Monday, March 31, 2014

Ramu of the home

What was the last statue that you remember as being "erected by an admiring public"? Of the politicians, you would probably say. Here is one that has been around for quite a while - at least 50 years, to hazard a guess - which is not of any political leader. What the public admired in him was "A life dedicated to the cause of education, the service of the poor and the building of the "home"". The name on the pedestal says Ramu. Of course he had a more 'proper' name, but Ramu was enough for the public of the time. 

Ramu was C. Ramaswami Iyengar. Together with his cousin C. Ramanujachariar, they were "Ramu and Ramanuja", the most ardent followers of Swami Vivekananda in Madras. They were on hand to welcome him on his return to Madras in 1897 and they urged him to establish a more permanent presence in the city. And so, Swami Ramakrishnananda came over and together, they started off with a home for orphan children in Mylapore, at Kesavaperumalpuram. The home moved into its current location sometime between 1917 and 1921 and has remained there since.

From those beginnings came about several institutions; among them, Vivekananda College, Ramakrishna Mission Boys' School, Sarada Vidyalaya for Girls. Ramu was around for a while, but by 1926, he was struck with paralysis and so could not take active part in the Mission's work. However, he continued to function as the Secretary of the Home, right until his death in 1932. No wonder that the public admired him, and that they had this statue erected right outside the Home that Ramu helped establish!

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Did you know that the city is so advanced it has aircraft landing on rooftops? Here's proof from the roof of a house in Chintadripet. 

And yes, the aircraft does deliver the water for this house!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pump it out

"A civilisation is known by the quality of its drains". I am sure it was not Florence Nightingale who said this, but she said quite a lot about sanitation in India. Particularly, she was the moving force behind Madras' efforts to get a drainage system in the second half of the 19th century. She was convinced that Lord Hobart, Governor of Madras between May 1872 and April 1875, was a victim of the city not having proper drains. In her letter of June 25, 1875 to William Clark, who was in-charge of the sanitary engineering project in Madras, she writes, "There is small doubt that Lord Hobart died of delay: i.e. in carrying out Drainage".

Despite her support, the sanitary engineering project for Madras moved at an excruciatingly slow pace. The reasons could have been many, but in 1882, a letter to Lord Ripon, then Viceroy of India, she despairs, "You ask me to tell you "as to what is doing with the sewerage and draining of Madras." I wish I could. I only know that they are doing something different from any of the plans which have been discussed." Lord Ripon had had the work kicked off in 1881, but even then it did not proceed quickly. Somehow, it seems to have all come together and the city does have a drainage system today, just in case you are wondering.

The system as it worked then was to collect all the sewage in what is today the May Day Park and pump it out to the sea, possibly through the Cooum. That sewage farm has disappeared, but a key office of Chennai's Metrowater operates from those premises. The name of that road also calls to memory a time when all of Chennai's drains would come here to be pumped out! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Corner church

This church began its life as a campus chapel. This land, now on Radhakrishnan Salai, was part of an estate originally granted to Benjamin Sullivan in the early 1800s. After his passing away, the land was obtained by the SPG - Society for Propagation of the Gospel - in 1847 (for Rs.1,700, it is said) in 1847 and then, in 1871, a theological college was set up here. For the students' use, a room was set aside for prayers. Over time, local residents also began to use the room to an extent that they asked the SPG to build a church for them, to save them the trouble of going all the way to Santhome.

It took about four years for the building to be completed, and it was dedicated on January 25, 1899. Designed by W.N. Baakson in a Gothic style, the construction used no wood - it is claimed that this is the only such church construction in India. Before its golden jubilee, however, the church changed hands in 1947, being given over to the Church of South India, who continue to run it now.

At the dedication, it was decided to name this the Church of the Good Shepherd - a name that it continues to be known by, after 105 years, and the change of ownership!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

ECR Sunrise

Going off-road from the ECR one morning, got to see this lovely sunrise. And you've got to enjoy it, too!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Which place, again?

With a name like "That Madras Place", one would expect to be greeted with a menu that had something to do with Madras. Yes, it is instinctively evident that this is not meant to be a south Indian place; Anglo-Indian dishes might have been a good start, even then. Dishes like "Chicken Madras", "Chinnamalai Pork Curry", "Kidney Toast Madras Style", going on to a "Madras Club Pudding". But no, no such luck.

Maybe the connect is to a time when Madras' finest hotel was run by a man from Messina!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Multipurpose tank

Every temple built during the middle ages has some kind of a water body attached to it. Such a water body - the temple tank - served more than an ornamental function. It is believed that these tanks also played a crucial role in the ecosystem. Storing water was key, but the way these tanks were constructed ensured that they collected the runoff water from the catchment areas. Thus, the tanks were replenished during the monsoons and, unless it was a particularly bad year, remained full of water the year round. 

A paper published in 2008 identified 39 temple tanks within Chennai. The paper was about the results of a study on how Chennai's temple tanks could be used in the rainwater harvesting efforts that are essential for Chennai's water supplies. The paper went into details about how the runoff can be predicted; apparently there is an empirical parameter called the SCN Runoff Curve Number that can be used to predict it. Combining this information with factors such as evaporation loss and water depth in the tank, an estimate was made of the size the catchment area for an urban tank needed to be. Let us just say that it is far greater than what is available to any of the city's 39 tanks.

For all that, this tank linked to the Marundeeswarar temple appears to be quite full. With narrow streets around its perimeter, this tank has kept itself reasonably clean and charged up to take on the next dry season!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Couple of questions

This was in front of the Chenna Kesava temple at Chindatripet. The elephant seems to be guarding the chariot with its colourful cylindrical cloth hangings - called தொம்பை ("thombai") in Tamizh. And no, the elephant hasn't fallen flat on its tummy, it is supposed to be doing something else.

So here are the questions: the first is What is the English word for தொம்பை ("thombai")?

The second question has been borrowed from Quizzerix - how would you connect what the elephant is doing with a happening spot in Velachery? A clue is that you need to think on the same lines as for an earlier question on this blog. And like then, if you get it right, I shall let you take me, and I promise to enjoy it. 

But if you let me have an answer to the first question, I shall take you to the Velachery connect!

Sunday, March 23, 2014


There are some accessories that do not depend on the car. Spotted this new Mercedes in a Chindatripet by-lane today. So new that not only is it yet to be registered, but the yellow ribbon with a bow-tie was still on the vehicle.

Also on the vehicle were accessories that you will not get at any car showroom. Maybe they are from a temple, but they could equally be from the grocer round the corner. Five lemons and six green chillies may not sound much, but obviously they are a must-have for a new Mercedes!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mixed church

In 1749, under the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, the French handed Fort St George back to the British. Never again, thought the British, and made arrangements for garrisoning additional troops within the Fort, apart from clearing the settlements to its north and west.  Not stopping with these, they also tore down a Capuchin chapel within the Fort, believing that Pe Severini had conspired to help the French capture the Fort three years earlier. 

The chapel moved to a piece of land in Vepery that belonged to Coja Petrus Uscan. Uscan had a private chapel there and he turned that over to the Capuchins. However, after his death, the British ensured that the chapel and its grounds were handed over to the SPCK - the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. And the premises were used to house some of the British troops. The soldiers used the woodwork of the chapel to light their kitchen fires and, by 1821, the chapel was deemed to be beyond repair. It was then that the plans for a new church were finalized, under the guidance of John Goldingham and conditional financial support from the SPCK: the condition was that the new church would worship only according to the Rites of the Church of England. 

The foundation of the St Matthias Church was laid on December 8, 1823 and when the building was completed, it was opened to the public on June 18, 1826. It is said that atop each pinnacle on the eastern side was placed a chembu (copper vessel), with mango leaves and a coconut on top. Also, the main entrance to the church with its arch and doors is Mohammedan in design, and is flanked with elements representing plantain and mango leaves, which are considered auspicious. Maybe the builders were deliberately mixing the three major religious styles to ensure that the church did not inherit the fate of the chapel it grew from!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The veena house

The house with the green gate caught my attention because of the nameplate. At first glance it looks like any other similar indicator of who the master of the house is. But a second glance showed that the name is not just letters, but a picture as well. And that picture was of a veena inside which was written 'S. Balachandar'. With such clues, there could only be one guess about whose the house was: Sundaram Balachandar, so closely identified with the instrument that he was always Veena Balachandar. 

Unconventional would only begin to describe the man. Maybe that was inherited from his father, who cast his older children as husband and wife in Seetha Kalyanam. The young Balachandar had a part as well, as a musician in Ravana's court. And a musician he was, indeed. Starting with the kanjeera at the age of 5, he learnt a variety of instruments: tabla, mridangam, shehnai and so on, become a full fledged solo artist on the sitar before his teens. All of those faded into the background when he discovered the veena. Spurning a formal course or guru, he taught himself the veena and mastered it within a couple of years. His energy went into the veena as well as several other maverick causes that he associated himself with: trying to prove that there never had been such a ruler as Swati Tirunaal, the impossibility of inventing new ragas, insisting that the Tamil Nadu state award for dancers should be Natya Kalanidhi rather than Sangeetha Kalanidhi and many other such flavour-of-the-season follies. And then there were his movies.  Anadha Naal, which had no songs at all, Avana Ivan, and a few others, where he was scriptwriter, director, music director and any other role that he took a fancy too.

The controversies, more than his interests, drained him so much that he was called away much earlier than his equally talented, if maybe more restrained elder brother. Balachandar died in 1990, at the age of 63. Wonder what he would have made of all the current trends in Carnatic music - he would as likely have been its cheerleader as its opponent!

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Many firms use a lot of colour and decorate the community spaces of their offices with a variety of media. Was at an office with this colourful cafe recently. And the best part is that the posters are all designed and created by the firm itself!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


The only question is, what are they guarding? They loom large just inside the door of Mainland China's restaurant off Cenotaph Road. The culinary secrets of Cathay are safe with them!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beyond the backwaters

Early morning at one of the southern backwaters of Chennai. The Kelambakkam marsh and salt pans are home to a variety of birds. We were probably not early enough to see most of them, but we did manage to get a list that included kingfishers, storks, cormorants, herons and egrets, as well as a few of those little brown jobs that are the very devil to identify. 

And no, I can't identify those buildings in the distance definitively either, but I believe they are the apartments of the Hiranandani complex. Now, don't ask me which one!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Not a memorial

It should have been, but it is not. But it is from this spot that a 25-year old Iyengar made preparations to lose his caste, trading it for a chance to do the one thing he loved. Srinivasa Ramanujan moved to this part of Triplicane, Hanumantharayan Koil Street, sometime in May 1913. He had been granted a scholarship by the University of Madras, and leave from the Madras Port Trust. All he had to do was mathematics, and to submit a quarterly report on his progress.

And progress he did. Even though correspondence between him and Prof. Hardy over at Cambridge was strained and infrequent, it was all part of a larger plan that Hardy had set in motion. By the new year, Hardy's 'agent', E.H. Neville, a young Fellow of Trinity College was in Madras for a series of lectures on differential geometry. Whether those letters were a success or not, he managed to overcome Ramanujan's apprehensions about travelling to England. 

And so it was that the morning of March 17, 1914, saw the now kudumi-less Ramanujan waiting to board the S.S. Nevasa, with a second class ticket sent by Binny & Co. To see him off were some of Madras' elite: members of the judiciary, bench and bar, professors, colleagues and officers from the Madras Port Trust and members of the press, including Kasturiranga Iyengar of The Hindu. Neither his mother nor his wife were present, having been bundled off to Kumbakonam a few days earlier. A century later, let alone a memorial, not even a memory remains. Even the plaque that was on the premises earlier has disappeared!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Trust and the Hall

This building, on TTK Road, is so often referred to as the Narada Gana Sabha that it takes a moment for even the insiders to correct themselves: it is the Sathguru Gnanananda Hall. Narada Gana Sabha is of course the Trust which owns this hall, much the same way that Music Academy owns the TT Krishnamachari Auditorium. 

The Music Academy had also provided space for the Narada Gana Sabha in its early days. Actually not in its earliest days: for the first three years since its founding on February 9, 1958, the Narada Gana Sabha operated from 90, V.M. Street, Mylapore. It was only after that the Music Academy premises were used. From 1961 to 1988, the Music Academy was the home of the Sabha's performances. 

It was in 1988 that this Hall was inaugurated. Why it took 13 years from the laying of the foundation stone in 1975 to its opening in 1988 can only be speculated upon. But ever since, this has been the Narada Gana Sabha for the folks of Chennai!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Chugging along

An old (couple of years) photograph of the poster of a movie that is now 50 years old. Pachhai Vilakku (Green Light) with Shivaji Ganesan in the lead. Just to make sure this blog keeps chugging along with a post for today!

Friday, March 14, 2014


We had entered through the door behind the statue and we saw this. And then, it was quite unnerving, when the priests turned around and bowed to us. Of course they did not even notice us, they had better things to do. 

Somehow it felt like we were trespassing, so we got out the same way we came in!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Green hospital

No, it is not a comment on their environmental credentials, but merely about the colour scheme of this building. Situated inside Fort St George, this serves as the Ex Military Hospital as well as the Section Hospital. The building was probably not built to serve as a hospital (does that remind of you of another such?), but has been taken over to serve as one. 

The first hospital in Fort St George was set up in 1664, thanks to two gentlemen (they must have been Company doctors) William Gyford and Jeremy Sambrooke petitioning the governor Sir Edward Winter, saying, "...we have thought it very Convenient that they might have an house on purpose for them, and people appointed to looke after them and to see that nothing comes in to them, neither of meate nor drinke, but what the Doctor alloweth", the 'they' referring to English soldiers coming to Fort St George. Sir Edward agreed with them, and the hospital was established on November 16, 1664. 

That hospital appears to have moved around inside the fort for a while, sometimes being commandeered for use as barracks, before being ordered out of the fort, into Peddanaickanpet, in 1752. That hospital grew into something else. Much later, after independence, the Indian Army took over parts of Fort St George. And they went ahead and took over this building for its current purpose. Wonder if the ex-servicemen coming here would heed the exhortation of "neither meate nor drinke"!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Name origin

One of the reasons why the city got its (earlier) name, Madras, is attributed to Portuguese origins. How true that story is, is anybody's guess; but it is a nice story to spin, and to add to the mystique around this city. In San Thome of the 16th century CE flourished the Madeiros family. At least, they came to be called Madeiros in the late 16th century, for the family name before that seems to have been spelt Madera. They seem to have been very prominent among the Portuguese of San Thome, and continued that eminence into Fort St George, with Cosmo Lourenco Madera holding a militia command for the Fort during the late 1600s. 

The Madeiros themselves trace the origin of their name back to the simple Portuguese phrase "Madre de Dios", or "Mother of God". A church of that name in the area is said to have been built in in the late 1570s. It is said that the Madera family had a hand in its beginnings and were instrumental in the church being a significant shrine. Whether from the family name or from the name of the shrine, the name Madras hauls too close to either for folks to make the connection, even if it is tenuous.

The Church of Madre de Dios was rebuilt in 1928. It doesn't look like an imposing building, but is more a single storey dhyana mandapam. Inside is this panel with the Madonna - probably the only survivor of the riches of the 16th century installation!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Watching factories

There was a time when one was expected to know how many Inspectors of Factories there were in the state, apart from their bosses, the Deputy Chiefs, on to Joint Chiefs, and thence to the Chief himself.  Considering that the Chief wielded the power to dictate how a factory should be run, he (it has always been he, I don't think Tamil Nadu ever had a woman chief so far) was a shoo-in to have his office in what was once a palace.

The Khalsa Mahal is the southern block of the Chepauk Palace, which was the residence of the Nawabs of Arcot. It was built in 1768 and was acquired by the government in 1850. It is likely that the initial designs were drawn up by Paul Benfield, but in the 1870s, they were expanded by Robert Chisholm. Khalsa Mahal survived quite intact through those efforts, but in recent years, the building has been sorely threatened by fires, and parts have actually been consumed by flames, as well.

The Chief Inspector of Factories may have shifted out of here by now. In fact, there is no more a position called Chief Inspector of Factories. The nomenclature has changed and it is now called Director of Industrial Health and Safety - and the (currently) 48 Inspectors have had their titles changed as Deputy Directors. Wonder if the factories are running ship-shape now!

Monday, March 10, 2014


Here's another middle-of-the-road temple, just a few days after this one. There is one similarity: both were threatened by the road widening that became necessary and both survived it. But the differences are many, and stark.

For starters, the Madhya Kailas temple is of recent origin, maybe about 30 years or so old. The unique half-Ganesha and half-Anjaneya idol in this temple was installed after its founder had a dream of the Aadhi Amdhaprabhu, which is how that representation is termed. It is supposedly the only temple with this deity.

So why Kailas? Isn't that Siva's abode? So why isn't Siva the main deity here? Does Venkata Ananda Vinayakar stay at Kailas? There are so many questions, including what is so 'Madhya' (central) about this place. It is at the northern end of Rajiv Gandhi Salai (earlier known as Old Mahabalipuram Road). The only thing central about it is its positioning in the middle of the road, which is but a very recent occurrence!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tall steeple

The St Thomas Garrison Church was built sometime in the early 19th century to serve the spiritual needs of the British troops stationed at the Pallavaram and St Thomas Mount garrisons. 

When the airport at Meenambakkam began regular operations, the landing approach was planned over this church. However, the church's steeple and spire were seen as a potential danger, being tall enough to come in the way of descending aircraft. The height had to be brought down, and from the way the church looks like today, it was done reasonably aesthetically. 

Do you wonder what it looked like before it was shortened? We did, too. And the pastor was kind enough to bring out a history scrap-book and show us a photo of how the church used to look. Go ahead, click on the picture and go back in time!

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Vedashreni - the abode of the Vedas - has two temples that are reputed to be over one thousand years old. The older of the two is the Yoga Narasimha Murthy temple, which goes back to the 8th century CE. 

This is the eastern gateway to the temple; maybe gateway is the wrong word, for it is not used regularly. But then, the deity at this temple faces west, and devotees probably prefer to enter from that side!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Mount Road Mahavishnu

One of the oldest inhabitants of Mount Road, "The Hindu" really deserves a much longer post than this one. But for now, we'll have to be satisfied with this view of its headquarters: Kasturi Buildings, at 860, Anna Salai. 

This was taken a couple of years ago - the view is now blocked by the construction of the Chennai Metro - so, if you are new to the city, here is a glimpse of what it looked like earlier - it was not always the mess you are seeing now, here!

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Even in the middle of the city, there are some places that continue to remain rather rustic. Coconut palms - probably planted at a time when folks still believed in a house-and-ground rather than an apartment and UDS - are quite common. And if there are other trees nearby, it is not too difficult an environment for fauna, especially birds, to get by. 

And that's how this Lesser Flameback landed up on the trunk of the palm. He had been visiting this spot off and on, never staying for more than a minute or so before flying off. On this day, he decided to stick around a little longer and examine the suitability of the palm as a residence. Managed to get a couple of long-distance pictures before he moved over to the other side.

Can you spot him? Come on, it shouldn't be too difficult!

Update, March 13: It has been pointed out that there are more than one of the Flameback in this photo. Of course. That's the reason why they spent more time on that day - which was about 4 years ago, and that's my excuse for a poor memory!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Memories of the roof

Growing up in Madras, it was not uncommon to see such tiled roofs. The 'Mangalore tiles' had become the default option for tiles towards the middle of the 20th century, replacing the fish-scale tiles of an earlier era (seen here and here). Today, it is a rare find; even in the most staunchly 'traditional' quarters of the city, flat terraces have become the norm for the roof; tiles are just the decorative alternative to awnings.

This one, on Thiruvanmiyur's West Bank Street, has the dual-roof that was prevalent during the '40s and '50s (?). A part of the house would be under a 'proper' ceiling; after all, the 'Madras Terrace' was the most modern technique in housebuilding during that time, so how could a Madras house not have one? And yet, the nod to tradition continued with a portion of the house being topped off with a tiled roof.

I don't know about their utility, but a generation or two ago, a tiled roof such as this would have been an invitation for a race between one boy using the stairs and another climbing over the tiles, to see who could get up on to the pucca terrace first!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Open for reading?

As far as I can make out, the first state in independent India to pass 'library legislation' was Madras; today's Tamil Nadu Public Libraries Act is essentially the Madras Public Library Act of 1948. The name had to be changed once the state's name changed from Madras to Tamil Nadu, but that was it. 

It is not as if there were no libraries in the state - or this city - before this legislation. The oldest library, in the current sense of the word, in Chennai would be the Connemara Library, which is one of India's 4 National Repository Libraries (which means that a copy of any publication, anywhere in India, has to be sent to the Connemara Library, as well as the 3 other NRLs). The Department of Public Libraries therefore considers Connemara the jewel in its crown. Three other libraries shine equally: the U Ve Swaminatha Iyer Library and Maraimalai Adigalar Library in Chennai and Thanjavur's Maharaja Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal Library.

There a 32 District Central Libraries and 1664 Branch Libraries spread throughout the state. Chennai has one central library for the district and about 140 branch libraries. Including the biggies, there would be about 150 libraries in the city. Of course, these are only the public libraries; circulating libraries like the Eloor Lending Library are not included in this count. By one study a few years ago, the book use index in Chennai's public libraries was 13.18, which means that each user gets through 13.18 books a year on the average. That doesn't seem like much, but when I can't remember a single day that I have seen this Branch Library at Adyar open, it seems to be quite a feat!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Statue high up

The man in this statue never came to India, but his influence certainly did. That is not surprising, because his work and scholarship is also reputed to have influenced four holders of the Holy See across centuries. Louis-Marie Grignion was born in Brittany on January 31, 1673 and his early upbringing pushed him towards the clergy. Through some difficulties and twists of fate, he found himself appointed as the librarian at Saint-Sulpice, which gave him access to almost all the available books on spirituality. He was drawn to the role played by the Virgin Mary and through his studies and later works, became the originator of what later became recognized as Mariology

It was this work that influenced 4 popes across the 20th and 21st centuries: Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XII and John Paul II. All four of them furthered the position of the Virgin Mary through their encyclicals and it is recognized that all of them were keen students of Mariology. It was during the time of Pope Pius XII that Louis-Marie was canonized, in 1947, and came to be known as Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. 

St Montfort's influence was not just at the levels of the papacy; it worked at other levels as well. He established several organizations in his lifetime and inspired the setting up of several others later. One such was the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel, who have been instrumental in setting up several schools across the world. In Chennai, the Montfort Brothers took over the Anglo-Vernacular school in Santhome from the Archdiocese in 1954. It has since been known as the Santhome Higher Secondary School - and the statue of St Montfort looks over all the students as they enter the gates. On the other side of the pillar, it is his inspiration, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who casts her gaze over the students inside the school!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

In the middle

The great epic Ramayana traces several parts of the Indian sub-continent even though its author himself appears to have spent most of his life along the banks of the river Ganga. Ratnakar the robber used to waylay travellers for their belongings and would think nothing of finishing them off. One day, after realizing the error of his ways, Ratnakar began to offer penance, focussing on nothing but the syllables "Mara-maram". Over many years, his body was covered by anthills, but the focus of his penance wavered not a whit. The Gods finally blessed him, for the syllables he uttered were nothing but the name of Rama; as he emerged from his penance, he gained the name Valmiki, the one born of ant-hills. It was then that he began to narrate the story of Rama, in the process earning for himself the title "Aadi Kavi", the pioneer poet.

So how did the robber-turned-poet know about places that he had never seen before? Was he bestowed with divine visions? Or, as one strand of the legend of Valmiki has it, did he visit the places and then write about them? In this part of Chennai, the second option is favoured.  It is believed that Thiruvanmiyur, lying on the coast towards the southern end of Chennai, is the morphed version of Thiru-Valmiki-oor, (Thiru meaning holy, and 'oor' meaning village, or area) and that the poet, came here to worship at the shrine of Marundeeswarar, and stayed for a few years within a short distance of that shrine.

This one is a temple to Valmiki himself. As you can see, it is plonk in the middle of the East Coast Road, with traffic flowing along its flanks. Over the years, successive bouts of road laying have raised the height of the roads so that the temple (which was anyway accessed by going down 3 or 4 steps) appears to be even lower than what it is. Even though there doesn't seem to be a crowd visiting this temple, every passer by pays automatic obeisance. For the traffic, it seems to be a nuisance; certainly not Valmiki would have wanted!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

People on the Street

The first of the month is 'Theme Day', over at the City Daily Photo group and the theme for today is the title of this post. Found it a bit difficult to get a decent picture to reflect the theme. Sounds crazy that in a city of 4.7 million people (2011 census data; The Economist's factbook puts it at 11m), it should be easy to get people into the frame without even trying. But a majority of my pictures have no people in them.

So here is one. And if you click through the picture, you'll see that the red sign reads "York Street". Don't bother looking through your Chennai maps for this one, because York Street, along with St Thomas Street, Middle Gate Street, Charles Street, Choultry Street, Gloucester Street, James Street and Church Street were the names given to the paths between the buildings inside Fort St George. 

In the middle of the 17th century, when it was set up, the Fort was the city for the British. And they did need to identify the means of access to places within the Fort. What better way to do it than to name the streets (mainly) after places back home!

Theme Day features several CDP bloggers from around the world interpreting the theme in their own cities in their own ways. Click here to see some of those!