Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lighthouse trivia

I have posted earlier about Chennai's newest lighthouse, but this picture was too good to ignore, so I'm re-hashing some of the trivia around this lighthouse. 

It is the only lighthouse in India that has a triangular cross section (for the most part, at least). It is also the only lighthouse in India that has an elevator inside it. It's counterpart on the second point in the USA - the only lighthouse with an elevator - is called the Charleston Light, at Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. Incidentally, that is also a triangular building!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Double road

Of course, being confused over roads with similar names is quite usual. But here is one that takes the cake. The sign shows a turn off from TTK Road. What is unusual is that the side road is also called TTK Road!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Roses for the lady?

Valentine's Day, 2013. Thought we'd go for a 'Blind Date' show at Sathyam. But work happened. And am left with this picture of roses piled up at West Mambalam. 

But wait, who's that lady in the background?!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Special branch

In one way, this branch of the Tamil Nadu Co-operative State Agriculture and Rural Development Bank Ltd, in Alwarpet, is special because it operates as an affiliating bank, linking up close to 200 Primary Agriculture and Rural Development Banks across the state. The Bank itself was set up in 1929 to provide long term finance for some basic agriculture-related activities. Over many years, the bank has surely provided relief to many thousands of farmers in Tamil Nadu. However, this branch is also special for another reason - and that reason is why one gets to see a goodly crowd here, even if they are not agricultural loan applicants. 

In 1968, several employees of this branch decided that, apart from financial assistance, some spiritual guidance must also be made available. For reasons that I'm slightly fuzzy about, their deity of choice was Hanuman - also known as Anjaneyar - and set up a temple inside the bank's compound. Very soon, the temple began to attract students preparing for their Chartered Accountancy exams. Maybe they believed that this Anjaneyar had inside knowledge of accounts. Maybe it was just convenient for them to drop by after their CA classes, many of which were held in nearby Mylapore. Over the years, the belief in Anjaneyar's specialisation was expanded to cover any course that was bracketed with the letters C and A; CWA, CFA, CIA and why, even the CPA exams would be easier if you dropped by for a quick prayer here. 

The place is now better known for the temple than the bank itself. Ask any aspiring CA about the TNCSARD Bank and you will get blank stares, but s/he would definitely know about CA Anjaneyar, or Bank Anjaneyar!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thirsty birds

It is just February and Chennai is getting into its second season - the 'Hotter' season. Temperatures are in the high 20s and are expected to move into the 30s during this week (and that's Celsius, in case you're wondering). Not dog days, yet, but bird days, maybe?

At the Ambattur Industrial Estate, there is certainly one bird lover, at least. Outside a factory gate, there is this mid-sized ficus growing. As in many other places, a shrine has come up under the ficus, showing all signs of being well tended to. On a more practical note, however, is the provisioning of water; there is a mud-pot in the shade, which I guess is for humans. The bird lover has gone further and set up this drinking trough, with some space for grains as well. We didn't get to see any bird use it - maybe they have to learn Tamizh, for it clearly says on the trough that it is "பறவைகள் தண்ணீர் குடிக்க (for birds to drink)"!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cool priest

There are some smoke-less puja kits available, apparently. But does that serve the purpose? Have long held the belief that the smoke permeating into every room is a key aspect of the puja itself. Wouldn't like to lose that in a hurry.

But it makes your eyes water. And turn red. Could this be a solution? The priest was prepared, and maybe, next time, I shall be, too!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Training Centre

The Ambattur Industrial Estate Manufacturers' Association (AIEMA) is celebrating its golden jubilee this year. That's a bit surprising, because, just a little distance away from this building complex is a foundation stone saying that the Industrial Estate was inaugurated on July 3, 1965. It is quite likely that the Association pre-dated the formal Estate; Ambattur is one of those suburbs of the city that pre-dates the creation of the city of Madras itself.

The Technology Centre of the AIEMA came up a while after the Estate itself began functioning. It appears to have been set up with a lot of foresight; even 30 years after it began functioning, it seems to have quite a bit of space. Space enough for it to have its own exhibition area as well as grounds for outdoor events.

The golden jubilee celebrations appear to be in full swing. It would be nice to get there for an event or two! 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fast food

The signboard says, rather grandly, "Drive In". Look at it, one barely has room to walk into this curry corner, let alone attempt to take a vehicle into it. Somehow, the late night revellers have never taken the sign literally. Maybe it is because they know that if not for this joint, they wouldn't have anywhere else to go when they remember that they haven't had dinner yet.

Midnight Express, on TTK Road, usually sees a lot of action in the early hours - between midnight and about 2 am. It may not have been the first to spot a niche in the post-late-movie empty stomachs, but it has been more enduring than the others. The food is nothing much to speak of; for vegetarians, there is indeed nothing to speak of. But late at night, when you're in the right spirit, paya or keema dosa is almost like manna from heaven. 

Apart from being the last joint to close, Midnight Express has another advantage. They never run out of seating space for customers here. Simple. They are perfectly okay to serve you at your vehicle, even if you are sitting on your bike 100 feet away from their doors. Maybe that's what "Drive In" means!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cafe Irani

While Madras did have its share of Parsis and Zoroastrians, they were certainly not as numerous as those of Bombay. Yet, there were enough of them around for these kind of cafes to be recognized as a distinct niche - the Irani cafe. 

They were probably the first 'chain' of cafes. The red-on-white lettering, with nothing else on it but 'Irani', was used by all such cafes. I remember just a few of these in Chennai. There were a couple on Mount Road, one near the Thousand Lights mosque and another near the Wallajah Road junction. There was one on General Patters Road. And then this one Thambu Chetty Street, George Town.

Though I remember them from school / college days, I can't for the life of me think about what unique cuisine they had. I don't think I've ever had dhansak or bun-maska at these places. But there is a faint whiff of those mutton samosas - small ones, deep fried.... or am I just dreaming? Does anyone remember what their favourite was at these joints?

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Nothing to do with Chennai, specifically. Just a random picture to remind us that Pondicherry - now Puducherry - was always nearby...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Enclosed shrine

How many times have you seen a shrine within a building? Especially when that building, from the outside, does not appear to have much to do with religion?

Paramananda Doss and Chotta Doss began their silk trade in Mint Street in 1888, becoming one of the first in south India to source cloth from Benares. They had printed catalogues detailing their products - embroidered cashmere shawls, Calcutta linen, China white silk, khilat and kincob pieces - all of which would have been quite exotic to the good people of Madras. Their prices were reasonable enough and the brothers were fastidious about quality to the extent that their patrons were comfortable in sending "their orders by post". In fact, their displays won "gold medals and first-class certificates" at the Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition three years in a row - in 1903, '04 and '05. 

With business being good, the brothers put aside some money to charity, constructing a dharmasala just north of today's Chennai Central station. It had the traditional central courtyard, open to the sky, around which were arranged rooms for travellers. Whether it was to cater to the spiritual needs of the travellers or to prevent them from getting too high-spirited, I am uncertain; but this shrine in the central courtyard came up a little after the building itself. The pujas and rituals continue here to this day. Sadly, succeeding generations of the Dosses seem to have got themselves mired in litigation and, as far as I can make out, the firm does not exist in its original form today.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sailing out

That's the 'Tiger Bridge' getting out of the Chennai Port a few months ago. 

For more posts about Chennai's harbour, click here. And if you would like to know more about the ship itself, this is the place to go. And for its home port, Majuro - there is always Wikipedia!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Temple sign

To all those who think people in Chennai don't speak anything other than Tamizh (or "Madras bashai": take a look at this sign. 

Now, how about a bit of English, as well?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sparrow family

The IUCN's Red List continues to list them as 'least concern', because of their large range and, within that range, their numbers seem to be large enough to be not worried about. If Chennai had a Red List, however, these birds (Passer domesticus) would be heading that list. A generation ago, you were in danger of these birds building a nest in your hair if you stood still for long enough. Today, their nests are not to be seen at all. 

First noticed this family at Santhome, just across the road from the AIR station, a few months ago. There were about eight of them, and they weren't too worried about people around them. And then I saw them again yesterday. Didn't watch them for long, but I got the feeling that they were all there. Maybe we've taken them for granted too often for too long; I'm sure you don't believe me when I say they are almost non-existent in Chennai. But think about it, when did you last see one?

If you would like to do something about helping these birds, you can start off with getting them a nest box. You can find the link on this site - and do let us know when the sparrows start using them!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Water woes

If you had grown up in the 1970s and 80s in Madras, you will look at this with nostalgia. Pumping iron had a completely different meaning, but you had to get this mechanism going before you could use it as your personal gym. That first mug of water, poured into the barrel as you start moving the lever up and down, to "build up presser". And the thrill of hearing the wheezing change into a solid thump as the water surges through the pipes in time to your pumping. One-handed pumping, making sure the "presser" did not drop until all the buckets in the house were full, keeping the flow of water even - all these were forms of entertainment. 

Not to mention the "body-building" aspect of this. Good exercise for your arms to fill up ten buckets of water every day. And then to carry them to various points in the house, all full, hoping that mom doesn't notice the spilled drops before you had a chance to wipe them dry... well, that kind of thing doesn't happen these days. 

For starters, the water availability is itself suspect. After a less than average monsoon, Chennai city is going to have a difficult time in the summer ahead. Start conserving. Now!

Friday, February 1, 2013


That's the theme for the month for the CDP bloggers. 

These umbrellas cannot be rolled up, however. At the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple at Thiruninravur, the deity was being paraded through the streets around the temple as part of the bhramotsavam. The March sun is hot and it wouldn't do to have it strike the idol directly. So, along with the palanquin bearers are the umbrella carriers... see more umbrellas from around the world, take a look here.