Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ba-Ba Street?

The area to the west of Mowbray's Road, in the early 19th century, was largely paddy fields. Further down was the 'Sudder Adawlat', native courts of the time; the main building was called Sadr Gardens - whether that was a corruption of 'Sudder' is a debatable point - and probably was the judge's residence. The Sudder Adawlat was abolished by the Indian High Courts Act of 1861, so by the time its most famous resident was born, Sadr Gardens had forgotten its courtly history and was just a comfortable garden house. 

But destiny had a way of re-connecting Sadr Gardens with its legal legacy. One of the most respected judges of the Madras High Court, Justice Basheer Ahmed Syeed, lived at Sadr Gardens for most of his life, certainly from the time he became a judge, in 1950, to his death in 1984. He had professional company in his neighbours; many lawyers spilled over from Mylapore into Alwarpet, on the eastern flank of Mowbray's Road. Among them was Bhashyam Iyengar, a senior lawyer and one who, like Basheer Ahmed, was involved in many public causes. Bhashyam Iyengar had his residence at Champaka Vilas, just south-east of Sadr Gardens.  

By the middle of the twentieth century, the paddy fields had gone. Basheer Ahmed was at the height of his social activism, having served on the committee of the Music Academy and also having set up the South India Education Trust; Bhashyam Iyengar was in the twilight of his life. There was a road, or more probably a path, between Sadr Gardens and Champaka Vilas. It was probably after Bhashyam Iyengar's passing away that this road was named after both these legal giants. Since then, many who see this sign for the first time are left wondering how this confusion of a Muslim name beginning with an obviously Iyengar appellation could have arisen!


Shridhar Padmanabhan said...

Shantha, have spent a lot of time as a child bicycling these streets, and this is fascinating, thanks for sharing - never looked at street names then, I guess, nor wondered about it enough... great blog, sir.

Shantaram said...

@Sridhar: Thanks! It is fascinating for me as well, since I've been at this only for about 5 years or so.... and the city is almost 375! :)