Saturday, August 28, 2010

Loane fountain

Well, don't judge the park by the fountain. That the centerpiece of Sriramulu Poonga on Prakasam Road is dry is no reflection on the status of the park itself. Confused? Well, old timers of Madras would probably understand better if I'd used the earlier names - Loane Square Garden on Broadway.

That garden was commissioned by Samuel Joshua Loane, probably as a bulwark against the space becoming messy and unsanitary once again. 'Once again', because sometime around the mid-nineteenth century, Loane had just finished cleaning up Popham's Market on Broadway. Stephen Popham had reportedly envisaged the market - for meat, vegetables and condiments - being spic and span. After his death, it seems to have degenerated considerably, to the extent of a garden being named after its rescuer.

Fast forward to the end of the 20st century; Loane Square Garden is in pretty much the same state that Popham's Market was, a hundred and fifty years earlier. Being used as a parking lot for trucks carting produce to and from Kotwal Chavadi, the Garden was "a public lavatory masquerading as a park and a startling testimonial to the failure of Stephen Popham's most basic idea - sanitation - to take root". Now, it has once again been transformed into an oasis of greenery in what's otherwise a rather grey and dusty district. I'm not very sure about the connection between Potti Sriramulu and this park, which is now named after him, but as with many other places in the city, it continues to be better known by its old name!

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