Monday, January 10, 2011

Here and there

This is a hotel caught in some kind of a time warp. The property itself was developed by R. Velayuthan, whose claim to fame was that he was married to KR Vijaya, a popular actress of the 1970s. Velayuthan invested his wife's earnings into building this hotel, which opened in the late 1970s. Riding on the crest of her popularity, Hotel Sudarshan, as it was then called, became quite a popular hangout, more so with the 'filmi' crowds visiting Chennai.

As with several similar ventures, the promoters were unable to sustain the business and within a decade, Hotel Sudarshan was in the doldrums. Velayuthan managed to find a buyer, the Narangs, who brought it into the fold of their Ambassador brand in 1986. The Narangs for some reason don't seem to be paying as much attention to this property as they should, banking on a regular clientele to support them.

And that clientele does. Not just because the rooms here are far larger than most others in the city. Not just because the service is a little more personalized than that at other hotels. But more so because, as this site for a wedding a couple of weeks ago says, there is an association with things past, an association that will probably take a couple of generations to change!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New route

It is deeply ingrained that when coming in to Chennai by train, one gets off at the Chennai Central station.But over the years, it has become slightly more convenient to get off at the Perambur station and get back home from there. For me, it is no major difference in the distance, but it helps to save quite a bit of time. The twenty minutes or so that a train needs to get from Perambur to Chennai Central is itself quite a good start. Add to that the long walk on the platforms of Chennai Central and you're already building up quite a sizeable chunk of time. With the Murasoli Maran flyover at Perambur getting into action last year, the exuse of traffic congestion has also been taken away.

But for all that, my biggest disappointment about forgeting to get down at Perambur was that the exit from the station was right outside my compartment. If I'd got off there, I would definitely have been saved a 1km walk, not to mention the 25 minute headstart I got on my way back home!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Watch this space

Well, if you keep staring long enough, you might just see that aircraft on the tarmac take off. Though I'm not in it, I am away from Chennai today. This one is coming to you from Bengaluru!

Friday, January 7, 2011


Late in the evening, the folks of George Town have finished their supper and are taking a bit of rest. Can't really say this place goes to sleep, but around the big buildings of NSC Bose Road, activity cools off a bit and moves into the streets off the main road.

One such evening, a few months ago. The Bombay Mutual Building seems to be lit up in colours. Maybe it could do with more lights, but can't think of any other place in Chennai that can double up as Gotham!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bell pull

In November of 1876, Helene Marie Philippine de Chapotine was in Rome, having arrived there through Nantes (where she was born), Toulouse, Madurai (where she was sent to as a novice) and Ooty (where she was driven to because of some differences of opinion within the Madurai Mission). By this time, she was known as Mary of the Passion and on January 6, 1877, Pope Pius IX authorized her to found the Missionaries of Mary. In 1885, this Institute officially became the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

They have a convent - Holy Apostles Convent - and a creche on St Thomas Mount, behind the church. The main building of the convent is at a slightly lower level and is normally not open to the public. Those seeking to enter have to ring a bell - no, not any new electronic device, but by pulling at a twisted bit of metal next to the picture of a church bell.

And yes, please be absolutely quiet when the bell rings!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Bharat Matrimony, based in Chennai, was one of the earliest 'match-making' sites in India, taking 'arranged marriages' into cyberspace. Over time, they spun off sub-sites, to make it easier to find the spouse of your dreams.

And somehow, finding this advertisement for their services in front of a kalyana mandapam seems to be quite appropriate these days!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Open gates

We used to call it the 'Electricity Road', or the 'TNEB Road', because there was a Tamil Nadu Electricity Board office somewhere along this stretch of road. It was probably a private road in those days, with the barriers on the Commander-in-Chief Road (now Ethiraj Salai) / Binny Road side being almost always closed. With the barriers shut, even with their high clearance, it was rather daunting prospect to ride a bike down this road. If they were open, it was always a good excuse.

Over time, we found the barriers were not closed as often as they once were. This road became a familiar path to avoid the traffic along Anna Salai, zipping over from Binny's Road to Dam's Road, bypassing the traffic and the lights. The stench of the Cooum was a relatively small price to pay, for this road runs along the eastern bank of the river where it runs parallel to Mount Road, coming from behind Spencer Plaza.

These days, the barriers never seem to be shut. The road still does not seem to be a thoroughfare - maybe there is still a feeling of impropriety in using it. And the road itself continues to be anonymous. Without any proper name, it shows up as 'Link Road' on most of the maps!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Associations' building

The Thiru Vi-Ka Industrial Estate in Guindy is over fifty years old and this building seems to be from the same era. One of the earliest Industrial Estates in the country, this was the first in Madras. With the emphasis on small-scale industries, this 400-acre piece of land has a large number of such small factories, typically turning out components to be used by larger factories elsewhere.

Not that there are only small units here. Some big names - Ennore Foundries, TVS Electronics, Alcatel-Lucent, among them - have a presence inside the 'Guindy Estate'. Even the Olympia Tech Park on its western edge is an attractive location for the large, new age industries. The overbearing majority of units at the Guindy Estate however are of the single-unit entrepreneur type, somehow managing to clear a profit and trying to keep pace with all those competitive manufacturing practices coming out of China.

Bringing those kind of entrepreneurs together are various associations and industry groupings. The biggest of them here happens to be the IEMA - the Industrial Estate Manufacturers' Association, which is why their name board is the most visible one at street level. Inspite of having a spanking new office at RV Towers, the IEMA continues to operate out of this building, jostling for space with all those other groupings of small scale industries. Looks like they'll run out of nameboard space soon!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

No washing

One of the city buses to school had a route that took it from the very British 'Sterling Road' bus-stop to the rather Anglo-Indian sounding 'Dobby Kana', which was its next halt. Having to get down at the former (if I wanted to go to school, that is), the latter was an enduring mystery. 'Kana' sounded rather like 'khana' (Hindi for 'food') that I used to imagine a huge crowd of dhobis (washermen) sitting down for lunch or something.

Although I've heard tell of how crowded the 'Dobby kana' at Chetpet used to be, I never had a chance to see it. For the Chetpet laundry had shut down even by the early '70s and today, even the bus-stop is called something else. Even the recent movie 'Madrasapattinam', with its washerman hero, seems to be set in the dhobi ghat of Guindy, rather than Chetpet. Even that has disappeared, now.

The last outpost of the Madras washerman seems to be this enclosed area at Pallavaram. I was told that the mornings are when it is a buzz of activity, with the wet clothes swishing through the air in arcs to have the dirt beaten out of them, wrung and then hung out to dry. In the evening, it is almost completely deserted; looks like the few people inside are those washing their own clothes!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best photo ;)

Less than an hour's drive from the centre of the city, we got to see this sight early on a September morning. Clouds, golden lining and all, coming up to burn the mist off the grass. And the birds, having woken up, putting on their displays for us. A great morning's birding!

So here's to all of you - may you get what you seek for this year... leaving enough behind for others who would have need of it too, of course! A very happy New Year's Day to everyone, and wishes for a wonderful time in the year ahead!

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