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!

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