Sind, Pakistan), to join his uncle. With the additional management bandwidth, the Mahtanis moved their small silk garments business to these premises, taking over the entire ground floor. The first floor was then taken up by India Coffee House. Maybe it was the coffee, maybe it was the clothes - the building became a meeting place for the men-about-town, who would pick up their clothes at India Silk House and then saunter up to the India Coffee House for a cuppa, and much conversation. When the Coffee Board decided to close down the Madras outlet of the India Coffee House, the Mahtanis were ready to expand and they took over the vacant space to start their furnishings division.

Today, this landmark is tucked away in a crook of Mount Road's curve; one hopes the Mahtanis are able to hold on to this heritage structure against the onslaught of all kinds of modernisation happening on Mount Road!


Hobbes said...

There was an ICH in Chennai?
I've missed it!
By any chance, is there one elsewhere in Madras ??
I heard so much about the one in Bengaluru but before I could visit it, I read some massive articles by the greats of Bangalore about how it was a hallmark of the city and that it was a pity that it was closing down. Alas! I found that they had merely shifted and was overjoyed to drink the coffee. Simply heavenly!


Shantaram said...

@ Hobbes: The ICH at India Silk House was closed in the '60s. I don't think they operated from any other location. These days, the ICHs in operation are largely in Kerala...

Deviprasad V said...

Think there's one opp t.nagar bus stand